Five things to buy from charity shops
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.
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.
People 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.
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!)