Everyone has a view on charity shops, right? A bit hippy, a bit dirty, a bit bargainous, a bit retro. Let’s discuss. But before we crack on, shall we all just take a moment to acknowledge that this is my one hundredth “proper” blog post? One hundred! Them’s a lot of words. I’d better make this one a belter then… no pressure.
Anyway, yes – charity shops. I LOVE them. I used to be a hater – assuming that all the clothes would be 1. disCusting, 2. from circa 1998, and 3. full of dead people cooties. However, I’m not much in the market for wool suits with a 42″ chest so I quickly realised I’m good on the mothball score.
I really don’t understand why more people aren’t buying their clothes from a chazza. Literally about 75% of my wardrobe has been purchased in a charity shop, and I’m totally unashamed of it. Not even kidding – you can get legit expensive brands that have BARELY BEEN WORN for a frazzle of the price. Not just clothes, either – I once picked up a stunning burnt orange DKNY satchel for £10, and an almost-new pair of brown boots from Jones Bootmaker for £8, in the same haul. Thank you, posh benefactor, for your almighty wardrobe cleanse.
Here are some tips and general musings, anyway, for the devout and the yet-to-be-converted.
Know Your High Street
The humble chazza does fall prey to regional variation in quality and available garments. For example, I used to work in an office just off the main high street in Winchester. Winchester, for those who don’t know, is vare vare posh and well-to-do. Therefore, the chazza wares are golden, but sadly priced as such. I got a lovely pair of gun metal grey courts from L.K. Bennett once, but I paid £15 for them. Conversely (no, not Converse) my local high street is awash with decent ladies clothes, but really shit for children’s stuff. We’re talking stained vests, matted fur-lined snow suits in July, and trousers with frayed seams. Where my family hail from, in Sussex, the shops have REALLY GOOD kids clothes, as I can testify from the recent swathe of Next goodies that my stepmum gave to Moo. So, it pays to have a mooch around those near you, and work out the strengths.
Be a Non-Conformist
One of the things I hate about being a girl is that when I realise I desperately need new clothes, I’m often appalled by what’s “in”. Aztec print, anyone? Bodysuits, anyone? Mustard yellow, anyone? Harem pants, anyone? Bardot gypsy top, anyone? All I fucking want is a pair of slimfit trousers for work and a blouse (I’m aware I sound about 62). The beauty of the charity shop is that typically, you get ALL THE FASHION, allowing you to cherry pick what you actually like and eschew the modern trappings of couture dictatorship. I still rock the occasional bootcut jean, and what of it?
I’ve had many a chat with friends who nod enthusiastically and agree that charity shops are the bees knees, only for the tumbleweed to roll in when I talk about shoes. “Oh no, I’d never buy shoes in a charity shop. That’s a bit too far, you know?”. Ok, so you’ll buy trousers, yes? You’ll put your crotch in the same seat of fabric that someone else has put their crotch in, but you won’t put your manky feet anywhere near something that another manky foot has touched? Purist. No, I do sort of get it – if it’s a barefoot pied piece then I’ll usually stick in a pair of insoles for hygiene, but seriously – dodge the shoe section and you’re missing out. Those leopard River Island beauties in the featured photo? £5. ‘Ave it. (Underwear, though. Underwear is my cut off. And pyjamas – just go to Primark.)
Beneficially Ballsed Pricing
Er, this may be a bit morally dodge to claim it as a benefit, but occasionally the people who price the items get it really wrong and I’m in there like a bloody wasp over a summer picnic. Once, I found a gym top by Sweaty Betty that was 50p. 50p! When their stuff retails at about £30. Another time, I spotted a denim dress from Jack Wills for £3.49. However, I did appall even myself on one occasion by “negotiating” with a sales assistant because the £7 on a pair of tailored navy trousers from Next totes looked like a £1. I won that battle, then felt so awful that I stuck a fiver in their loose change tin and took them in a couple of really nice handbags that I’d actually purchased from source. It’s all about the giving back, you know?
Charity Begins At Home
Ref the above point, and on a serious note, charity shops only exist to fund the work that the charity does. Many of them have faced increases in rent and staff costs, so the margin that they’re able to invest back into charitable work has narrowed. This article explains it in a bit more detail, and it’s quite sad. They’re not out to make a vast profit, and many staff continue to be volunteers with all the responsibility of someone in the “proper” clothes shop on the same high street. So – even if you’re a hater and think they’re a scuzzy way to shop, can you at least fill up a bag of unwanted clothes and take them in? Let’s be honest – you’ll never be arsed to stick it on eBay and car boots are feral.
What do you think? What’s your best ever chazza find?
-SJW April 2017