Charity Shops or Vintage Boutiques?

I wrote here about whether vintage has become an overused word. I believe there has been an increase in the use of this word over the past few years. It now seems to mean something old, precious and – ironically – fashionable. I still don’t know whether to refer to the clothes I wear as Charity Shop Bargains or Vintage Finds!

What I do find interesting is that when applying the word ‘vintage’ to an item the price tag can really rise.

Last month I went shopping for a 1970s inspired outfit for our annual party. I attempted to try on a couple of dresses that were seventies originals (I got the sizing wrong: old style size 12 means modern size 8/10).

vintage shopping for 1970s dress

Once upon a time these dresses would have been piled high on a jumble sale table, or hanging on a rail in a musty charity shop. Now they were on sale for £15 each and positioned in the dedicated vintage section of the local Julian House charity shop in Bath.

I don’t begrudge charity shops making money from older, vintage pieces. I find it sad that I can buy a dress from H&M, Primark and others for less than this price. But as I have written before these clothes are badly made (by garment workers earning a small wage), and will not have the history or care invested in them that older pieces possess.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a rise in the number of charity shops that have been turned into vintage style stores. As I mentioned the Julian House shop in Bath has a dedicated vintage area, filled with crockery, magazines, suitcases, accessories and clothing.

Vintage Charity Shops: Julian House, Bath

Vintage Charity Shops: Julian House, Bath

We’ve also visited this brilliant ‘Vintage and Retro’ Thames Hospice charity shop in Windsor on a couple of occasions:

The latest addition to these style of shops in Bath is the Dorothy House vintage boutique and cafe, called ’76’ on Bridge Street. The shop is called ’76’ after the year that the hospice charity was founded and, I imagine, is also a nod to the date of some of the period pieces on sale in store.

 

The shop and cafe was opened last year by local resident, Midge Ure. The fact that a celebrated, and much respected, musician is happy to open a charity shop shows how far this sector has risen in popular esteem. The forerunner of this vintage shop was the Dorothy House shop on Broad Street (which has now become the charity’s record and book store). However with the addition of a coffee house ’76’ has taken charity retail therapy to a new level. I personally enjoyed browsing this shop and, as mentioned in this post, picked up a great 1970s style flared jumpsuit for our party. At £12 the price tag was slightly cheaper as well.

Sadly not all these charity to vintage shop transformations have a happy ending. The   Mercy in Action chain of charity shops opened a dedicated vintage store in the Widcombe area of Bath.  But sadly it stopped trading earlier this year (thankfully this charity still has other shops in the city). Perhaps there are so only so many Vintage Charity Boutiques that a city can take.

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5 thoughts on “Charity Shops or Vintage Boutiques?

  1. Yes, you could be right about the market reaching saturation point. It’s also a shame if prices are hiked as it makes charity shops less affordable for those who are on a low budget. Not only do I think people with less money still deserve to wear decent clothes, if they can go cheaper elsewhere, what realistically are they going to do?

  2. A friend of mine used to get the most amazing bargains at charity shops–a gorgeous, perfectly fitted black cashmere coat for $5. Even in the 70s that was a bargain. Beautiful wool sweaters that still had the tags on them for 75 cents or $1.25. I was never so lucky. If I found something that fit me, it would have a small tear, or an obvious repair or stain, and it would cost $10 or $15. Her successes notwithstanding, I gave up trying to buy at thrift shops.

    Now that I’m having a heck of a time finding Fair Trade, organic clothing that isn’t made by slaves, I may have to try the thrift shop/vintage route again. I understand that here, in San Francisco, if we do, we have to worry about bringing home bed bugs, so I’ll have to take extra precautions!

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