Steph CutlerA Year of Second-Hand Style!

At the start of this year I was in a charity shop and I randomly decided to set myself the challenge of only buying second-hand clothes for the whole year. I can’t honestly say what made me decide this; I think I just wondered what it would be like. It wasn’t a big thunderbolt moment I simply wondered how easy it would be and what I might find. The ‘what I might find’ bit was quite appealing, but when I gave it more thought there are lots of other factors that are quite appealing too.

I have no doubt chosen a year when austerity is the buzz word. You can’t turn on the TV or radio without talk of cuts and choosing to shop in this way for a year is certainly low cost.

It is also environmentally friendly. The environmental and ethical reasons are definitely attractive. Giving existing clothes a new life is preferable to them finding a home in a land fill site. It also uses fewer natural resources which can only be a good thing.

As a consumer I am concerned about the working pay and conditions of many of the people who produce our clothing. I wish it was clearer to know which brands produce our goods ethically but I am not aware of any way of knowing this. Buying second-hand provides me with a little more peace of mind. I accept that the goods may not have been produced ethically in the first place but there is some solace in that I am not further providing demand.

So, there’s the background. Basically, I came up with it on a whim but on further consideration there are lots of good reasons so I am up for the challenge. Watch this space as I post more blogs on how I get on…

* Steph is a regular contributor and friend of Styleable. She was a fashion designer prior to experiencing sight loss. She is now a life coach and personal development trainer and she is founder of Making Lemonade. Her philosophy in life is that, ‘if life deals you lemons….make lemonade!’

Find out more at


July Best Buy…

Like most people I was getting a bit sick of the record breaking rain fall that threatened to be the Great British summer! Thank goodness the sun has put it’s hat on and decided to come out and play! With the break in the clouds I felt inspired to buy this fun sun dress. The bright orange drew me to it as it is certainly eye catching and it has a typical beach scene along the hem. What swung it for me was, that upon closer inspection, what I assumed were sea gulls are actually bomber planes! I love the random element of the print and felt compelled to part with my £2.99!

With all the savings I am making and with this dress in my wardrobe I feel my next purchase is going to have to be a holiday!

( This was written before the current rain fall!)


A Year of Second-Hand Style!

By Steph Cutler

Half Way through…

I am just over half-way through my second-hand year and here’s the story so far…..

Since acquiring sight loss and leaving the fashion industry, my shopping habits have changed hugely. I no longer work in that trend driven environment, so inevitably I am less exposed to – and influenced by – what goes down the catwalk and what can be found on the shop floor.

In addition, I now have the issue that relates to my sight loss. I retain useful peripheral vision, which means I can see clothes well enough to decide whether I like them. This would suggest that if I can see well enough to know whether I like them, then shopping should not be so different to when I was fully sighted. This is not the reality, as I need assistance to know the cost and size. I find appropriate assistance is the exception rather than the norm, so the shopping experience that I used to find fun often feels like hard work.

I still enjoy clothes and I enjoy shopping when I am with good friends, but invariably it can feel frustrating.

Since I started this experiment, I have found that shopping in charity and second-hand shops has been consistently more enjoyable. They are less busy and the staff are far more helpful than their paid counterparts found in branded stores.

Also, charity shops have come a long way from the musty smelling, unappealing places they used to be. The goods are of good quality and well merchandised. They are not as cheap as they used to be and the pricing can be questionable. In fact, sometimes I feel like reminding them that the clothes have had a previous owner! However, there is one big plus point, your money is going to a good cause.

The truth is I haven’t shopped any more or less since taking up this challenge. I have probably purchased the same amount of clothes and I have liked and have worn all of the clothes I have bought. The main difference is that it has been way less stressful and I have also spent way less!

In my next blog post I will share my new second-hand wardrobe pieces with you….


Update on my items…

Regular readers of my Second-Hand Style blog posts know that I am only buying second-hand clothes for the whole of this year. The challenge is to add clothes to my wardrobe that represent me and make me look and feel good.

Here are my top seven finds so far:

1. Mango dress

Comment: ‘I bought this dress from a charity shop. I paid £7 which is a snip of what it would have cost in Mango. It would likely have been £30. I have teamed it up with chocolate brown tights and a chocolate brown vest top underneath with my trusted old boots. I have worn it lots and have had quite a few compliments’.

Description: Caramel colour, jersey dress with  a neck tie and two front pockets. It has puff sleeves and is knee length.

2. Levi skirt

Comment: ‘I found this original Levis denim skirt in a second-hand shop near where I live. It was only £4 and fits perfectly. I love teaming it up with thick, grey tights and my floral cardi’.

Description: Tight, knee length denim skirt with side split.

3. Yellow blazer

Comment: ‘I was talked into buying this bright yellow blazer by my colour loving husband. I felt I might look a bit like one of the cast of Hi-De-Hi at first. It is one of those garments which you need to be in the mood for, but I have grown to like it. On a particularly gray day I wore it and got lots of comments that it spread a little sunshine which I liked – the ticket man at the station even drew a smiley face on my receipt in homage to this blazer! I bought this at Open Door for £5, which seems a small price for spreading sunshine! Also as my business is called Making Lemonade it seemed appropriate!’

Description: Bright yellow blazer with two front pockets…

4. Tan shoes

Comment: ‘These are not the most exciting shoes in the world but that is actually a good thing. I have lots of exciting shoes so this neutral, tan pair of heels fill a gap in my shoe collection. This was another Oxfam buy at £4.’

Description: High, wood effect heel with ankle strap and woven front.

5. Designer dress

Comment: ‘My gem of a find is my Diane vonFurstenburg dress. I found it in a charity shop called Open Door. It fits like it was made-to-measure and feels expensive (which is not surprising as her dresses tend to sell for £300). This is my best bargain by far as this was only £5! I have worn it loads and totally love it’.

Description: Swirly, colourful 70’s inspired print. It is knee length and has three quarter sleeves. It has buttons down the front with ruffles either side which lead into a ruffled stand-up collar.

6. Crinoline dress

Comment: ‘This is my Marmite purchase! I bought this from a second-hand shop for £5. It is a hand-made, original crinoline 1970’s dress. Even I thought it was awful when I bought it, but I had a vision for it so I bought it for a bit of fun. I have had my lovely Mum make the sleeves three quarter length and take it up so it is knee length. The reactions have spanned from ‘love it!’ to outright laughter and a disdainful raised eye brow! I kind of love it for the split reactions and I think there is a place for it in my wardrobe when teamed up with some boots and a big belt’.

Description: Brown dress with colourful small squares printed all over. It is a simple design with no detail and a slightly high neck.

7. Glitsy top

Comment: ‘The magpie in me was drawn to this sparkly top straight away. I also love the strong colour. Perfect for a Saturday night out with skinny jeans. Originally from New Look it was a few quid from The British Heart Foundation shop.’

Description: Bold, royal blue, sleeve less jersey top with lines of sequins in a design on the front.

Watch this space for more bargainous buys……


September Best Buy…

On a recent day trip out with the girls I stumbled across this dress which I am crowning September’s ‘best buy’. I found it in a vintage fair being held in a hotel.

The dress itself has a vintage look to it but it is actually from Monsoon! It was one of my more expensive buys this year, but at £30 I still think it is a real bargain when you consider how much it would have been new.

The dress has already had it’s first outing at my friend’s wedding this month. It is inspired by the 1930’s but I think it is pretty timeless and will be in my wardrobe for many years to come. Next time a little sparkle is required i will be reaching for this one.


October Best Buy…

I came across this unusual dress while quickly diving into a second-hand/vintage shop on the way to the train station last month.I love the randomness of the purchase and the unusual print. The print is quite tattoo art inspired but with a feminine twist.Am yet to wear it, but it is packed in my suitcase for my up-coming holiday. Should look great with an Australian inspired tan!


A Year of Second-Hand Style

It has actually been a year since I decided only to buy second-hand clothes, shoes and accessories for twelve months! I thought it might be a bit of a challenge but truth is it hasn’t been that hard. I thought I’d feel a bit restricted or find it difficult to resist items I saw in stores but it’s been ok. In fact, it’s been better than ok, here’s why I’ve been loving shopping the second-hand way:

1.Random Purchases

By it’s very nature shopping in charity shops is a bit random, in that you don’t know what you might find. As I can’t see the labels I have been taking random to another level!

Had I not made a commitment to only shop in second-hand shops this year I would never have these two dresses in my wardrobe. Reason being, is that I am neither a teenager or pregnant! This sheer, floral dress was £5. It still had the label in it and would have been about £40. It is from JoJo Maman Bebe, a childrenswear and maternity label.

My second random buy is a shirt dress with three tiers of ruffles at the hem. The size on the label says it is for a 14/15 year old! In both cases I did not realise until I got home that one was a teenager size and one was for a pregnant woman. Not being able to see the labels made me just look at the garments, decide I liked them and bought them. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas that might otherwise have put me off. I love both of these dresses and have worn them lots of times. It kind of makes me smile to myself when I think I would never have come across these had I not been second-hand shopping and if I could see the labels.

2. Ease

These days I really only enjoy shopping if I am with friends. I do have a mooch around the shops but finding someone who is good at assisting you and locating the changing rooms can take the fun out of shopping and turn it into somthing that can feel a little more like hard work.

Shopping in charity shops and second-hand shops has been much more enjoyable. The shops are smaller so easier to navigate and the staff are much more attentive and helpful. I have felt like I can duck in and out of one of these shops and I just don’t tend to think like this about the larger stores.

3. Cost

The obvious benefit has been the savings! I reckon I have bought about the same number of items as I usually would, but have spent considerably less. If I had paid full price for the items I have boght this year I have estimated they would have come to around £850, instead I reckon I have spent about £220. That is a result in anyone’s book!

For more info about Steph go to


Every Season’s Must-Have Accessory…

By Steph Cutler, Personal Development Coach

No matter what the magazine editors and style experts are telling us is on trend this season, there is one accessory that you should not leave the house without and that is a SMILE. Might sound a bit corny, but I am a big believer that a smile goes with everything and I’ll tell you why.

While I am generally a pretty happy and positive person there are times when the nerves kick in and I am not feeling quite so happy and smiley. Inevitably, when I am not feeling it I am also not showing it.

If I am about to walk into an important meeting or meeting someone for the first time the butterflies may be dancing in my belly and my face is likely showing my nerves rather than a smile.

On these occasions I literally stop and check that I am smiling, if I’m not I paint a smile on. What always happens is that while the smile needed some encouragement and was forced, within no time at all I feel genuinely much happier and more relaxed. I have tricked myself into appearing happy and all of a sudden I feel a good deal happier. What’s more, it works every time.

Why is a smile the best thing you can ever wear?

A smile speaks volumes. It says more than even your most fabulous pair of shoes can (although sometimes it is a close run thing!).

A smile says, ‘I am happy to see you’. What more can another person want to hear on meeting you?

A smile says, ‘I am friendly’ which can put others at ease. Again what can be better than a warm introduction?

Smiling makes YOU feel better and puts YOU at ease, but has the double benefit of doing the same to others. Your smile is contagious.

Your smile shows you are confident and comfortable in the situation and a positive impression is always a good one.

A cool coat, an amazing handbag or fabulous shoes can do some of this but if they are worn without a smile they will never have the full impact. That is why I think the best dressed people wear the one accessory that never goes out of fashion and costs absolutely nothing.

Whoever said, ‘wear a smile, one size fits all’ was pretty spot on.

Steph coaches people to feel more confident and fulfilled and achieve success.