London Fashion Week Day 1: Glad Rags in the Age of Austerity

20/02/2012 10:05 GMT | Updated 20/04/2012 10:12 BST

Oxfam, the Mecca of all charity shops, asked me to take part in their London Fashion Week Challenge which is to wear at least one piece from their vintage collection to the shows. I've always had a penchant for vintage clothing and a good charity shop find, much to my mother's horror she could never understand why I would want to wear a (possibly dead) stranger's clothes.

The beauty of second-hand clothes lies somewhere between owning a timeless classic and being creative with your personal style while on a budget. Plus, there is the added feel good factor of knowing you are saving a garment from the landfill and in doing so, you are supporting a good cause. The danger of second-hand clothes is that you can look like a jumble sale gone wrong or, in the case of vintage, styling has to be on a knife-edge or else you risk looking like an extra off the set of a period costume drama.


(Photo credit: billa)

Stylist and image consultant Alex Smith, founder of sustainable fashion buying consultancy Considered Style, was a key player in delivering new products for Oxfam's sustainable fashion boutiques. She was kind enough to lend me five pearls of wisdom when styling and wearing vintage.

  • The fabric and shape need to look either look like or be high quality. Go for great details and prints if they're in really good condition. Aged and careworn has to be styled across the outfit to look deliberate. Randomly stained and tatty clothes look exactly that.
  • It has to fit and flatter you, you have to wear it, not the other way around - unless you want to look deliberately dramatic.
  • Reference an overall silhouette from an era, mix with modern pieces which can still come from Oxfam. Check hemline, waist and cuffs, they still need to be in proportion to the person and look right now in terms of lengths. Get them altered if they aren't right.
  • Keep it up to date mix with a modern detail/accessory/trimfrom a different era.
  • One oversized accessory per outfit, no matter whether that's shoes, bag, jewellery, is enough. More than that is potential fancy dress territory.

I chose to wear this vintage Ghost dress from the Oxfam Collection today because of the colour and the draping as a nod to Bora Aksu's show. Bora does great work with ethical fashion label People Tree and his signature draping can be found on the label's specially commissioned pieces. The shoes are Radley and I picked them up at Oxfam in West London earlier this year. The Perspex orange bracelet I found at Oxfam in Covent Garden yesterday for 99p. The bowler hat is 100% wool and I borrowed it from a friend. The necklace is a heritage piece - it is a traditional, hand woven textile from the Visayan region of the Philippines where my grandmother is from.

You can read Christine's Day 2 entry here.Christine's Day 2 entry here