Saturday, 15 February 2014

How to shop in charity shops, thrift stores and garage sales! BIG GUIDE!

"A charity shopthrift shopthrift storehospice shop (U.S., Canada), resale shop (when not meaning consignment shop U.S.) or op shop(Australia/N.Z.) (from "opportunity shop") is a retail establishment run by a charitable organization to raise money." (Wikipedia)

Inspiring shop window at local Charity Shop :)

This is my guide to better shopping in thrift/ charity stores :)

I am myself a passionate charity store and garage sale shopper and I have made many adorable finds for pennies.
I adore Vintage, since a lot of the craftsmanship and sheer hard work put into Vintage clothing items has been lost due to the need of producing more clothes for less money.

My mum started taking me to Charity shops when I was 6, due to the fact that she was a student with little money to support two children, so in order to make the most of what we had, second hand clothing and items was a way to make the money stretch.
She taught me how to search effectively after items of interest, and also about fabrics, sewing and quality! Now, even though I have plenty of money, I still enjoy shopping in thrift stores, since the quality of Vintage items are so far superior to newly made (for a fraction of the price!).

Loppisfynd in Västerås is a huge attraction

In Sweden, shopping Second Hand items on auction, garage sale, thrift store and in the charity shop is a peoples movement! We call it "Loppis" -  Everyone does it, no matter if they are rich or poor. It's even rather trendy to own second hand - since it can stand for an expression of individuality and it is environmental-friendly. If you buy something in a charity shop, the money has an ethical dimension to it as well - since many charity shops are run by non-profit organisations that have welfare projects.

This guide is a concentrated fact sheet from more than 20 years of Second Hand-shopping experiences.
This post is a more general post, useful for everyone, and I'm in the process of writing a post about second-hand shopping that is more Lolita-specific! (I'll insert the link here when I've written it ;)

How do you shop effectively in thrift stores?
 Shopping in Charity Shops is an elegant sport :)
It is the ability to rummage and sieve effectively through heaps of garbage to find one or two items that you really like and need.
It is nothing like going to an ordinary store.

If you only ever been to ordinary clothing shops before, you will probably be baffled by the mass of odd-looking, battered items.

Don't be fooled :)
Actually, when you've learned the art of thrift store shopping, you will shop more effectively in boutique stores as well!

How is the Charity shop organised?
Well, this depends on the shop, of course. Some countries like Sweden and England have an amazing variety of thrift- and vintage stores, either run by profit-companies or charity organisations. The shops run by charity organisations tend to have the best prices, and the ability to do amazing finds. The profit-companies (boutique vintage stores) may have more of what you actually want, but to a larger cost.

Often however, since every item in a store is unique - most stores choose to display their items based on type of item (i.e. skirts) or on colour. In Sweden, Charity shops do display items according to season, meaning that it will be hard to find a winter coat in the middle of the summer. Some charity shops have occasional sales, where cheap items are sold for even less! :)

All coats 50% sales!

So how to do it!
For the Charity Shop-newbie: keep in mind that not only must you find something you like, you have to find it in your size as well!
Compared to a department store or boutique, where you are able to try different sizes of the same item, this is now not possible, since there is only one of every item!
Don't buy anything that doesn't fit you, unless you know for sure that you are willing to do the alterations. But even if the tag says it is not your size, and you like the item - try it on! ^^ You will be surprised how often the tag says one size, but the garment actually is another size!

So I use this simple 4 step procedure when shopping:

1) -> 2) -> 3) ->4)

1) Finding something you like
I am very methodological when I shop at charity shops. I look at EVERY item on the rack, briefly (colour, material, brand- and size-label), and if something catches my attention (it is the right colour, the right brand, the material is lovely, etc), I pick it out and look at it properly. If it didn't meet my expectations, I hang it back, but if I liked it I bring it along to "the mirror test" (step 2).
I usually end up with >20 items hanging on my arm (often rather heavy ;) when I'm done with the first screening.

2) The mirror test
My second step is to go to a mirror in the shop. I put the items in a pile next to me, than I hold up every item against the mirror and I see if it will fit, if the colour is OK against my skin, etc. The items that don't pass the mirror test, I hang back - and the items I like, I bring to the dressing room! (Step 3 :)

3) Do the clothes fit?
Now I'm in the dressing room, trying on every item. I look at the quality of the fabric, how much wear the item has, how the fabric feels against my skin, can I move properly in the item? I also look at the washing label and ask myself if I can take care of the item properly.

4) Last screening
Now I look on the pile of items that I have (maybe 3-5 pieces) and I ask myself the following 5 questions:

> Is the price reasonable? <
> Do I need this item? <
> Can I easily coordinate this item with other items in my closet? <
> How many times will I use this item? <
> Can I afford it? <

If the items past these questions, I buy it!!! :D

 I have made 3 simple rules and 3 DONT'S to keep in mind when shopping. 
I find them very handy:

1) Decide what you NEED
To plan ahead, much like going to the grocery store with a list, will keep you on the right course. If you need a sweater, you can concentrate on ONLY looking through the sweater section, instead of looking through the entire store, which is a great time-saver.

2) Materials, washing instructions, wear and tear matters!
 Get the know-how
Feel, Look, Compare!

Pure silk blouse that unfortunately has been mistreated by washing in to high temperature. You can feel the difference - silk should be soft at touch, but if you have mistreated the fabric, the item becomes stiff, like paper. Learn to know how pure silk feels!

When shopping, touch the material! Feel how it feels between you fingers - take time to learn how real silk feels, how new wool feels like - how you can differ between linen and cotton... Or how soft true Merino wool is!
(and read the labels. 5% Merino wool is NOT the same as 100% Merino :).
Look at the fabric! 
Is it all creased? Then it will probably stay creased unless you iron it after every washing - ask yourself if it is worth it!
Are there stains? Don't buy it (no matter how cheap it is ;). Unless you are absolutely sure that you can do something about it or you really don't care.
Look at the ends of the sleeves and/or hems! 
Is there significant wear? Don't buy it! There is no point in buying clothes that only will make you look scruffy!
 Especially for stretchy tops, look if there are a lot of pilling - again, it doesn't matter how "great" that sweater is - if it looks scruffy - you will look scruffy!
Now look at the washing instructions! Are you willing to take this item to the Laundry Service after every use? Or would you rather have an item that is more easy to care for?

What I like with charity store shopping is that you can directly compare the quality of the items in-store! If you shop from H&M it is hard to, in the store, tell the quality of the fabric - because everything looks the same... But in a thrift store, you can easily just bring out your sweater of choice and DIRECTLY compare it to inferior/superior quality items ON THE RACK :)
This will help you when choosing what item you will buy!

Can you guess which shirt has the better quality? ;)
Answer at the bottom of the page!

3) Visit the store often!
To visit the same store often gives you an advantage, because you will not miss the re-fills, sales and you will learn more what items are abundant and what items are sold more quickly.
If you are nice to the staff, maybe they can tell which days in the week they get refill-shipments :)

So with this said, remember these key DON'TS:
(and no rules without exceptions ;)

1) Do not buy anything that looks scruffy
you doubtlessly KNOW that you can do something about it.

2) Do not but anything that doesn't fit you
you are prepared to really put the time in to making alterings!

3) Do not buy anything of inferior quality
you are only going to wear them for a day for a masquerade or something similar :)

All in all, this is the 

4 steps procedure when shopping:

1) Methodological search
2) Mirror test
3) Try the item in the dressing room
4) Answer truthfully these 5 questions:
-Is the price reasonable?
-Do I need this item?
-Can I easily coordinate this item with other items in my closet?
-How many times will I use this item?
-Can I afford it?

3 simple rules:
1) Decide what you need
2) Feel, Look, Compare
3) Visit the stores often

3 Don'ts:
1) Do not buy anything that looks scruffy
2) Do not but anything that doesn't fit you 
3) Do not buy anything of inferior quality

Answer to the shirt question: The left shirt has the superior quality! :)

Hope you enjoyed this post
and I hope this will make you a more effective thrift shopper :)

With love /Mary Hazelbelle

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