With this in mind, I thought I would write a piece on how to absolutely boss looking for clothes at a charity shop; as I myself, a keen thriftier, have refined my charity shopping skills over a number of years.
Environmentally speaking, Charity shopping is great compared to buying new or buying (god forbid) fast fashion. Buying textile waste which would otherwise would be in landfill, its great to see it being demanded, reused and re loved. Amazing.
Equally, If you're on a budget (which as a student I always am!) it can the perfect way to bring new, sustainable looks to your wardrobe without the painful price tag. Charity shops often offer well made, stylish goods that will last for less money than most fast fashion retailers, you just have to look!
As the aim of secondhand September is to buy less, I encourage you to not buy anything you don't need. However, if you find yourself in need of a cosy jumper or something for the chillier autumn days here's how to find it in a charity shop.
-Keep an open mind
Charity shopping comes with many stereotypes. "It's only for grannies" or "There will only be dull, boring clothes available". When you pack your bag to leave for the shops, I ask you to please unpack those stereotypes and leave them behind.
It is true that charity shopping is a different ball game to going to your local H&M but if you come with an open mind you are far more likely to find some absolute gems. Bring along curiosity, openness and some determinations and your already 90% there.
Think of going to the charity shop like going on a dating app. You spend ages not finding the right look but if you commit to it and look hard enough you just might find a perfect fit. The best part? A charity shop can't break your heart or tell you it needs to go off and find itself..whatever that means.
- Don't pay attention to brands!
This point really goes hand in hand with my previous one. We all have schemas about certain brands. For example, my Granny use to shop at M&S for pretty much all her clothes (and they all seemed to be beige too) so I always thought their clothes were dull, bland and anything but fashionable.
That meant that when I started off charity shopping I would pick up an item I thought was nice, realise it was from somewhere like M&S and then couldn't help but picture my gran in it. Suddenly, I didn't think it was as stylish as before.
Now though, I look past the brand and just look at the item for what it is. I think about how I could style it in a new way, adding a belt or the right top can change everything! After all, just because a brand isn't 'cool' doesn't mean it can't look great.
-Only buy what you love
This is hands down the most important point I have to say here and it sums up what sustainable fashion is all about.
You will find many beautiful things in charity shops but get used to asking yourself questions such as; Is this something I will actually wear? Is it my style? Do I really need it? Will it go with the other things I own?
Many people fall victim to the 'cheap effect' in charity shops, buying just because they kind of like an item and its only £2 so why the hell not! The reason to not is- that's exactly the attitude that got us into this fast fashion waste mess in the first place.
A great question to ask yourself is: if this item were full price and new, would I still buy it? If the answer is no then put it back.
I strongly urge you to only buy clothes when you fall in love with them. This, my friends, is the key to finding the creme de la creme of the charity shops and value within the thrifty walls.
- Stand back
It can be quiet daunting when you see rail upon rail of clothes staring at you. I never have the time nor the energy to one by one examine each piece.
To save time and effort I like to, quite literally, take a step back. Seeing the rail as blocks of colour and pattern. I then select items that stand out to me and see if I am tempted by the piece I pick it up. This tip is a much faster way of doing things that guarantees results, stopping you from getting side tracked.
-Pay no attention to gender or size
One of the best jumpers I've ever had comes from the men's section at Oxfam. A nice jumper is a nice jumper, period. Doesn't matter which section it is in.
After all, even if you don't find something for you in the mens, you might find something for your boyfriend, best mate or S.O.
The same here applies with size. Some things such as jumpers, jackets and shirts look good oversized. Plus with so many brands in a shop there's bound to be some variation in sizing, so why bother restricting yourself?
-Location, Location, Location
Finally, I find that charity shops in highly affluent areas are naturally more expensive and if you're seeking a cheap bargain they probably aren't the best place to go. However, you can find really good quality clothes in more expensive areas and you will still be paying a lot less to if they were new! Some charity shops tend to be better than others though. As you start exploring you will begin to find ones that often have gems in and ones that aren't for you. For example there's a couple in Bristol that always have something great and I visit every time I go!
So that's all my tips. I hope you find them handy!
Regardless of what you end up doing this second hand September always remember;
Buy less, Choose well, Make it Last.
- Vivienne Westwood