A cursory glance at the items available at Pandora, a specialist second- hand designer shop just a whisker away from Harrods (where else?) is certainly an experience to savour.. Nestling between rows of fur coats and a suede waistcoat that is definitely this season's fashion faux pas lurk more black dresses than at a funeral party. But it's quality not quantity that will get a clued-up designer junkie to part with their money. A Bruce Oldfield cowl-neck dress in cashmere, pounds 800 in 1996, is now in the bargain- basement range. It's soft to touch, if a little baggy-looking, but what do you expect for pounds 117? A sequinned Thomasz Starzewski strappy dress (one lady owner, never worn, barely twelve months on the clock) cost a whopping pounds 1,600 last season but Pandora are practically giving it away at pounds 352.
You might be amazed by the difference in prices between new and barely worn but don't ignore the small print. Some second-hand clothes acquire flaws en route, like tiny catches and frays or spots below the knee (exactly what those spots are is anybody's guess). To be fair, they are pointed out to the customers but what is the point of buying a second-hand dress that looks like a hand-me-down, even if the tailoring is out of this world? Let's face it, if you are a believer in the innate superiority of anything with a flashy label you won't admit to buying it on the cheap, let alone second hand.
So what do the experts think? "Classics like the little black dress are the best items to look for in second-hand shops," advises Jane Nicholson, fashion editor at Options. But styles change from season to season so it's best to have a look through the fashion magazines to see what`s around. This season shift dresses are in and anything with cap sleeves will look good with kitten heels. To get the best value for money you should look for things which work in winter or summer, day or night, such as sleeveless dresses to the knee."