You can imagine that my sisters – Violet and Eliza – and I were raised with all the new clothes we could ask for. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
As far back as I can remember, my mother, Emma, ââthe Duchess of Rutland – who raised us in our ancestral home, Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire – had a passion for buying clothes from the UK. opportunity, long before it was fashionable.
She was never snobbish about buying other people’s clothes, preferring to see new life in it over special clothes. And she passed this passion on to us.
Pictured: Lady Alice Manners in Vintage Fashion. Paule Ka Sale for Â£ 450 Cost New: Â£ 815 Silk Dress with Heart Print and Crystal Buttons, Azzaro Sell For: Â£ 296 Cost New: Â£ 775 Alice Says: This look is a real mood booster – I love to inject some the color in my life through my wardrobe. So if you’re dreading Christmas, go for a bold color choice to help get you through!
Plum long-sleeved stretch dress, AlaiaSale for: Â£ 275 Cost new: approx. Â£ 2,000 Alice says: I love this beautiful plum color for this time of year – it’s so rich and yet so understated. The cut of this dress artfully gives my figure a bit of volume but would also be a great option if you wanted to cover the butt a bit or have a complex on your upper arm.
Cream Floral Print Silk Blouse, Zimmerman Sell For: Â£ 295 Cost New: Â£ 700-800 Black Velvet Spaghetti Strap Mini Dress, Alexander Wang Sell For: Â£ 290 Cost New: Â£ 600-700 Alice Says: C ‘ is the ultimate little black dress, versatile with a good dose of daring. But if you’re with the family it’s easy to moderate for Christmas by wearing a shirt underneath like I have here with this lovely Zimmerman option
Green velvet dress with lace collar, Saint Laurent Sold for: Â£ 380 New cost: Â£ 1000 Chanel shoes Sold for Â£ 395 New cost: Â£ 780 Alice says: Saint Laurent velvet with delicate lace trim and sailor style collar – what more could you want? This is one of those dresses that gets that cool look effortlessly, while also fitting many body types with the lovely deep neckline.
From the moment we girls hit our teens and started to take an interest in fashion, a trip to one or another of the various London boutiques specializing in selling second-hand designer treasures is become a feature of our lives.
âYou can choose one thing,â Mom was saying and we walked in, brimming with excitement at the thought of what hidden gem we might find, something we never could have dreamed of buying a new one.
I remember going to the Sign of the Times store, a Chelsea mainstay since the 1970s, when I was 15, and choosing a pair of Ralph Lauren black evening slippers with a little emblem on the front, for the bargain price of Â£ 75 – a fraction of what they would have been new.
I actually wore them as school shoes for a while. That was 11 years ago. I still have them.
For my 18th birthday, I was given a classic black Chanel bag, second-hand from the same store, which would have cost at least Â£ 2,000 new, an amount I could never have afforded. I still have that too.
Many cities also have clothing agencies where you can shop for stylish second-hand clothes and accessories on the High Street; and, of course, many gems can be found in charity shops.
Naima Puff Sleeve Print Dress, Ulla Johnson Sold For: Â£ 220 Cost New: Approx. Â£ 700 Balenciaga Biker Boots Sold For: Â£ 500 Cost New: Â£ 950 Alice Says: If printing is your thing, you can’t get better than this. It also has an elasticated waist with an adjustable tie closure – perfect for lunch after Christmas. A well-being option offering both comfort and style
Pictured left: Eliza, Alice and Violet Manners at their family home, Belvoir Castle
Whether it’s High Street or high end, the premise is the same: picking a pre-loved fashion not only helps the planet, but gives you a lot more for your money.
As I’ve seen time and time again, it’s possible to buy pre-loved exquisite designer clothes for a figure comparable to some High Street deals – and they’re much more likely to last forever. You can buy a designer dress for a fraction of its original price, say Â£ 200 instead of Â£ 700.
I still wear the Burberry teal evening dress I bought when I was 17. I remember finding it hanging from the second-hand rod and the joy of discovering that it still had the tags on it.
Likewise, a few years ago I found an absolutely amazing Tom Ford evening dress (long, velvet, strapless) with the most amazing choker necklace that connected in the back. Knowing that the novelty would be in the range of Â£ 3,000-5,000, I knew I was getting a good deal under Â£ 1,000.
Right after I bought it the pandemic hit and I couldn’t wear it until my dad’s birthday celebrations in Belvoir last year. But I wore it again the other week to a charity dinner at the V&A Museum and know it will be a favorite for many years to come.
I believe there is a slow but noticeable shift in consumer thinking towards buying used, vintage, or pre-loved parts as people realize that there is something to be gained from recycling what we already have.
When I was 14 there was nothing trending about pre-loved ones – mom was way ahead of her time – it was just a lot of fun. Now I know it’s also durable.
Consider this: According to used brand thredUp, if everyone had worn a pre-loved party outfit this Christmas, the carbon dioxide emissions saved would be the equivalent of taking 56 million cars off the road in a day.
Thanks to the explosion of fast fashion, it’s not just an issue during the holiday season. What may seem like a bargain in the January sale isn’t a bargain for the planet if it’s worn just once.
I can thank mum for the fact that even now I would much rather have an amazing pre-loved gift from these stores than a bulging-seamed wardrobe with disposable High Street pieces.