I’ve always been a fan of buying cheap clothes from charity outlets and the good karma vibes that come with it, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve fully embraced charity shopping. I used to feel the way a lot of people do, that the majority of charity shop gear is…well…pretty much tat. And sure, a lot of it is.
BUT, if you dedicate a bit of time to whizzing around the rails, you’ll find hidden gems from great high street brands – as well as the occasional sweet vintage surprise if you’re lucky. The dress I’m wearing in the pictures is by Forever 21. Where usually, you’d pay at least £15 for a dress, right? FOUR POUNDS. Yep. This sleeve-y polka dot dream was cheaper than a pint in most city bars. And there’s my £1 New Look dress that’ll be perfect for summer.
Now I feel like I know how to do it a bit better, I get as excited about rummaging through charity shops as I do browsing the ‘new in’ ranges at H&M. Here are some of my top tips if you want to find some charity shop bargains.
1 | Be prepared for hit and miss shopping trips
As much as I’ve found some AMAZING bargains, there’ve been countless trips that have resulted in nothing. Keep at it! Try different shops and go regularly – when I’m charity shopping, I usually traipse round multiple shops in search of the perfect thing to hang in my wardrobe. As much as online articles by trendy types tell you that shops in well-to-do areas are the best for designer bargains. Which CAN be true, sure. But if you’re looking for real, rock bottom, change from a fiver kinda bargains, smaller local places can have some amazing high-street brand finds.
2 | Get to know the staff
Staff can let you know the best days for new donations – and if they know your style, might even be willing to hold back new bits they think you’d like. Plus, they’re volunteering their time for charity – therefore I deduce that they are NICE PEOPLE. And nice people are the best.
3 | Avoid specifics and be open-minded
Although there are certain types of item I always look for (polka dots, lace, sleeves…), I’m unlikely to find the exact dress I’m picturing in my head. And if I do, it’s totally guaranteed not to be in my size. Because life is unfair. My charity shop finds mostly come from spotting a pattern, colour or style that catches my eye on the rail – but sometimes, it takes a fair bit of digging. Sometimes they’re from brands I know, sometimes not so much. Take your time to rummage – sometimes great finds can be tucked away at the bottom of a bargain bin.
4 | Take sizing with a pinch of salt
My polka dot dress is actually a size bigger than I usually wear. I spent a LOT of time when I was younger obsessing about the size on the label of my clothes – but if it looks good on, who REALLY cares? When I’m browsing the charity shop rails, I’ll flick through from the 8s to the 16s (and beyond). If I spy a cute little number in a different size to my usual, I’ll whip it into the changing rooms and give it a try…
5 | Don’t buy something JUST because it’s cheap
The same advice you get for sales shopping applies to charity shopping. If you don’t love it and never end up wearing it, it’s not a bargain – it’s wasted gin money. Most charity shops have changing rooms – so try it on and check the item over for rips, wear and tear and missing buttons. If there are defects that need fixing, make sure you’re the kind of person actually willing to fix them. And unless you actually do it on the regs, don’t buy something ‘to customise’. Because if you’re anything like me, you never will.
What are your best charity shop bargains? Any tips to share?