THE BUSY GIRL’S GUIDE TO FINDING CLOTHES IN CHARITY SHOPS

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!

  • My favourite is the salvation army… I find they have more true vintage items (I bought a 1950's full circle dress last week for £2.50… They go for over £100 on eBay!)

  • Love all your tips. I definitely have a few favourites near my house that I can normally rely on for great vintage finds. I have found that they seem to change over time, be great one minute and nothing the next, so I am always popping into others for a look also. New store openings are the gems – ie: fresh stock! 🙂

  • The Salvation Army near me is great for their £1 rail! I'll certainly look out for their vintage clothes!

  • Nothing better than fresh stock Kacey <3

  • I make a bee line for that rail! 😂 if you're looking for something particular and get chatty with the older workers in there, they will more and likely pop things aside for you for next time you pop by. Mine save any green beryl kitchenware for me (I bribe them with cakes… That helps also!) happy thrifting!

  • We have quite a few local charity shops but there are only a couple which are any good and I know are worth a look.

  • Good tips Donna! In my local town there are 7 charity shops and I know that out those, the Barnados, Marie Curie and Oxfam often have something (or lots!) I'll love- the other four are more hit and miss!!!

    I used to have a blogging friend (well she's still a blogging friend but she doesn't blog very often) who used to write about her charity shop finds (aaaaaaaaaaaaamazing stuff!) It turned out that she worked at the secondary school local to MY primary (as in our feeder school) and she and I went to the same charity shops! It was then great to go, "Oh I know which shop you went to!" when she'd mentioned a shop and what she bought (she always got amazing vintage and designer stuff!). And then bizarrely, I was crossing the road one day near school and someone got out at the traffic lights and asked if I was Kezzie and it was her- she recognised me!!!! Couldn't believe it!!x

  • I completely agree that it's worth looking at all sizes because items vary so much. I am always drawn to stripes – can't help myself and sometimes get sidetracked – I need to look for more things in one colour so I have a more options for using the things I already have, but it seems too boring when there are so many lovely prints out there!
    Lisa x

  • I've found the good ones in my local town and I always head to them first, I often buy things that 'aren't my size', as long as they look good I ignore the label.