Despite the fact that more and more people are trying to make better sustainable and ethical choices when it comes to shopping and the fashion industry, charity shopping is still so underrated. Some people think it’s pointless and that they won’t find anything they like, others just can’t get past the stigma that perhaps still surrounds it (that stigma being that charity shops are for old people). But I’ve been making the most of charity shops for the past couple of years and have found some incredible pieces there (including my favourite ever pair of jeans photographed here), so this post is an attempt to try and convert those of you who still aren’t buying from charity shops and to help those of you who already are really make the most of them.
All the pieces on this rail, and the ones on my body, in these photos are some of my favourite pieces I’ve bought from charity shops and many of them are some of my most worn and loved pieces, from this faux fur coat, to my favourite pair of jeans to the various pieces of knitwear. And the best bit? I didn’t pay over £10 for any of them. The majority of them cost under £5. The jeans I’m wearing that I’ve definitely worn over 100 times cost a mere £2 times- how’s that for cost per wear?
There’s definitely a knack to charity shopping, although some of it is just luck, in order to avoid going home empty-handed, so I hope these tips will help you crack it and encourage you to head down to your local charity shop next time you have a free afternoon…
1. Carve Out Time
As a general rule, you’re not going to be very successful if you only ever ‘pop in’ to a charity shop when you have 5 minutes. This is because, firstly, you’re not allowing yourself much time to root through all of the clothes in there and, secondly, you’re not going to be in the right mindset to do so.
I always plan my trips to the charity shops, sometimes days in advance. Doing this usually means that I get excited to go charity shopping, which means I’m very much in the mood for it when the time I have allocated myself comes around! I think this is essential and it’s the main reason why I always plan. It means you’re very willing to dig through piles and rails of clothes to find those gems and makes the ‘chase’ enjoyable rather than frustrating. Also, because you’ve carved out this time purely for looking round charity shops, you won’t feel guilty about it or like you need to rush yourself, making the experience even more enjoyable!
As well as carving out time, visit charity shops as regularly as possible! They’re constantly getting new stock and obviously the best stuff is going to go the quickest so the more often you can get there the better. I try and spend an afternoon there at least monthly but I would do so weekly if I had the time!
2.Ignore The Sizes and Always Try On
This one is an essential for all kind of second-hand shopping. If you’re checking the size of everything to see if it will fit, it’s going to be a time-consuming and frustrating shopping trip for you. If you see something that you like but you’re not sure it will fit, take it into the changing rooms and find out for sure.
The black trench that I’m wearing in these photo is a size 16 (I’m a size 8-10 for reference) but it fits just as I’d like a trench to fit. I actually almost didn’t take it into the changing rooms with me because of the size but I’m so very glad that I did!
Sizes change over the years and so does the way in which we like our clothes to fit. This means that you can’t browse a charity shop like a high street store because the clothes generally aren’t made for current sizes or current ‘trendy’ fits. Obviously this is a general rule as there is some more recent pieces of clothing in charity shops too but even with these, as I do whenever I’m shopping really, I tend to ignore the sizes as they’re literally just a number that many brands get wrong!
As mentioned, trying things on is really important so you don’t want to be wearing an outfit that’s super difficult to get on and off. You also don’t want to be wearing shapes and colours that you don’t usually wear as you’re looking for things that will fit into your wardrobe, so wear an outfit that is fairly representative of the pieces in your wardrobe.
I tend to wear a really basic outfit, usually my favourite pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, my go-to coat and my Vans. It’s easy to get on and off and I can generally tell that, for example, if a shirt doesn’t look good with my jeans, I’m not going to get any wear out of it. Or if a pair of jeans don’t work well with my Vans, I’m also probably not going to wear them. Wearing an outfit you like that is made up of staple pieces means that you’ll be able to see how any pieces you’re trying on will fit into your wardrobe.
Oh, and always bring a belt! As I said, sizes don’t really matter. Some things you’ll try on might need a belt or a bit of tailoring so to make life easier for yourself just always have a belt with you so you can check if things would look better slightly altered.
4. Look Out For Colours and Prints
Usually clothing in charity shops isn’t presented very well. Racks are packed full with so many items of clothing that you can barely really see any of them individually. So it’s not really necessary, or possible, to look through every single item of clothing. Instead, just look out for colours and prints that you like. Maybe even figure out a colour palette that you’re trying to incorporate into your wardrobe or that you’re already wearing a lot a before you go and then look out for these colours. I certainly did this before my most recent charity shop trip where I picked up the camel top I’m wearing and the camel jumper on the rack and I’ve already got a lot of wear out of both the pieces!
Doing this means you don’t have to look through everything and can find things that are your taste simply. Obviously there might be other things that stand out to you that don’t fit into this colour palette and obviously don’t feel as though you can’t buy these, buy whatever you want! But by having a colour palette in your head it makes the experience a little less overwhelming and more productive.
5. Location, Location, Location
All charity shops are worth visiting in my eyes because you never know when you might get lucky, but they do vary in price and stock depending on the location you find them in. City centre charity shops tend to be a bit more expensive- I think this is because the people who work there might be more aware of how much the clothes they receive are worth and also just because they’re generally busier. I also feel that the good stock goes very quickly from city centre charity shops because of the aforementioned reasons.
The best charity shops, in my opinion, are the ones in small towns, preferably a residential area where lots of elderly people live, as not only does this mean that there will be A LOT of charity shops but it means that you’re more likely to be able to find vintage pieces and things that haven’t been worn as much because of the huge amount of clothing these branches receive. There are at least 8 charity shops in the small area where I live when I’m at home and these are always my favourite charity shops to visit as I’m always the most successful here.
So, here’s my tips summarised:
- Carve out time to visit charity shops
- Visit regularly
- Ignore sizes
- Always try on clothing items
- Wear staple, basic items on your visits
- Wear clothes that are easy to get on and off
- Always take/wear a belt
- Choose a colour palette and focus on looking for that
- Favour charity shops in residential areas over city centres
- Forget the stigma around them because they’re an absolute goldmine!
I hope this post has been helpful, whether it’s encouraged you to make a visit to your local charity shop or has given you some new ways to improve your already regular visits. By choosing to buy clothes from charities instead of from the high street every now and then you’re protecting the environment, your bank balance and giving money to worthy charities rather than the likes of Phillip Green when you’re shopping on the high street.