To find an original, red telephone box in the UK these days can be rather rare and sighting one can feel fortuitous, especially when that telephone box happens to be located in the small, rural village where your parents live. Most Sundays, John and I take the short drive out of town, through scenic countryside to visit and share breakfast with my family. My parents live in a small cottage with a large, farmhouse style kitchen and we settle around the table brunching, drinking coffee and swapping tales from the week. It’s quickly becoming somewhat of a family tradition; a tradition this old heart of mine longs to keep.
Since making my pledge, I’ve successfully reduced my clothes but, I’m finding it a real challenge to reuse the pieces that I already own. I hate to admit it, but…
I’ve tried quick, clever tricks by layering dresses with jumpers or turning dresses into tops with midi skirts, but this weekend, I discovered a long forgotten pair of thrifted shoes and instantly, I knew how to restyle one of my favourite dresses. Just like that, easy!
// Gingham Dress :: Duck and Duffel //
// Vintage Inspired Bag :: c/o HaveBest //
// Trench coat :: Primark //
// Red shoes :: British Heart Foundation (originally M&S) //
// Tights :: Pamela Mann //
I found these shoes in my local British Heart Foundation shop almost two years ago now. They’re originally from Marks and Spencers’ Limited Collection and even though they were brand new with tags attached, they were £5.99. At the time, I remember being drawn to their vintage inspired design, which probably explains why I chose this bag when Manchester company, HaveBest, got in touch and offered to send me a bag of my choice. I chose the Genevieve tote bag because of its cherry red colour and vintage look. I love how it looks with monochrome and also that it costs £18, including delivery. Surely this wouldn’t be an expensive addition to any vintage loving girl’s wardrobe?
*The Genevieve Tote Bag was sent to me free of charge. Opinions my own, as usual.*
Without thinking, I almost titled this post: ‘The Working Girl’s Guide to Finding Clothes in Charity Shops’ Thank goodness I considered it more; that would have been a different post entirely! As part of my ‘What I Thrifted’ series, I’ve shared my charity shop finds in many outfit posts but I’ve never written about how I find them. While I don’t claim to be an expert, having been asked to share my tips over on Instagram, I thought it was time to start writing them down. So, in a series of blog posts, I’m going to share with you my tips for finding pre-loved clothes to love again.
During my eighteen months of shopping second hand, I’ve worked full-time, part-time and for a short time, not at all. I noticed a significant change in my charity shopping habits during each of these times. I shopped more when I worked as a part-time supply teacher and unsurprisingly, less when I worked full-time. In a recent post, I realised that I hadn’t bought any charity shop clothes this year and could only account this to my new full-time role. So, it seems fitting that my first post should be specifically about finding clothes when time is not on your side.
1. Do your research: use an Internet search to explore charity shops in your area
When I worked part-time, I was placed in schools across East Lancashire. Sometimes for the morning, sometimes the afternoon; rarely all day. During this time, I rarely spent more than thirty minutes travelling to work but visited places I’d never been to before. Even before I’d checked out the school’s Ofsted report, I’d search for charity shops in the area and visit them just before they closed or on my lunch hour. If you work 9-5, five days a week: my advice is to search nearby towns in advance of the weekend, make a shortlist of new charity shops to try and visit first thing on a Saturday . Until you find your favourite shops.
2. Find your favourite shops
You’ve done the groundwork by spending a couple of hours trying out new charity shops in different areas until you’ve been rewarded with a handful of favourite shops (I can list my favourite charity shops on one hand). You could be smitten by a shop’s prices or their stock; everyone will have their own reasons. What’s next for the busy girl? If you’re strapped on time, stay faithful to your favourite shops and devote the little time you have to visiting these. Even if you only have ten minutes to spare before closing, you’ll be familiar with the floor plan and will be able to search quickly.
3. Know what you’re looking for
If you know what your wardrobe is lacking then make a beeline for that rail, find your size and then look at the other sizes. As you know, all brands fit differently. Sometimes, I’ve found dresses labelled as large placed with size 18+, but in reality the ‘size L’ dress would fit a size 12. Knowing what you want to find helps you to focus on finding something you’ll genuinely love. As we know, sometimes the thrill is in the chase.
4. Be guided by patterns and textures
Right, there’s five minutes left before the shop closes and you have one rail left to search. How do you quickly search for something you’ll love? Look for patterns or feel the fabric, be guided not by labels but by your eye. I search for collars, stripes, cute prints or bright fabric then I start a detailed look (if there’s time) to make sure I haven’t missed anything.5. Know when a shop isn’t for you
Avoid letting desperation set in and buying something you’re not truly smitten with. I’ve done it before; silently told myself there’s a secret gem hidden within the bobbled, faded over-priced clothes (there wasn’t) when really, I should have saved myself twenty minutes and the sight of ghastly clothes. My favourite charity shops are priced well and have stock from a range of high street brands, but even my favourites have their off days. At least you tried. Plan a return for another day and hotfoot it over to another shop.
So there you have it, my top five tips for finding pre-loved clothes to love in a hurry! I would love to hear if my tips worked for you or if you have any advice for me!
I’m starting this year with a pledge rather than a ban. Let’s face it, I could be called shallow, but finding a thrifty bargain to make a new-to-me outfit makes me way happier than it probably should. Why would I want to stop? Because I’m now the proud owner of a collection of clothes that won’t fit into one room. Something had to change, enter the pledge.
The pledge: reduce, reuse and recycle
It’s not an idea I haven’t tried before, in fact it was part of my spending ban last January but somehow, it never happened! I’d hoped to rework well-loved clothes into new outfits, but the thrill of finding so many clothes in charity shops meant that it never happened. I simply shifted my high street shopping habits to charity shops. While I still love charity shops, working full time in a village school means fewer opportunities to shop. So much so, I haven’t bought anything from a charity shop this year! I know!
On the bright side, I’ve started the pledge as I mean to go on: selling clothes I no longer wear on Instagram, swapping or giving away dresses to blogging friends and re-wearing my favourite clothes in different ways by being more creative with my styling. I’ve never been one to spend hours on Pinterest, I get distracted easily, but the inspiration behind today’s outfit was taken from my ‘midi skirts’ board. I’m always enamoured by how chic midi skirts can look, but in reality I find them so difficult to wear.
Often, an outfit looks better in my head than on my body and this is one of those times. When this happens, I discard the photographs and assign them to room 101. I didn’t this time because I wanted to document my efforts to make the most of what I already own. It all started with this scalloped collar Topshop shirt dress. I’ve owned (and washed) this dress for more years than I care to remember, it clings in all the wrong places and gapes but I still can’t get rid of it.
So I added a midi skirt over the top and a pop of colour (more mustard, no bad thing) with my beloved charity shop cardigan that I bought during last year’s high street spending ban. Then, our visit to Bygone Times happened and I found that vintage leather satchel.
// Scallop collar dress :: Topshop (old) //
// Mustard cardigan :: Cats Protection (originally Next) //
// Blue midi skirt :: People Tree //
// Patent loafers :: F&F //
// Scarf & headscarf:: Primark (old) //
As you’ll know from Instagram, I stumbled on this satchel and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it was only £7. Sure, it was scuffed and worn (I added wax before use) but to me, that just adds to the charm, especially as it has the remnants of the initial M just above the clasp. I wonder who it belonged to?
Have you made any new year pledges?
The first working week after any school holiday always hits me hard. I’m a rushed blur of breakfast on the run, smudged mascara and arriving with minutes to spare, who isn’t? By the time the weekend rolls around, I feel like I’ve well and truly earned a break- time to switch off from planning, differentiation and next step marking, time to be me. Five days in sensible teacher wear and I was ready to embrace cute patterns and bright colours!
Last weekend, we decided to take a drive to Bygone Times in Eccleston, Lancashire. Billed as a place where the antique meets the unique, I’d describe it as a large warehouse of hot-potch stalls selling kitsch curiosities, vintage treasures and memorabilia. It’s a thrifter’s paradise, as well as an opportunity to stroll down memory lane. Whilst I’ve only visited few times since I was a child, each and every time I make a beeline for the stall stacked with vintage manuscript- it hasn’t moved in over twenty years! From this stall, I’ve picked up a small treasure of sonatas, symphonies and concertos over the years. No matter what’s there, I always enjoy sifting through the heaped piles looking for my next piece.
My shopping wasn’t just limited to manuscript. The shopping centre appears to stock a wider range of stalls selling vintage clothes. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you will have seen the amazing vintage blouse I found priced at just £2. As it wasn’t the perfect fit, I left it for another vintage enthusiast to find however, I did come away with a soft leather tan satchel for £7. Although it’s slightly scuffed, it has a certain vintage charm that only comes with age and use. Someone has clearly loved it before me, but that’s definitely part of the attraction. Watch out for it in an outfit post soon!
Overall, we enjoyed spending around three hours browsing the many stalls at Bygone Times. Tucked away in my bag was a cup of Emmi’s Caffe Latte. It made the perfect mid-afternoon iced coffee kick without taking time away from my vintage hunting! As part of their #staywarmkeepcool campaign, I was sent vouchers to try their iced coffee, as well as this snuggly scarf, and now I can say I’m a convert to iced coffee. Who knew?
As you know, I’ve pledged to wear more of what I already own and sell what I no longer wear. My dress rail is finally starting to become a little lighter after my latest Instagram sale (see shop link if you’re interested) and as a result, I can clearly see what I haven’t worn. This zebra print dress (swapped with Char back in summer for a pair of Henry Holland alphabet tights) had been hidden away until recently and I couldn’t wait to wear it.
// Zebra dress :: Primark (swapped with Char & with added bow) //
// Satchel :: Cambridge Satchel Company //
// Cardigan :: H&M //
// Brooch :: Vintage (from my grandma) //
// Clogs :: Lotta from Stockholm //
Visiting Bygone Times has well and truly reignited my love of thrifting- finding the unique, one-offs to treasure among the tat. I’m already planning what we can do next weekend!
How was your weekend?
Swans: fiercely loyal and loving, swans seek a partner for life.
So, it was rather heartbreaking for my swan jumper to be seeking its mate almost 18 months since its purchase. It’s not that I didn’t love my £2.49 charity shop find: I simply hadn’t found its perfect companion. Would it be this jumper’s swan song before I’d even had chance to wear it? Thankfully not, enter the £1 flippy skirt.
There’s something exciting about finding a piece of clothing that creates an entirely new outfit. For me, this teal skirt was the key to unlocking so many unworn clothes in my wardrobe. They say if you haven’t worn something in 12 months, you’re probably not going to wear it again. Not true. I believe it’s about finding the perfect match for each item. This perfect match cost me £1 from an independent charity shop, I would have happily paid five times the asking price.
Opening the doors of my wardrobe can be an intimidating experience, it’s packed with jumpers, blouses, skirts: some that I’ve held onto for years, some that are new. When building a new outfit, I usually go with gut instinct. Instinctively, I reached for a cute blouse: my sewing reel, frill neck blouse from Urban Outfitters to be precise. What I thought would be perfect was frumpy, almost uniform like, then I spotted the teal green swans. How had I forgotten this jumper? One scalloped collar layer later, my new year’s day outfit was sorted!
// Flippy skirt :: local charity shop (Peacocks) //
// Scallop collared blouse :: Claire’s House (M&S) //
// Swan jumper :: Barnardo’s (unknown brand) //
// Tan bag :: Cancer Research (Nica) //
// Brogues :: Hudson //
// Nautical coat :: Topshop //
To me, new year’s day is the perfect day for snuggling up on the sofa with Netflix and snacks for company. Hello series 6 of How I Met Your Mother! Getting dresses is the least of my priorities but this year was different, my brother decided to throw our family a new year’s day house party. My next question wasn’t which pyjamas should I wear, but what outfit do I wear?
There’s a certain sense of irony in this outfit: it’s mostly made up from thrifted finds. I’ve been consciously clothes shopping in charity shops for almost two years now and this outfit features the most items of thrifted clothes I’ve ever worn at once! The irony is, I’m far happier in this outfit than most of my high street finds! In total, the skirt, jumper, blouse and handbag came in at under £10. Can you believe that? Madness.
Have you found any bargains recently?