For a thoughtful, less consumerist Christmas, make sure to tell the truth about your purchases, spritz musty clothes with vodka and invest in vintage wrapping paper
It’s not a pair of box-fresh Bottega Veneta boots, or cashmere spun from the wool of a rare-breed yak, that will ensure you strike gifting gold with fashion fans this Christmas: it’s the revelation that you bought their present secondhand.
Once a dirty word, secondhand is an increasingly valued quality (the global “preloved” fashion market alone is worth $130bn). A survey conducted by the online secondhand marketplace Vinted found that one in six of us are committed to giving preloved only this Christmas, and buying secondhand can also help to combat the £42m worth of unwanted Christmas gifts sent to landfill each year.
If a “vintage” gift was once considered cheap or twee, it’s now an inspired choice – a signal that the person giving it has a finger pressed firmly on the pulse.
With this in mind, here are the etiquette guidelines for secondhand gift-giving this Christmas.
Tell the truth
Avoid any awkward moments by shouting about the origins of your secondhand present. Lucy Mackay, founder of east London-based vintage children’s clothing site And They Wear, suggests putting a note in a card to hammer home the point. “I think a bit of explanation helps confirm that it’s a thoughtful choice,” she advises. “Just about everyone thinks vintage is cool these days. It should go down well.”
Stay on message
A terrible Christmas present is usually one that says “I have no idea who you are or what you’re into”, so giving it some thought is essential. “A handpicked vintage gift is a treasure. It’s a considered piece that’s going to add real character to a home,” says Chloe McDonald, who sells vintage homeware from her Instagram account @scenebychloe and says zigzag candle holders and onyx and alabaster bookends are coveted gifts this December. Anna O’Brien, a seller on Depop and car-booter from Frome, suggests homing in on pieces that increase with value as they age, such as first editions of novels or clothes designed to stand the test of time. For guaranteed sentimental value, she suggests getting personal. “Think about the year they were born or their favourite colour, and shop accordingly.”
Do it for the kids
Preloved childrenswear is increasingly big business – but a pair of secondhand PJs makes for a bit of a dull gift. For guaranteed success, seek out independent sellers who stock cult brands. Mackay says OshKosh dungarees and Levi’s denim jackets are among her customers’ favourite pieces to buy as presents. Pastel knitwear also does well. “I change the buttons to smiley faces. Customers love that because then they’re getting something that is customised and a one-off,” she says.
Make sure your gift looks the part
All secondhand presents should be subject to a strict vetting process. With books, check for missing pages; with toys, replace any batteries; if it’s clothing, sniff with vigour and take to an eco-friendly dry cleaner before passing on – O’Brien also recommends a spritz of vodka mixed with water to remove the musty secondhand smell. Those without time to do the legwork themselves should look to curated vintage sites and sellers. Aside from her own business, McDonald recommends Finna Vintage, The Attic, Foxberry Vintage and The Antik Store. “They have already gone through the trouble of sourcing of-the-moment and interesting pieces.” If you’re buying luxury clothes secondhand, sites such as Vestiaire Collective have a rigorous authenticity process, which will dramatically reduce the chances of you passing on a fake.
It’s all about the ‘add-ons’
Seasoned thrifter and vintage influencer April Salsbury (@knackered_cow) believes that finding the perfect pairing for a preloved gift is the key. She suggests teaming a bestselling novel with a cashmere jumper picked up in a charity shop, or a vintage wine decanter with a bottle of red.
Regifting is frowned upon …
But there are exceptions. While it’s not yet socially acceptable to wrap up a pair of boots you no longer want and pass them on to a pal, treasured pieces make lovely gifts. Jewellery is excellent for this, as is art. “It really is the thought that counts,” says Elle Richie, who runs Depop shop Studio Ell Richie. “Look at what you have and consider the items no longer serving you.”
Think about presentation
You’ve sourced your best friend an almost-impossible-to-track-down dress from a Stella McCartney collection of old. Now, don’t go ruining it with cheap foil wrapping paper and sticky tape. McDonald purchases vintage wrapping paper to make her gifts sing. But keeping things simple also has its benefits. “I add velvet ribbon, cuts of foliage from the garden and a few drops of essential oil to brown paper,” says Salsbury. To cut out the middleman, McDonald recommends shopping from the direct-to-consumer Instagram sellers who post goods in packaging that’s pretty enough to go straight under the Christmas tree. “Most offer gift messaging, too,” she says, ‘‘so when the product arrives it feels special.”