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Call Me Second Hand Rose....

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When I started my dress agency in 2009, my vision was to style the world 'vintage'. I don't necessarily mean wrap them in my nan's old tablecloth (though that could work if it was a Pucci print...) I was thinking more of adding old classics to your wardrobe to style up your new stuff. My experiences from working in New York, was that old was cool, it was different, likely to be one off and terribly stylish, darling.

Consignment shops (that's American for dress agency) have always been popular Stateside - why, the formidable Jackie O herself used one in Manhattan, recycling her designer suits and dresses. Oh boy would I have loved to have been around those stores in New York then.

I was first bitten by the vintage bug in 1983, borrowing my grandma's 60s kitten heeled sling backs - they had toes so pointed you could have impaled anyone you kicked. I carefully borrowed a few of grannie's pieces - mostly shoes, jewellery and handbags to add to my puff ball skirts, explosive hair and wrist to elbow silver slave bangles. When my lovely grandma died in mid 1985 and so did my vintage bug... for a time anyway. It wasn't really reignited until in the early noughties and I was on one of my many working visits to New York. Instead of hitting the normal Macys and Bloomingdales, I ventured further a field and was blown away by the vintage shops and dress agencies. They were classy places to shop - not the crumbly walled agencies I had seen in the UK, that were run by two old birds and stocked to the hilt with ball gowns and brands you wouldn't want to buy 1st time around never mind second!

After a wee spend up in New York, I started to use agencies in my local town to sell items I no longer wore, mistakes from the sales and just to make room for new arrivals in my closet. It was a good feeling to make some money back from something I had coveted so much and then had fallen out of love with. Whilst selling wasn't a problem, I still found it hard locally to find an agency to that I wanted to buy in. None of them excited me like the ones in New York had. There are some fabulous, well established agencies in London and dotted all over the UK but they are always under the radar, rarely advertising and using word of mouth to mostly target new customers. And still, second hand dressing just wasn't seen as cool.

Then the financial crisis happened and in 2008 I was made redundant. I had an epiphany. It was one early morning and it smacked me across the cheeks like a scorned lover - I could get off my backside and open my own boutique! Basing my business plan on what I'd seen across the pond, my boutique would be packed to the rafters with designer pieces, mixed with beautiful, sort after vintage and an ickle bit of top end high street thrown into the mix. There you have an ultimate wardrobe recipe.

Since then, well folks, I've never looked back. I have a little bit of 'new' in my wardrobe, but I prefer to shop in my own boutique or use other agencies. The buzz from nabbing myself a timeless Gucci blazer for the same price as I would spend new in Zara is palpable. I've got an amazing wardrobe with items that will last me years, not just seasons. And if you're canny, so can you. Here's how.

Savvy second hand shopping is easier than it's ever been. It's cool and terribly chic too. Since the recession, lots of agencies have opened up and there is probably one near you. Go in and suss them out. Check out what sort of stock they have, how long they keep items for and what the commission charges are - all agencies are different. There aren't just boutiques you can go to, there is now a huge selection of online agencies too. Do your research and ask your friends for recommendations. Google can be your friend!

So once you've found one or two agencies that you'd like to sell your clothes through, you've now got to do that wardrobe edit. Two words. Be brutal. You need to have four piles on the go. Charity. Keep. Mend/restyle. Sell. It's as simple as that. Now once you've made some room AND hopefully some money back, you can now hit the agencies. Keep in mind the gaps in your wardrobe that you may need to fill - a perfect black tote, a tailored jacket, a cocktail dress - but also bare in mind that you may not find what you want in your size. Dress agency shopping can require stamina and patience.

Now, race you for that Chanel bag.....