I put together a little piece around a year ago about the wonders of the humble charity shop, and I thought I’d use a quiet Sunday spent between coffee (and charity shops) to update the original post, and share with you my top tips for nabbing a bargain. It’s all too easy for us to turn our noses up at second hand clothes, but with charity shops brimming with one off pieces at super cheap prices, then who are we to be snobs? Further to that, of course, is the fact that every penny spent on a new piece goes towards a good cause and also helps sustainability in the fashion world. But just how do we manage to hunt for these key bargain pieces? Is there some sort of knack involved? The answer is yes, and in this post, I’m going to tell you how…
Check the Cabinets
Charity shops often keep their best bits hidden in a cabinet, often found behind the till. These cabinets are your friends. More often than not, these are where the designer pieces are kept. I’m not saying every item you pick up from a charity shop should be designer, just that they’re a great thing to keep in mind to really get your moneys worth. Back in the day, I used to make the mistake of going in and buying everything, and anything, simply because it was cheap and I hoped I might wear it someday. Spoiler. You never wear it. Not only does your wardrobe get cluttered, but it takes away money that could’ve otherwise been spent going towards a lovely big second hand designer buy. Either way, the cabinets are your friends. You must check them. Think Mulberry bags. Think expensive perfumes. Think designer shoes. All at unbeatable prices.
Say no to Stains
A common misconception about charity shops is that they’re unclean or dirty. I’ve found this to be largely untrue (although it won’t stop me from bucking them in the wash when I get home). Either way, be vigilant for stains. Naturally, if something is vintage or pre-owned there’s likely to be some wear and tear, but a big stain is more difficult to deal with. Unless you think a great dry clean is likely to remove any marks, then stained items should be avoided. Always inspect the piece thoroughly to avoid this mistake- I’ve learnt the hard way!
Rifle through Bags, Belts and Sunnies like there’s no Tomorrow
A LOT of charity shops don’t actually bother to check what’s designer and what isn’t, and lump all their sunglasses, belts and bags into one big pile. This is, of course, a delightful error to come across. You should always keep eyes peeled for a logo you recognise. It’s also quite easy to tell what’s fake and what isn’t. Usually, a real designer bag given to a charity shop will be well worn, which is the biggest tell tale sign. My own little black Mulberry was a charity shop buy and I love it. It’s scuffed and worn to perfection, without losing it’s beauty. Oh, and all the belts I own are charity shop bought. There’s no better feeling than nabbing a tan belt in buttery leather for £3.
Material is Everything
No brand labels? Gravatate towards slippery silks, winter wools and cosy cashmeres. That way you can be sure you’re getting quality, investment pieces for your money- no matter the brand.
See that Potential
So you’ve found the vintage camel coat of dreams. But it’s a 16 and you’re an 8. What do? You see the potential, that’s what! And that’s the beauty of charity shopping…seeing this vast array of potential. With some great tailoring you could have found your dream coat. With some simple customisation you might have found the perfect jacket. And with the right outfit you may just have found the best perfectly distressed Levi Jeans of your life. And chances are you’ll still be paying a hell of a lot less…
Know your Shop
Charity shops situated in affluent areas usually have the best stock. If you’re lucky enough to get to the ones in Notting Hill, you’re in for a treat. I once saw thee Chloe Susanna boots there, for £65. Obviously sod’s law would have it that they’d not be in my size (I tried to squeeze) but someone must have got a total bargain. And let’s face it- boots look SO much better worn in.
Have a browse on Oxfam’s online designer pre-loved items here– you’ll never know what treasures you’ll find! Have you picked up any charity shop bargains?!