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My Guide to Charity Shop (Thrift Store) Shopping

My Guide to Charity Shop (Thrift Store) Shopping

I just wish here in the UK we called charity shops ‘Thrift Stores’ because it sounds cool, don’t you think? Also, why can’t I just use that term? Who’s the boss of retail terminology?!

Rant over. So why shop at a charity shop? I guess if you’ve come to this post you are curious about it, even if voyeuristically so. I’ve always loved rifling through charity shops preferring it to ‘proper’ shopping finding it WAY less intimidating than vintage stores, which I never feel cool enough for.

While it was once for fun, now it’s necessary; my personal fashion ethos is to avoid fast fashion and choose ethical where I can. BUT more often than not I opt to buy used, second-hand, pre-loved….whatever you want to call it. Mostly because it’s cheaper, it’s a lighter footprint on the planet and I genuinely love the process of hunting the perfect toaster, camel brogue, skinny jean….etc etc.

I started sharing my finds on Instagram and I always get such a big response I remembered Kayte Ferris’ advice that ‘questions are content’ and wrote this here guide.

picture of legs in mirror

My guide to grabbing a bargain in the charity shop

An awful lot of what I’m saying here is contradictory so I apologise. I don’t wanna give you a bunch of rules so…..just take what you like and ditch the rest 😉

Shop Often

This is quite a simple one most people forget. Charity shopping is a hobby really, because you obviously can’t just go in and expect to get what you need you have to be patient and build a bit of a black book, so to speak.

I really got to know the charity shops near me when I moved here and now I pop into my faves (around five of them) a couple of times a week. Not for long, but it’s good to show your face because my next tip is….

Be nice

Making friends with the staff and chatting to them often is, well, just a nice human thing to do, but it’s also a banging tactic for getting the juicy stuff.

The JUICY GEMS, if you will 😉

Making friends with the staff and chatting to them often is, well, just a nice human thing to do, but it’s also a banging tactic for getting the juicy stuff.

The JUICY GEMS, if you will 😉

mustard jeans

Choose wisely

Don’t turn the charity shop into another way to consume fast fashion. It’s ethical, in the sense it’s the lesser of some evils; it’s better than Primark, but ultimately a lot of the clothes you’ll find in the charity shops are fast-fashion.

I often find Topshop, Zara and H&M pieces either because they’re a poorly made item, very trend-led or have been bought cheaply with little regard as to longevity.

But don’t be too wise

Okay, I know. CONTRADICTION.

I just think you can be too serious. I genuinely love faffing in a charity shop, poring through the clothes, imagining who wore them and what their story was.

Sometimes I buy things, get them home and realise they aren’t quite right so I take them back for a refund (keep your receipt, of course!)

girl with hat and leather jacket in changing room

Try things on

Most stores will have a small fitting room so do try things on. The sizing on the labels might not be right, or it might be a weird fit or whatever so it’s worth the extra hassle of wrestling out of your layers!

Don’t be precious (it’s for charity!)

I know people who haggle in the charity shop, but honestly…..it’s really no big deal. If something is a pound or two more than you’d like to pay, but you have the money, think about the fact it’s going to charity….not into a sweat shop.

If you don’t have the money, then I’d say it’s probably worth a haggle; especially if you’re buying multiple items and the store is chocka with clothes.

vintage chair from above

Find your favourites

I have some regulars I visit for certain things; one does amazing kiddy stuff, one has a patron who enjoys donating clothes in my size and style and others have a great homeware selection.

The point is, it’s a long game. Get shopping, find your faves and stop wasting time in the rest.

Shop online!

Quite a few of the bigger charities have online stores. Oxfam and Amnesty International are my faves and it makes the whole rifling-through-rails a breeze.

A guide to charity shop thrift store shopping #1

Pack a charity-shop kit

I take a couple of tote bags, a tape measure (particularly for vintage finds, or places with no changing room) and a solid understanding of my style and current wardrobe.

A note on sizing

The charity shop tags aren’t always right. Sometime they label a size 12 a medium, but if that size 12 is from Topshop it’s a small (IMO) and jeans are often mislabelled due to their waist sizes.

Et voila! Let me know if you have any questions, or add your own tips in the comments.

L x

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