My Depop Diary: For over two years, I have shopped exclusively from Depop and vintage shops - here's how it went. By Áine Kenny.
During the pandemic, many of us re-evaluated aspects of our lives. Perhaps you switched careers, maybe you started a family, or possibly moved back to your hometown. For me, I re-evaluated my shopping habits.
During lockdown I had no need for the smart clothes I used to wear to the office. Tailored trousers and plain shirts hung neatly in the wardrobe, beside them were sparkly jumpsuits and body con dresses, relics of my college going out days. It was clear my wardrobe was not serving my current needs.
My early teenage years were spent wandering my local shopping centre, walking an endless loop between high-street shops. Towards my later teens, online shopping really started to take off. I could get triple the amount of clothes for a fraction of the cost I used to pay in-store, and I could do it all from the comfort of my own home.
However, as I got older and wiser, I realised what the fast fashion industry is doing to our planet. Not to mention the unsafe working conditions that garment workers must accept in order to earn a living, showcased by the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster and in the recent Channel 4 documentary about Shein.
With so much time on my hands due to the pandemic, I decided to try shopping in vintage shops and on Depop exclusively. I had the time, energy, and money to do this; I recognise not everyone does.
I quickly realised that 'shopping slow’ required me to completely recalibrate my idea of fashion. I was not able to partake in micro-trends, and I couldn’t be afraid to wear the same outfit multiple times. I had to ask myself: what clothes do I like? What fabrics feel comfortable on my skin? What colours and cuts suit me? Most importantly, what pieces can I find that will remain timeless?
My overall aim was to reduce the number of clothes I was purchasing each month.
My first foray into shopping sustainably was online vintage clothing drops during the height of the pandemic. I have shopped with Spice Vintage and Ripe Vintage, who are both Irish.
Shopping vintage is undoubtedly expensive, as you are paying for someone else to trawl through vintage clothing warehouses and use their keen eye to select one-of-a-kind pieces. It's also worth noting that vintage shopping may offer fewer options for those looking to shop for bigger sizes.
Overall, I found the effort and cost of vintage shopping worth it for me, the items I get the most compliments for are always vintage gems. These pieces are timeless, and that level of quality is just not present in today’s standard-issue clothing.
I did have a few mishaps. After buying a vintage skirt that was too long and a top that would not sit right on my chest (Dolly Parton I am not), I realised that knowing my waist, hips, leg length, and bust size were key.
Thankfully, I was able to give the clothes that didn’t fit me to family and friends, as throwing them in the nearest clothes bank isn’t the environmental act people think it is. Of course, another option would be to sell your unsuitable gems back to a vintage shop or put it up for auction online.
My next goal was to shop on Depop, as I knew it would be cheaper than shopping vintage drops. While there are vintage clothes on Depop, there are also people re-selling fast fashion clothes, at a fraction of the cost they paid for them.
By buying second hand, at least I was not giving my money directly to fast fashion giants, but the issue of the garments’ unsustainable (usually plastic-based) materials remained. I circled this square by making a commitment to only buying clothes I really wanted and would get wear out of (I am not perfect!).
At the time, none of my friends were shopping on the reselling app. After trawling through the Depop Drama social media account and scarring myself by viewing some of the more ‘creative’ items for sale on the platform, such as the shoes made out of teeth (yes, really), I bit the bullet and downloaded the app.
Depop is like a virtual clothes market, where haggling and asking the buyer questions is accepted. In fact, it is necessary to ensure you don’t end up paying €50 for a ‘vintage dad core fleecy sweatshirt, can be worn oversize, will fit an XS-XL’, which is really just a Dunne's Stores men's pyjama top from five years ago.
Rules to shop by
My top tips for shopping on Depop are to use multiple search terms. You might be looking for a shirt, but others may call it a blouse. Sellers often post their items with a lot of random tags, such as various brand names or garment types, meaning a lot of irrelevant clothes will pop up in the search.
Find sellers who have a similar body shape and style to you, and follow them - this will save you endless scrolling after searching for ‘work trousers’, only to be shown Ibiza-style neon two pieces.
Don’t be afraid to haggle and to ask questions about the origin of the item. Unfortunately, there are sellers out there who sell charity shop finds at an incredible markup, or advertise their fast fashion cast-offs as ‘vintage’, with no brand listed and the label cut off.
Was it worth it?
I am really glad I made the switch to shopping more sustainably. Nowadays, the only things I buy new are shoes, underwear, socks and tank tops. Over the past two and a half years, I have bought 23 garments for €467, with €90 being spent on a never-worn House of Sunny cardigan I found on Depop (RRP £90).
I have to be honest and say I haven’t saved any money, but I have reduced my clothing consumption and carbon footprint, which was my overall goal.
It’s important to note that not everyone has the time or the money to shop this way, and that it is far easier to shop vintage or Depop when you are straight-sized. But personally speaking, I think I have broken my old habit of fast fashion shopping - I no longer feel the urge to get in on the latest trend, I am not viewing clothes shopping as a hobby, and my climate anxiety is ever so slightly more at ease.