As we’re enjoying Second Hand September, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share some tips and advice on shopping the charity shops. I know a lot of my clients find the whole experience very overwhelming and not an enjoyable shopping environment! Below I’m sharing with you my favourite charity shops in St Albans and my Top 8 tips when you go out and shop In them (and any other)!
Favourite Charity Shops in St Albans:
1. Oxfam, Chequer Street
2. Oxfam, Hatfield Road
3. Rennie Grove, Hatfield Road
4. Scope, The Maltings
5. Cancer Research, The High Street
6. Keech Hospice, The High Street
7. Age UK, The Quadrant
8. Hospice St Francis, The Quadrant
9. Children’s Society, The Quadrant
Tip 1 Sizing
We've all become accustomed to how we shop on the high street. We'll go in and we'll look for our size, or we'll go to our size section, and shop that specifically. But when we are shopping in charity shops, we have to put that to the back of our minds. Although charity shops are fantastic, and they do lay things out by size, one of the things that we have to remember is one of the reasons why somebody might have donated something might be because it's shrunk or because it's not a great fit to that particular size label. So I wouldn't ever be put off by size in charity shops, the more open you are, the more successful you’re likely to be.
I've found some incredible pieces that are not my size. I tend to be a size 12 on my top half but I have found a couple of dresses that for example, are a size 16, or the opposite where I found items that are a size eight or 10, but very oversized. So don't restrict yourself, to look at size labels as you can try things on in the changing rooms post COVID. If it really puts you off, if it's a bigger size than you normally are, just cut the label out.
Tip 2 Don’t get Swept up in the Bargains
My second point is around the pricing. Don't get swept up in the fact that everything's bargain prices, because sometimes that can lead you to buy things that you don't really need. Stay focused and be armed with your wish list if you do tend to get carried away! Then it makes it so much easier when you're going out shopping, not to get too swayed by price.
Tip 3 Experiment with Your Style
This might sound contradictory to the previous point, but my next piece of advice is use charity shops as an opportunity to experiment with your style. Items that you are interested in, but you're not quite brave enough to try on the high street, or from a more premium brand.
Why not take the opportunity to try those? At lower prices, knowing that, if it doesn't quite work for you, then you can then re-donate it to charity afterwards. You might surprise yourself, with things that you find that do actually work for you. And it might just give you that extra confidence to try new things and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Tip 4 Personalisation
Think about how you could change something to make it more appropriate for you. If you really fall in love with something, but it isn't quite the right colour, or the proportions aren’t quite right – e.g. trousers too long think about alterations, The beauty of shopping in charity shops is that you will find things that are very unique pieces. It’s great to be able to create your own unique style, so if something isn't quite right, have a think outside the box, as we are so used to things being served to us on a plate on the high street!
Sometimes it's fun to personalise things and make them your own. For example, you might find a jumper in a charity shop in the right size and perfect fit for you, but you don't quite like the colour of it. You love the buttons, you love everything else about it. Why not then think about taking that home and dying it yourself in the washing machine with a lovely, vibrant colour that you've been thinking you'd love for the new season. If it's a skirt or a dress and it's too long for you, have a think about getting a seamstress to take it up for you, because you can get some quite simple amendments like that made for £10. You're probably still spending half of what you would when buying new on the high street and you're not just a carbon copy of everyone else, you are developing your own unique style.
Tip 5 Shop the Men’s Section
Um, so my next point is to check out the men's section. This was something that one of my friends, who's a charity shop lover told me many years ago and back then I wasn’t convinced, but honestly, you can find the most incredible things. I went to Shelter Charity shop at Cold Drops Yard recently (it's absolutely amazing - check it out!) and they had the most incredible Ralph Lauren cashmere jumper in the men's section. I can imagine it would be a couple of hundred pounds new and they had it in there for £25. I was so tempted and I didn't get it, it's one of those things that I've really regretted.
Sometimes you'll find in charity shops that things also get put in the wrong section, so there might be a women's jumper that somebody's assumed is men's because it's the size medium and more oversized, but is in fact a ladies jumper. Other examples of things I’ve found before are checked casual shirts or blazers that you can get shortened and tailored to fit you. There’s lots of different opportunities within the men’s wear section.
Tip 6 Plan Ahead
Being organised pays off! Often, you’ll find the best bargains and unique pieces outside of the current season. So for example, if you were in the summer, you might find amazing coats and boots. And they're likely to be priced lower than they would normally, at that time of year. There is less competition fro
m people coming in to buy those specific pieces as well. I found an amazing parka for one of my clients in the summer from Keech charity shop for £6, nearly new. Normally that would've been snapped up if it was in autumn winter, but because it was in the summer, not many people were looking for that kind of product.
If you do have an upcoming wishlist for the future season, think about that when you're shopping in the charity shops and secondly to that point, also think about occasions that you've got coming up. You might have a wedding coming up for example, or a special birthday occasion. One thing you can’t expect as much in a charity shop is if you've got a last minute event and you're just popping in to see if they might have something you might be lucky and find something, but it's likely to be more of a long game. The main benefit of shopping second hand and pre loved is to be able to create your own unique style, so you don’t end up at a wedding wearing the same dress as somebody else!
Tip 7 Buy It or Regret It
This goes completely against what I normally tell my clients when it comes to purchasing habits. I normally suggest taking a photo, mull it over and keep it on your phone to think about how you might style it and if it’s an impulsive decision or something you keep coming back to. But when it comes to charity shops, if you love it, just buy it! Don't be embarrassed to take things back either. I've spoken about this at length with the charity shop store managers in town, and they're more than happy to take returns. As much as anyone else, they don't want things to end up in landfill. If something doesn't work out for you, or if you don't have time to try it on in the changing rooms, then don't be embarrassed to take things back, because it's a charity shop.
It can feel a little bit uncomfortable because you want to do good, and you want to support and donate to positive work. But it's like any retail store, they've got a returns policy, so always bear that in mind. If there's something that you love, often if you think about it and you go back, somebody else will have bought it!
Tip 8 Donate!
I always encourage donating to charity shops when doing wardrobe edits with my clients, we will always have a pile destined for charity. There's so many online services now as well, such as Oxfam, Refashion and Shelter where you can order the bags online and they'll send you the bags to fill with unwanted items in the post. Then you fill it up to a certain dimension or a certain weight. There's normally a free returns label to send it back to them.
This takes the hassle out of donating your items, as I know a lot of my friends tell me ‘I'm driving around in the car with a bag full of charity stuff that I just never get around to taking to the charity shop’. Or you might also consider swapping and giving to your friends, it’s another great way to extend the lifecycle of your clothes.
Work With Me
If you would like more personalised help with shopping second hand, I do offer that online and in person. If you are like a lot of my clients who get completely overwhelmed by the experience of shopping second hand, I'm very happy to take the hassle out of that for you!
With my clients on my Sustainable Signature Style Solution, I'll do some of the shopping for you at the charity shops and bring it to your home. So you don't even have to step foot in the charity shop! If that's something that you're interested in, then book a free Style Consultation with me, via this link.