This Christmas – visit a Charity Shop.

An Oxfam charity shop in Covent Garden, London...

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It seems to be getting harder to find a Christmas gift to suit a fashionista. Despite the ‘credit crunch‘ we still seem to live in a society where we buy what we want, whether that means saving for the ‘real thing’, or buying the Primark copy. For many of us, asking someone what they want for Christmas is met with a shrug of the shoulders, or worse still, that fatal statement ‘just get me anything’.

Christmas is also called the ‘party season’. Lots of excuses for wearing your best frocks and glitter and drinking, eating and dancing to excess. The main questions this raises are ‘WHAT SHALL I WEAR?’ We worry that we will be under-dressed, overdressed, or, worse case scenario, wearing the same dress as someone else!  All this leads me to believe that this is the year we should visit a Charity shop.

Forget any notions that charity shops are dirty, dusty or full of clothes belonging to dead people, charity shops are, on the contrary, filled with designer goods just waiting to be discovered, and vintage bargains crying out for new owners to love them. Just this month I have found a Marni tunic for £5.99, a pair of Charles Jourdan lace up shoes for £7, an original beaded 1980’s top that’s a dead ringer for designs from Kate Moss Topshop, that I bought for £3.50 and will wear on my girls night pressie swap, a 1950’s Kelly style bag, and best of all, an original 1970’s brown fake fur coat with rose buttons that I haven’t taken off since the weather became so cold. Clearly charity shops have a lot to offer for any diva looking to extend their designer or vintage wardrobe.

Just like all the main high street stores, charity shops all full of glittery, glitzy party wear and accessories, but, unlike the High Street, you have more chance of finding something unusual and original. You may find High end high street clothing for just a few pounds, or an absolute vintage gem.


bags, shoes and scarves neatly coordinated by Acorns, Wednesbury

Fab 60's style dress I saw on the window of a Scope shop.

But Charity shops are not just about fabulous clothing. One of my favourite finds of recent times has been a signed copy of the Gordon Selfridge biography ‘Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge’ by Lindy Woodhead. You can also find cute teacups, vintage paste brooches which you could put into a little voile bags to give as quirky gifts for your friends or sisters. Most charity shops these days also have a range of new goods, from Fair trade chocolate and jewellery at Oxfam, to knitted scarves at BHF. All stores sell eco bags, which you could use to put your presents in as a nice alternative to Santa Sacks.


cute tea cups found in a charity shop

So, when you do your last-minute Christmas shopping this year, give charity shops a go – after all – it is Christmas, so why not share the love!


Why Charity shopping may just be fashion’s next big thing.

Charity Shop Hats

Image by hartman045 via Flickr

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 jewellery 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.

If you’re still not convinced – check out some of my charity shop finds pictured below…and if you know a great charity shop near you, share it with your fellow fashionistas by leaving a comment below.

My fashion finds from Charity Shops

Blue 1950’s Raffia bag, St Katherine’s House Hospice shop, Cannock.

Amazing Miu Miu shoes, Cancer Research shop, Putney.

  • 1960’s enamel bracelet, British Heart Foundation, Lichfield

    Topshop bag, Scope, Wednesbury.

    Roland Cartier 1980’s snakeskin heels, Acorns, Wednesbury.

    Basket bag, Acorns Hospice shop, Wednesbury.

    Jil Sander bag, Acorns shop, Dudley.

    Vintage 1950’s ladylike handbag, The Cat’s Whiskers, Walsall.

    Vintage pearls, charity shop, Lincoln.