Second hand clothes


All right ladies: if not before, it is now time to find your personal style! After reading this inspiring interview it will be almost impossible not to begin browsing the internet for secondhand and vintage clothes, or going downtown rummaging the secondhand clothing shops to see what unique things may be out there. We do not need to be different from others, but to find clothes that we feel are "me" is a wonderful feeling. And if we want to count in nature, secondhand is a very good choice.

Name: Sandra Phillips

Age: 60

Occupation: Weekdays: Property management administration. Evenings and weekends: Stylist, Fashion illustrator, Theatrical costume designer

Family: One daughter Madeleine, aged 25, a fine art student. My husband Rob died in 2016 of cancer (married 24 years)

Lives in: Salisbury, England

Many women love clothes and say it even affects their mood. Still most follow the main stream and create the style within what is popular at the moment. You have your own very personal style and seem not to look at what is modern at the time when buying clothes. Is this a correct observation you would say?

I love clothes and I would say it is the other way around: my mood affects my clothes. My clothes are always a reflection of how I wake up feeling and I know this sounds strange, but I quite often wake up feeling a colour and my outfit that day will reflect that. Sometimes clothes are a direct reflection of my energy levels or emotional state and sometimes, how feminine or masculine I'm feeling.

I think it is very sad how women, after all we've fought for over the last few decades, are slaves to mainstream fashion and follow the dictates of the fashion industry. I'm 60 years old and I know that women who grew up in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's shook themselves free of the dictates of "how women should look". Suddenly there were more female designers like Mary Quant, Barbara Hulaniki, Zandra Rhodes etc and we were so stylish: the swinging 60's, the glamrock 70's, the new wave 80's.

We had such style and then, we became invisible and embraced a uniform worn by millions of women all over the world. We listened to phrases like "black is slimming" and thanks to the evils of the diet industry, we always had to look as slim as possible. Curves were out. We squeezed ourselves into jeans just to prove we could still fit into them. We didn't dress to suit our bodies or shapes and we didn't embrace our age.

I buy clothes that I like, that suit my body, that make me happy. I dress for me and I don't care what anyone else thinks of what I'm wearing. It's a bonus if people like an outfit and I know that I inspire a lot of people to challenge their whole outlook on fashion. Personally, I don't care if it's in fashion now or it was in fashion in 1930 - if I like it, then I buy it.

The other important factor is that clothes were of a much higher quality unlike the disposable fashion that is so readily available today. Natural fabrics like silk, wool, linen, cotton etc were used far more widely in the past and they are so much nicer to wear than polyester! Also, by buying such a random selection of clothes and accessories, I am able to create totally unique outfits that no one else will be wearing.

You create your outfits by shopping secondhand. How do you find so many nice things without going to regular stores?

It has taken me a long time to build up my collection - over several years in fact. All towns in England have several charity shops in their main shopping areas and I visit them on a rotation basis so the stock changes. I don't browse through rails of clothing - something has to leap out at me as I walk through the door. I can spot silk straight away as well as high quality designer items. I have a colour memory and quite often I am looking for an item of a certain colour, so unless I see it when I walk through the door, I am not interested.

Sometimes I'm looking for something very specific like a pair of black boots and it will take me about ten seconds to scan the footwear section. I like unique and unusual items and am very good at finding them as usually nobody else wants them; they all want the boring stuff that they can find in regular stores.

I very rarely go into regular stores unless there is a final clearance sale, but I certainly won't pay full price for anything unless it's totally unique and at a reasonable price. I'm also very aware of the increasing need for sustainability in fashion as a response to the whole disposable culture around clothing that has grown up. What better way to counteract this, than to recycle clothing and wear pre-loved clothes or clothes with stories (or history)?

I love vintage shops and vintage fairs but a lot of them charge very high prices for stock that I can often find in a charity shop.

I do buy some items on Ebay if I'm looking for something specific and have been unable to find it in a charity shop. But again, it always has to be a bargain and I never get into bidding wars - I'm very strict with maximum bids.

For almost two years now you have put your outfits out on instagram and have many followers. You also include lovely drawings. Tell me about them.

After my husband Rob died in 2016, my life had no direction and I had lost myself and my identity! For a year, I ran away from reality both literally (I travelled) and emotionally. I eventually crashed and ended up seeing a therapist who encouraged me to explore my creativity to find myself. My daughter also encouraged me in this direction.

I come from a long line of eccentric obsessed artists - through my father's family - who had also started drawing avidly when they reached around 60 years old. When I was 18, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I had grown up with both parents in the fashion industry. My mum was a model and had her own leather clothing company in the 60's and my dad was a ladies tailor.

It was in my blood, but I was not allowed to go to art college because I was too academically clever; my mum refused to support me if I went to art school. From that point on I developed an artist's block which lasted until 2018.

One day, I decided to draw what I was wearing - just a quick sketch and it was like an instant addiction. My daughter encouraged me to post it on Instagram. I had to keep doing it. In fact, my day does not feel right unless I do an illustration.

Every day I get dressed in my outfit - it's always spontaneous and I never plan what I'm going to wear as I don't know how I'm going to feel that day. Sometimes the outfit is based on a colour or colour combination, sometimes it's based around a particular piece that I want to wear - this can be clothing, footwear or accessories.

Then once I am dressed, I do the illustration of what I'm wearing. The poses are from my imagination. The illustrations take 15-30 minutes depending on how detailed they are with patterns and layers, and I use marker pens in an A5 sketch book. If I make a mistake, I leave it in because I am no longer a perfectionist. I quite literally turn what I'm wearing into art, hence the name "Dress into Art". Then I take some photographs (which are also a reflection of my creativity and mood) and I post them on Instagram  and Facebook with my illustration.

For a long time, I just took photographs of the outfits and not my face, but people kept saying to me "Why don't you take photographs of your face?", so a few months ago I started doing "selfies" and I have had an amazing response. I am amazed at the number of people who are now following me, but I know that I am doing something that is pretty much unique with the illustration of the outfit as well as the photographs.

You do show many hats, something many women nowadays do not wear. What is it you like yourself about them?

I love accessories, although the best accessory is always a smile! I love hats and there is a hat to suit everyone - you just have to find one that suits you. I have a lovely collection because so many people buy hats and never wear them, so they end up in charity shops. I probably have a beret or hat in every colour you can imagine.

My other passion is leather gloves, again something that people buy and never wear, and I have every colour of the rainbow and more. I also love vintage hats and I have a few of my grandmother's. All accessories are important, they can transform an outfit in so many ways. Hats are the icing on the cake!

At least, what do you do with all clothes you buy, because it seems to be a lot? Do you keep them or resell them?

I keep most of them and luckily, I stay at around the same size. Every so often I have a clear out. If I've bought something and never worn it, then I will either give it to a friend or give it back to charity shops; I'm a great believer in "as you give, so shall you receive". When I give something back, then I make room for new wonderful things to come into my life. Very very occasionally, I might sell something on Ebay if it is worth a lot. A few years ago I bought a Prada dress at a vintage sale for £ 50 and never wore it so I sold it on Ebay for £ 400.

I have also started doing styling sessions with women of a similar age to me. I take them on a shopping expedition around their local vintage/charity shops and we put together an outfit including all accessories. I always take them out of their comfort zone. Then I style her in it, take lots of photo's and then do an illustration. I would like to turn this into a business as I know that it's absolutely what I am all about - making people feel good about themselves and looking after the planet at the same time!

However, some of my clothes are beginning to find a new audience - quite literally. About a year ago I did an acting course at the local university and the tutor also happened to be the director of a theatre company. She would always comment on what I was wearing and absolutely loved my style.

After the course finished, she contacted me to ask if I would be interested in designing the costumes for a play that she was directing. I jumped at the chance and sourced/designed the outfits from my own wardrobe. Earlier this year, she contacted me to design the costumes for another play and once more, all the clothes came from my own wardrobe although I did have to buy a couple of things from charity shops to supplement them. In the autumn, I am going to be working with her on a much bigger project which will be going on an international tour, so I am very excited about that.  

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