Sweet Charity - How to succeed at charity shopping

I love nothing more than a good rummage around my local charity shops, or 'chazzas' as I like to call them. There's nothing quite like the thrill of wandering around, not knowing what you might find. A good haul can often include unusual or quirky pieces, vintage finds and brand-new-with-tags-on gems which have been discarded without ever being worn. Aside from the price-point of chazza garb being set pleasingly low, it's also reassuring to know that my wanton consumerism is also helping to support a good cause and help the environment by avoiding landfill waste.

I spotted this oh-so-amaze French Connection dress in the Claire House chazza in Formby and was immediately taken with the bold print and colours. To me it resembles the love-child of the 1960's and a gang of butterflies. I wore it to see the Absolutely Fabulous movie before realising it went brilliantly with this graffiti wall afterwards.

I topped off the look with these sunglasses which cost a grand total of 99p from Barnardo's in Liverpool. To finish off this ensemble, I added a seahorse necklace (gift), headband from Primark and sandals from B.U Liverpool (£10 in the sale)

Fashion has always been a way for me to express myself and my own unique style. Purchasing goods at charity shops is not only good for keeping within budget constraints, but it means I can stand out from the crowd and sport a look that's completely original and unique. It's also a great way to experiment with different styles or trends, by dipping your toe into the water without wasting a bunch of cash on the latest catwalk looks.

Also, when a new season rolls around, it's easy to pick up a few items to complement your existing wardrobe without replacing everything. Take this autumnal velveteen jacket for instance. I picked this up at Barnardo's Allerton for a mere £3.99 and the colours, texture and print sent my fashion radar into overdrive. I teamed it with this unusual red bag with hieroglyphics pattern which I sourced from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for a mere £2.99. When teamed with a simple black jersey dress from Forever 21 (Yes I shop there even though I'm 45) Primark leggings and choker, plus Office boots, I felt like the ultimate Egyptian archaeologist meets modern day boho queen. Bet you didn't even know that was a look!

To succeed at chazza shopping, you need to take it seriously, do it religiously and incorporate it into your life the way you have done with eating, sleeping and breathing. When people find out my gear is from a charity shop, the usual response is 'I never find anything'. My answers to this are:

How often do you go? You need to go at least once a week

Have you ventured further than your local high street? You need to check out the chazzas in all the nearby towns and hamlets

How long do you spend looking? You need to devote proper time and attention to this! Like a whole day.

Do you go with friends? They will often pull something that you never would have considered, but which in fact, is bloody marvellous.

Of course, there are pitfalls and hazards to chazza shopping, just as there are with a trundle down to the regular shops. You have to examine the clothes REALLY carefully for marks, tears, buttons missing and other irregularities. It is also prudent to give the items a quick sniff in the shop to check how much evidence of the previous owner is still apparent.

You also need to decide what you consider to be 'value', for instance, back in the day you could get designer swag at dirt-cheap cost because the nice shop staff didn't know which labels were pricey or bang-on trend. Nowadays, they are much more label-savvy and you can often see good quality brands priced at anything from £20 upwards. For me, this does not represent value-per-wear as I like to leave the house with £50 and get about 20 items. Another hazard is the Primark item priced at equal or more than it would cost at Primark. I don't flippin' think so!

Remember, it's not just cool clothes you can pick up at the chazzas. I scored this marvellous cushion for 50p at Barnardo's and also this awesome red mock-croc case, (£3.00 at Oxfam) which I think may have been a beauty travel bag in a previous life.

Price-wise, I aim for something along the lines of a high street brand such as Topshop, Next or H+M piece for around £3.99. For a vintage item, I'd pay up to £10 if it was in good condition and was an interesting 'stand-out' item. If I'm foraging into new territory with a trend, or I'm concerned it's not quite 'me', I'll stick around the £2.99 mark.

Whether you try on a piece in a chazza is an entirely personal decision. I'm not a fan of changing rooms in any shop, least of all in a chazza. They usually consist of a curtained off area in the middle of the shop, with the curtain not quite pulling across fully and also stopping at your knees. I prefer to take things home to try on, especially as charity shops are so good about returns and exchanges these days.

As I'm quite an adventurous dresser, I attempt new looks with an open mind and I'm not afraid of a fashion challenge. This purchase below embodies my attitude fully in this respect, as it is not like anything I've ever seen or worn before. Upon first inspection, I wasn't sure if it was a top, a dress, or a piece of art. The properties of it appear to be neoprene, possibly mixed with the same material they use to insulate spaceships. I loved the owl with one and a half eyes motif stood next to the very angry looking bird. At £6.50 from Open Door, it was a tad out of my price comfort zone, but reason prevailed and I knew it could not be left in the shop. This could be my greatest challenge yet! I have no idea where one would even wear such an item, but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be rolling it out in public very soon.

So that's my round-up of all the fun and good stuff that can be had down the chazzas. I hope this post has inspired you to get your shop on for less, whilst supporting a worthy cause. Do let me know if you have any charity shop or thrifting tips and I'd love to see photos of your purchases if you'd like to share them with me. You can tag me on Twitter @flyingkipper and on Instagram @ladylaurajaneroche. Please do let me know in the comments too if you have any thoughts or suggestions on this piece. Thanks for reading and see you next week!

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#fashion #clothes #charityshops #thrifting #thriftstore #charity #style

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