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Renting versus buying second-hand maternity and baby clothes

If you’re looking for a more sustainable approach to maternity and baby clothing, you may have already decided not to buy these clothes brand new, but how does renting compare to buying second-hand? Is it more sustainable? Why rent when you can pick up a second-hand bargain? I’ve decided to delve into all of the pros and cons of renting versus buying second-hand, to help you make a decision on which is best for you and your family.

The pros of second-hand

Buying second-hand clothes is clearly a great sustainable option. By choosing pre-owned items, you contribute to reducing demand for new production and help keep usable items out of landfill.

Apps like Vinted (which I am addicted to!) now offer an easier way to shop second-hand than ever before – the filters for brands, size, and item type, plus many other features, make it really easy to find what you’re looking for, and I love that you can just buy items and build bundles in one click rather than the Ebay auction format or inflated ‘Buy it Now’ prices.

There are also a lot of bargains out there to be found and again the prices on Vinted seem to be particularly cheap.

However, there are some pitfalls to buying second-hand which renting can address.

The rental solution: addressing second-hand buying challenges

Whilst buying-second-hand can be cheap, you’ll need to put a lot of time in to searching and scrolling for the items you need, and be prepared to do this again when the weather changes or your little one has a growth spurt. When renting with B&B, we save you all of this hassle by curating a capsule wardrobe based on your personal tastes, and then all it takes is a quick email to ask for the next size up or some seasonal swaps (if you haven’t heard from us already!), and we’ll send them out to you within a few days. And if you’re renting a maternity or nursing capsule, it’s simple to choose some swaps and send back your returns using the pre-paid returns label.

A neat pile of baby clothes resting on an outstretched hand

An example of a baby capsule rental wardrobe, curated for you and delivered to your doorstep.

Availability is limited when buying second-hand, particularly if you have specific brands or styles that you like. When shopping myself, I often find that parents are selling bundles with a mixture of brands including some of the cheaper brands like Primark or supermarkets, which aren’t as good quality and are much less likely to be produced sustainably and ethically, with workers far more likely to be exploited. At B&B we stock only the best quality clothes, and all of our baby clothes are from organic, sustainable brands – you can even tell us which brands you prefer and we will tailor your baby’s capsule wardrobe.

You might order a load of clothes to find that some of them don’t even fit, which is even more possible with maternity clothes where sizing can be a bit of a minefield. When renting with B&B if anything doesn’t fit we will replace it for a different size or style completely free of charge, whether it’s for you or your baby.

There’s no quality control when it comes to buying second-hand. Once I ordered some baby clothes, and I was sent a completely different item in a different brand to what was listed. Another time, someone had left a biscuit in the pocket and I ran it through the wash without realising – eugh!! It’s also quite common for items to have damage or stains that the seller didn’t notice or mention, and you then have to decide whether to spend more time repairing them if you can, or go through the hassle of returning them for a refund. At B&B we pride ourselves on our quality control and we’re very strict with the quality of the items that we send out.

Similarly, clothes bought second-hand can then wear out or develop damage more quickly than if they were new, but if this happens to anything you’ve rented from us, just let us know and we will repair or replace it free of charge – just like second-hand but risk free!

before and after photo showing a frayed hem that has been repaired with bias binding

Before and after we repaired the frayed hems of these baby trousers with vintage bias binding - we're always looking for creative mending solutions!

Just like buying new, when buying second-hand you’ll still have to sort and find new homes for everything when it’s outgrown, which can be very time consuming. With renting, you just pack everything up in your reusable bag and send it back for us to deal with!

Lastly I want to address whether renting is more sustainable than buying second-hand – I think this deserves a whole blog post of its own but I’ll just quickly mention a few points. First of all, when buying second-hand you are likely to have lots of parcels being shipped around, rather than one big reusable bag that you’ll receive your rented capsule wardrobe inside, so the carbon footprint is bigger. Secondly, as I’ve mentioned above, it depends which clothes and brands you’re buying, and you’ll need to decide whether to buy brands second-hand that you might not buy from new for ethical reasons. Finally, what will you do with them when you’re finished with them? If they go into storage, that means there are fewer second-hand clothes in circulation which may result in increased demand for new clothes. If planning for a second pregnancy or baby, clothes may not be as useful if you are pregnant or your baby is born at a different time of year, or if your next baby is a different gender. If the clothes get stains or damage, will you have the time and energy to repair them?

Finding the balance

Ultimately, the choice between renting and buying second-hand maternity and baby clothes is a personal one that depends on your priorities and circumstances. While second-hand shopping has its advantages, renting offers a solution to the challenges of quality, fit, and availability. Some parents may prefer the convenience and variety of renting, while others find joy in curating a collection of second-hand treasures. You can also go for a hybrid approach – renting for certain stages or events and buying second-hand for timeless pieces.

In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly important, the choices we make in even the smallest aspects of our lives can make a significant impact. Whether you opt for buying second-hand, the reliability of rental, or a combination of both, your decision contributes to a more sustainable and responsible future for the fashion industry and our planet.


Are you new here? Read on to find out a little bit more about us...

Belles and Babes is a UK-based rental business specialising in sustainable maternity, baby, and nursing clothes. Founded by Emma Gillespie in 2017, the company is driven by her corporate sustainability background and has a mission to provide a more sustainable alternative for parents seeking to move away from fast fashion and reduce clothing waste.

B&B offers maternity and nursing clothes to rent as part of its capsule wardrobe service for £5 per item each month, with the option to swap items and add on extras such as a maternity coat. Baby capsule wardrobes start from £25 a month for a personalised bundle of 18 items of sustainable organic clothing which are replaced as your baby grows.

If you are a parent seeking a sustainable alternative to fast fashion, you can find out more about our rental options by clicking the links in the menu above.

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