When it started I had it under control. I’d started seeing clients and realised that maybe I should invest in some new clothes so I could look more professional. Technically yes, I can counsels client wearing my day-job uniform of a Metallica t-shirt and ripped jeans. But that might give the impression that I specialised in heavy metal counselling. (Is that a thing? To Google! Nope, sadly ‘Learning to Love again with Help from the Insane Clown Posse’ will remain a product of my deranged brain.)
New clothes meant only one thing I would have to go shopping and I really HATE shopping. (As evidenced by the fact until now I’ve never had a shopping tag for this blog) I’ve never really had the body or the funds to be entirely comfortable anywhere near the seventh realm of hell that is the changing room. Even when I did have money burning a hole in my pocket there is something so dispiriting about going shopping and finding nothing to wear. Besides why shop when there were books, so many books to read? Because of the shopping-hatred I have clothes that I’ve been wearing since I was sixteen. This tells me too things firstly since I’m
(Apologies for the crappy photography, I had about ten minutes after work to take these before the light set and it really, really shows.)
There was only one problem: I have no money. I’ve taken a pay-cut to go back to university and any spare pennies I have go into the keep Rowan sane fund. (Translation: my personal counselling, which is a requirement of the course. But I like to think benefits society as a whole, as without counselling I get bitey.) Then I remembered that back when I was at University the first time around, I got the series of baggy unflattering jumpers I wore everyday from charity shops. So I took a stroll down George Street in Hove, or charity shop mecca and I became instantly hooked.
In between the granny nighties and endless worn copies of Jilly Coooper’s Riders like having to sort through an Aladdin’s cave full of weird and wondrous crap I found amazing tops like these for around three quid:
For a lot of people charity shops are full of musty clothes nobody else wants staffed by weird old ladies. But I’d forgotten how much I love charity shopping. like a lucky dip you’re never sure exactly what you’ll get and you had to shift through a lot of crap to find clothes you love like these two cardigans both under a fiver.
As well as restocking my wardrobe with cheap clothes I love the fact that I’m contributing to charity and doing my tiny bit in stopping the world from filling up with crap. So I scoured the charity shops in Hove, London Road and Kemp town looking for pretty things and learning some tips to make your charity shop experience a little easier. I’m all heart.
Top charity shop tips
Pick your area carefully. Does the area have a large student population? Expect teeny sizing and vibrant repurposed style. Grannies? Stock up on sensible outwear and amazing vintage handbags. Posh people? The clothes might be high end but the prices are too.
1. Avoid vintage
Charity shops aren’t stupid and have cottoned on to the fact that vintage is hot right now. So vintage has become a synonym for teeny sizes and big prices.
2. Be prepared to rummage
Some charity shops are organised by colour, creating an amazing rainbow look which I love. Or size, which is probably more useful. However they are organised you have to sieve through a lot of crap to find that Coast cardigan. On that note…
3. Be label conscious, but plump for what you like
It can be easy to get carried away as I was when I found a pair of purple hunter wellies in my size. I was heading for the tills until I realised a) I live in Hove not the countryside and b) I hate wellies, sticky plastic and uncomfortable soles.
4. Know your sizes
I never try things on. Changing rooms are a hell of their own making. So that means I know that I am officially slimmer in Marks and Spencers clothes than in New Look clothes and I have a good idea of what I’m searching for.
5. Prepare for disappointment
There are lot’s of almost-rights. The amazing sequinned dress that I would only be able to get my thigh in. The gorgeous billowing jade green top that almost makes me wish I could sew, almost.
6. Give it back
Do your bit by donating old clothes, books and junk back to your favourite charity shops.
7. Set a budget
This, as always was, where I ran into trouble. When I started I was very disciplined. I wouldn’t spend over a fiver and I allot myself ten pounds per trip to spend. I also banned buying any books or black clothes. However it was when having a quick browse and the lady working in the charity shop recognised me I knew I had a problem.
It was time for this charity shop addict to go cold turkey. At least until the stores have a chance to refresh their stock 🙂 At least I went out on a high. Want to see my top find?
I’ve been lusting after a Bravissimo dress for years but at its cheapest it retails at over 50 quid and I could never justify it. Then I spotted a Bravissimo dress in purple (my favourite colour) in the British Heart Foundation shop on London road… and almost walked away. On the hanger the dress looks odd the waist bagging and bulging, but on, it’s absurdly flattering. The waist acting like a fake corset sucking me in, in all the right ways. It cost me a whole seven pounds (two pounds over budget) and was worth every penny.
So tell me dearest readers what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in a charity shop?