Vintage can be a lottery, but a service claims it can deliver style

Buying vintage can be a lottery, but a new subscription service claims it can deliver style to your door…Second hand clothes with first class help

  • Radhika Sanghani tries second hand fashion from A Curated Thrift subscription
  • Service offers stylist-selected high-quality clothing scoured from thrift shops 
  • Instead of spending hours searching for bargains the box brings them to you

Usually, when a parcel of clothes arrives on my doorstep, I know exactly what’s inside. But this time I have no idea what to expect. That’s because I’m not the one who chose these clothes.

I’m trying out A Curated Thrift, a fashion service which sends subscribers a personalised box of clothes and accessories each month. Similar companies have sprung up recently, from Stitch Fix, which sends stylist-selected clothes from brands such as Calvin Klein and Joules, to rental services.

The big difference here is that A Curated Thrift sends only vintage, high-quality clothing scoured from thrift shops.

Founded by Florida-based fashion design graduate and mother Julia Meadows, 35, the service promises to deliver a personally curated box with ‘clothing that fits your style, personality and body shape’. I’m not convinced — I haven’t worn vintage since I was a teenager, when I bought cut-off Levi’s and faded sweatshirts. But these days the idea of hunting for bargains in dusty shops just doesn’t appeal, and neither do the clothes.

Radhika Sanghani shows off her vintage clothes selection sent by vintage fashion box

Aged 30, I like simple, well-made clothes. A whimsical 1950s tea dress or a 1960s patterned shift fills me with dread. I’m also worried about the sizing. Vintage clothes tend to be smaller, and, at 5 ft 8 in, I struggle to find trousers that fit on the waist without coming up short.

Still, I can remember the thrill of unearthing a hidden treasure no one else has, so I give A Curated Thrift a try.

There are different monthly subscription options — with the first month on a one-off basis — ranging from £27 for one item to £46 for four, plus an additional £11 for UK postage.

First I complete a style questionnaire. The options range from ‘boho rocker’ to ‘intellectual chic’.

I settle on ‘minimalist: you like elegant shapes and simple clean lines’, and ‘eclectic: you beat to the rhythm of your own drum’, mainly because I like the accompanying photos of distinctly un-vintage-looking blazers and trousers that could be from Whistles. In the ‘additional info’ box I say that I like my clothes to be smart-casual.

It asks for bust, waist and hip measurements, but I just write UK size 6/8 for trousers, and size 8 top.

One of the items delivered to Radhika by A Curated Thrift, a tie-dye t-shirt

If you have very specific tastes, the level of detail on the four-page questionnaire is impressive.

I fill out my preferences for tailored, snug or loose fits (tailored for me), my favourite vintage era (no idea, so I leave it blank), and whether I have an Instagram or Pinterest page I’d like to share to showcase my style (I don’t).

The box also contained a pair of pinstriped loosely cut trousers

There’s an option to request that they shop for accessories for you, and a box to say if you’d like any part of your body covered.

I must admit I was curious as to how these poor stylists were going to find a smart-casual outfit that combined ‘minimalist’ and ‘eclectic.’ Two weeks later, I find out they’ve actually managed it.

I receive pinstriped 1980s high-waisted trousers which fit perfectly, a structured, cropped black top with long sleeves, a crazy tie-dyed T-shirt, a sleek teal blazer and complementary plastic daisy earrings.

They’re not pieces I would necessarily pick myself — but nothing like the badly fitting, musty dresses I’d envisioned. The clothes feel comfortable and stylish.

I don’t recognise the labels, but Julia says my haul is worth around £150 (a bargain for the £57 I spent) and when I wear the ensemble with the black top on a pub outing, the compliments are flowing.

‘People are often pleasantly surprised with their box,’ says Julia, who founded her business in 2018. She now has several hundred regular subscribers — and says she has seen a 20 per cent increase in sign-ups each month.

‘Some people can be scared. They think vintage can be gimmicky or make too much of a statement, but there’s a lot out there that isn’t too loud. Like a minimalist, cream blouse from the 1980s with a square cut that’s really on trend right now.’

And finishing the look off with a statement the box also included a bright teal blazer

The box is aimed at those who want to be conscious with their fashion choices 

Most of the time she hunts for good quality ‘one-of-a-kind’ pieces that will appeal to her customers — ‘hard-working young women coming into the workforce, or hard-working mothers who might have a management role’.

These women are the reason she set up her company while working full-time in the software industry, and just months after giving birth to her son, Kolton.

‘Our boxes provide a full outfit selected in an eco-conscious way, which solves a real problem for busy women,’ she says.

Lauren Bravo, author of How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, points out that vintage subscription services encourage a move away from ‘must-have trends’.

Radhika said she is impressed and could see herself subscribing regularly to the service

‘This is about loving clothes for their own merit, but you still get that thrill of having fresh items in your wardrobe each month,’ she says. ‘However, we need to be careful that second-hand hauls don’t become a mindless placebo. A wardrobe full of second-hand clothes we haven’t chosen and might not love isn’t necessarily the answer.’

Plus points are A Curated Thrift lets you change your preferences each month and give feedback if you don’t like something in your box. An extra item will be sent the next month, but instead of returning the item, customers are encouraged to donate to a charity shop.

I’m impressed. I can’t see myself subscribing regularly, but I love that this is a cost-effective and relatively eco-friendly way to revamp your wardrobe through a stylist.

There will always be items that don’t work (I’m not convinced by the tie-dye T-shirt) but I can vouch that there weren’t any nasty odours in my box — just an outfit that went down very well at the pub. 


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