Just because it’s Sunday… and I have loads of spare time… Here’s a bit of an epic post for you! Hope it’s at least slightly useful 🙂
1- Choose your destination
There’s absolute gems of charity shops everywhere, and even in a normally unpromising shop, the odd amazing item may turn up- so check out your local charity shops regularly! For a pre-planned, one-off trip, though, your best bet is probably to try a well-off area, where people are willing to give away clothes that anyone else would sell or keep! My personal favourite spot is Kensington High Street, London.
2- Get to your destination…
Harder than it sounds. A friend and I once went past Notting Hill tube station three times in a row because we kept getting distracted by a nice outfit or something pretty. True story.
3- Asses the shop’s layout
Have a look at the different sections of merchandise- usually accessories, books, toys, menswear, womenswear etc (although I know one charity shop that organises everything by colour…). Concentrate most of your energy on the most relevant section, but have a glance through the others as well; things get misplaced all the time.
4- Pick what’s worth having
Some people like to judge by fabric quality, and look out for high-quality fabric. Feeling your way along the rows of hangers is definitely a good way to pick the gold out of the dross- look out for anything with a good texture to it (feeling clothes in expensive shops can be useful experience!).
Some people judge by the labels. This can very often be fruitless, and mean you miss out on some excellent small brands. Having said that, I was once out shopping with a girl who picked up a couple of £6 brand new Ralph Lauren polos! Not bad!
Some people (like me) just skim through the rails, and see if anything catches their eye, and then have a look at other attributes. To be honest, if I don’t like the garment (or don’t have an idea for working with it), then I just don’t care about the fabric quality or designer label. But be careful not to buy huge quantities of junk just because it looks pretty!
NOTE: sizes are very variable, especially in older clothes. Look at a size either side of your own- more if you have time!
5- Rule out what’s not worth having
Major tears, sweat patches, fading, crooked seams, huge fit/sizing issues, obvious marks from being let down/out, a bad musty smell: all serious no-nos. You can’t fix them, so don’t bother.
6- Clean it!
Dry clean your purchases if you can, especially if the instructions label is missing or in some language you don’t understand…
7- Make it perfectly yours
A tailor or a seamstress is amazingly useful- I take my clothes to an amazing lady down the road, who will alter them for next to nothing. Big department stores often have a fitting service, or you could try the internet, or ask at your dry cleaner’s- they often provide an alteration service, or can at least pass on the number of someone who does. Alternately, if you feel creative, try a bit of DIY! Long granny skirts, for example, are pretty easy to cut short at home.
Incidentally, my best ever charity shop find was a full length, backless lace evening dress that fit like a glove- can anyone beat that??