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Buying clothes from a charity shop is becoming increasingly popular.

You can buy clothes at a bargain price, support a charity, and reduce your impact on the environment while indulging in a little retail therapy. But it can seem daunting looking at all those clothes that aren’t always arranged in the same organised and calm fashion as the high street shops. Charity shopping can be a great way to buy clothes if you follow our top tips for successfully rummaging.

1. Know your colours - Seek out the colours you know suit you. If you aren’t sure which colours suit you, Polly Holman, an associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion suggests the blink test. Stand in front of the mirror wearing the item in question. Now… blink.

“When you open your eyes, if you see the colour before you see yourself, then the colour is wearing you,” she says. “If you see yourself first, then you’re wearing the colour, which means it suits you.”

2. Shop for your true size only - Don’t be tempted to look on the rack of clothes that are too big or too small. You might find something you love, end up buying it but ultimately it will be resigned to the back of the wardrobe because it just doesn’t fit.

3. Pop in regularly - Charity shops are replenished by donations all the time so it’s worthwhile popping in on a regular basis. You may not find something every time but that’s what makes it feel like you’ve struck gold when you do find something. Regular visits will help you hone your rummaging skills too.

4. Location - The location of the charity makes a difference to stock. A shop in an affluent area is more likely to stock designer or high-end high-street items. However, they are also more likely to know their true value and raise the price accordingly.

5. Know the brands that suit you - When rummaging in a charity shop look for the labels you love and frequently buy from the high street. Each high street shop cuts their clothes for a type of figure - some lean towards a pear shape and others a more athletic shape. That’s why we tend to find a brand and stick with it because we know they are more likely to suit our shape (even if we have no idea what that shape is).

6. Go for style not fashion - It isn’t very likely that you will find this season’s must-have in a charity shop. It is a benefit of charity shopping as it helps you decide what you really like without falling into the trap of being a fashion victim. Instead, look for items that are stylish, timeless, good quality fabric and reflect your personality.

7. Try the clothes on - Most charity shops will let you take items back if you find they don’t quite fit but save yourself the journey and extra effort by trying it on before you buy.

8. To avoid buying more clothes than you need, have a clear idea of what you are looking for. Detox your wardrobe by pulling out every time and asking these three questions - have I worn it this year? Does it wash well? Does it go with at least three other things in my wardrobe? This will help you reassess what you already have, pull together new outfits and highlight any gaps you have.

9. Quality items will have spare buttons as they expected to last long enough for you to need them.  Patterns should match on the seam and look for double stitching on the seams.

Find your local charity shops

Published: 25th April 2023

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