Dressing in the morning becomes difficult when you discover that your penchant for charity shopping leaves you dangerously close to walking that fine line between “street chic” and “street beggar”. It’s not just me – I encounter this grey area of fashion on a daily basis in London. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which end of the homeless/student/hipster spectrum people belong at. Usually the satchel bag and laptop are a dead giveaway. Other times, the overzealous ripped jeans and wonky haircut allude to a distinctly trendy part of town. Nevertheless, this common problem of ‘how many vintage items is too many per day’ is clearly not encountered by just me, and this makes me feel a little better about my collection of second hand paraphernalia.
Initially what started out as a great place to find fun outfits for dress up parties in my late teens, has turned into a full-blown affair with second-hand (technical term “recycled”) goods well into my late twenties. Obviously, the goodwill that charity shops offer is two-fold; I feel good about giving away last season’s, worn once and shrunk-in-the-wash Primark leopard print dress, knowing that it’ll go to someone who really needs it – heck, maybe even change a life. Then I feel extra good about giving back to the community by purchasing someone else’s last season, worn once and shrunk-in-the-wash Primark polka dot dress. (I really needed it, heck it changed my life). Double win.
Charity shops can be an unpredictable, dirty, moth-bally nightmare. Luckily, I have a fairly static shopping style that I have really honed and developed over the years. Floral tea dresses and appliqué cardigans are hardly revolutionary, but it makes my Charity Shopping jaunts a bit less chaotic. Unfortunately for me though, this “look” is well regarded around London, making the really, really pretty “pieces” (technical term) hard to find or incredibly expensive, which makes the whole “charity” point a bit redundant. Now, to find really nice dresses, cardis or shoes, I have to trawl the rails at Camden or Portobello Market on a Saturday, where I’m bound to find a 200%+ mark up on something that’s already been sourced from someone else’s local charity shop, or – worse still, leave The City. *gasp*!
Out of Town shopping trips can be extremely rewarding. I did not know this, until recently when I was… Out of Town. Traipsing about Tiny Village, Hampshire a few months back, I was amazed by the abundance of community and local charity shops strewn up and down not only the high streets, but in and out of the alleys and backstreets as well. These small-time charity stores are a goldmine; they are stocked full of second hand clothing, accessories and all sorts of recyclable home wares and bric-a-brac too. And the best part? It’s all ridiculously cheap for what you’re buying. I found myself taking items to the counter, throwing cash at the volunteer and racing out the door before they could realise they had marked the items wrong. I mean, books for 20p? Good books. Amazing quality vinyl for £1. Shoes, belts, and scarves for as little as £2. Not to mention the clothes. If you’re in a village that is quite posh, you’ll be picking up near new items of clothing for actual pennies. In the towns that have an older population, you’re going to find amazing retro and vintage items that have come straight from a Nan who was holding onto her youth through her wardrobe (guilty of that now). Trust me! You can literally go in with a tenner and come out with an entirely new (to you) outfit.
Shopping Out of Town is an absolute adventure; if you’ve got the time to spare, then head to your local National Rail station, get on the first train, go as far as possible and just explore. Even if the shopping spree itself is a bust (I challenge you to come back with nothing), then simply take pleasure in the fact that you escape the hubbub for the day. If you’re especially lucky, you might even find some sun… Might.
- Erica Vonderwall
Find your local charity shops here.