Monday, 9 July 2012

Long Skirts 2.0. 

I love a long skirt as they hide a multitude of sins and can tell you the state of the economy; also the council gets their roads cleaned for free if the wearer is not careful. The heady days of Boho are still foremost in your mind when it comes to long skirts, accessorised with ethnic belts belts and peasant style tops which made Sienna Miller a style icon. Much fun as it was, we have to forget that style and go further back into the past. The 70’s, era of Stevie Nicks, the legendary Timotei and Flake ads or even the ladies of the movie The Virgin Suicides (not sure if it was set in the 70’s, I fell asleep watching it but the actresses looked pretty stylish in the trailers!) are your guides. But I’m only 5 ft 1 or less I hear you cry. Hush, you can still rock a long skirt you have to follow these handy guidelines I’m going to set down.


The more there is of the skirt the sleeker your top half should be. If you are going for the pleated chiffon styles that are in Topshop right now get your top half from Uniqlo men’s as they have the best quality t-shirts and vest at stupidly cheap prices. If you have been smart you will have found / kept all of your gothic velvet skirts from a few seasons ago. If you haven't, quick smart to your local charity shop to snap up velvet things now as this will be huge again for  A / W 2012 /13. Also spotted have been the wiggle skirt, a midi length pencil skirt (Posh and Eva Longoria have been seen in these) in woolen fabrics which are great and offiec smart and wormer for the colder months.

Pattern and colour.

Generally follow the rules of body type. If you’re top heavy you want all the bright colour and pattern on your lower half; if you are bigger below, you want a plainer sleeker darker base. This is only a general rule and not absolute and can be tweaked to suit personal style.


The dressier the skirt, the simpler you dress. The issue of heels and flats is a tricky one, which right now has been solved by the return of “le petite stilleto” or kitten heels to you and me. The queen of this shoe has been LK Bennet, which for many years did nothing else. Happily you can get some awesome kitten heels in New Look, KG, Office and Clarkes, (which had some amazing leopard print sling backs which sold out in a fortnight!) Prada, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo. Generally if you are wearing a midi skirt that floats mid calf you need any kind of heel to stop it looking frumpy. Ankle and maxi skirts if you want to avoid accidents wear flats but if you need heels opt for a wedge and or platforms. The slim tan belt is still ruling but coming in for the summer is the tie belt or ribbon to emphasise more voluminous styles.

Right now the shops are loving this catwalk look but guaranteed it will be huge, as where Topshop leads other stores will follow but for now check out the pricier end of the high street such as Whistles, Jigsaw, Monsoon and Ghost. You can find sleek stretch jersey long skirts in muted tones at American Apparel. The floaty gossamer ballet styles will feel right when there are blossoms on trees and Pimms in your glass, so if you’re lucky to spot something in the sales long, chiffon, or a 70’s Halston style dress in the sale or something gothic, full of drama and medieval; snap it up now. Go with Glamour.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Buying Prada not Prado

Buying Prada not Prado

As you know I am a seasoned and experienced Charity shopper. The best thing about this is the knowledge of getting something unique and special and as I like to say pre-loved. The second best is getting a bargain, make that the best thing; especially something couture and from a luxury house. Here is a simple guide to ensuring your Prada isn't a Prado.

The first thing is probably the scariest. Go and have a reconnoiter of the clothing in your favorite designer store. Try things on, the staff are friendly and helpful; the snooty ones are new and tend to be weeded out after a while. Feel the fabrics in your hand; check the cut and fit are right and flattering for your body. My tall hourglass shape fits amazingly into a lot of American Designers and not into French houses and surprisingly not into D & G the champions of sexy. Whilst there, look at the details; this is what you pay for.

Check the provenance of the materials and manufacture; "fabrique en France" or "moda in Italia" are your watchwords. Wool garments should have a high wool (laine, lana, wolle) content. Natural materials can include Rayon, as it is a natural fibre coming from plant cellulose but to make it into Rayon; you have to process it extensively. Hmm.

The labels inside and the language they are written in are a give away, Chinese or Asian is suspect. Strange spellings are also a give away on the inside of a garment or item as are incorrect copying of logos. For example Prada has a box banner saying Milano not Milan and the scrolling banner underneath should say DAL 1913 (it means since 1913). A Louis Vuitton logo without a TM next to the LV is a giveaway.

Look at the seams, are they fully sewn flat, or covered and bound? Also are the buttons correct and suitable for the item? Are metal buttons real and not plastic? Check the lining has also the same detailing as the outer fabric. Many houses have distinctive lining, if in doubt; (Burberry tends to change, size, the colour of its red and brown tone of its check) use other markers when considering your charity purchase. Check the inside the pockets, if its designer, the craft work will be everywhere; not just the obvious seams but little ones too.

With handbags the artisan who made it may leave a number or name on the inside stitched somewhere, limited edition pieces also have an edition number inside them too. Leather when in your hand will warm up if it feels cold, its raw edges have irregular flaking and fluff; pleather stays cold to touch, on closer inspection looks like fabric and the edges smooth.

Companies that have buckles or special logos, check these are genuine, made of solid metal pieces not plastic. For example the Gucci bridle on bags and shoes, every part of it is movable and not a molded one piece; Versace's Medusa head has clear features and her profile is 3D.

Armed with this knowledge gleamed from your store visit, you should be able to tell the Gucci from Guci when next you visit your charity shops.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

That special item found

Connecting Collectors

If you just happen to be a fan of a particular author, or on the lookout for a valuable book at bargain price, the Cornwall Hospice Care in Falmouth is well known for its first editions and signed books.

With the help of local book expert Nigel McLusky (thanks, Blogger, I've checked his surname spelling) who prices up signed and first editions donated to the shop, the Cornwall Hospice Care in Falmouth has featured rare book finds for 18 months. Manager Chris Harmer finally got through red tape to become the official manager of this store after starting in a similar capacity in March 2011.

This is a first edition from 1955
Literary Landscape

Nigel McLusky, book expert, is active on the local literary landscape. He organises a regular Pose and Poetry night at Mawnan Memorial Hall for people who would like to hear some live literature from local talent.

Anyway, why am I writing this? (No, I'm not putting questions into your mouth). (Yes, it's meant as tongue in cheek. No, I don't think you're thick. OK, I'll shut up). Last week I saw a picture of a rare, signed first edition of Laurie Lee's poems that I thought might be of interest to someone I knew. I photographed it and emailed it to him.

It would retail online for £90
Fan of Laurie Lee
Paul Murphy is a fan of the works and life of Laurie Lee and, to mark the centenary of Laurie Lee's walk across Spain, Paul is currently preparing to make the walk and write about it in time for the 100th year anniversary in 2014. Not surprisingly, he was interested in the book and went to investigate.

Double Significance
The book turned out to have a double significance for Paul Murphy: He was born in 1955.

Paul searches for certification
The manager of this shop branch of Cornwall Hospice Care, Chris Harmer, tells us about the expertise of local book man Nigel McLusky who is brought in to value the rare books that are donated, says Chris Harmer, 'from all and sundry.'

Poetry and Prose

It then transpires, through the local paper, The West Briton, that McLusky organises poetry and prose nights at Mawnan Memorial Hall.

Shop manager Chris Harmer
tells Paul about Cornwall Hospice
Care's reputation for rare books
Newspaper Cuttings 

The book contains newspaper cuttings left by its previous owner, all of which can help Murphy, who said he once attended an auction to buy a typewriter once owned by Laurie Lee which sold for £600, get to know the writer in whose footsteps he aims to follow.

If you or someone you know is looking for a rare, vintage or retro item, why not post about it on this blog? If you see something someone else is looking for, also why not post it up? You could do your 'good deed' for the month. This is the ultimate feel good factor. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Dress Worth a Mention

Front of dress
Perhaps some men rue the day when trousers were invented. If you know the expression 'before he was in long trousers' or have a predilection for dramas about Ancient Rome, or you're Scottish, you may be used to seeing men in skirts.

However this is very much a lady's dress for a lady, to paraphrase Little Britain.

This charity shop are keen on the idea of a charity shop fashion show. Looks like I might have a use for my roller skates after all.

Back of dress in Posh Pants

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Rollerskates, power pants and vintage trunks

Catch It While You Can
Yesterday was an interesting day in Falmouth's Charity Shops. Not only were there two new wedding dresses in Pants and Cornwall Animal Hospital - each with an option for a peach coloured bridesmaid's dress - but there was a pair of rollerskates in my size. These were the type I had dreamed about in my childhood with white leather shoes attached. I never even saw those in my size in the 1970s or 80s. Very Noel Streatfield. Well...maybe not.

You Never Know
A lady was overheard talking about a book she wanted to read - Wolf Hall - and a friend had seen two copies, in Barnardo's and Cornwall Animal Hospital, so she went to buy a copy. It's worth the ask.

Wonder Pants
If you have been inspired to write in a superhero character by recent dramas exported from America, then maybe these types of pants might be of interest, found in Falmouth's Barnardo's charity shop.

Summer is Hurtling Towards Us
As Spring Flowers have already sprung up in Cornwall, while parts of England lie under snow, it seems timely to remind those over 40 with brothers of the type of swimming trunks boys wore in the 70s. These might be all the rage at a beach near you soonish.

You Had Me In Stitches!
There was also a children's nurses uniform for a mini me character for a hospital drama (yes, I'm kidding), or a good old fashioned game of doctors and nurses. Is that still allowed?

As mentioned, there are new wedding dresses on the wedding dress page, plus a very elegant dress, which is on sale in Posh Pants in Falmouth (where I bought my roller skates).

Roller Disco anyone?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Retro 70s Costumes

Your Dream Theme
One thing charity shops are good for is themes. If enough items come in at one time that follow one theme, they can make a display about it, which must be useful if you are looking for that particular theme.

The Cornwall Hospice Care shop in Penryn, South Cornwall, has a 60s or 70s theme going on right now. There is a Jaeger shirt (size 12) and a dress in the window, plus decorative object in that Paisley orange and brown swirly pattern that saw us out of the end of the 60s.

This shop would be useful for any production set in the late 60s or 70s (or maybe for a stage adaptation of a Pedro Almodova film, maybe).

Here are some pictures to get your creative juices flowing:

Jaeger Shirt in retro psychedelic

Retro hat

Lace can always come in handy

Props and stuff

Settings of a 70s nature

Row of retro

A party dress of 60s/70s style

Retro row of tops and coats

A doctor's case

Men's jackets

Hats and scarves. "Accessorize" as
Trinny and Suzanna or Gok Wan might say

Monday, 30 January 2012

Costumes - a Purpose and Direction for this Blog

Holistic Review
After a holistic look at this blog, and analysing it, I've realised that charity shops provide an unlimited supply of subject matter and this blog is getting too broad in its content.

Therefore, I have decided to make it fun and provide excuses to bring other people in, while finding a way to cater for an audience of some sort.

The audience I am going to focus on is one that seeks out costumes and props. This may be for a school play, an agency needing film extras, someone with a part in a play, a comedian, fancy dress or a theatre company who need some useful staples for their production wardrobe.

World War Z - Johnny Depp. 
In 2011, a film with a huge cast of local extras was filmed in Falmouth. I aim to find anyone who took part in this film and find out if they bought any of their costume from a charity shop.

The Costume Challenge
If anyone can find an entire costume for a fictional person (say, Miss Haversham) or a character type (say, a pirate) in one charity shop, then please photograph yourself and post it up on this blog.

More follows. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Drastic Plastic - The Secret Life of Shopping Bags

Don't Get Drastic about Plastic

Why not give your used plastic bags to charity shops? Many people don't know that plastic bags are the most reused item of all. Yes, even 'single-use' plastic bags. What a pity they call them that. 80% of plastic bags are used more than once, even if they just end up as bin liners. If you accumulate them, why not give them to a charity shop.

My favourite shopping bags are Envirosax because:
  • They are colourful
  • They roll up small. 
  • They are held tight by an umbrella-style popper.
  • You get green points on supermarket loyalty cards when you use your own bags.  (I mean, wow! You can't beat that!)
  • They are strong and last ages. 
  • They are large and fit much more in than most other bags.
  • They have long enough straps to be carried on your shoulder.
Bags for Life so often get left at home when you go out shopping, or they can swallow keys and other junk you cart around in your handbag. Suggestion: Ask for Envirosax when someone asks you what you want as a present. They're good stocking fillers (which is where I got mine). 

A Clear-out is Great for Your Health

Can You Afford to Hoard?
Have you cleared out the boxes of excess items you keep in cupboards or your attic recently? You never know what you might find. Items that no modern person today could fit into, made from beautiful material that could be recycled. Fancy dress clothing that used to bring you delight to show your children?

Now it's 2012, how about a big clear out? You never know what you might find. Maybe, get some drinks in and invite your friends around a have a rumble through.

When you've had your fun with friends and seen how much stuff you had forgotten about, why not take it to the charity shop? If you have a particularly spectacular vintage item with a story, please post it up on this blog with a picture. If you have a memory or story associated with the item, why not post that up too and say where you have donated it?

Many charity shops use bags that you can fill and leave outside for collection.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Charity Shop Couture

Watch this space for a pictures from a photo shoot of charity shop garb.

For those who enjoy making things, I saw a knitting machine in the Cornwall Hospice Care shop.

Owl feather hat
Following on from my interest in hats, I saw a selection of fur lined hats in the Cornwall Hospice Care shop in Falmouth. The best one, displayed on the mannequin, was made from owl feathers. Sadly, none of them fit my head.

See the Wedding page for the latest on wedding dresses. The reason to report on these dresses is more to show how frequently they appear and what good condition they are in, as I have now seen 4 wedding dresses in 4 charity shops in Falmouth, in as many months. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Portable Picnics for Coastal Walks in Cornwall

Picnic set for 4 Posh Pants
Currently half price at £6
Warmer Winter
It's only the 11th January and, today, the sun is shining brightly all over Britain. If you aren't too worried about the future of the planet by this unseasonal warm weather - or, as this is England I should say 'mild' weather  - you may already be thinking 'picnic'. In case of snow, there is probably plenty of unsold, reduced ski wear on sale in the shops.

Unless you are the kind of person who hibernates in the winter, you can find a picnic rucksack in two of Falmouth's charity shops. I have recently spotted 3 varieties of portable picnic set (pictured). If these were unwanted Christmas presents, they are bound to be snapped up well before the first signs of spring.

Concept picnic set for 2
Barnados £5.99
You Can Try This At Home - I Did

I've tried and tested one of these ruck sack picnic sets - I wish I'd waited now and not bought mine from a London garden centre. They have a cool bag compartment that fits two decent sized, plastic food containers.

Small picnic set - Posh Pants
Or you could fit in a selection from the deli counter such as tongue, cheese, tomatoes, green salad, terrine, humus, pork pies, chicken drums sticks, baguettes etc. They provide carriers for two bottles, too.  The small one on the left is the one best suited to keen walkers, who aren't too bothered about bringing the entire deli counter with them.

Mullion - A Picnic Idea
As spring approaches, why not visit Mullion, a small harbour on the west side of the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. It has a hill to climb, a cave for the explorer type and two harbour walls. The area is still used by fisherman, if the evidence of nets lining the wall are to be believed. The history of Mullion I have yet to discover, but the National Trust present an information board about it. There are secluded beaches nearby for keen swimmers and summer sunbathing.

Getting In Gear for Olympic Year

Fitness Chic 
For anyone who has announced to themselves that they are going to get fit and healthy in 2012, the good news is that you can avoid the disillusionment that comes from bleeding your wallet dry buying expensive gear.  How? By searching through charity shops, that's how.

Even though it goes quite quickly, sports equipment can be found in charity shops. The problem here is that things cannot be found on demand. Therefore, I've created a light-hearted guide to the Charity Shop Gym, starting with things I've seen in charity shops.

Gym and exercise class gear.
Depending on how 'Flashdance' you like to go, there's often a bargain bin containing knocked down fitness clothing. Given that you want to join a gym (to use the type of equipment that prisoners spent hours on everyday as their punishment, in Victorian times) in charity shops you could find:
Sports Bras - usually for women, or guys who've drunk too much over festive period.
Thin Cotton Tops - preferably find ones that have kept their shape (I refer to the top. We know the wearer won't have yet) so they don't fall over your face during yoga.
Leg Warmers - ideal for that Flashdance welding routine, Fame or Saturday Night Fever. To complete the look, don't forget to find a...
Leotard - I haven't seen one of these on a person since I went to Pineapple Dance Studios in the late 1990s. But then again, I've not been to a single exercise class. (Why am I writing this?)
Leggings - you could cut the feet off a thick pair of tights.  Good way to recycle ones with holes in the toes.
Bicycle Shorts - not flattering, but probably essential for spinning. I don't know. I've never done it.
Ski Pants - not seen since the 1980s, so look in vintage section.

Other stuff that's good to get from charity shops:
Track Suit - if you're like me, remember to go for labels like Addidas. For the Jimmy Saville look add cigar and medallion.
Running shoes - Reboks etc. Just Do It.
Dumbbells - if you're looking for these, you might have to wait before pumping up those biceps as they go like hot cakes.
Tennis, Squash or Babmington Rackets - time to look for these is July, just after Wimbledon fever has died down.

Why not do Yoga at Home?
Yoga Mats - it might be possible to make do with a couple shower mats, as they are cheap and often in charity shops.
Yoga Blocks - perhaps sew some foam and soft material around a brick.
Yoga Straps - a cotton belt would do the trick.
Ski Trousers or Skis - Think: a modern remake of the Sound of Music with snow.
Walking Poles - ridiculously expensive new, so maybe improvise with a ski stick.

Of course charity shops are a constant and reliable source of t-shirts. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Opportunities for Fashion Design Graduates

Cornwall Hospice Care
Rags To Riches
The new window display in Falmouth's Cornwall Hospice Care shop has a needlework theme. There is a hand loom, sewing machine or two (pictured) and other related items such as sewing patterns.

I've searched the Internet for designers who work with recycled clothing and have not found much. However, recently I met Liz who owns a shop called Bermondsey Fayre in London, where they sell clothes designed by Raggedy, a clothes designer based in Wales. Hey presto, I had found a designer who uses recycled clothes.

The recycled and reconstituted clothing designed by Raggedy look pretty cool. Click here to visit the Raggedy website

If you redesign clothing from charity shops, why not post them up on this blog and give yourself a plug.