One of the many things I have inherited from my mother is a love of charity shops. From the haphazard window displays and well-thumbed books, to the clothes organised by colour (seriously, why do they all do that?), nothing quite excites me like having a good rummage in second hand shops. Here’s why.
I never know what I’ll find
Charity shopping is a lottery. One day you might trawl through every charity shop in town and find nothing, the next you could unearth a treasure trove of beauty in a single store. The anticipation of hitting the jackpot is well worth the days where all you find is Primark cast-offs and pint glasses nicked from the pub.
It feeds my inner materialistic consumer
I try to repress the little voice in my head that shouts *buy buy buy!* as much as possible, for my conscience, my bank balance, and for the planet. But every so often it yells too loudly to be ignored (usually when I’ve just been paid, when the weather changes or when I have a fun event coming up), and on those occasions, a charity shop binge is the only answer.
I can afford to experiment
Trying out different looks and styles can be expensive when you’re as indecisive as I am. If I bought all of my clothes (and shoes and accessories) from high-street stores, I’d probably commit to a few “staple” looks and be as bored as hell with my wardrobe.
Shopping at charity shops gives me the freedom to buy and wear ridiculous outfits occasionally, and experiment with different looks without worrying about how much it will set me back. When I fall in love with a hand-woven lurid pink poncho that goes with precisely zero of the items already in my wardrobe, if it costs £3, it would be unthinkable not to buy it.
The reward of finding something incredible
When I’ve been digging through shapeless M&S cardigans and questionable nylon beach smocks for half an hour, unearthing a 100% cotton vintage shirt dress with real shell buttons is better than heroin. It’s addictive, and once you’ve experienced that rush, you want to feel it again. And the more you do it, the better you get at spotting the pieces worth having.
I’ve discovered my unique style
I like wide leg trousers, silk shirts, shift dresses, brightly coloured flats, vintage handbags, colourful scarves, suede and leather jackets, floaty skirts, and slouchy oversized jumpers (cotton for spring, wool for winter). Drop me off at any charity shop and I will sniff out any of the above immediately.
Take me to any high street store, and I won’t know where to start. There’s too much of everything, and why does it all look the same? The corporations turning the cogs of the ever-revolving wheel of fast fashion have dictated that whatever was trendy last season is now about the worst thing you could wear. It’s almost impossible to keep up, so I don’t even try to.
If you want your clothing to reflect your personality, you need to broaden your horizons past the narrow parameters of the high street. There’s one thing you can guarantee about shopping for clothes in charity shops: nobody will have the same outfit as you!
I’m saving the world, one £2 dress at a time
Fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world. 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill in Britain every year, and we keep on buying more. I’m doing my bit by reusing someone else’s cast-offs. Each piece I buy from a charity shop is one less item going to landfill.
They give town centres some personality
The recession hit our town centres hard, and they still haven’t fully recovered. Where independent boutiques once thrived, now you’re more likely to find boarded up shopfronts and Costa Coffees. But charity shops provide something unique among the cloned Superdrugs, Card Factorys and Estate Agents.
Depending on which high street you visit, you’ll unearth different treasures. If you’re on the lookout for vintage, head to an area with an ageing population; for designer cast-offs, make a beeline for the wealthier suburbs; the coolest selections are reserved for city centres.
Chatting to the lovely old ladies who run them
The women (and men) who run charity shops are giving up their own free time to help a good cause. They’re just the best. Enthusiastic and friendly, they’re more than happy to have a chat about whatever you’re buying, and if you get in their good books they might even give you specialist access to some of the new donations backstage in the store room.
The smug feeling when someone compliments my outfit
I am a self-confessed bargain bragger. Tell me you like any single thing I’m wearing and I will immediately rhapsodise about which charity shop I bought it from and how cheap it was. That’s right, this outfit cost £12. The leather flying jacket was £10 and the vintage cotton shirt dress was £2.
My money is going to a good cause
Rather than lining the pockets of the mega-rich owners of the likes of Topshop and Zara, my pounds and pennies are helping those who need it. Whether that’s people with serious illnesses, the homeless, endangered animals, or even dogs and cats.