How to do charity shop shopping

Naadu Ashun

I have been trawling charity shops since I was a kid as my mum has always been a fan of them and that's where she buys a lot of her wardrobe from. I really got into charity shop shopping when I was in my early twenties and my love of it has not stopped growing. Now it's a necessity too as I don't have the money to buy regularly from the high-street but I am obsessed with clothes. It's also much better for the environment buying second hand and just feels like a much healthier thing to do than always buying new and on trend pieces that is only benefiting big retailers. I like to sell things on Ebay that I no longer need or take them to a charity shop and then I feel better about buying myself some more second hand clothes. But there are still things I have to buy new as you cannot find them easily in charity shops such as decent jeans, boots, shoes and trousers.

Trying on a coat in a charity shop. I didn't go for this lovely fitting M&S coat as it didn't have buttons and the colour was not very practical!

People often say to me that they never find anything good in charity shops. With this in mind I thought I'd give 3 tips that can help with successful charity shop shopping. But I will say that I do not always find something and that's OK as I cannot afford to always be buying stuff and for me it's a hobby. I get a thrill just going into a charity shop and it is something you need to do regularly to find good bits!

charity shop bought green zara dress and black vans

Above I am wearing a Dark green Zara dress found in Cancer research on North end Road £9.99 // Black Topshop leather jacket from over 10 years ago // ABLO tote

TIP 1 - Find charity shops in affluent areas and where there are a few in a row.

If you are going charity shop shopping, make it worthwhile and head to an affluent area where the stuff that's donated is good quality. Sometimes charity shops in affluent areas can over price their stock but I find that mostly this is just down to the different charities. For example I rarely go into a Trinity Hospice regardless of where it is located as their prices are shockingly high. I mean they are hardly different to the original price the item would of been new!

Some examples of where there are a few charity shops on one road and that have good quality stock are:

The kings road - (bottom end near the World's end estate) Here you have an Octavia foundation (a little pricey) a Cancer research & Oxfam which are both very reasonable and a Trinity Hospice which has great stuff but I do not go in often as it is overpriced.

Richmond Road -There are about 5 charity shops in a row and not all are great but there is enough of them to guarantee at least 1 find! Also the perfect place to make a day of it and have a walk along the river to Richmond park. 

West Hampstead - Again there are about 5 in a row on West end lane. My favourites are the Scope which has a lot of donated samples. And Oxfam which is the last charity shop on the Road. The Oxfam is small but I have found some quality bits from there.

whistles culottes and m&S red top

Whistles culottes £14 and a red M&S top £4.99 from British Heart foundation on North end road in Fulham.

H&M printed dress outfit

H&M dress from Shooting Star Chase charity shop on Fulham road - I was so excited to find this dress as about 3/4 years ago I tried it on in H&M and really wanted it but couldn't justify spending £40. It is a lovely heavy viscose.

TIP 2 - Make sure you have a list of around 5 things that you need

I think the key to not feeling frustrated by charity shop shopping is do not look for one specific thing. For example; it's never worked when I've looked for a dress to wear to a wedding. But rather, have a rough list of around 5 items that you do need in your wardrobe and would be happy to find in a charity shop. For example when Autumn came I knew I wanted to find these 5 items - A winter coat, a midi dress, some winter boots, winter trousers and a jumper. So far after about 6 weeks of looking in charity shops regularly I have found the midi dress, winter coat and the trousers. Can you see how the chances of me finding something are higher as I have more focus with what I am looking for? I was very happy with the Winter coat I found recently in Cancer research on the Kings road. It was a nearly new, dark green Jaeger coat for £35. 

Above is the winter coat by Jaeger that I found. Also wearing pink suede Gola trainers that were new in a box for £14.99 from the Children's society on West end lane.

TIP 3 - Look for quality fabrics and brand names

We all deserve to be comfortable and feel good in our clothes but unfortunately well made, well designed clothing made from natural fabrics are not accessible to everyone. So I think hunting these items out in charity shops is a good option for people who do not have a large disposable income. I love to wear silk, cotton and viscose and will feel items in charity shops and check labels so I can seek these materials out. Also sometimes a piece of clothing looks lovely, feels good but I am unsure of the brand name so I will often look the name up and see that it originally would of been really expensive which helps with the buying decision! Things to look out for are - Silk shirts and blouses, wool trousers, viscose dresses, cashmere cardigans and wool coats.

silk East floral shirt

Vintage East Silk shirt bought from Mind on Fulham Road.

floral debenhams blouse

Red Herring at Debenhams blouse from Traid in Dalston for £7.99 // Gola trainers from The Children's society £14.99

Sparkly green zara cardigan and colourful silk cami

Sparkly green Zara knit cardigan from Cancer research on the Kings road £9.99 // Colourful vintage silk cami, bought by my mum from a chairty shop // Trousers bought new from & other stories.

Some of my favourite charity shops in London

  • Traid in Dalston and Hammersmith - so much stock it is overwhelming. Great for blouses, vintage and dresses. 
  • Shooting star chase on Fulham road  - Friendly staff and great quality clothing 
  • Oxfam on the Kings Road and Hampstead -  some Oxfams are so good and I like that they do not overload their rails. The Kings road Oxfam has some great mid - high end labels and lots of Zara. All at great prices. I found my Vans there and have spotted quite a few New balance trainers too.
  • Shelter on Holloway road - Loads of M&S samples and old season stock. 
  • British Heart foundation on North end road - They have a section that they call designer when often it's just mid range stuff but I have found some good bits for really reasonable prices.

And Finally some quick tips:

  • If you are not sure about a piece and cannot try it on, why not just buy it and if you decide it's not right you can sell it on Ebay. Especially if it's a decent brand name.
  • Find out which days your local charity shops put out their new stock. I think this can often be a Tuesday.
  • As a general rule if I see lots of Atmosphere labels (Primark) I walk out as there is no point buying second hand cheap clothes that will be a similar price to what they cost new.
  • Hunt out the charity shops that are not too savvy and have not had a 'Mary Portas' style make over. I personally like a charity shop to feel like a bit of a mess and not a replica of a charmless high street shop. 

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