Saturday, 28 March 2015

Five things to buy from charity shops

Vintage book, vase and crime novels
 You've probably taken one look at the headline to this post and responded, “But Mim, you can get everything, more or less, from charity shops.” You'd be right there. However, these are five things I believe you really don't need to look for anywhere else. Of course, the golden rule of charity shopping still applies: go regularly, because the stock of unique items will change regularly. You probably won't walk in to one shop and pick up all these items in one shopping trip (though you could manage at least three, depending on how picky you were feeling).


Winter skirts for ladies
No matter what your era is, you'll find a wool skirt that suits it in one of your local chazzas. Even plus-size types like me have success with this one. I find my happy hunting ground is Age UK in summer, when they have a sale and flog them off for £1.50 each, or thereabouts, though I recently got a late 1970s Marks and Spencer pleated black skirt in a perfect 1950s length from a hospice shop for £4. (I was able to date it from the style of the label.) Classic pleated tartan or houndstooth skirts abound, if you keep your eyes open you can pick up natty pencil skirts too, and they just need the right top for the perfect everyday vintage look. I have sworn never to buy a brand-new winter skirt again, though I do admit to rocking the frump; if you like novelty print circle skirts, you're probably not going to have the same charity shop success.

Jackets for gents
Suits can be tricky to find for either gender, but jackets seem to be plentiful, probably because they wear out less quickly than trousers. Several of Mr Robot's smart-casual jackets, including a super herringbone tweed one, cost him under a tenner in charity shops. Why spend more? He doesn't have to worry about scruffing around in them on holiday, getting savaged by Smello Kitty (who loves to scrag a bit of tweed, the little git), or tipping beer on them, because there is a neverending supply of cheap secondhand ones to be had.

Books
Always a good buy! And if you find you've got too many books at home, you can take your unwanted ones back for the next thrifty reader to find. Oxfam can be pricy, though as they have specialist bookshops they can be a good source of authentic vintage books, but if it's something more modern that you want, such as a history book or cookbook, try one of the other charities as they charge less.

Midcentury pottery
Midcentury bowls and cookbookPeople often gripe about overpriced charity shops. My take on things is a little different: the volunteers tend not to regard anything they remember the first time round as 'old', so while a 1940s teacup will be overpriced because they see it as really old and have a vague notion that people will spend silly money on vintage things, a complete 1960s coffee set could be cheap as chips because that's just seen as 'old fashioned'.

Whatever era of china you like, it's worth browsing regularly without buying so you can get a sense of the patterns that turn up regularly, and perhaps that you'd be prepared to build into a mix-and-match set if you can't find enough of anything to put together a whole set in one pattern. I've seen a reasonable amount of deco-era stuff turning up in my local branches lately, pieces that aren't exactly exciting, such as cream crockery with a plain green line on the rim, but that are very much of their time and would look great in a vintage-lovers home. (If you've got enough vintage, it all works together to create a retro ambience, you don't need every single piece to be screaming for attention against everything else.) Odd pieces – a plate here, a bowl there – can be very cheaply priced, and if you're prepared to collect a set piece by piece rather than buy it all at once, it can be very affordable. We've got some lovely prop china for Greedybots for very little, and I really have to stop buying cheap vases...

Scarves and ties
Who needs overpriced do-rags and neckwear? Not us! The sheer variety of ladies' scarves and gents' neckties in your local chazza will amaze you. (I sometimes wonder if the shops get so many they end up throwing stuff out.) While things like hats and shoes can be tricky and you may want to explore other shopping options to find the right ones to fit into your wardrobe, the selection of scarves and ties in charity shops mean you will honestly find the one you want there. Designers really seemed to go to town on scarves, having fun with colour and design and creating something that really embodies the aesthetic ideals of an era. A flamboyant one can be the perfect vintage accent on an outfit made up of otherwise fairly simple classic items.
Midcentury blue brooch

So, what do you think of my five things? Is there anything you'd disagree with? Is there anything you'd like to add?

(Oh, and here's what I got today - this splendid brooch!)

20 comments :

  1. As a person who buys everything bar her underwear from the chazzas or jumble sales I agree with all of them

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    1. Yeah, I draw the line at underwear. (Though if I could find an original bullet bra that fitted...)

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  2. I buy 4 out of 5 (I'm not a big wearer of skirts)

    Oh and I'll wrestle that gorgeous brooch off you!

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    1. Hehehe - you find enough good brooches of your own! You don't need mine.

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  3. Yes to skirts! My entire winter skirt collection is charity shop, most of them a vintage Australian label.

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    1. Interesting! We don't see many Australian labels on this side of the planet, but there are lots of Aussie vintage lovers who seem to have a really nice style.

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  4. I agree, especially about the skirts. I wear a lot of the little lacy topped cotton cami/vests, so I have collected a whole rainbow of colours. I also have been replacing our modern cutlery with the lovely solid cream handled ones. Not so keen on Oxfam for Vintage books... but that's just because I'm a struggling bookseller! Jane xx

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    1. Yes, it must make things tough for booksellers.

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  5. Mim,
    I completely agree with the list. I can't remember the last time I've bought a new book (for myself, that is - I still have to buy new ones if they are a present for someone). Another thing, that is an absolute truth is: men's jackets (and ladies too) seem to be an easy find. The same goes with skirts. Lots and lots them everywhere.
    Now, when it comes to skirts - I refuse to shop for a new one: they are sewn poorly, they are rarely ever a high-waist ones (even if they are, chances of them having waist small enough are slim - pun intended).
    Another amazing thing: dresses. Surely, I can't find anything older than 1950s (and nothing is a perfect match), but with just a little sewing know-how.. easily gets sorted out.

    Great post.

    Marija

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    1. I envy your tiny waist :-D I rarely see any clothing as old as 1950s in charity shops, but I keep hoping.

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  6. I agree with everything except the bit about, "Too many books" and *gasp* "Unwanted" ones.

    You're correct about the winter skirts too-I've had to impose a ban on wool kilts as I no longer have the room for them. It is difficult walking away from a practically free Pendelton, but I've had to for fear of being overrun.

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    1. We only have a little house and honestly, we do end up with too many books. I review books for a science fiction magazine so I've got books coming into the house constantly, and they have occasional clearouts of ex-review stock, and I'm a terrible one for snapping up the spares. If we had a bigger house, we'd probably keep more books.

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  7. Love your post, so true, but it is also true that Charity Shops do overprice on their clothes and wonder why we then don't spend our money there. Love the brooch, you know it is by Sphinx and one of their more collectable shapes?

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    1. Oh, interesting! A couple of the diamantes have fallen out of the crescents, but I should be able to replace those. Clearly that worried the original owner as the back has been coated thickly with glue, presumably to prevent the others dropping off, so I don't think the brooch would interest a collector now. As it looks fine from the front, I'm going to enjoy wearing it, glue and all.

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    2. I am glad. I love Sphinx and they truly did some OTT crystal ones, yours included! I guess you could probably soak the glue off, and then start again sticking the stones back in properly, It would probably be a big job though. So, yes, probably best just to wear it.

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  8. What a beautiful brooch! It reminds me of one I have.
    I saw a lovely coffee set in a charity shop last year but I had to leave it behind as I simply have no place to keep it. The same shop also had two Beswick style flying ducks (priced separately) and a glorious set of amber glass fish shaped dishes which I adored, but alas, again, no space x

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    1. Lack of space is both a curse and a blessing - stops us acquiring mountains of unused stuff!

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  9. What a fab list! I can't think of anything you can't (and I haven't got) from charity shops including at least two ex-boyfriends. What better place to meet a like-minded bloke?
    This week, amongst numerous other bits, I came back with a huge male Spanish Flamenco dancer doll, a man's evening jacket tailor made in 1931, some rare 1960s vinyl, a 1960s wedding dress and a pile of Scandi thrillers. Chazzas rock! xxx

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    1. Oh, nice shopping! You do have some splendid ones up in the Midlands. I seem to live in the one bit of the south where prices are reasonable and good finds frequent, but they still pall compared to what you and Curtise turn up.

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  10. I haven't been to town for ages but for the past few years ours have been going down hill. Oxfam which was good treasure hunting ground went all minimalist, in fact everyone, including me, was going in looking in an open mouthed way and going straight back out! They had hardly anything there, I have noooo idea what that was about but a humungous failure. Have never seen a wool skirt in any of them either! Quite often clothing items with some damage vastly over priced. Very disappointing as I love charity shop rummages. And the one which used to do old linen no longer has any. A lot of hellishly over priced items in the just because it's old doesn't mean it's valuable bracket too, a big issue of late, I find. So if I strike a find now it's rare. Also the clothing isn't very nice, very frumpy, but proper frumpy in a bad way, and tacky, wouldn't wear it new never mind 2nd hand. Big sigh!

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