bargain Christmas party dress


Top 5 Tips for Finding a Bargain Christmas Party Dress

With my inbox inundated with special offers, Christmas sales about to go live, this has really encouraged me to think about how to make Christmas affordable. It’s been a while since I posted a ‘Top 5 Tips’ style post, but after finding a couple of bargain dresses this week, I wanted to share how I did it and how you can bag a bargain Christmas party dress. For first hand shoppers and lovers of second hand alike, I’ve compiled five top tips to help you find a bargain dress this party season.

1. Find the best of the Black Friday offers
I get it. Not everyone wants to shop second hand, or has time to be rummaging for that diamond in the rough. We all know there are times when you need a dress quick, like yesterday, and as great as second hand shops can be at moving with the seasons, charity shopping is a pot-luck gamble. Although, tread carefully. Last week, a report by Which? found that half of Black Friday deals were cheaper in the months before and after. Here are my picks of the sale.
For my fellow curvaceous vixens out there, Lovedrobe are not only offering 50% off but are offering free postage too. Dresses start at £7.50 and feature a range of styles. They’ve got you covered for all festive events, from casual after-work drinks to Belle of the ball chic.
Fun fashion brand, Yumi, are also currently offering 50% off all dresses. If you’re looking for a party dress with added quirk, this brush stroke print skater dress is my favourite choice. It mightn’t seem like the obvious festive choice, but its versatile style means it will see you into the new year
Retro fashion brand, Lindy Bop are well-known for their budget prices and is usually one of the first places that I check for a bargain Christmas party dress. Their Black Friday sale sees popular styles such as Audrey alongside newer pieces. If cocktails are on your mind, then ‘Lita‘ will make sure everyone knows about it. Reduced from £30 to £19, it’s my favourite dress in the sale. Stay up to date as more sale items are due to be released.
2. Check for further discounts and bigger bargains
I know that most people are already wise to running a discount code or voucher search when buying online. Serious bargain hunters will also know to sign up to reputable cashback sites. In the heat of the moment, it can be so easy to forget this. Finally, don’t neglect the ‘Sale’ section of a site, if they have one. Sometimes, you can find last season’s stock for bargain prices.
3. Visit your favourite charity shopping area
Just like the season, there’s been a distinct changing of colours on the charity shop rails. Primary colours have been replaced for seasonal neutrals of black, grey, green and plum. Charity shop retailers are increasingly revolving their stock to mirror consumer shopping habits. If you’re serious about making a sustainable choice, block time out to visit your favourite charity shopping area. Whilst you’d be lucky to find exactly what you’re looking for in one shop, visit more than a handful and your odds are seriously increased.
4. Manipulate an eBay search
Master eBay’s search feature to unlock a potential party dress. Years ago, we’d try to manipulate eBay by purposefully misspelling our search terms. To find the perfect bargain Christmas party dress, ditch the Christmas keywords.  Sellers try to take advantage of this Think about the type of dress you want: what colour? What size? What fit? Once you’ve hit search, narrow the search functions down to include a specific price, for example selecting no more than five pounds. Then hit ‘ending soonest’. You’ll be able to see what’s ending soon and a realistic price.
5. Waste not, want not! Get customising!
When it comes to changing our clothing, there’s so much on offer. Tons of dresses hanging in the wardrobe but nothing that’s just quite right? If it fits, add gems, add studs, add embroidery: want to see how? Check our Paige Joanna’s YouTube, especially this video, which sees her transform a simple denim dress with embellishments. If it can be taken in, consider visiting your local tailor. You’d be surprised how little it costs to have a dress hemmed, or taken in. 

Bargain Christmas party dress



Manchester fashion blogger

The Souvenir Print Shirt Dress

Over the past few months, my charity shop finds have dwindled in number and you’ve seen very few purchases here on the blog. I can’t complain because in July, the charity shop Gods bestowed some amazing thrift luck upon me when I found some key, quality pieces for my autumn wardrobe: a 60’s style Boden skirt, a Topshop trench coat and a Wheels & Dollbaby cardigan, to name but a few. I’m excited for autumn fashion, but I’m still embracing summer. Strangely, it was when I was searching for autumn fashion staples that I chanced upon the souvenir print dress, a dress I’d wanted to buy first-hand- until it sold out. 

July saw me browsing in fewer charity shops than ever before; it was a busy month, both socially, home and work wise, with my calendar full of theatre trips, evenings out for tea with friends, Kendal Calling with John, days out with family, decorating our living room: you name it! Nonetheless, it was on a visit to my local hospice shop that I found the souvenir print shirt dress- a dress from River Island’s ‘Chelsea Girl’ range.
Maybe it’s my yearning for a holiday in the sun that made me take the dress from the rack to look at its bright, holiday themed print? Maybe it was the fact that it’s a midi length dress (perfect for the ever-changing English summer)? In reality, it was Willowbrook’s half price sale that cast the final vote and saw me take it home for £2.50. Yes, £2.50. Brand new, I suspect, and perfectly fitting. 
Manchester Fashion Blogger
The Souvenir Print Dress
The Souvenir Print Dress
The Souvenir Print Dress
The Souvenir Print Dress
Outfit Details
// Souvenir Print Shirt Dress :: Willowbrook Hospice, originally River Island ‘Chelsea Girl //
// Tan leather sandals :: Clarks  c/o Brantano //
// Suitcase novelty bag & snail ring :: both Accessorize //
// ‘Mermaids have more fun’ necklace :: Punky Pins //
I wore this outfit on Friday when John and I decided to have an impromptu day out in Ormskirk (you might have heard of it as it’s the home of Edge Hill University). As John had time booked off, I thought I’d join him and we started the long, lazy weekend by stopping by our favourite bistro for lunch and searching for mid-century finds in Ormskirk’s numerous charity shops. We aimed to finish with a coffee at Ormskirk’s latest, and hippest, coffee shop, Cobble, but the English weather had other ideas and we found it too warm to be drinking lattes. 

Although we didn’t find any mid-century furniture finds, we did find a dinosaur teapot! After the disappointment of not being able to find ‘that’ Morrison’s planter, we’ve decided to buy a succulent and make our very own version for a snippet of the price and a donation to charity. Even though I wasn’t supposed to be looking at clothes, how could I not? I found a vintage style handmade dress with a delicate, embroidered collar for just £1. I can’t wait to feature it, until then, Instagram Stories? 


March. The month when my love hate relationship with clothes began. Trust me, there’s no one more surprised than I. One moment, I wanted all of the clothes. The next, I found myself clearing out liquidating my wardrobe with gusto, walking past most charity shops and browsing, lots of it, in high street shops. Despite this increased interest in finding new clothes, I bought very little; so little, I almost didn’t write this post. 

But, I did because I thought it was important to remember what new threads I was adding to my wardrobe. As you may know, the buyer’s archive is Elise’s series that I joined with the intention of tracking my spending habits. This year, it’s been a useful way to chronicle my many charity shop finds from January and February. However, now that I’m earning a steady wage each month, will this change my belief in second hand fashion? It’s something I’m undecided on, something that I’ve been giving some thought to over the past week or so. Despite all of my Internet browsing, what did I actually buy in March? Not much…
Tu Navy A-Line Skirt £8
Since starting my new job, I’ve swapped a classroom for many different offices and suddenly,what was my school work wardrobe just doesn’t cut the mustard. I need smarter, but I don’t want to lose the fun details. I was instantly drawn to this Tu skirt and added it to my virtual wishlist, when I found it for half price in store, I finally made it mine. As you can see, I plan to wear it with pops of red and maybe mustard. 
Urban Outfitters Cooperative Floral Dress,  £1.99, Age UK 
This month, I visited fewer charity shops but made sure I stayed loyal to my favourites. As part of my wardrobe clear out, I donated much more than ever but found very little. I guess that’s just the way it goes. However, I was very happy to be find this Urban Outfitters dress in Age UK for £1.99. It was perfect for a Sunday walk at Wycoller

JUNK bag, £1.99, Barnardos

I saw it, I needed it. It was in a pretty rough condition, but after a quick spin in the washing machine it was as good as new. It’s quirky, totally impractical but I can’t help but love it. You can see how I wore it on our day trip to Llangollen.

And, that’s pretty much it. Spare a denim midi pinafore dress that was bought and returned almost instantly. Scores on the door…

Total £11.98


…is another woman’s treasure and that’s certainly true for my latest find, my ‘JUNK’ trash can bag. When it comes to novelty bags, I think they’re something you either love or hate, but I love them in all of their kitsch, tacky or garish splendor. The brighter, the better! I found this bag in a Huddersfield charity shop, by chance, as I was passing. It stopped me in my tracks and minutes later, it was mine. 

Despite my love of bags, shoes and accessories, I’m pretty useless at finding good quality pieces second hand. Every month, I find many new dresses and the occasional collared blouse, but rarely anything else. Why is that? Is it because you can never grow out of bags, shoes and accessories? They’ll still fit you even if your size changes? Whatever the reason, I definitely get the giddy bumps when I find them!

Considering the weather, this is probably the most impractical outfit I’ve worn in a long time. When we left home, it was dry but as soon as we crossed the Welsh border… down came the rain! I swapped my leather biker jacket for a parka and my clogs for brogues and somehow, a slightly more appropriate outfit was born. You might recognise this gingham smock dress from February’s buyer’s archive. I bought it from my local charity shop for £2 and so far, I’ve worn it lots.

Yesterday, John and I decided to take a drive to Wales. John recently passed his driving test (yay!) and wanted to take a drive. We decided to drive to Llangollen, neither of us had visited before and it proved to be the perfect place for our first road trip. With charity shops, vintage shops and amazing book shops disguised as cafes, we enjoyed an hour discovering this new town. Then, I bumped into Char! Can you believe it? It was a welcome surprise and great to meet up in real life.
As soon as we left scenic Llangollen, the rain cleared up! When we passed a sign for a World Heritage Site, our interest was piqued and we found ourselves taking a short diversion to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. With fresh air in our lungs and a hearty lunch in our stomach, we took a relaxing stroll around this beautiful area. An Easter weekend well spent, I’d say!

Outfit Details
// Gingham smock dress :: Cats Protection (Topshop) What I Thrifted #27 //
// JUNK bag :: Barnardos (Huddersfield)What I Thrifted #28 //
// Heart necklace :: Punky Pins //
// Patent brogues :: F&F at Tesco //


Pinch, punch! First of the month!

So here we are, the start of another month which can only mean… another Buyer’s Archive post! This month, I bought a total of 15 pieces of clothing from charity shops (insert see-no-evil monkey here) and a mere 4 from the high street. It may sound a lot, but thanks to half term during February I had more time to clear out unworn clothes and time to devote finding new clothes to love. Through gifting, swapping, donating and selling, I managed to gain a new wardrobe of clothes for no additional cost with some money left over.

As you know, Elise is the founder of the Buyer’s Archive series: a series I joined during the summer of 2015 with the intention of tracking my spending habits. In January, even though I fell off the thrifty band wagon, I only spent £41.46 of my Christmas money (the rest went on bills, grown up life hey?) This month, did my thrifty ways see me buy more but spend less? Grab a cuppa’, this could take some time. 

Kenneth Cole vintage tan heels £3 & Audley London leather boots, £3.50, Sue Ryder, Didsbury
Let’s start with the purchases that I’m most excited about! After a meeting in Manchester city centre, John and I decided to visit Didsbury’s charity shops for the first time. Charlotte is a big fan of Sue Ryder, so we made it our first stop. Finding nothing, I was almost ready to give up when I caught sight of not one, but two pairs of brown leather shoes. Perfectly fitting, they’re just what I was looking for. I think a little bit of Charlotte’s shoe luck rubbed off on me that day!

Purple Beret, £1.50, Jospice, Allerton Road, Liverpool
You might have seen my Vintage Village photographs on Instagram over half term, I dragged John along with the intention of finding a vintage red or black beret and eating cake. As it was our first visit, we were overwhelmed with the amount of vintage on offer and sadly, no berets were found. Lucky for me, a couple of days later I found this 100% wool beret in Jospice for an amazing price. 

Topshop Nautical Jumper, £3.99, Barnados, Preston
The start of February saw a long overdue thrifty bloggers meet up back in my old university town of Preston. High on nostalgia, I was thrilled to find this red, nautical Topshop jumper that I used to own during my university days. It’s a size smaller than my usual size and a little shorter in length, but I intend to wear it under a pinafore dress so it’s not a problem.

Topshop Plaid Shirt & Primark Stripe Dress, Each £1, Sue Ryder, Preston

During the same trip, Rachelle introduced us to the amazing Tulketh Mill Sue Ryder shop. Complete with an amazing vintage and sewing section, it also had rails and rails of clothing. I was lucky enough to drop on two very much needed wardrobe essentials for the bargain price of £1 each. Granted, a Breton jersey dress isn’t too exciting but, so comfy! I’ve worn them both already, most recently the plaid shirt in this outfit post. 

Primark Navy Cardigan, £2.50, Cancer Help, Preston

Moving from the Tulketh Mill area, Charlotte, Jenni, Rachelle and I hopped in a taxi to Plungington Road. Despite its proximity to my old halls of residence, I’d never visited before. In the first local charity shop, I found an almost new long sleeved, navy Primark cardigan. Sure, not the biggest bargain or particularly exciting (hence, it’s not photographed) but it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for to wear with my Lindy Bop Matilda dresses in spring. 

Uniqlo Skirt, £1.99, Age UK, Burnley
When I’m teaching, I find it difficult to visit my favourite East Lancashire charity shops before they close. Some days, I pack up my marking and bring it home with me just so I can make closing time! Although strictly not an essential purchase, I’m a fan of Uniqlo’s clothes so even though this skirt isn’t strictly my usual style, at £1.99 I’ll take a chance. 

Oasis Deer Print Collar Top, £1.99, Age UK, Burnley
Emblazoned with a deer print AND complete with a collar, this quirky number was the first thing I spotted as I walked through the door. Its perfect collar means I’ve already layered it with a dress in this outfit, but I’m yet to find an outfit to really let its print shine. 

Principles Peter Pan Collar Jumper, £1.99, Age UK, Burnley
Peter Pan collar + moss green = perfect jumper. 

Next Boyfriend Jeans, £1.50, Age UK, Ormskirk
Again, another unexciting purchase but I’m lacking in the jeans department. I want worn looking, loose fitting jeans I can throw on. These are a little low-rise for my liking, but are the perfect length. You can’t win ’em all!

Next 1940s Tea Dress, £2.50, Age UK, Ormskirk
In the same trip, I found this polka dot tea dress. I loved the style of it (and of course the print) but when I tried it on, it was so flattering. Even though it’s missing a button, the condition is like new. It has a spare button attached so it’s easily fixed. 

H&M Swing Dress, £2, Age UK, Ormskirk
Remember when H&M released a range of cotton swing dresses last year? I was saving every penny and despite trying them on numerous times, I decided not to buy one. It felt like my patience was rewarded when I found this geometric print swing dress. It’s a couple of sizes bigger than usual, but it adds to the effect. 

Topshop Gingham Smock, £2 Cat Protection
Remember this spending ban wish list? When I spotted this gingham dress, I instantly recognised it from my hours spent trawling the internet for a budget version. In perfect condition, in my head, I’m already matching it with Dr Martens and a Fedora.

New Look Heart Print Dress, £2, Cat Protection
Same shop, same day. I think it must have been donated at the same time as the Topshop smock. Although it’s not different to the many other patterned dresses I own, they’re easy to look after and because I’ve now left teaching (I know, right? There’ll be a post about it soon), I’m building a new wardrobe of work clothes for a less formal look. 

Pinafore dress, £10, Apricot (originally, £29)
As well as charity shopping, I also went high street shopping with my mum. As we park close to Debenhams, we cut through the store to reach the shopping centre. This Apricot dress stopped me in my tracks, even more so when I discovered it in Apricot’s online sale. I returned the original dress and I’m waiting to take delivery of the £10 dress. 

Black cardigan, £8, Primark 
Again, another cardigan from Primark. Nothing exciting, but matches everything and oh so practical and warm!

Monochrome stripe skirt, £8, Primark 
Confession: my mum bought me the skirt and the cardigan. I know, I’m spoiled. I’ve never been a fan of Primark, if I’m honest; I’ve bought higher quality items for much cheaper prices, but Primark’s skirt game is so strong right now. I just really liked this striped skirt, the quality isn’t amazing but it fits well and I know I’ll wear it lots.

Deer print dress, £5, Boundary Mill
Enough is enough, I decided. No more clothes this month, I thought. But, how can you resist a dress with a deer print when it’s a fiver? I couldn’t, especially not when it fit so well. I’m unlikely to wear this until Christmas, however buying out of season seems to be what I do well.  

So there we have it, another month passed in the blink of an eye. Scores on the door…
Total £55.46 – £16 mum purchases= £39.46
Here’s to another thrifty month!


Fussy, picky, choosy. Whatever you call it, it pays to be picky when shopping second hand. Knowing how to spot clothes that will become part of your everyday wardrobe and will last the test of time can save you a fortune in the long run. If you caught my previous charity shop tips post, I spoke about how to find clothes when time is limited. In my second post, I intend to share the lessons I learnt the hard way and hopefully, help you to find great quality clothes that will last. 

1. Find the light

As I’m shopping, I like to take anything that catches my eye off the rail. Whether it’s a great collar, vintage pattern or great label, I never make a decision there and then. Instead, I take my time, continue to browse and ponder what my wardrobe needs. Once I’m satisfied that it’s a wise purchase, I head over to the window to look at what I’m buying in natural light. So often, charity shops are dark (especially in winter light) or lit by fluorescent lighting and it can be hard to see faults. In the past, I’ve unknowingly purchased damaged, faded and stained dresses. Some people may argue that for a pound or two, this is to be expected. However, I would disagree. You can find clothes in immaculate condition for less than a fiver if you’re prepared to be patient.

2. Check trouser hems
When I spot a branded pair of trousers in my size, 12 petite (polite for short), they’re off the rail quicker than lightning. Being short, trouser length is rarely an issue for me but for most, trouser hems need to be checked to make sure that they haven’t been hemmed. In the past, I’ve bought trousers from the tall range and hemmed them to fit my short legs. Make sure you try them on and if there’s not fitting room, put them aside your waist in front of a mirror. You’ll soon see! On the other hand, it’s important to check that the hems aren’t damaged but rips or stains where someone’s hem has trailed in mud. Most marks will come out in the wash, ground in dirt doesn’t tend to. 

3. Always try on flimsy material
I recently found a beautiful, red lace Topshop dress in a local charity shop. It had a Peter Pan collar, an undeniable sixties feel and was my size, I bought it without thinking. I always need Peter Pan collars (slight lie, but I’ll always wear them). On my return, I washed the dress, hung it up and planned to wear it. It was only when I popped it on that I realised big patches of my skin bursting through it, the dress was ripped! Even though I’d checked it, it was impossible to see due to the nature of the fabric. Moral of the tale, try things on. 

4. Don’t be afraid of a bit of bobbling
Whilst bobbled knitwear can look unsightly, with a little attention you can make knitwear look as good as new. Bobbling, or pilling, occurs when washing or wearing causes loose fabric to develop into small, spherical bundles. Some knitwear bobbles after the first wear so bobbling shouldn’t be seen as the marker of quality. It’s easy to remove with a bobble removing gadget: check out Erica’s post ‘Caring for Knitwear‘ to see the before and after results, or try A Thrifty Mrs for a lower-cost version and useful way to reuse your Velcro rollers. 

5. Check the armpits
Without doubt, stained armpits are grim, but unfortunately stains are a part of charity shopping. As the pits are the closest point of contact to the skin, they’re likely to show the most wear and give away the age and wear of the garment. While most minor marks will come out in the wash, I steer clear of any items with stains on the armpits. 

6. Zip it up, zip it down
Check the zip. It doesn’t take a minute, check it’ll zip up and down then pull it sideways to ensure it’s sturdy. If it buckles, or splits, or sticks, it’s probably going to need a new zip. Obviously, replacing a zip won’t cost a fortune, especially if you can sew but it’s always wise to find out before you take it home.

What are your tips for finding great quality clothes in charity shops?