Regular readers of this blog may already be aware that I spend approximately half my life browsing charity shops near and far in search of the ultimate bargain. I only need the mere whiff of a cut-price hand-me-down and I’m off, fingers endlessly riffling through the rails until they’re damn near worn to the bone. Quite simply, I’m a woman possessed.
As a result, I'm often asked how I manage to find as many gems as I do. Many people remain sceptical, and refuse to believe that it's possible to dress at all stylishly when shopping almost exclusively chazz. Now, I never have and never will claim to be any kind of fashion mastermind (a quick glance at previous posts will prove that quite the opposite is true), but I have acquired a few nifty tricks and tips that come in handy when trawling for thrifty treasures. So, dear reader, I present you with the Baudelaire Guide to Bargain-Hunting. Enjoy!
- - Always go with an idea of what you’re looking for in mind. Rare is the occasion that you’ll come home, arms laden with bags and waddling like the Michelin Man, from an aimless jaunt down to Scope. Remember that second hand shopping is an entirely different kettle of fish to browsing your nearest branch of New Look, where the best-sellers are strategically placed in order to ensure your immediate attention. The majority of the time that lace collared cream vintage blouse you’ve been coveting is hidden away, waiting for you to discover it lurking behind a nasty Matalan puffa jacket. Make a list of the key items you hope to come away with and what criteria they must fit, then make a beeline for the appropriate rail.
- - Remember, persistence is the ticket. It took two weeks of scouring the 15+ chazz establishments in my immediate vicinity before I found the perfect pastel petticoat skirt my wardrobe was so desperately in need of. Don’t be disheartened if an eagerly anticipated trip throws up only an obscene amount of unravelling knitwear. Most charity shops get very regular donations, and always have a vast amount of unsorted gear stashed out back just waiting to be organised and put out. What you don’t find first time around will almost always appear on a second or third attempt.
- - Make friends with the staff. I cannot stress how valuable a selection of chazza acquaintances are when it comes to locating what you’re looking for. They can almost always point you in the direction of exactly what you’re after and, once they get to know you as a regular customer, will frequently alert you to things they know you’ll be interested in which you may have missed. After chatting to the fine folk at InterAid on many an occasion (and buying up half the shop each time I visited) they told me about the little-known Bad Taste room they keep upstairs, which houses a selection of some of the greatest vintage treasures I’ve seen so far in Cardiff. Now and again, they’ll even offer a cheeky discount. What’s not to like?
- - Never settle for something you’re not entirely sure of just because you feel that all-consuming urge to buy something. The seasoned charity shopper knows all too well that second-hand impulse buying is an exercise in futility. 99% of the time, that hastily grabbed nylon monstrosity will find its way back to the thrift store rails in a matter of weeks. Great for the charities, not so fantastic for your bank balance.
- - Always check the quality of the fabric, the application of any embellishments and the cut of a dress, blouse or jacket. When executed correctly, charity shopping will time and again throw up buys that will be wardrobe staples for years. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice quality for quantity – wear-once pieces are what Primark was invented for!
- - It may sound achingly obvious, but whenever possible try before you buy. You can discount the eye-offending bad’uns immediately and ascertain whether an item can be cunningly taken in or customised. Don’t ever be afraid to try something completely out of your comfort zone, either. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve picked up an item that looks utterly vile on the hanger and run to the changing rooms for a quick LOL, only to fall completely in love. Yep, that Keith Haring-print playsuit that seemed oh-so-hilarious when spotted will in all likelihood become your new sartorial best friend.
- - Never, EVER buy Primark second hand. There is absolutely no point whatsoever. You are only cheating yourself.
(First two photographs courtesy of Google Images.)