7 top tips for getting the best out of a charity shop

13th Feb 18 | Beauty

You could discover a whole new route to a stylish wardrobe.

Female Shopper In Thrift Store Looking At Clothes

With the ease of fast fashion, many of us often forget that you can buy clothes anywhere other than online, with next-day delivery.

While online shopping is a godsend, fast fashion comes with its pitfalls: The quality isn’t always the best, often you end up with the same clothes as all of your friends, and it’s not particularly good for the environment.

Charity shops don’t have these problems. Not to mention the fact that long gone is the fusty reputation of op shops; these days, you can nab some really cool clothes (or bags, shoes and whatnot) in them.

However, there’s no denying that charity shops can be quite a daunting prospect if you’re more used to the ‘click and collect’ way of things – so we’ve put together some top tips for how to best approach shopping second-hand, with the help of Victoria Lochhead, who runs styling agency, Frankie and Ruby.

Lochhead gets her clients’ outfits from charity shops and other second-hand outlets, and even wrote a book – In The Jumble – on the topic, so she’s definitely the right woman for the task. Here are some of her pearls of wisdom…

1. Pick your shop wisely

Oxfam shop (Tim Ockenden/PA)
(Tim Ockenden/PA)

Instead of heading into any random shop, do a bit of research first. Even though you might have heard the advice to go to charity shops in wealthy areas, Lochhead doesn’t always think this is a good shout. Instead, she says: “I recommend trying shops that have at least five shops in a small geographic area – that way you get as much choice as possible.”

2. Chat to the volunteers

Generic photo of somebody browsing a charity shop
(Thinkstock/PA)

Much like in a normal clothes shop, the people that work there are on hand to help. It’s even more beneficial chatting to the volunteers at op shops, because they’ll know how best to navigate a layout that might seem confusing.

Lochhead advises: “Chat to the volunteers, find out more about the charity and don’t be afraid to ask if you’re looking for something specific – it may be at the back.”

3. Try it on

Clothes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Many charity shops are great because of the bargains on offer. However, don’t fall into the trap of buying something without trying it on, just because it’s cheap. Lochhead says you should always try clothes on, even if it says it’s your size on the label. “Pre-worn fabrics may have shrunk, so ignore the label,” she says. “Things often look different on the hanger!”

4. See where items are from

Charity shop generic photo
(Thinkstock/PA)

In your average clothes shop, things tend to be from one brand and manufactured in one place, so you wouldn’t even think to look at where something originates from.

However, for Lochhead, looking at the label is a key part of deciding whether to buy something from a charity shop. “Always look out for a good-quality label and if you’re not sure of the designer, look for where the item was made. Often, France and Italy denote a quality designer,” she says.

5. Check the fabric

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This one is a no-brainer: Lochhead advises that you check what the outfit is made out of. “Avoid man-made and go for quality [fabric] labels such as wool, merino or silk,” she says.

6. Look at the washing instructions

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This is a great tip for those of us who like to put in as little effort as possible when washing clothes. “Look at the washing instructions; if it’s dry-clean only, it could cost around £10 to get it cleaned,” Lochhead says. After considering this, Locchead advises you to ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

7. Scan the whole outfit

Clothes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And finally, make sure you check all of the outfit – you’d kick yourself if you’d gone through all the above steps, only to go home and find a tear at the bottom of your cute new dress. “Check over every inch to see if there’s a hole or a small bleach mark,” Lochhead says. “Even seasoned charity shoppers occasionally get something home to find it’s got a hole, a mark or some damage!”

© Press Association 2018

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