Anyone else read books, magazines, blogs, about people finding darling item at thrift stores and flee markets and transforming them into wonderful object d’art and wonder how they manage it, when all you can find in your local charity shop are Primark clothes priced at more than they originally cost, and paintings of West Highland Terriers?
I think there are a few key aspects to successful charity shop shopping.
The first is you have to have a vision for potential. You have to be able to look at something that, when surrounded by willow patterned tea sets, cut glass knick knacks and football memorabilia, looks pretty naffola, and imagine it fitting perfectly in your country farm house kitchen. Try to think about how your find when you’ve given it a clean, lick of paint, or distressed finished.
Location, location, location
Certain items, when placed in the shelved alcoves of a spacious Victorian house, will look vintage/retro/shabby chic/homespun (delete as appropriate). But when placed on an Ikea shelf in a boxy new build will look like you’ve been raiding your parent’s attic; or in a 70’s house, will look like you just haven’t thrown anything away for 30 years. That’s not to say that you can’t do the thrifted look in a modern property but you have to be sympathetic to your surroundings and the rest of your possessions.
Do it with confidence
You may not have a beautifully restored Victorian property, and you may not wear vintage clothing (it’s hard to pull off delicate tea dresses when you’re built like a tea pot), but sometimes you just need to just wear or display your charity shop finds with confidence. Mix it up a little, adding vintage or vintage inspired accessories to simple outfits works well, but don’t go overboard, you don’t want to look like an extra from the House of Elliott. Plus, dedicating your whole life and wardrobe to a different era, is in my opinion, a little bit sad, and sometimes oppressive. Vintage/retro/homespun is very fashionable right now, and no longer unconventional. Retro blogs are ten a penny and technicolor Instagram photos have become clichéd. Always just buy things you really like and they will work for you. Jump on a bandwagon it will look contrived. Be confident in what you like. For example, I’m very jealous of MeMeRose’s tapestry Irises below
Good charity shop finds require dedication to the cause. You have to keep going, and really root around. This is where I fall down a lot, as I rarely have the time to go charity shop shopping, and am rarely without one of the children, both of whom lose patience fairly quickly (although the good thing about charity shops is that children are easily pacified with an on GI Joe or hideous cuddly toy for 20p!).
I have to admit that for all my good advice, I’m not that great at charity shop shopping myself. Firstly, I live in a boxy new build, where my previously shabby chic furniture (i.e. begged, borrowed and stolen) now just looks a bit, erm, shabby shit! Also, I just don’t always have the Vision that is needed. I just don’t have great taste! However I do often have the confidence to just try things. My husband states his most vivid memory of me before we went out was me in my fake fur coat which I wore at university! I am much more conventional now, especially since I turned 30 *sigh*. I’ve given away my zebra print knee-high boots, the fake fur coat was left in a nightclub (accidentally – but I never got it back). The Laura Ashley velvet trousers which I recently found in a charity shop are much more sensible. But I have recently found a few good finds which I will share (but hopefully in a non-smuggy “oh look, I happened to find vintage Chanel sofa which I quickly reupholstered” kinda way!).
The heart plate at the bottom actually has Flora printed on it underneath (as in the margarine) so it was obviously some give away. Not exactly vintage chic then, but I really liked it, which was the important thing. Inspired by the heart plate, I thought I should also keep it company with the heart-shaped dish. I just really like the way it has been shaped. We’ll probably keep Betty’s hair clips in it.
These vintage kilner jars weren’t actually from a charity shop, but from a woman at my knitting group who’s mother has recently had to go into a care home. She bought a big box of them and said to help ourselves. A lot of the women in the group are vintage fans (and pull it off so much better than I do!). I thought I would take a couple though, and maybe fill one up with origami hearts or something (no, I’m not heart obsessed really! They just look nice).
These vintage circular needles were also free from someone at my knitting group. I can’t knit very well, and that puts me off trying again, but these fab needles may just inspire me.
There is nothing like the satisfaction of finding a gem of a book in a second hand shop
Oh, I just LOVE second hand book shopping! These books were all from a charity book shop. For the measly sum of £5.20 I got Cath Kidston’s ‘Make'; The New Hite Report, a report on femal sexuality by Shere Hite; a random Womanguides Reading Toward a Feminist Theology by Rosemary Radford Ruether; Drina Dances in Exile by Jean Estoril (I was so pleased to find a Drina book in a charity shop, and one I don’t have – they were childhood favourites), and Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I can’t wait to share with my girls. Oh and last week’s copy of the Economist (20p!)!
This teeny tiny picture frame is going to look so cute when I stick a little cross stitch or something in it.
Finally, the piece de resistance, my new coat. My last coat also came from a charity shop, a 100% wool black tailored coat, but since having Iris it’s a little snug…so I was excited when I spotted this electric blue number. Drawn to it like a magpie, I was overjoyed to find it fit perfectly. This is one of those things that can look pretty old-lady-ish if you wear it timidly (you can wear it like me exclaiming to all who will listen “Look, I got it in a charity shop! Isn’t it fab?!”). I thought the label said Jacque Vert, proper old lady shop, but I didn’t care, I’d just wear it it with confidence as I loved it. But that was actually the label for the the shirt underneath. The coat was made by Dereta, which a bit of googling suggests is a department store from the 50s-60s, so it turns out it is real life proper vintage! Funny, since I couldn’t purposely spot a vintage item if it came up and smacked me in the face with a pair of Jackie O sunglasses! Another reason that I should limit my attraction to ‘vintage’ is that I bought this beautiful Merino coat which has been immaculately kept for possibly 50 years, and within two days the baby had smeared food on the collar which I desperately tried to scrub off with a baby wipe…
Remember, just pick stuff that you really like. Vintage just means old, retro just means old-fashioned. It doesn’t always mean good:
See the 25 Vintage Ads That Would Be Banned Today