1. Know What You Like
2. Location, Location, Location
If you live in a larger town or city, you might find several suburban shopping streets worth visiting. Consider the general feel of an area if you’re after something specific. Charity shops that are competing with more up-market stores will do their best to sell similar garments, sometimes moving stock from one branch to another. Posh areas won’t have rock bottom prices, but it can work out in your favour: you’re more likely to find a Jigsaw dress to wear to a wedding opposite Waitrose, while next to Aldi you’ll get plenty of Primark and H&M for weekends in the park.
3. Fatally Flawed
Is the shirt missing any buttons? Are the seams intact? Has the split on the back of the pencil skirt gone a bit too far? Once you’ve found something you like, give it a good once over. Don’t take it for granted that the shop staff will have done this for you, it’s not always the case. Checking for armpit stains or oil marks on silk is always a good idea because, let’s face it, no one can bring themselves to ask for refunds from a charity.
Something to be really vigilant about are clothes moths. Hold the fabric up to the light – small, frayed holes and “trails” are tell tale signs. Once you have an infestation of the little buggers, they’re hard to get rid of. If you discover them fluttering around your wardrobe, a forgivable reaction is “Kill! Kill them with FIRE!” but then you’ll wind up without any clothes and possibly homeless, so it’s best avoided.
4. Think Outside The Box
You’re a size 12. You’ve been a size 12 for years. Every time you go into your favourite shop, you pick up a 12 and it’s perfect. Great! However in Charity Land, all bets are off. You have an endless variety of labels to choose from and they’ll all have different proportions. With the rise of vanity sizing and brands aimed at younger customers cutting for slimmer hips / smaller bust, it’s worth checking out the sizes each side of your usual at the very least. You might find a bias cut dress a size smaller than usual will give you wicked curves, or a shirt dress that looks like a sack on the hanger is a dream when it’s belted.
This is also your chance to take a few risks. Perhaps you love the look of skinny jeans but are unsure if you’ll ever feel confident in them. How much is it worth to find out? Perhaps not the full price in Gap, but under a fiver?
5. Don’t Stop Me Now
So far, this article has all been about clothing, though why limit yourself? Besides the huge savings on fully lined curtains and books, bric-a-brac shelves are a treasure trove. An incomplete tea set can provide a pair of twee cup / saucer / side plate settings for a shabby chic housewarming present. Children’s toys are often passed on unopened when a mountain of unsuitable Christmas or birthday gifts is downsized. If you’ve been meaning to learn to knit, snap up some needles and a vintage pattern. The possibilities are endless, and a thorough rummage could inspire all manner of things. Have fun.