Gone are the days when charity shops were viewed as somewhere full of bric-a-brac and people’s unwanted clothes. Now, they’re a treasure trove bursting with trendy bargains, vintage one-of-a-kind pieces and sometimes if you’re lucky, even designer goods.
Whether you’re looking to save money, do your bit for the environment or simply donate to a good cause, there’s nothing more satisfying than rummaging through rails and boxes of secondhand clothing only to stumble upon something truly unique at a low price.
Charity shops are proving popular with celebrities too, with Love Island star Faye Winter and Coronation Street’s Kimberly Hart-Simpson often speaking out about their love for sustainable fashion on social media.
If, like these famous faces, you’re feeling thrifty and want to discover some fashion finds for yourself, Alexandra Littlehales, owner of vintage clothing brand Re-Loved Vintage has shared her top tips for bagging the best bargains.
1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Firstly, when heading into your local charity shop, it’s important to keep an open mind and let go of the stigma attached to secondhand clothing.
“The public’s perception of charity shops has shifted over the years, so don’t be afraid of people judging you for shopping secondhand,” Alexandra tells OK!. “It’s kind to our purses, and kind to the planet – it’s cool to be kind.”
“Don’t be put off by the jumble sale aesthetic either,” she adds, “I can guarantee there’s some diamonds in the rough to be found.”
2. Look in every section
“Have a really good dig,” says the business owner. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much there is in charity shops, so take your time browsing each section – even the men’s rails. Oversized, grandad-style blazers are really in this season.”
“Don’t feel disheartened if nothing catches your eye immediately. Instead, come back another day or check another charity shop in your local area.”
3. Express yourself
“Don’t just follow trends,” Alexandra says. “Develop an understanding of your own personal style.
“Work out what type of pieces you’re most drawn to and use this to create a capsule wardrobe of timeless pieces you’ll wear again and again.
“You’ll often hear people say ‘I never find anything good in the charity shops’ – but that’s because they’re not visualising. Shoppers are used to seeing garments styled perfectly on fashion websites, or put together on mannequins in high street stores,” she adds.
“The beauty and sentiment of thrifting is that you never know what it is you’re looking for, or what you’re going to find. You don’t choose the pieces, they choose you.”
4. Make bold choices
The fashion industry is known for being unsustainable and many shoppers often purchase trend-led pieces that they’ll realistically only wear once or twice. If you’re going to purchase something bold and outlandish, charity shops are the perfect place to do so, Alexandra explains.
“Go for things you might not usually reach for in charity shops. If you don’t like it, you can always re-donate or up-cycle – take a leap of faith. Everything you find in charity shops is one-of-a-kind. You might never see that item again – and if you don’t get it, you’ll never stop thinking about it.”
“That being said, try not to over-consume,” she adds. “Don’t just buy items because they’re cheap. The whole point of thrifting is that it’s ethical and sustainable. Be mindful.”
5. Get the look for less
“It’s no secret that fashion brands are taking inspiration from 90’s and early noughties fashion with their latest collections,” Alexandra says.
“Thanks to it-girls like Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, low-rise jeans, oversized ‘grandad’ blazers and vintage-style handbags are having a full-circle moment right now – but you can get the same look in your local charity shop.”
6. Make some money
“If you’ve got some designer clothes that you’re finished with, there’s definitely some coin to be made. You can easily resell items on Depop, Vinted and Ebay. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Alexandra says.
7. Recycle your buys
“If you’re feeling extra creative, don’t be afraid to up-cycle pieces you’ve bought in a charity shop or have them tailored or shortened to your desired fit. Use any extra fabric you’re left with to make scrunchies, bags, cushion covers – or even turn old blankets into jackets.”
“I believe most things can be given a second life – that’s where the idea behind my brand name ‘Re-Loved Vintage’ came from,” she adds.
8. Boost your mood
“ Buying from charity shops can be a real boost of serotonin,” Alexandra explains. “Just like your average dose of retail therapy, it’s a great way to reconnect with yourself and take a break from day-to-day life – only this time, you’re paying it forward to a worthy cause.”
“For an even better experience, bring along a bestie for a coffee date and a secondhand shopping session. Just make sure you don’t make a b-line for the same things – eek.”
9. Don’t haggle
“It’s not a car boot sale, it’s a charity shop – so don’t haggle,” Alexandra says.
“Don’t expect all charity shops to be cheap as chips either. Many brands have now caught on to the worth of high-ticket items and increased their prices accordingly, but they’re only doing their best to raise money for charity. It also depends on location, so bear that in mind.”
10. Get involved
“There’s a huge community of charity shop lovers on TikTok and Instagram, with many sharing their ‘hauls’ of things they’ve bought and where they found them,” Alexandra says.
“If you’re new to secondhand shopping, take inspiration from these bargain hunters for ideas of where to go, what to look out for and what to expect. Whether you’re a thrifty newbie or an experienced charity shopper, share your own discoveries and join the club.”
Ready to reinvent your wardrobe? Start by checking out Re-Loved Vintage on Instagram or Depop. From retro handbags, scarves and jewellery, to hand-picked vintage clothing for men and women, they’ve got everything to fulfil your thrifty needs.
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