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.