Monday, 12 May 2008

How to... Shop in a charity shop (and not look like a hobo)

We've all been lulled into our local charity shop under the guise of eco-shopping and the promise of finding a real vintage treat. A sixties dress? A 70s jacket? An 80s jumpsuit? The excitement! It doesn't happen. The scouts for retro shops nearly always buy them before they are even on the shop floor, fuckers.*

Fear not though, there are treats to be had that you will find in even the most dire of charity shops. You know, the ones you walk into and just think "WHY AM I HERE, SWEET JESUS?". Seriously! Here's a list of 6 things to look out for:

1. Mens shirts: Every second hand place has a multitude of these bad boys. Avoid anything that isn't 100% cotton and check to make sure there are no pit stains and dirt on the collar. These look great worn belted over short skirts for that St Trinian vibe and tucked into jeans teamed with a blazer for that androgenous look. Expect to pay between £3 - £6.

2. Mens formal accessories: Don't head out of the men's department just yet, it's a great place to pick up things that add an element of fun to your wardrobe. Look for ties, braces and cummerbunds. All of these, when teamed with the right thing look great. Think about a bright tie with a fitted shirt: a perfect work look. Braces with jeans and trainers: casual weekend frolicks. A clashing colour cummerbund with a t-shirt and heels: an evening out. The important thing to remember here is that these things must be in good condition. As eye-catching items, if they don't look smart, your whole look will be perceived as scruffy. Prices range from £0.50 - £5.00

3. Womens tailored jackets: You can pick up some real gems in the jacket and coat section of a charity shop. People tend to tire of these items long before they are ready for the rag-bag. Be sure to check the linings, especially near the armholes. Make sure buttonholes and zips are secure. Classic colours like navy are always a wise purchase but when shopping second-hand you can afford to be more adventurous and go for something in hot pink. You get what you pay for here, so be prepared to part with up to £30.

4. Costume Jewellery: Most of my jewellery has been amassed from places like the Salvation Army, Cancer Research and Scope. You can find amazing statement necklaces, brooches and often vintage clip-on earrings and watches from the 50s and 60s. Clip-ons are making a come back so these are definitely worth looking out for. Usually, prices start at around £1 for earrings and go up to £10 for a watch.

5. Silk Scarves: Rummage around in the scarf bin, often you can find some pretty pieces, that if not Hermes certainly looks like it. Pounce on anything 100% silk. Square shaped scarfs are great to recreate this season's looks. Hold them to the light to check for any flaws and to make sure they are not fraying. For a silk scarf you will be looking at paying around £4.

6. Hats: Old laydees tend to donate them (especially the pillar-box variety, which is hot hot hot right now) and they cost a fraction of the price they do new. Great for the wedding season which is almost upon us. A run of the mill pillar-box should be around the £2.50 mark but expect to pay up to £7 for something a bit jazzy.

Things to avoid, pants (euuuwwww, need I say more?), shoes (nearly always scuffed and stretched) and t-shirts (often washed out and mis-shapen).

Finally, before I send you on your way (via Oxfam of course), remember when going charity shopping, take your old bras for donation. Because one woman's trash is another woman's over the shoulder boulder holder.


* with the exception of traid, some of their stores specialise in vintage fashion and usually have an excellent retro stock.

Please note that prices are rough guides and will vary from area to area.

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