The other day I scored some awesome Adidas trainers from the Cancer Research shop for £8 and was showing them off at work when my friend commented that she'd love to shop in charity shops but she doesn't feel like she knows how. She's not the first person who's mentioned this to me and so I thought I'd share some of my charity shop experience with you all. Ok, so here goes, I hope you find it helpful!
Charity Shop Locations
I've noticed a difference between the items available in the charity shops in my home town compared to the ones available in the nearing, larger, slightly posher town :) In wealthy areas people tend to donate designer pieces that haven't been worn very much. For example, the other day in my nearby posh town I scored this amazing hardly worn L.K Bennett jacket for £14.95 (see picture below).
Know your brands
This is a biggy, it's really important to get familiar with good brands so that you recognise a real bargain and avoid paying more or less the same for what an item would have cost full price. Also, designer brand items will last a lot longer than high street brands. For example, labels saying Atmosphere are items from Primark which would have probably cost between £4 and £10 brand new, so paying the charity shop price of £4-£7 isn't that much of a saving. Having said that, I fell in love with a maroon jumper that I knew was Primark but I liked it so much I got it anyway and I wear it all the time. Other ones to look out for:
Florence and Fred = Tesco
George = Asda
Divided = H&M
Moto = Topshop
Most charity shops have a lot of these brands due to fast fashion, ie. people can buy something new for less than a tenner, wear it once or twice and then give it away to charity. I'm not saying you should avoid these items as a lot of the high street brands do great basics and you can often get 4 or 5 great t-shirts or vests for under £10, these make key wardrobe items that can go under winter jumpers or shirts etc. My point is though, if you're going in for a great bargain and you come home with a lot of cheaply made stuff that's already been worn in, you might feel a bit bummed out :)
Be prepared to rummage
I think the biggest reason people come out of charity shops empty handed is that they're not prepared to rummage. You literally have to look at every item on every rail to find the hidden sartorial treasures. You have to remember that the amazing volunteers that work in charity shops are not always going to know about fashion and designer labels so they will more than likely shove a Boden knitted dress next to an un-named cheap 100% polyester number. Also, I've noticed that 90% of some charity shops is tat but then you can find one amazing designer piece so it's definitely worth rummaging. Other days you can come out with the mother load like this particular visit pictured below featuring a Warehouse blouse, leather satchel, Kaliko jumper, vintage tea cup and my fave maroon jumper. This lot came to under £20....score!!
Know your trends
I love flicking through fashion magazines and seeing what trends are on the horizon and how outfits are put together. I also love to look at street style photographers such as Facehunter to see how people style themselves (the Scandos always look amazing). I then take this inspiration to charity shops and choose items that can create similar looks for a fraction of the cost. For example, I knew ankle length denim skirts were coming in to fashion and I found one in a shop in my town (no doubt left over from the 90s) for £3, now I see them on sale for £20 upwards in high street stores and can't help but feel a teensy bit smug :)
Don't be strict with sizes
In a normal clothes shop if you fall in love with something you can usually find it in your size but this is not the case in charity shops, what is out is all there is. I found a gorgeous M&S grey knitted cardigan but it was a size 16, however, I tried it on and it still worked, it's ideal for throwing over the top of chunkier jumpers. Oversized t-shirts look great with leggings and skinny jeans, especially if you cut the sleeves off. You can also tie them in a knot to make them cropped. Jeans a few sizes bigger can be belted and rolled up and give that relaxed boyfriend jean look. An over sized jumper like a baggy polar neck can be belted at the waist and worn with leggings and you get that fabulous Carrie Bradshaw look. If it's a piece that needs to be fitted like a dress and is only a size too big, you may be able to get it taken in by a tailor.
No label is not necessarily a bad thing
I really like quirky pieces that I don't think anyone else will have so if I find something that has no label or a label I haven't heard of but is good quality and interesting I'll snatch it. I found this vintage looking floral shirt at a garage sale for a few £s and I wear it all the time and get a lot of compliments. Here it is worn underneath my fave jumper :) Another fave was this 80s style patterned skirt with pockets which I think cos 50p.
Most of the shoes that I own are from charity shops and I love them because someone has done you the favor of wearing them in so they're less likely to rub, and also I can rarely afford new shoes. Again you need to rummage with shoes and check the bottom of them to see what condition they're in, also check the inside, if you can't read the writing inside the shoe then they have been worn a lot and might not last much longer. My recent faves were these leopard print boots which were hardly worn and these amazing Vivienne Westwood shoes which I gave to my friend. Again, look out for brands, the cheaper high street shoes won't have much wear in them (even when new) whereas other brands will last a long time.
You're doing something positive
Shopping in charity shops is a win win scenario, your money is going towards worthwhile causes, you grab yourself a bargain and you're helping to reduce the amount of clothes ending up in landfill. There are so many second hand shops full of perfectly good clothes it seems so wasteful to keep purchasing new ones.
Thanks for reading :) xx