Fashion Shopping Vintage

Sustainable Fashion – My Top Tips for Shopping at Charity Shops

February 10, 2020

The media is full of conversations about fast fashion at the moment. We are bombarded with new items coming into the shops every week and clothing can be so affordable that it’s quite easy to keep buying and only wearing things a few times. I’m totally guilty of this myself. I absolutely love dresses and could happily just keep adding to my collection, I love having fun with my clothes and putting outfits together from my very very full wardrobe. I am also conscious of the impact that can have on the environment and of course the working conditions of the people making my clothes. So I try to be mindful and pick up pieces on the high street that will get a lot of wear and that are classic enough to last a few years. One way to get a bit of a fashion fix is to buy second hand and one of my favourite ways to do that is through charity shops.

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I really love going for a good rummage and finding those special pieces that are just perfect for your wardrobe. It’s also fantastic knowing that you are reusing something and of course supporting some excellent charities in the process. I’ve been charity shopping for years and I’ve learnt lots of secrets to getting the best bits. So here are my top tips for shopping at charity shops.

Plan ahead –

When I know I’m going to be visiting some charity shops, I’ll have a good look through what I already have. I’ll then look for gaps in my wardrobe and think about pieces that will help me wear some of the forgotten pieces I already own. For example if I have a top I really like, but haven’t really found something to go on the bottom, I’ll make a note of that and can be more focussed in what I’m looking for. I’ll also think about things seasonally. I recently needed a new coat, so really focussed on that while I was looking and managed to pick up two amazing vintage ones in one day!

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Save your favourite outfits on Instagram –

I have a whole folder on Instagram of outfits on other people that I love. So that when I’m planning a charity shopping session, I can refer to them. Having a few looks in mind, can help you focus on the kind of things you might like to look for. Think of it like a wish list, when you have a look in mind, it can be surprising easy to piece something similar together.

Visit multiple shops –

When I’m going charity shopping I usually plan my day ahead of time, so I can go to as many shops as possible. There are a few towns near me with multiple shops, so I’ll try to visit them all in one go.That way if you don’t have any success in the first couple, you’ll have a better chance of coming home with something nice. I’ll often make a day of it and plan somewhere nice to go for a slice of cake and a cup of tea in the middle of my shopping trip. It’s good to refuel – shopping can be exhausting!

Go shopping regularly –

The beauty of charity shops, is that they get new stock in daily. If you’re pretty serious about finding the best bits it’s worth revisiting the same shops as often as possible. Just because a shop doesn’t have the perfect thing one week, it might have just what you’re looking for the next.

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Set a budget –

Sorry to add a boring one here! I know I could just shop and shop and shop and always be buying new fabulous things. But sadly my budget rarely allows this to be the case. I usually work out exactly what I have spare to spend on clothes and take this out in cash. That way once I’ve used up my budget, I know it’s time to go home.

Take some bags with you –

One of the best things about charity shopping, is how sustainable it is. So being mindful of this, I always take a few canvas bags out with me to put my shopping in. This cuts down the need for plastic bags and they can be really handy for carrying your haul around in too.

Know your size –

I prefer not to try stuff on when I’m shopping, it saves me time and I can rarely be bothered to keep taking my clothes on and off, especially in the winter when there are more layers. Therefor it’s useful to know exactly what sizes will work for me. I can usually tell by looking at something, if the size is right, but I also carry a tape measure around in my bag, so I can quickly check if I’m not sure. Knowing your exact measurements can come in really handy. Occasionally I’ll get something home and it’s not quite right, in which case I’ll usually just donate it back to the shop next time I visit.

Check carefully for damage –

Sometimes damage on garments can be hard to spot. Before I pay I’ll usually give a garment a quick once over to check that all the seams are Ok and that there are no stains or damage. Having said that vintage items that need a bit of work, can be true bargains. So if I love something enough, I’ll put the work in to get it clean and fixed.

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Take a friend –

I love going to charity shops with friends. Mostly because it’s fun, but also it’s nice to get a second opinion on things and two eyes are better than one, when it come to finding the best bits. Some of my favourite charity shop finds were spotted by friends.

Look at everything –

When I’m having a rummage, I try to leave no stone unturned and I look at absolutely everything. I once looked in a small basket under a shelf in a charity shop and found 10 pairs of 1950s stockings in their original packaging. But they would have been so easy to miss if I hadn’t really been looking. Sometimes the best bits are just hiding a bit more!

If you love it, buy it –

Charity shops are not like normal shops, in that every item is a one off. If you find something you really love, you can’t really go away and think about it, because chances are it will be gone when you go back. I’ve had moments of deliberation where I’ve gone back to a shop 10 minutes after leaving and the thing I wanted has already be bought by somebody else.

Don’t forget the accessories –

Some of my absolute favourite bags, belts and pieces of jewellery were charity shop finds. It’s worth having a really good look at all the small things and in the cabinets by the counter. I’ve found everything from bakelite bangles to collectible mid century jewellery in charity shops, it’s surprisingly common to find that the best bargains are the smaller pieces that are easy to overlook.

Take your own donations along with you –

Charity shops rely so heavily on donations to keep them going. I am always mindful of this and try to donate as often as possible. I’ve given so much away this year and it feels great. If you’re limited for space why not have a “one in – one out” rule and try to donate one thing that your not using for every new thing that comes in.

I hope these tips have helped a bit and if you have any of your own that you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below.


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  • Reply
    Nicola
    February 29, 2020 at 9:20 am

    That’s a great tip about the tape measure! I’ve never thought of that it saves alot of hassle as some charity shops don’t even have changing rooms. Thanks for these tips!

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