When it comes to shopping I'm all about the beauty. Clothes shopping just doesn't appeal to me at all; I've never been particularly confident in my own style and stalking the aisles of Topshop is a hobby that I usually find myself shying away from. I do, however, love a good charity shop. Although I don't really have any idea of how to dress, there's something about finding really unique pieces that nobody else owns that I love, plus I find the whole process of rummaging through piles of stuff and finding a complete gem at the bottom really satisfying. Admittedly I also resent paying a lot of money on clothes and only really splash out on the essentials, such as jeans, coats and the odd pair of Kurt Geiger's (it has to be done). I'm in no way a pro at scanning the rails and the following tips are intended to be a bit of fun as much as anything else, but I thought it would be handy to compile a little list of some of the best things I've learnt over the years...
- Shop different sizes and genders. Some of the nicest pieces I've found have been from the men's section; especially as many jumpers, sweatshirts and t shirts don't have an implied gender anyway. It's also worth looking at sizes that may not necessarily be what you usually go for; especially when hunting down true 'vintage' (anyone else hate that word as much as I do?) garments. I often find that older pieces come up incredibly small - plus I'm a huge fan of anything oversized, too. The vast majority of charity shops have changing rooms available so it's worth taking the time to try things and giving them a go. Being a little nifty on a sewing machine helps, too.
- Ask, ask, ask. Charity shops often have stockrooms full of stuff, so if you're looking for something in particular, just ask! I haven't come across a member of staff that isn't willing to go out back and check to see what they have, so it's well worth it if you can't find what you're looking for immediately. They still may not have what you're after, but it's always worth a shot and you never know what else they might come up with.
- My favourite charity shops are the smaller, more local ones as I find that they're more inclined to put out older stock that isn't necessarily perfect, but is different and quirky enough to spark my interest. Smaller stores tend to pay less attention to the label on an item and put it out regardless of where it came from originally, which is ideal if you're after something a little different.
- Obviously I'm a huge fan of charity shopping when it comes to my wardrobe, but there are plenty of hidden gems in other sections, too; my favourite being the shelves full of bric a brac. Having moved in to our first flat together in the summer, charity shops have been a haven for my boyfriend and I as we set about trying to kit out our new home on a budget. Along the way we've found some really unique little things that say a lot more about us as a couple than most - and some pretty great bargains, too. We've also picked up a lot of our furniture pieces from larger charity shops - including our sofa, wardrobe, dressing table and a beautiful 1970's sideboard that takes pride of place in our lounge.
- Probably the most important tip of all is just to keep an open mind. Having a good imagination can really help when shopping second hand as garments are unlikely to be shown on mannequins or stocked next to pieces that compliment them. Picturing the garment with items from your own wardrobe can really help and allows you to see them in a completely different way.
- Items end up in charity shops for a whole range of reasons, not just because they're completely past it. It's really not uncommon to find pieces with the original tags/labels still in tact at super reduced prices, so even if you don't particularly like the thought of second hand it's still worth a shot. Don't get me wrong, I wont be buying any lingerie from a charity shop any time soon, but generally the thought of wearing something second hand doesn't bother me at all; in fact I struggle to see a great deal of difference between charity shops and overpriced vintage clothing stores.
- Have fun. You're unlikely to be paying a huge amount in a charity shop (and if you do, the garment is probably more than worth it), so it's the perfect opportunity to experiment and go a little out of your comfort zone. You're doing something brilliant for charity and getting something from it for yourself, so go for it and explore.