If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog for a while now, you’ll know that I love a good rummage through second-hand shops and finding a rose amongst thorns! Here in the UK, we have a lorra lorra charity shops, which are essentially the same as thrift shops I think? Their stock is all donated products and all funds go to various causes, because of this most stuff is second-hand and is very cheap – perfect for a cheapskate like me! I do also love vintage and antique shops and just receiving hand-me-downs in general: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Now if you’re new to second hand shops of whichever kind, be warned there can be some pretty nasty stuff to wade through but I have been a fan of charity shops etc for quite a while now and consider myself quite the connoisseur so I’ve put together some tips to help you discover your own gems!
- Be patient! My local town centre has 6 different charity shops and it can be quite draining especially if you don’t find anything decent, but as the stock is not the same in each one you’ve gotta have a root around just in case there’s an amazing hidden gem! Therefore, it may seem obvious to set aside some time to make an afternoon of it to make sure you’re dedicated and mentally prepared to push past the rubbish and hopefully find something you love at a bargain price no doubt, and if not you can always go to a cafe and console yourself with tea and cake! It’s an excellent opportunity to explore what’s around you and you can check back every few weeks as they’ll often have new stock donated. I’m lucky to be so local to Manchester as Oldham Street, in the Northern Quarter is amazing and has so many lovely vintage shops!
- Don’t be shy in investigating the other sections such as Men’s clothing (really good for shirts and jumpers!), children’s clothing (if you’re more on the petite size!), they often do great homeware selections too including furniture! So if you’re shopping for a new house have a quick scour because you could find an amazing and cheap one-off vintage find! I’ve also had many successes online, which is handy if you’re not near any good second-hand shops, from scouring the auction section of Ebay, and there are many other online places dedicated to getting fab vintage clothes such as ASOS Marketplace, Rokit and COW are some of my faves (especially useful if you really can’t bear that second-hand smell!). Also Mum/Dad/Grandma/Aunty’s wardrobe may have some items tucked away they no longer want – what goes around comes around!
- DIY. Try to look at things for what their potential could be! Think that skirt would make a nicer cushion? Cut it up and make it into one! That dress/shirt that’s really cute but 2 sizes too big? What if you cinched it in with a skinny belt around your waist! Or you could even try sewing it up yourself! I’ve found this classic 90s retro full length button-down dress in a charity shop and took home and chopped off the bottom until it was a hem I preferred (and more fitting for this era!) and voilà! A super cute and in-style denim dress! Works for jeans into shorts, maxi skirt into a mini if you think you’d prefer it that way – it’s completely up to you! And if you mess it up, it was only a few quid anyway!
- Be brand savvy. I aaaalways check the label, to make sure the size matches up and where it’s from, if it says ‘Atmosphere’ for instance, I know that’s from Primark and I could buy it brand new for a little bit more and the quality isn’t gonna last anywho. If it has been pre-loved, you don’t knwo how much wear it has had but buy looking and feeling the material you can usually tell if it’s going to last or not (bad signs = bobbling, fading, thinning). I’ve found a really good brand that pops up a lot in charity shops is ‘St Michael’ which I believe were Marks & Spencer’s clothing brand back in the 80s/90s so double-whammy guarantee of some beaut retro items (such as those dungarees pictured above!) and knowing it’s also a good standard of quality that M&S uptain!
- Be open-minded. If you have one specific item your mind is set on, chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for, glance around and have a dig to see if anything catches your eye. I usually flick through clothes racks to see if there’s a particular colour/pattern/material that I know I’m fond of e.g. stripes, checks, burgundy, fair isle knits. Then I can pull it out and have a closer look! Plus don’t be afraid to try them on, yeah it’s pretty minging that somebody else has probably worn it (although I do draw the line at used shoes!) but whatever clothes/shoes/accessories I buy wherever I am, I want to make sure it looks good and I still want it once I get home, especially as genuine vintage clothing had different sizes going 20+ years back and tend to run smaller than modern-day sizing so it’s not worth the risk! FYI, I do throw whatever clothes I buy in the wash straight away as even if it did still have a tag in it, second-hand shops aren’t the prettiest smelling places anyway!
Hope you enjoyed this post and inspired you to have a look round your local charity shops or if you’re already a convert – will help you spot those hidden treasures a bit easier!
Love, Helen x