I’ve been shopping second-hand for about 10 years now. My mum’s done it for as long as I can remember, and she certainly passed her thriftiness on to me. I’d say around 60% of my wardrobe is second hand — the vast majority being from charity shops — and over the years I’ve acquired some pretty special items, from hand-knitted jumpers to vintage sequinned shorts (oh, to know the story behind those…)
But charity shopping can be daunting. Clothes aren’t ordered by size, items aren’t always in the best condition and there’s only one of everything (hell hath no fury like a second-hand shopper whose ‘ideal dress’ is a size too small) — it’s a completely different shopping experience. So where do you start? Here are my top charity shop tips for finding the best bargains.
- Don’t just look for your size — You may have noticed that you’re not the same size in every shop. Well because charity shops are full of different labels (and clothes from different eras), not everything in your usual size is going to fit. There’s also a chance that you’ll fall in love with an item even if it is a little too big.
Remember: there’s only one of everything, so if that fantastic floral shirt is a little on the large side, roll up the sleeves and rock it.
- Try things on — For the same reasons as above, always try each item on. You just can’t guarantee that your usual size will fit. This is also the best way to spot any flaws — somebody may have shrunk it in the wash, the zip may be broken or the hem could have dropped.
- See the bigger picture — It can be tricky to see an item’s potential when its surrounded by clashing colours and patterns. Try to picture it in your wardrobe and pair it with items in your head.
Top tip: I never (ok, I very rarely) buy anything that doesn’t go with stuff I already have in my wardrobe. It’s a slippery slope, buying something that needs a new pair of jeans or jacket to make it wearable…
- Know your style — With so many brands, materials and patterns in one place, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a sweet shop. It’s therefore important to remember your style — don’t be swayed by an item just because it’s cheap.
- Rummage — Don’t expect things to be organised. If you want to find a gem, you’ve got to hunt!
- Check the label — But I don’t just mean to look at the brand. If it doesn’t have one (and doesn’t look like it’s just been cut out), chances are its a hand-made piece. These are my favourites. Good find!
- Give it a once over — Even if you’ve tried it on, it’s a good idea to give it a quick once-over. Check for moth-holes, stains or tears. A lot of these things are fixable so don’t let them put you off — it’s just good to know so that you can correct them ASAP.
- Visit frequently — Unlike the high street, charity and second-hand shops get new things in every single day, so keep going back to bag the good stuff!
- Don’t focus on clothes — Remember to check out the trinkets, books and accessories, too. Second-hand shops also have a great range of vintage sewing patterns, so you could even have a go at making your own retro clothing!
- Give back — If fast fashion is your thing, just make sure you return your items when you don’t wear them anymore — as cheesy as it sounds, somebody will love them like you once did.
So there you have it, my top thrifting tips. Now go forth and forage! I’d love to hear about what you find.