Charity shopping is the next big thing in fashion. For whatever reason, whether it be the deep economic recession leaving us less disposable cash in our pockets, or the resurgence in vintage dressing, or simply a desire to step outside the normal fashion perimeters, more and more people are taking their first trip to a charity shop, and liking what they find.
I first discovered charity shopping in mt teens. I visited my local shops on a regular basis, hunting for a-line skirts, crushed velvet apparel, vintage underskirts and nighties, and 70′s Adidas tops. I loved my local charity shops, but they weren’t for everyone, with a somewhat musty smell to them, decrepit volunteers manning the tills and a general feel that someone might’ve died wearing the clothing.
But charity shopping has completely changed in the last ten years. Gone is the sometimes dirty clothing, almost all charity shops now steam clean items so they smell fresh and new. Some items, are new, with tags intact due to the nature of our throw away society. The shops are bright and airy, with shiny laminate flooring and bright, trendy shelving units. And the clothes are properly sorted, usually by size, sometimes by colour. You can go to the exact section you want to without having to trawl through endless rails of unsuitable clothing. Many charity shops have a vintage section, a treasure trove of amazing and unique vintage finds. Some charity branches have bridal sections, for the budget conscious on their big day.
But most amazing of all is the new stock many charity stores now sell. Oxfam have a fab range of fair trade jewelry and beaded bags, Scope also have a fab (and mega cheap range) of jewellery and bags called the equality range, whilst cancer research have the most amazing eco bags, including a fabulous can-can dancer bag designed by Red or Dead founder Wayne Hemingway.
So, what can you expect to find in charity shops nowadays. As expected, there are a great deal of low-cost high street brands like George and Primark, as you would expect, the ‘fast fashion’ aspect of these brands means they are discarded quite quickly. But you can also find Higher quality high street brands like Monsoon and Wallis in abundance. You can also find Jigsaw, Precis Petite and Planet items in most charity shops. One of my best recent buys was a pink and grey graphic print silk dress from Jaeger, which I picked up for just £7. It had a definite Peter Pilotto feel to it, and after I added a thick belt it got rave reviews from family and friends.
You can also find a range of designer wear, I got a great men’s Paul Smith suit from a Wednesbury charity shop priced up at £5. I sold it for £50 on Ebay as it didn’t fit the hubby. I’ve also brought items by Jil Sander, Tods and Miu Miu from charity shops. Vintage items, such as Kelly style bags and vintage pearls, are also great finds, and are often only sold for a few pounds. In addition, the book section can often add to your style collection. I found a shabby, but now much treasured, book which contained a history of illustrated Vogue covers from a charity shop in Ironbridge for £2. I now donate all my read fashion magazines to a local charity shop, where they are sold again. Now, that really is recycling style.
Buying from charity shops is ecologically sound as it is another form of recycling. It raises much-needed funds for good causes, whilst providing the shopper with an outfit that hasn’t cost the earth, either financially or ecologically. For the true fashionista, check out the charity shops in Chelsea and South Kensington. On a recent trip to London I saw shoes by Chanel and Gucci, and a whole range of Lulu Guinness bags. Also, get yourself to Mary Portas’s Living and giving store in Westbourne Grove. Famous Fashionistas have been known to donate their cast offs to this store, so you could be wearing a famous bargain.