Like many, I’ve been trying to buy fewer new things in recent months – both for my pocket and the planet.
With everything going on in the world, I no longer feel the same rush buying on the high street or from big online shops. Knowing I’m contributing to overconsumption and potentially shady business practices dulls the shine of a bout of retail therapy somewhat.
But then I also love clothes, expressing myself through bold colours and prints, which made the idea of moving away from fast fashion a daunting prospect.
A rummage through the charity shop is my idea of heaven, but there’s only so much time we have to find items that fit and suit us.
Many are also cottoning onto the popularity of vintage clothing, marking up prices and making it harder to bag hidden gems where the cost reflects that they’re pre-loved.
Looking for a solution for this, I came across Big Sister Swap on Instagram and decided to give it a go.
Big Sister Swap is a service based in the UK that offers a new way to breathe life into old clothes while getting some ‘new to you’ ones of your own.
You go on the site and purchase a bespoke swap based on the weight of the clothes you have to donate. A starter swap – which is three items or less – costs £15, while a 5kg one will set you back £65.
I went for the 2.5kg swap to start me off, before having a huge clear-out to choose what to send. I ended up with about double that weight, but had it confirmed with customer services that it’s fine to send off more than you’ve paid for.
Be aware that you do need to cover postage for what you donate, which for me came in at about £6.
Then comes the styling part of the service. Each swapper fills in a questionnaire about their style preferences and can send pictures or Pinterest boards for inspiration, as well as connecting social media accounts so stylists can get a feel for your look.
I tried not to be overly detailed with my responses in the hope things could be picked for me rather than me choosing – and I was not disappointed.
Before I go any further it must be mentioned that this isn’t a gifted swap, paid advertisement, or any form of sponcon; the glowing praise you’re about to read is because I’m genuinely impressed.
After waiting about three weeks (Big Sister Swap has exploded in popularity recently, leading to some delays), my swap arrived.
Having half-jokingly mentioned in my questionnaire that I was after a Saks Potts coat if they had any going spare, I opened the parcel to find an almost exact match.
It’s in a butter-soft sage green leather, fits me perfectly, and has detachable faux fur cuffs and a collar so I can switch it up when I want. Over the moon is an understatement.
Given the original Saks coat costs over £1,300 new – and the style is trending to the point even dupes sell out in seconds – I hadn’t expected anything major. But here she was; my perfect jacket in perfect condition, all for under £30.
When I searched for the manufacturer (it didn’t have a label) I managed to find out that the coat I was sent is still on sale on their website for £550. Now that was a retail therapy rush.
That wasn’t all either. I also got a pair of pale green wide leg trousers which made the perfect tonal match for the coat, as well as a cute pink skirt suit from Stradivarius that still had the tags on.
Everything felt super personal, from the note included in the parcel to the clothes chosen for me. I couldn’t have picked better for myself, and am a huge convert to this way of shopping.
Big Sister Swap has an ‘every size guarantee’ whereby they never refuse an order and always fulfil your swap with items in your correct size. For plus size people it’s among the few sustainably options available, made even more exciting when you factor in the tailored styling aspect.
For a long time I’ve felt that green fashion is an inaccessible industry, only open to those who can afford a premium for responsibly-sourced fabrics and handmade items.
Something like Big Sister Swap is a breath of fresh air, adding fun to buying eco-friendly clothes and not breaking the bank in the process. Not only do you get to streamline your wardrobe and get rid of stuff that hasn’t sparked joy in ages, you’re also treated to a bespoke package of garments handpicked for you.
Once I’d faffed about taking pictures in my new outfits and feeling cute, I went straight back and bought vouchers for my mates. I’m ready to sing Big Sister Swap’s name from the rooftops, in the hope we’ll all buy fewer new clothes – and potentially find our dream pieces.
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