Shock! Horror! Second-Hand Tales goes first-hand shopping!!

 

shopping bags

I have a confession to make…. I actually went first-hand shopping! This is something which probably happens a couple of times a year for me. Last year I bought a gorgeous black jumpsuit with my Christmas money and I have not regretted it once.

But the reason for my first-hand shopping this time is because I have a new grown up job!!  At the beginning of this month I started working (part-time) as Heritage Publicity Officer for The Roman Baths, Fashion Museum Bath & Victoria Art Gallery!!! I cannot tell you how exciting this is! It has been a long time in the waiting (I originally applied for a similar job a couple of years ago but needed to update my skills. There then followed 22 months of fruitless job applications and interviews, digital marketing courses and voluntary work placements).

Of course a new job means a slightly updated (and smarter) wardrobe. Hence I dipped my toes into the relatively unknown territory of First-Hand Shopping. My knowledge of shopping in Bath is shaped by the location of second-hand shops. I make a beeline for Walcot Street,George Street, Westgate St, the charity shops on Argyle St/Pulteney Bridge and the Dorothy House shop opposite M&S.

But High Street store shopping means following a completely different route – and not one that I am very familiar with. I wrote this post here about how I am only familiar with High Street labels if I have bought them second-hand.

Anyway I had a list of very sensible items of clothing that I needed to buy for my new job and really struggled to find any of them! In the end I picked up these two tops and a pair of black ankle boots (all in the sale as I still like a bargain!)

black polo neck and white lace blous

The black polo neck is from Apricot and a wardrobe ‘classic’. I had to be very disciplined when shopping this time and only purchase wardrobe staples. I also had a sensible white shirt on my shopping list but couldn’t find one I liked anywhere. Instead I opted for the white high collar blouse from Marks & Spencer. Funnily enough one of my first jobs in post is to publicise the Fashion Museum’s ‘Lace in Fashion’ exhibition so the lace detail on the blouse makes it very apt!

The black boots had been on my list for a while and, having failed to find any second-hand, I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase them from Debenhams for just £15.

But that was the extent of my excursion! Having undertaken my First-Hand Shopping expedition I just realised that:

1. When you get to your forties (and I suspect even earlier) you realise that most clothes shops look the same.

2. Second-hand shops aren’t always cheaper (esp when compared to some High Street stores) but the clothes on their racks tend to be longer lasting and even better quality.

3. Second-hand shopping allows you to dress individually.

4. I just prefer second-hand/charity shops, and in cities such as Bath there isn’t always that much to choose between the look and contents of these stores as compared to High Street stores.

5. As long as your clothes are clean and smart you really can dress second-hand for work.

What about you? Do you wear second-hand for work? Do you think it depends on what type of work you do?

 

Who needs Poundland? Charity shop bargains for £1 and under.

who needs Poundland?

Who needs Poundland when you can pick up bargains for under £1 at your local charity shop?

While these purchases will be second-hand, and may not be in mint condition, they will be:

  • recycled/re-used By buying second-hand you are extending the life of an item, and preventing it from being sent to landfill.
  • giving to a good cause By purchasing from a High Street charity shop you are donating to a good cause.
  •  unique The slightly chipped teacup that you bought for 50p could become a talking point!
  • not wrapped in plastic So many brand new, cheap items seem to come shrink wrapped in plastic wrapping that can’t be recycled.
  • more durable   I really believe that many second-hand goods have a far longer shelf life than cheaply manufactured plastic goods. There’s a reason why they cost so little. How many things have we bought from bargain shops that have broken almost immediately after use? I’ve written here about my struggle with cheaply made children’s clothing.

There are many other reasons to shop second-hand (I’ve listed them here) . Whenever I’m looking for a household item, book, game or clothing my first port of call is to scour the local charity shops.

In the past few days I have bought these two albums for 25p each from the Dorothy House shop (I could have bought three for 50p but couldn’t find another one). Despite being in the bargain bucket the records are in good condition:

I also stumbled across some cotton reels for 50p each from a local second-hand shop, just when I needed new cotton for sewing projects:

second-hand cotton reels

Of course it’s not always possible to buy items for under £1 at charity shops. In fact some of them can be downright pricey, charging more than certain High Street stores for their clothing (although as I mentioned above their second-hand garments probably last longer). But there are ways to source cheap goodies from charity shops:

  • get to know the charity shops in your town, and get to know which town has the cheapest shops. My nearest town for charity shopping is the Georgian city of Bath. It’s a great place to go for second-hand shopping as there are some very well-dressed people who donate their cast-offs to the likes of us (read my guide here). However an expensive town can mean pricey charity shops. In some of them it’s not unusual to see dresses selling for a tenner, and that’s without the ‘vintage’ label which usually doubles the price tag. Having said that, as I regularly trawl the charity shops in the city I know which ones are cheaper. For example I recently bought this wonderful denim dress for a fiver from the British Heart Foundation shop:
  • £5 denim dress
  • look for end of season sales Just as High Street chains have their own end of season reductions, many charity shops will reduce their prices at certain times of the year too.
  • rummage through the bargain bucket Nearly all charity shops have bargain bins or sales rails. Sometime this is because they have a surfeit of donations of a particular type. In my local market town the Dorothy House hospice shop and British Red Cross store often have reductions on their books.
  • volunteer Most charity shops need volunteers and, by working in the shop, you’ll get to see the stock that comes in. Some charity shops also offer staff/volunteer discounts (see here for more information on how charity shops are run)
  • remember that the price also includes a donation Even if you think the price of an item is steep please don’t haggle. Remember that the money you spend in a charity shop goes back to that cause.

And finally…. if you purchase from a charity shop please consider donating your unwanted (good quality) items back to them to complete the cycle.

 

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My post from The Thrift: Why I’m still charity shopping in my forties

Last month I wrote a post for the wonderful The-Thrift blog, which promotes shopping at Barnardo’s charity shops.

I wrote about why I’m in my mid-forties and still sourcing my wardrobe from charity shops and other second-hand sources. Here is a (slightly) updated version:

As someone in their mid 40s you would have thought that charity shopping is something I’d grown out of by now. But I guess I have been second-hand shopping for so many decades that my brain is now hardwired to head straight for the thrift stores.  I also love the thrill of a bargain, the individuality of charity shop purchases and the feeling I get from giving to a good cause, such as Barnardo’s. And there’s other reasons as well:

1) It’s something I haven’t grown out of. I first started second-hand shopping in my early teens when charity stores circa 1985 were very different to the ones you see now. Ironically, although these places were frowned upon they were stocked with amazing pieces from the ’50s and ’60s that would now be classed as vintage.

Charity Shop find from early 1990s.

Charity Shop find from early 1990s.

2) It’s my own personal style and no one will have the same outfit as me. I have to confess this was the reason I began charity shopping many years ago. As a student I wanted to look individual. I wanted to wear the shirt, jacket or shorts that no one else had. I guess this is a habit that has stuck with me.

3) It’s cheap. As a teenager of the 1980s I imagined my future self to be some highly driven career woman buying all my clothes from designer shops  – or M&S at least. When I worked full time in my twenties I did buy my work clothes from High Street stores. However since having children and taking on a range of part time and freelance work, I have less of a budget, or indeed a need, for buying first hand workwear. As a result I can stock my casual wardrobe with low price second-hand clothes.

4) It encourages re-use, and donating to good causes. Long before we knew about the three Rs charity shops were there to enable us to buy re-used clothing. I truly believe that by purchasing second-hand we are extending the life of a garment. We are ensuring the resources that are used to make, transport and package it are stretched for just a little longer.  Our hard earned cash is also going back into the charity pot, rather than into the hands of an anonymous corporation.  But in order to keep the cycle going we must remember to donate our unwanted clothing to charity shops too.

donating to charity shops

 

5) ) I’m a ‘bargain hunter’ . This comes down to the fact that I love browsing and getting a good bargain! Last month I bought a brilliant denim shirt dress for a fiver from the British Heart Foundation shop. I’d been coveting a similar one from Fat Face for £45!

£5 denim dress

While I never believe you should dress ‘age appropriate’ there are a few charity shop outfits that I no longer aspire to wear. Browsing through all the great posts from other (younger) The Thrift bloggers I know there are dress lengths and styles that I no longer feel comfortable wearing. However the nineteen year old who used to wear a pair of shorts made from old curtains is still there – she just has to turn the curtains into a below the knee dress now…

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Upcycling Denim Part Two: Jeans to Skirt

upcycled denim skirt

Since buying my denim sewing needles I have gone a bit mad with the denim upcycling! I mended – and then remade – some children’s jeans into shorts here.

I also embarked on a rather long, but fulfilling, project to turn an old pair of jeans into a skirt.

I started with this old pair of jeans which had been mended quite a few times, before being replaced by my second-hand Toast pair.

mended jeans

I started by chopping them off at the knees. Then I unpicked the inner leg seams on both the front and back:

upcycling jeans

However because I wasn’t paying attention when unpicking I accidentally unpicked an outer seam too on one side:

jeans to skirt

Still I decided to turn this ‘accident’ into a feature. I took an old (second-hand) skirt which I loved but which was far too tight:

skirt upcycle

So far, so good (ish). Because I wasn’t following a pattern and rather making the instructions up as I went along I then sewed the two back seams together (that had been previously unpicked from the trouser legs). This involved having to sew over some thick layers of denim. It also left a little triangle at the bottom which I patched with some of the green skirt:

denim skirt refashion

I also sewed some of the green skirt fabric down the side, which I had accidentally unpicked, but I didn’t add a patch to the front.

You can kind off see they were jeans and there is a fair amount of bad sewing in the project, but I like that it’s not perfect.

 

denim skirt made from jeans

 

Tomorrow is our quarterly Repair Cafe and I intend to wear this skirt!

Corsham Repair Cafe poster June 2016(If you like this post please follow me on facebook , twitter or instagram)

Mending children’s jeans: £4.66 v £5 Primark jeans

Mending children's jeans

I wrote this post here about my belief that if we buy cheap clothes we have to learn to mend them. Well now it looks like I have to eat my words as the £5 jeans I bought for my 9 year old from Primark have massive tears (hangs head: buying cheap clothing means low quality and low wages).

So, determined not to throw them away, or turn them into embellished cut offs (as shown here) I set to work fixing them.

I am no stranger to mending jeans as I patched my own pair a few times (see here), but I knew my daughter would need a) slightly less visible mending and b) harder wearing.

I found this tutorial on wonderful Youtube.

As a result I paid a visit to the local haberdashers and bought lightweight fusible interfacing. I know it sounds silly but I’ve never used this material before – but now I am completely hooked on it as it’s so easy to use! Cut to size, iron on and hey presto it sticks!

While the tutorial only uses the interfacing to mend the tears I also cut off some denim from an old pair of jeans to act as a harder wearing patch underneath. (The denim came from my old much patched jeans that had been mended using fabric from an older pair of my daughter’s jeans – which were turned into the cutoffs mentioned above – so now the fabric was being used to mend another pair of jeans. I also have plans for the remnants of these old pair of jeans: post to follow).

Phwew, so now that the never-ending cycle of old jeans had produced denim material patches all I needed to buy was fusible interfacing and special denim needles for the sewing machine: a grand total of £4.66.

mending children's jeans

So the process of mending the tears on the jeans went something like this:

  1. Iron jeans (I also cut off some of the hanging threads from the tear). Turn inside out and cut a large piece of interfacing and denim to generously cover the tear.

mendig jeans

2) Iron on interfacing so that it sticks. (I also stuffed the denim patch up the leg so that the interfacing wouldn’t stick to the other side of the leg)

mending jeans

3) Pin the denim patch over it (making sure not to pin all the way through the leg as you need to turn the leg back to the right side in a minute).

mending jeans

4) Select a wider zig zag stitch on your machine.

mending jeans

5) With the jeans now the right side, slide the leg onto the sewing machine. Sew over the tear a couple of times using the zig zag stitch. This will secure the patch underneath in place and (hopefully) prevent any more fraying. You can then turn the jeans inside out once again and cut the denim patch to a smaller size. I used pinking shears for a zig zag edge, which should prevent it from fraying.

 

mending jeans

With hindsight I should have chosen a thread that better matched the colour of the lighter jeans. The stitching is more visible than I would have liked. However, for playing outside these jeans will be far more hard wearing for my daughter.

But the lesson learnt is Don’t Buy Cheap Clothes! Something I tell myself time and again but when you’re on a budget and the charity shops don’t have the right size it’s a very easy thing to do.

At least I now have my Denim Mending Kit in my sewing box for the next repair. It may have cost only 34p less than the £5 jeans but I now have plenty of needles and interfacing to patch time and time again – plus the satisfaction of knowing I will NOT be going to Primark again to buy cheap jeans.

Could you wear one dress for 365 days?

clothes swap dress

 

I recently came across an amazing project carried out by Canadian journalist and writer, Elizabeth Withey, called Frock Around the Clock.

For all of last year Elizabeth wore just one dress every day. The simple black dress (which she called Laverne, after its style name) was worn with leggings, tights, jumpers, belts, tops etc for all of 2015. Every few days Elizabeth would carefully hand wash it and leave it to dry. It was dressed up for dinner in restaurants, dressed down for camping trips and even went abroad to Iceland.

Elizabeth wore it because she wanted to spend time doing more important things than worrying about what to wear every day. I really recommend you have a look at her blog – which is very honest. I really admire her decision to reduce her wardrobe to just one thing so that she was no longer being sucked into the cycle of worrying about what to wear, shopping for clothes, washing piles of laundry etc.

However I’m not sure I could do this. Over the past couple of years I have struggled with the Capsule Wardrobe concept, Project 333 and have written here and here about my adventures. At present I am taking a break from the project as I try to figure out what works for me.

I guess what it comes down to is personal style. I like to wear clothes that don’t always go together and, while I am far more strong willed when scouring charity shops, I do like to buy quirky, original pieces. BUT it would be so much easier waking up every morning and knowing what I was going to wear – because I didn’t have the choice (as most of the world, beyond our comfy First World status, has).

Could you wear just one piece of clothing all year?

(Below is a really interesting interview with Elizabeth from My Green Closet’s Verena Erin)

 

 

 

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.