Shoppers guide: second hand bags

I love bags.  I think I actually love second hand bags even more though, as they have a character and feel that’s rather different to a brand new bag, and sometimes they even have hidden treasure!

Here’s my guide for how to snag the best second hand bags.

  • Try the charity shop first

Whereas donated clothes are often shipped off to a central distribution warehouse for the charity, bags, shoes and accessories tend to just be labelled and whacked on display, meaning things like bags are fairly frequently added to.  Have a rummage around, you might find an absolute gem.  And don’t be afraid to ask for anything displayed in the window or on a high display shelf.

  • Look for leather

Leather tends to age pretty well, and if it’s starting to show signs of wear can easily be polished out with a clear shoe polish.  Synthetic materials don’t tend to wear so well, but there will be some exceptions.

  • Check the closures – will it stay shut?

If the bag has a zip, does it function?  If it has any magnetic closure, do they work?  There’s nothing worse than getting a new bag home and finding it doesn’t close as you would expect.  If a bag has a zip and a flap over, and the zip is broken, ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable using the bag with just the flap over your contents.  Don’t forget though, there are some simple fixes which can be done to make a broken zip usable.

  • Inspect the lining and any internal pockets

Open the bag and have a poke about.  Is it lined?  Is the lining intact, or are there holes? What about internal pockets – do any zips or poppers look okay?  It’s also worth taking a cautious sniff of the lining – just in case!  If it smells terrible all’s not lost – that’s fixable.  But if the zips are screwed up and you like internal pockets it might be one to give a miss to.

  • What’s the damage?

Take a peek at the price tag.  Can you justify the price?  This is where charity shops come into their own – I’ve had some amazing bags for a whopping £2.50 from charity shops – whereas my absolute favourite evening bag was £22 from a vintage shop.  If a bag seems over priced in a vintage shop it might be worth trying a few charity shops to see if you can get something similar at a snip of the price.

  • Will it fit your phone?

I know, first world problems, but you’ve got to be practical.  Will it fit your phone?  Can you get the items you’d want to take in it, in it?  If not, perhaps it’s one to leave behind.

  • Is it a classic colour?

If the bag is a classic colour – I’m mainly thinking black or white, maybe gold or silver (cautiously), then it could be a good addition to your wardrobe.  If you find you’re not using it then it’s probably one to ship out or sell on – depending on which you prefer.

These are my top tips for buying second hand bags, have you got any to add?  I’d love to know what you look for!


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