Fashions can go out of style but style is never out of fashion – as the current boom in second-hand and vintage clothing sales shows.
As consumers shed fast fashion for more ethical choices, old outfits get a new lease of life and make sellers a pretty penny.
Specialist sites, such as Vinted and Depop, are booming. Vintage clothing shops are popping up on high streets rather than being limited to small, niche stores – and even the likes of ASOS and Boohoo have revived looks from the 70s and 90s.
But price comparison site money.co.uk found the most valuable eras for vintage traders are even more last-century – the 40s, then the 50s and 20s, decades whose styles are a stark contrast with modern trends.
Here, three women who have built their wardrobes around the style of a specific era tell us how they cottoned on to making money from their fashion passion…
Sarah Goodlad/ Caters News Agency)
Watching war films as a kid with her grandad sparked Sarah Goodlad’s love of 40s fashion. And the second-hand clothes boom means her vintage pieces are now worth far more than the £5,000 or so she paid for them.
Sarah, who also makes 40s-style outfits from old fabric, says: “I loved the clean lines, skirt lengths, hats and shoulder detailing. The whole look and silhouette – it just looks so polished.”
The 45-year-old, of Coalville, Leics, started collecting pieces as a teenager, including a cape which “would probably cost ten times that now”.
But she lacked the confidence to fully embrace the style until she was in her early 30s.
Sarah Goodlad/ Caters News Agency)
She says: “The first 40s dress I wore out was a dusty pink and embroidered, with button embellishment down the front. My second dress was a late 40s dress from Horrockses – a British fashion house which existed back then.
“It’s grey and green and still one of my prized possessions. I paid £100 for the pair together but nowadays I’d be looking at up to £400.”
Sarah is often complimented on her look and is inspired by Hollywood greats Lana Turner and Joan Crawford to create her own outfits.
As her collection grew, she started selling on dresses and tops that did not really fit, or were not her style, on Etsy.
“I bought them cheap and sold them at a reasonable price, between £20 and £50. I haven’t made lots of money – but I’ve been sent pictures of people wearing what they’ve bought from me.
“It’s such a joy those items are getting worn and appreciated. I feel a million dollars in 40s fashion and it’s nice others can feel that way too.”
Belle Privé Photography)
René Keyleigh admired the style of burlesque model Dita Von Teese as a teen and started collecting 50s clothes. And the image consultant, 32, who also goes by the name Lady Eccentrik, has made £30,000 from her hobby.
She says: “Dita was like no one I’d seen before, the epitome of beauty and glamour. I couldn’t afford it but I wanted to look like her.”
René bought her first 50s outfit – a blue floral house robe from eBay – for about £15 in her mid-20s.
“I was drawn to the era as it’s such a classic look, which oozes Hollywood glamour.”
She had been dabbling with 70s and 80s fashion but after falling for the 50s she threw out her whole closet to start again from scratch. But René says this was a mistake, explaining: “I later realised I could have made what I had work to achieve the look. Fashion is cyclical.”
Belle Privé Photography)
Inspired by icons like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth, René watches classic films to get outfit ideas.
“When I dress in 50s outfits, it’s so empowering. I feel elegant and it gives me a sense of freedom. I’m celebrating my femininity, as the silhouette of the garment is very much hour-glass and you can be sexy and demure at the same time. It’s a different form of sexy.”
René, from London, says a good outfit used to cost £50 but the price has now tripled. She sells items that don’t fit or she will not wear again.
René says: “You don’t always make a profit as it’s a competitive market, but over the years I’ve probably made £30,000. It makes me happy when people compliment my outfits. The classic look is increasingly appreciated.
“Joan Crawford said she’d never go outside unless she looked like ‘Joan Crawford the movie star’. When I leave my house, that’s what I strive for.”
Rummaging through charity shops with her parents taught Caitlin Hare to appreciate a bargain. And now, the 28-year-old has turned her eye for 70s fashion into a career after setting up vintage shop The Octopus Garden.
The former retail worker from Liverpool, who made up to £400 a month from her business as a student, now runs the online boutique full-time.
She says: “Mum and Dad always used charity shops when my older sister and I were kids but I used to find it really embarrassing. It was a choice thing, not because we didn’t have any money. But I didn’t want my friends to see me buying my clothes second-hand, which is so weird as it’s such a cool thing to do now.
“It was what I spent all my pocket money on and I always noticed all the bright clothes. That tended to be a lot of 70s psychedelic prints. There’s no better feeling than finding something special in a second-hand shop, it’s such a joy.
“As I got older, I learned to really appreciate that I could find outfits that were unique. My parents’ favourite bands were The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac, so I was inspired by that era.”
When Caitlin was studying sociology at university and living in a tiny flat, she started to sell some of her finds to make extra cash.
She says: “When my wardrobe became too full or if something didn’t fit me, I’d sell them on ASOS Marketplace. I could make up to £100 a week, which was great for a hobby.
“For me, 70s fashion is all about the colours and patterns. But I’m also drawn to a big collar and a big sleeve, which are really popular now and have such an impact when I post pictures wearing them on Instagram.
“My pride and joy is my psychedelic wide-legged jumpsuit – it could have walked straight off a stage or out of Woodstock.
“I bought it for £18 about 10 years ago. I’ve mended it and it would probably be worth at least £80 now. However, that’s one item that is definitely not for sale!”