Charity shopping is basically a game of Snog, Marry, Avoid but with clothes. In each store there will be things that you love – like the epic 70s coat that was sold literally the minute you put it down (seriously, we put it back on the rack after taking the photos and there were two women fighting over it) – things that you have an overwhelming urge to have in your wardrobe – like a patterned M&S shirt with an adorable necktie – and inevitably a few things that are truly shocking to behold. The racks full of formal wear and cocktail dresses are an absolute steal in time for Xmas parties. Ever watch GirlBoss? Exactly!
It’s easy to admit that I am no stranger to charity shops but somehow visiting a store in a different city to my home always feels like an adventure. Every store is unique to its counterparts, each shaped by the culture of the locals. Every shopping trip should have at least some hint of fun to it; if it doesn’t then clearly there is something going on with the shopping you’re doing. Charity shopping is exactly the same. In the very first store, I found a calf length cape. Not just a cape; a red riding hood cape! My adventures also uncovered a Christmas jumper literally out of the movie Gremlins, a bridesmaid’s dress that you definitely CANNOT shorten and wear again, and a poncho that quite rightly made me feel as though I were a member of a Peruvian folk band. Most shops restock their racks daily with new items, so it pays to put them into your regular shopping route. Actually best hit them first – think of it like a treasure hunt! There’s gold to be found!
Now it’s safe to say that I’m not the essence of beauty and grace and that my thighs would fit into any pair of jeans in the “normal” UK sizes. I was amazed to find so a profuse an amount of clothing on the racks from sizes UK14 – UK24. While I can say that I didn’t have much money in my pockets, I can say that I put together some outfits. Most complete outfits were under £10 and single items were the same prices as Primark – and way better quality. Ed Note: as we were taking photographs it became apparent that we were gathering a NOT A CROWD of shoppers NOT watching every outfit we put together. As soon as we placed things back on the racks, they were bought.
You’re probably wondering how I ended up spending my Friday afternoon prancing around in a Christmas jumper and a cape. Quite frankly, I sometimes wonder how I end up doing most embarrassing things in my life. This incident, however, can be linked directly to our fair editor and an article I recently wrote about the state of the fast fashion industry. That article forced me to blossom into a slightly grumpy woman finally waking up to the impact of her choices regarding clothes. I’ve gone through the fast fashion clothing party, and now I’m waking up hungover and realising what I’ve been doing all these years. So it’s safe to say that gone are the days where I can spend hours browsing the rails of cheap fashion stores; the reality has hit that I cannot take advantage of cheap labour for my own – somewhat narcissistic – pleasure. While disposable fashion is no longer an option, I have
So it’s safe to say that gone are the days where I can spend hours browsing the rails of cheap fashion stores; the reality has hit that I cannot take advantage of cheap labour for my own – somewhat narcissistic – pleasure. While disposable fashion is no longer an option, I have the wonderful option of thrift stores to fill the gap.
Clothes are a fundamental part of the modern Western world. But we all have a choice whether or not we want to bow to the powers of disposable fashion. Giving up the habit is difficult; goodness knows my partner practically had to drag me past the Primark to stop me caving to my cravings for cheap clothes. My last article suggests that ‘if it’s cheap, someone is suffering’, while this is still true, it can be said that stores like Oxfam, the RSPCA, Sense and others provide the happy medium between affordable and ethical. Pre-loved clothes are a step in the right direction. They are a selfless way getting that awesome wardrobe that you’ve always dreamed about.
My point still stands. If you want to help all manner of charities do amazing work throughout the world? Take a walk down your local high street and see what work is being done near you.
You never know what you’ll find!
* All items found in charity shops on Burleigh Street in Cambridge, UK
NEXT WEEK: Abi will be taking some of the items we scored and showing you how to turn dross into diamonds.