It'd be fair to say that a large proportion of the clothes in my wardrobe are second hand. Savvy shopper and bargain hunter...that's me! I love a good old rummage through a bargain bin or clearance rail, you never know what treasures you may find. That
lottery winning feeling you get when you discover a
vintage, all-over-beaded evening dress (for £4.50!) (in your size!) that you will so find an occasion to wear to one day,
and if not well it was a bargain and look how beautiful
it is! Thrifting, or 'Charity Shopping' as it's known here in the U.K is one of
my favourite Saturday afternoon pleasures and the only guilt-free shopping I know.
Here's a little guide on how to get the most out of thrifting and some things I've learnt along the way.
// Trends \\
Often, fashion appears to be nothing more than a cycle of trends, regurgitated from decades previous given a more modern edge. Those TOPSHOP 'Mom' jeans are pretty much your standard 90's high waisted jeans. Okay, so I'm not saying you're going to find the latest S/S 14 Céline inspired dress, but if you look hard enough, you may just find original versions of current trends already on the rails of your local charity shop.
// Be unique \\
As well as the rarity of finding a second hand top that echoes the whole sports luxe vibe, the beauty of thrift shopping, for me, is that you get to make your own rules and create your own style. We can get so bombarded in high street stores with what we 'should' be wearing this season that we can often forget to wear what we actually 'want' to. Charity shops are full of unique and wonderful pieces. Don't play it safe, explore styles out of your comfort zone and look for pieces that have history or character, things that express your personality, have fun.
// Keep an open mind \\
Often my most treasured (and bargainous) items have been purchased from those worn-out, run-down musty-smell charity shops that others walk on by. Don't be swayed by charity shops in more affluent areas, they may stock more desirable 'labels' but their prices are also a lot higher. The ones tucked away are cheaper and, in my opinion, have the best finds. I always find older and more unusual things in these shops and get a lot more for my money.
// Rummage, dig deep & ask \\Sometimes shops arrange their stock in size order, style or even by colour-blocking. However they organise it, the rails are always seemingly bursting with various pieces. Don't be afraid to dig deep and have a good rummage, or else that sequin trophy jacket you're after may stay hidden. You may be faced with an endless stretch of peach and lemon polyester blouses, but there could be the prettiest blouse you've ever seen hidden in amongst them, get stuck in and have a look...I found one of my favourite shirts by doing just this.
Just like the high street stores, charity shops rotate their stock with the seasons. If you're after a specific item but can't see it, just ask, they may have just the thing out the back. Charity shops rely on donations and purchases so they are more inclined to try and help you if they can.
|Said favourite shirt purchased for £1.50. It's made from viscose so it's really comfy to wear and I love the cut-work detailing|
// Shop unisex \\
Stop by the men's section for t-shirts, shirts and jeans. Jeans can easily be customised into a pair of loose, 'boyfriend' fit shorts or a low-slung denim skirt (with a bit of extra work). Men's t-shirts are great if you don't want anything too fitted and are also great for customising and re-working. Again, collared shirts are good for the same reason, wear over-sized and undone over a summer slip dress or customise and re-work.
// Sizing \\
When looking for clothing and shoes it's always worth looking at a size smaller and larger than what you normally wear. Brands tends to cut their sizes slightly different, meaning a size 10 in one brand might be more like an 8 in another. Garments which are older, from earlier decades, can often be smaller than the equivalent size of current day. I often find that vintage and retro items come up smaller on me even though they are labelled the size I would normally take. The same can be said for shoes, some are wider, narrower or even just mis-sized. Try everything on if you can. If you find something that you love and have to have but it's too darn big, 'oversized' is a thing...go with it.
// Quick fixes\\
Often you'll find things that are pretty much ready to wear but just need the odd adjustment here or there. Don't be put off by things that are too long for you or have buttons missing, these are things which can be fixed cheaply and quickly. Like-wise with items that are fully-functioning but not not quite to your own taste, change those laces, swap those buttons and turn up those jeans. Make the item work for you.
// Fabrics \\
Sometimes you need to just look a garments for their fabric, regardless of design and silhouette. Vintage items are often made from opulent fabrics that you just won't be able to get hold of anywhere else. Think rich velvets, sequins, lace, heavy embroidery and beaded garments. Be inspired by the fabrics and decide on how you'll re-work the garment later.
I always make sure I pay a visit to the corner of the shop displaying all the bedding and table linen. This is a great place to look for fabrics to add to your stash for future DIY projects. Duvet covers and sheets give you loads of fabric which can be used for one big project or multiple, smaller projects and they often only cost a few pounds. Check out the curtains, they are the perfect weight for soft furnishing projects and often come in interesting fabrics and designs, especially vintage ones. Look out for pieces with crochet details or embroidery, these can be utilised to add interest to plain garments.
|I made these bags using second-hand fabric. The ethnic fabric was in the form of a maxi skirt, and the others were found in a basket amongst towels and table cloths.|
// Use your imagination \\Most things sold in Charity Shops have some potential. From home-wares, clothing, shoes, accessories even books, there'll be a way of reviving them into something to be treasured as opposed to trashed.
Altering the length of something can instantly give it a new feel and also tailor the garment to flatter your shape better. Taking the sleeves off a shirt or blouse can give it a new, summery vibe. The colour of a garment can easily be changed. You just need to look at the care label to see what the fabric is. Jacquard have a product called iDye Poly which is designed to be used on synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon. I've used this product before on an ASOS Polyester top and the results were fantastic. There's a whole host of fabric dyes that are available from brands such as Dylon, Rit and Jacquard Products that are suitable for a wide range of fabrics. There are also fabric paints, pens and transfers that can be used to transform a plain garment. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas for jazzing up those shoes, many involve glitter...and lots of it.
Textures & Embellishments
If an item is not usable or wearable itself, there may me elements that can be re-used or re-purposed. For example fringing or tassel's, these could be added to a bag, the hem of a skirt or the back of a jacket. If you see something with a lovely beaded embellishments but aren't too keen on the item, the beads could be used to adorn something you already own, a top or bag or you could create a statement bib necklace. You can also add texture to plain garments with smocking, pleats or ruching, which could also be used to help to shape a loose fitting garment.
|Handmade necklace using a silver chain necklace and some fringing that I picked up in a charity shop for next to nothing|
Sometimes it's hard to get any inspiration from a sea of odd, clear glass tumblers in front of you, or the random dolphin ornament staring at you. But the home-ware section is great for adding little nik naks and curio's to your home. The aforementioned tumblers could be painted, decoupaged or gem embellished, and turned into tea-light holders. Photo frames can be painted, sprayed, glitterfied and adorned with all sorts. Unexpected kitchen items can be transformed into new pieces that display your jewellery or act as earring holders. Spray paint tacky ornaments bright colours to make a bold statement piece for your mantel or desk. Old music books, comics and poetry books provide great material for decoupage, card-making and collages.
// Be realistic \\
Don't buy anything that's too small, you won't 'lose weight to fit into it', be honest with yourself. A few £4 purchases here and £5 buys there = a brand new top from a high street store that actually fits and that you will definitely wear. Don't commit to buying something that you'll fix if you won't, it's only a bargain if you're going to use it or treasure it, no matter how cheap it is.
The joy of second hand shopping for me is that you never really know what you're going to find, stock is always changing and each charity shop has something different from the last. But don't expect miracles, sometimes there's just nothing worth buying and I couldn't even spend 50p if I tried. But hold the faith, if you find a charity shop that you love, visit it often to see what's new.
Now don't get me started on car boot sales....
Now don't get me started on car boot sales....