The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Sunday 13 March 2011

Charity Quest

  1. Whilst certain other bloggers I know are swanning around New York darting in and out of Sax 5th Avenue in a shoppers dream (I am not jealous South Molten St Style I am not jealous) I decided an interesting experiment would be for me to explore the other side of shopping. Quite well known for my desire for High-End High Street (as well as having Net-a-porter flirtations) with the exception of buying Christmas cards, I have never ever willingly stepped into a charity shop.

    I figured if I was going to do this, I should do it properly so, armed with an expert in the field and £40 I ventured to a mystical place called Saffron Walden, which on a sunny Saturday is really beautiful. Especially when you get to my age and things like fields, Churches and market stalls full of flowers and cakes become strangely appealing.

I was informed there are rules to Charity shopping:
  1. Its not work purchasing if it's over £5.00.
  2. Its not worth purchasing if its not an established label (Jigsaw yes, George no)
  3. You have to rummage.
This last one was particularly difficult for me as I'm not a rummager, its just not in my DNA, the very act of moving one hanger over to look at a top properly has never really appealed. I'm much more the 'here's a glass of wine madam' while I glide through a large well lit concept store where the clothes are all separated for your viewing pleasure type. But I went into this with an open mind and was determined to wrap my head around the idea of buying something that somebody else had deemed not worth keeping. First off, we went to Wurrl, (half vintage/half new fair trade clothes and nic-knacks - my expert was breaking me in gently) and this wasn't that bad actually.
I almost found a scarf that I might have liked had it been in Accessorise, and it was at this point I realised it was a battle with my brain. It was wrapped around a wire casing (the scarf that is, not my brain) and I wasn't distracted enough from the 'charity shop smell'. Images of the crammed too close together clothes seeped in to my vision and took the edge off any shopping buzz that may have been building, I pondered a bit too long and moved on.

Next I was allowed a reprieve and we entered a beautiful kitchen shop called Steamer Trading Cookshop

This housed NEW kitchen appliances, including a strawberry slicer, for those of us too delicate to cut our own. I found this mixer in bright pink, but at £418.95 it would have severely blown my budget so we moved on empty handed.

Cancer research was next and this was as you'd expect but I was more prepared this time.
I found the rail with my size on and did my best impression of a real rummager, I don't think I was fooling anyone but the hot and cold flushes had gone and I wasn't feeling as dizzy which I took to be a step in the right direction. I was actually looking forward to the next part of our venture, the anticipation of what I may find building as we entered St Clare Hospice shop.

Now here was a charity shop I thought I could get on board with. There was the obligatory elderly ladies tea set (as well as the obligatory elderly ladies behind the counter) and an array of heart shaped trinket dishes, candles and other finds, I eagerly picked up 2 or 3 items and went to the counter.
And found the failure of charity shops as I see it. Had it been wrapped in coloured paper and put in a beautiful box with swirly writing on it, and had that box been placed in a hard shiny bag, I would have made a point of returning there again and again. What did I get? a screwed up Clinton cards bag, worse, when my chosen objects didn't fit that properly it was replaced with a Tesco's carrier!

Putting beautiful items in a supermarket bag is like putting a yellow canary in a rusty dark dank cage, its just wrong. I was still pleased with myself and showed the purchases to my expert, who kindly explained that it a bit of a cheat as the items I had bought were 'new' not 'second hand'. This I feel is the charity shop's fault I had no idea I was being lulled into buying first hand items, can I be blamed if I gravitate towards the shinny shinnies, I'm shallow like that, I like things to look pretty when I buy them otherwise why buy them at all?

We decided it was still a win and pressed on through the high street towards the British Heart Foundation. Where again I found my 'proper shops brain' played another trick on me. Stood on the pavement I looked for BHF and genuinely couldn't see it, which is bizarre to say the least as it looks like this...

Not particularly a shy and retiring colour eh? To me though, its like those weird pictures we had in the 90's that look all messy but when you relaxed your eyes you could see a ship or a car or something in them. This is how my brain attacks charity shops, it just sifts them out of my perception and I have a fondness for this particular charity as well as my dad had a quadruple heart bypass a couple of years ago so in we went. I didn't see any clothes I liked but I did pick up some lovely nail files with hearts all over them (new not second hand). It seemed I was on something of a role.

Next we came to the most well known charity shop for me. Well known because as a teenager, my mum would go in and I would refuse to. My fifteen year old brain though it would be 'like well bad' to be seen shopping with my mother but also to be in a 'gypo' shop, well that would be just too much to handle.

Oxfam has really come a long way since my youth. With its array of Fair Trade coffees, teas, chocolate and even Easter eggs, as well as the face lift it got a good few years back it really has upped its game, the clothes? not so much.

So am I a fully fledged charity convert? Well that's debatable. I had such a great time and as a new experience in shopping it was a really enjoyable day. In certain places like Saffron Walden and Hampstead Heath I will definitely go in, unabashed, ashamed and at least attempt to find a bargain, but now I have a few rules of my own:

1. No to trousers or jeans, its just too weird.
2. No to shoes. Until charity shop shoes look like my new footwear crush, Beatrix Ong, its just never gonna happen.

3. No to going in with a closed mind. Occasionally a Hobbs top or Jigsaw jacket will be there, its just, you know, y'have to rummage!
For Emma, thanks for popping my charity cherry.


Lauren said...

My big sister is a real charity shop pro, but Ely charity shops rarely stock much more than 1990s New Look, Dorothy Perkins and Florence & Fred, most of which were pretty poor quality when new. Saw an AMAZING Oxfam in Bath though - Wish I'd had time to go in! Even the window display was incredible - I think the layout can make such a huge difference.

P.S. Beatrix Ong makes the most GORGEOUS shoes! Keep your eyes peeled on Cocosa - they often have sales on her shoes. xx

SMS Style said...

I LOVE your honesty as I feel completely the same! Buying someone elses' clothes? Eew. However, I'm from Hampstead and can vouch how good the stores are. Also, can recommended the ones in the middle of the Kings Road xxx

TmS said...

Thanks guys, keep the tips coming!

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