Monday, 19 December 2011

Top Charity Shop Presents

Thoughtful Presents

In the days running up to Christmas, the newspapers seemed to be full of present ideas. I have a problem with these articles, as I am someone who gets my present buying inspiration from browsing around and seeing things I think somebody would like. This is much more fun and gets better received than the forced results from present shopping on Christmas eve.

If you are someone who works up to 24th December, or a best friend's birthday party has popped up on your calendar phone that you imagined was still months away, how do you find thoughtful presents?

After all, the novelty expensive toys and the latest fads tend to wear off, especially if they have a limited power to entertain. How many times can you get a smart robot to collect the newspaper or throw a stick for the dog before you get bored of it being able to do mundane tasks that you do everyday?

Private Shopper

If you think this means hire someone, then good. I wanted you to think that. It does mean let someone else find things for you, as that is what they have done by giving things to charity shops. Below is a list of things that even people who have everything might like.

If you go for a wander around your nearest charity shops you might find any of the following:

* A piece of expensive winter clothing such as a hat or coat.
* A toy (that a child has enjoyed and grown out of) that guarantees hours of fun.
* A useful kitchen appliance such as an expresso maker (pictured) or juicer.
* A musical instrument.
* Vintage children's toys such as train sets, rocking horses, toy soldiers dolls or teddy bears.
* A unique hand made ornament.
* An original painting or other piece of art. Otherwise, a frame to put your own artwork in.
* Classic children's books that are out of print.
* A party item for fun with friends such as fondue set (pictured - Debenhams label still attached) or a punchbowl.

All of these things are likely to be pre-loved, useful, enjoyed and in working condition.

The Thought That Counts

If you are one of those people who think 'oh gawd, what can I get for Robin,', 'Geoff is so hard to find presents for', 'what did I give Sylvia last year?' or 'Sally has everything,' then you are missing out on the joys of present buying. What is better than seeing someone open your present and looking genuinely thrilled? Is there a secret?

It's No Secret - 3 ideas to get you started. 

  • Think about the person you are buying a present for, while you look around for something they might like. You might be surprised by what you'll find if you do this.
  • The good thing about charity shops for present buying is that you have a broad choice of things that someone else has already dug out from amongst the mind-boggling amount of stuff in new shops. 
  • Then again, you can always adopt an animal or sponsor a goat.

Of a Great Vintage

With a Story Attached

Charity Shop illustration by Jenny Thorne 
Have you ever wondered what stories the clothes you buy from charity shops could tell you, if they could talk? Have you ever found something intriguing in a pocket? As vintage clothes are as popular as ever, you never know what you might find.

Every Item Has a Story
Do you think about where an item came from, when you buy it in a charity shop? Maybe, if you are buying a pair of men's work shoes, you might try not to think about where they came from. Perhaps it's easier not to know what happened, if you are buying a wedding dress. Don't happy couples keep theirs? Or perhaps the story behind the wedding dress is romantic beyond anything Hollywood have dreamt up. We might not be able to find out what the story is, but we could always make it up. Anything from a till receipt in a back pocket (secret affair), or the original label still attached could get your imagination going. If anything comes up, please post your stories to this blog.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Keeping Your Support for the Environment Consistent

Do you not just go to Charity Shops, but love them?

A picture says 1,000 words
Just by shopping in charity shops, you are reducing your carbon footprint. By recycling clothing, books, household items, videos, DVDs and limitless other nic-nacs, being friendly to the earth and its inhabitants is a natural by-product of your shopping fun.

Here are some comments sent by fans of charity shops via Facebook:

Eddy Paul I do all my shopping at charity shops when I cant find what I want in skips
Gemma Baker Newbury berkshire I'm addicted to book shopping in charity shops, my fella gets annoyed as I cannot walk past a charity shop!
Scott Newsum Mostly we hope for Thomas the tank engine toys for our son, he's looking for Edward, james Henry & a Clarabel coach

So next time you enter a charity shop, feel proud that you are reducing your carbon footprint.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fundraising event idea, fun for all

Oxfam Charity Shop Fashion

If you are looking to get creative with clothing and want to find an individual look, a charity shop fashion show might be just the event to help you.

In December 2002 I held a Charity Shop Fashion Show in North London.

The local newspapers were very supportive when I sent them information about this event. The Hornsey Journal supported the event from beginning to end. The Ham and High sent a photographer to the event to publish a review afterwards.

We used clothes from the North London Hospice and had about eight models to pace along the catwalk. We had an emcee to do commentary which added greatly to the fun.

We finished with an evening wear section and we sold most of the clothes modelled to people in the audience.

I had to apply for an alcohol licence through the local court. The process was quick, easy and fun. It gave me in practice pitching an idea to a panel. Watch out Dragons Den.

The night before the event, I sat in my kitchen, immobilised by nerves, wondering if anyone was going to show up. The phone went. It was a lady who had read about the event in the Hornsey Journal who wanted to know when her husband had to drop her off for the show. This call so comforted me (knowing one person was going to turn up, but I don't know if she did) that I stopped being so nervous.

Local Businesses Give Generously

We had asked local businesses for raffle prizes in return for a mention in the local paper and any other exposure as a result of the event.

As a result, for two years after the event, local cafes and shop keepers gave me coffees on the house and were really appreciative of the effort I'd made to provide some fun, publicity and raise funds for local good causes. The smidgen of publicity they got seemed to be immaterial to them.

Please contact me if you would like to have a chat about a Charity Shop Fashion Show in your area. The event can be held in the day time for kids or in the evening for adults. You can use professional models or give your friends a chance to be in the spotlight.

Holding a charity shop fashion show has many things to offer:
  • Fun for all the family - this gives anyone who wants to, the chance to spring down the catwalk in an unusual outfit. 
  • It gives people a chance to volunteer, contribute, have fun and perform. 
  • It brings the community together by giving businesses a chance to sponsor or support the event with raffle prizes.
  • It is an inventive way to get a charity into the local press, and even to get a newspaper to send a photographer to cover the event.
  • It is an entertaining event and a chance to see clothes of all different sizes, styles and vintage on the catwalk. 
  • It gives people on all different incomes the chance to buy something that they have seen being modelled. 
  • Fashion designers and students can take this opportunity to recycle clothes from charity shops and create your own designs to be modelled on the catwalk. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

An Openly or Quietly Proud Charity Shopper

Where did you get that?
How often do you see somebody wearing something you admire and, when you compliment them, they say 'I got it in a charity shop?' What do you make of them? Do you think 'what a clever bargain hunter?' or 'what a cheapskate?'

As a freshly graduated, jobless person in the recession of 1993, I would tell people I had bought things I was proud of in charity shops all the time. Friends asked me why I did this, and suggested that I ought not to tell people about bargains, particularly when the item was impressive.  People said, 'let them think you bought it new,' but then again it was the early 1990s.

Sly Secretiveness for Success
There was something to be said for this secretiveness, particularly in job interviews or at career networking events to help my job search by creating the illusion of being successful through my clothing.

The Charity Shop Snob
In charity shops I look for:

  • Things made from quality fabrics - linen, cotton, cashmere, silk, wool etc. Once (in Oxfam, Highgate, North London) I found a large quantity of red Hessian, which I used to make my own canvases for paintings
  • Designer items - these only interest me if:
    • they look good on, and
    • they are a bargain. 
  • A traditionally expensive item, i.e. a party dress, winter coat, boots or suit. 
The next blog will be about creating an individual look that tells people who you really are through your appearance. This isn't about 'image' (I haven't heard that word since my pop music-hazed teens) it's about having fun, creating a look for yourself. The Wardrobe Warrior contributor to this blog is a fine example of someone who does this (often through charity shops). 

Celebrate your Carbon Footprint

You Don't Have To Hug Trees to Save the Planet (though it is recommended) 

Whether you admit to buying from charity shops or not (more about this later) if you do, you are helping the planet by reducing waste by recycling and re-using, therefore reducing your carbon footprint. 

The one word in the 3 Rs of Recycling that may not come naturally to frequenters of charity shoppers is Reduce. Many of us are natural hoarders. Recycle and Re-use, yes. Reduce, maybe no but it's easily rectified. 
Do you have: 
  • Things you never wear because they don't fit, you don't like or they don't go with your other clothes?
  • Books you have read or films you've watched and won't read or watch again?
  • Items that you find you don't use?
  • Things that hold memories that you would rather forget? 
  • Clothes that you want to slim into, that constantly make you feel bad if you don't?
  • Or, is your wardrobe bulging so much that you cannot pick out an outfit easily and end up wearing the same few items? (like me).
It may be time to do a massive clear out. It is highly therapeutic, gives you more space and most importantly, it makes it easier to get to the things that inspire you. If you ever move home, it also means you have less clearing out to do and more time to concentrate on other things (speaking from experience). 

A Good Thing Going

It is very likely you have already thought of all this. Firstly, do you accumulate plastic bags. Did you know that the common, single-use plastic bag is one of the most re-used household items? 80% of plastic bags get a second use, even as a rubbish bag. This means that people use plastic bags for their rubbish instead of buying bin liners. If you have grown a huge crop of plastic bags, why not give them to your favourite charity shop.

Also, how about hangers? If you use a dry-cleaner frequently, you may find that the amount of wire hangers in your possession increases uncontrollably like Gizmo in the film Gremlins. Never seen it? You may well find a copy in a charity shop. 

When you have created more space, then finding that special something in a charity shop feels even more satisfying. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Children's clothing

Recession Chic is definitely for the kids too! For girls with an older male sibling, charity shops must be a Godsend?

Tomboy Relief

Charity shops seem to display children's clothes according to age which can make it relatively easy to find things in the right size, even though toddlers seem to come in all shapes and sizes too. I'll leave that expertise to mums and dads, as I don't have any little smashers of my own.

There seem to be a spate of toddler Santa outfits in charity shops right now.

If your child is in the school nativity play, why not find their character costume in a charity shop? There are wool rugs (sheep) bling jewellery (3 Kings) antlers (animals in stable) ponchos (Joseph and Mary) and lace shawls (Brian himself). Sorry, I meant baby Jesus.

Cute Costumes
Anyway, I'm sure you've got the picture. I'll update this if I see any outfits with the 'awww' factor (Slow Loris level or above). 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Wardrobe finds for film and theatre

Why not use charity shops for your production wardrobe? You might find that geography comes into it: for instance Bath is the best place to find period costume and Falmouth or Plymouth are good for pirates.

I will update this blog with photos and examples of theatre outfits found in charity shops.

There are plenty of Santa outfits in Falmouth's charity shops in the run up to the Cornwall Hospice Care Santa Fun Run (1.5km or 3km) taking place across Cornwall.

Do post up if you are looking for costumes for a production. If you find a costume in charity shops, please post up a picture for all to see. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Charity Shop Wedding outfitters

Latest dress in Cornwall
Animal Hospital shop
Bridal Ideas
With the cost of weddings increasing rapidly, why not take your own champagne and hunt for a wedding dress and bridesmaids' outfits in charity shops?

So brides don't despair. Bridemaids, you may still have to despair, where ever your dress comes from.

Today, maybe, even Miss Haversham would have donated her wedding dress to a charity shop. Although, perhaps not if she was still wearing it.

Oxfam - Southampton
There is a dedicated Oxfam charity shop in Southampton entirely dedicated to bridal dresses. A quick search for charity shop wedding dresses shows how frugal you can be if you are tying the knot during this recession. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Triumph over tiny vintage sizes today!

I know Charity shopping, I say what I want and I find it usually in the window, or in the shop; where a handy shaft of sunlight or light bulb will illuminate it for me so I don't miss it! My wardrobe consists of so much vintage I've actually thought about starting a stall. I actually studied pattern cutting at London College of Fashion and know my measurements in inches. That last bit is important so I'll say it again, I know my measurements in inches. You need to know this when you buy vintage so you can know what will fit.

When buying vintage you have to factor in the fact that sizing for women was actually standardised untill about the mid 198o's by these measurements. Waist 28 "= size 10, 30" = 12, 32" = 14 and 34" = 16 and 36"= 18. The hip size would be 6" bigger than the waist and so the bust 4". Also many figures were pulled into fit that hourglass using the joys of girdles, corsets, long line bra's etc.

About the mid 1980's many stores changed their sizing lasts to catch up with the changing bodies of their customers, M&S was one of the first to change the measurements in the UK. Also the fact that we didn't wear shape wear any more also meant figures became more natural so waists weren't so tiny. This meant that the size measurements had to be moved, 28" became the size 8 and the 30" = a size 10 etc. This change was not standard for all stores and some still use that 1940's sizing to ensure not everyone can shop there, naming no names here as that would be libel.

Then there is the story of how lycra/elastaine which again happened in the 1980's changed fashion, styles beame more relaxed so no more tailoring as you could cut a general shape and it would streatch to fit. The general rule is 1% elastaine gives you about an extra 1 inch stretch of fit.

Sometimes a girl has to buy that size 16 and be cool with it, or just wear the correct underwear for the clothing, (I love a good waspie under a pencil skirt and shirt, I also love Spanx) we don't want US vanity sizes over here now do we?

Charity Shop Sizes Fit All

Sizing Types
With a mixture of all types of sizing, from the opinionated: Small medium and large, standard but variable 10,12,14,16 etc, the trendy/modern 1,2,3,4, and European sizes in inches 40,42,44,46 etc, more and more charity shop managers do a fantastic job in sorting clothes by their sizes.

I do notice how, as sizes get larger, the clothes become darker, drabber, less flattering and made from nastier material. However, there are plenty of gems to find. At least they sort clothes by colours, sizes, designers, vintage and other categories that make rummaging through the wares satisfying and fun.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Law of Charity Shop Attraction

The Queen of Wishful Thinking
Something that works time and again for me is the successful use of wishful thinking, when I look around charity shops. There is something to be said for visualisation. Try it. 

In January 2011, I found a luxurious, full length cashmere and wool coat from Harrods - brand new - (North London Hospice, Crouch End), a herring bone Austen Reed trouser suit (Fulham Road, was it Barnados?) and countless other items that have:
a). saved me a fortune,
b). fulfilled the description of what I wanted to find and
c). fit!

Cherry Red Coat - Cornwall Hospice Care, Penryn, Cornwall

Here's an example: On Wednesday morning (23 Nov, 2011) I posted up that I wanted a maroon red top, coat or jacket. I didn't get the colour description correct but I got the item! It turns out to be Cherry Red, the exact colour I wanted.

It is 100% new wool and cost all of eight quid. It is a generous size 16.

Why not post up your charity shop wants and see if the universe can provide. Then when it does let everyone know you have made magic happen. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wanted or Just Wishful Thinking

Why not? here's a page to post up anything you are looking for that might be in a charity shop, or a fan of charity shops might be thinking about donating this very object. I really believe this is how the university tumbles.

Charity Shop Cosmic Ordering
This is ideal for:
* Fancy dress costumes
* Theatre and film wardrobes
* Evening attire (I will post up a clipping from a Charity Shop Fashion Show I organised in 2002. The couple entirely dressed in Black Tie from the North London Hospice in Crouch End made the front page of the Hornsey Journal).
* Expensive items such as designer clothing, winter coats and shoes.
* Clothes for kids (if you've got a pet goat, shuddup!).

So go on, post up your wish list of 3 items or less.

Remember, this is not your kid's letter to Santa. That goes up the chimney.

I want to test drive this, but have been too successful finding things I want in Falmouth's charity shops of late....blah blah. OK, I've got it.

I want to find any of these items of clothing in a maroon red: jacket, coat or top.
I found the exact colour in a suit in Cancer Research in Falmouth but it was shapeless, too big and made of polyester. (I am the charity shop snob after all).

Note added on 26/11/11: Please see Law of Charity Shop Attraction for news on the maroon top and picture of find!!

Magical Charity Shop Finds

This is a page where you can post up your favourite charity shop finds.

To start off, I found:
* An Austin Reed suit, size 18, in the Barnados on the Fulham Road, London.
* A Harrods winter coat: 75% wool, 20% cashmere, 5% strengthening agent, brand new, size 16 but huge, in the North London Hospice in Crouch End, North London.
* A purple hat for £3 which was brand new with the £19.99 label still on it. I went to pay £10 for it as it was reduced in a sale, and the lady said I couldn't use my card for £3. What a bargain. Sadly the hat was lost at the Christmas fayre in Sheffield last year. Too many mulled wines. Boo hoo.

Please use the commentary box to add your favourite charity shop finds.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Recession Chic

First Timers
The Charity Shop Herald is a chatty resource for people who enjoy browsing in charity shops for unique items. It is also for people who are seeking an item that might be in a charity shop, when they've never visited one before.

The aim is to build up a busy hub of people connecting through their shared love of all things charity shop. Perhaps you want a super 8 camera in one charity shop (ie Pants in Falmouth for £28) or it might be exactly what someone you know in Kent or Shropshire has been trying to find for years.

Why not go to the Law of Charity Shop Attraction for some magical cosmic ordering? See how, if you put up something that you want to find, how quickly you might find it. Perhaps someone else has seen something you are looking for and could send it to you.