Thursday, 25 July 2013

Charity and cheeriness (and lovely clothing)

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

I've expressed before my love of spending money to buy shiny, new things. See here.

 'Retail therapy' has become so cliched that it just makes me think of a blonde twig in an NYC sitcom shopping 'till she drops'. However, just the other day while visiting my grandma in the gorgeous town of Durham, I found myself looking after my two lively, little cousins. In a desperate attempt to keep them occupied, I walked them down to town and their pretty little faces lit up like blonde light-bulbs when I told them they had £10 each to spend on... Whatever they wanted!? 

Bubbles, toy kittens, glitter glue pens, masks and fairy wands, I was soon weighed down by bags full of pink glittery.. Stuff! And their excitement and happiness to have new things was inescapable! I love the way little kids will happily sing out loud to express their joy in the middle of Paperchase and literally jump for joy in The Works as I say yes to all their hearts' desires, even when it's simply a pink pen!

Then the bad part of my head kicks in. I reminisce on all the pink, glittery crap I once owned and cherished and thought I'd love forever. Where are they now? Land fills and dumps, forgotten about and just worthless chunks of plastic! I wonder if when I'm older I will look back on all the clothes and shoes and makeup I buy now and feel the same, if all this stuff which makes me so happy will one day be worthless?! 

My therapist would call this 'negative thinking' and 'looking through the metaphorical sunglasses of life' (therapy can be so confusing) but depression aside, there is some very realistic truths in these thoughts. The wastefulness of consumerism, the constant pursuit to have the best new gadget and most fashionable new dress... it's all so gross when you really think about it!

But never fear! I have the answer!

It comes in the form of a scratty, little shop, often found on the less glamorous high streets of small towns and the back alleys of big cities. You can identify them from their distinct odor of stale digestives and rotten carpets. I am talking, my friend, of... charity shops. 

Silky, patterned Warehouse dress
Like all things worth having in life, you must get over certain obstacles and defeat some monsters. Don't be deceived by the wall of old women in skin coloured stockings blocking the door, you will find that a simple magic phrase will help you enter... "excuse me". 

Tight denim Miss Selfridge dress
Coffee lace dress, no label, but still very sophisticated
Once in, it is important not to let yourself become overwhelmed by the multicoloured array of peoples cast-offs, all shoved unlovingly on tiny rails. The key here is in recognising that, although seemingly unorganised, there is actually a lovely system in place at charity shops, so hard to find elsewhere... they put the sizes of the clothed on little cubes on the hangers!!
A recent bargain, Jeff Banks white lace jacket

yes it's a size 18
No more rummaging your hand down between tightly packed jumpers, desperately searching for a tag only to find it's another size 6! No more violating dresses as the rag them off their hangers, manically searching for a size 10, only to find that some other girl who started at the other end got the last one!
Wallis patterned top, I wear this all the time

Flowery 'old lady' blouse, amazing on holiday tied up like a crop top
So yes, try to focus on searching for the little cubes with your size on, it's unbelievably easy, they are even colour coded... (a size 8 is purple, a size 10 is orange, a size 12 is green, just in case you wanted to know)

These heels were definitely unworn when I bought them, and look amazing with bare legs
Secondly, as you flick through the endless river of clothes that seem to weigh so much that your arm begins to ache, try to keep an eye on the label. I know lots of people don't believe in designer clothing, and think you're just paying ridiculous amounts for a label, but at the end of the day, it feels good to say you got a Chanel jumper for £4.99! They are often better well-made as well! Also, beware the dreaded Atmosphere label, this is pesky Primark in disguise. No way am I spending £2.99 on a secondhand Primark vest top.

Centigrade white rain mac, looks so posh and it perfect for our summer rain
it even has a removable hood
Thirdly, if in doubt, try it on! I know from my experience of making clothes with old patterns, a 1950's size 10 is not a modern day size 10! Maybe we are all just getting fatter, but whatever it is, sometimes with old clothes they are tiny! Yes it feels weird trying stuff on in a charity shop, the changing room are often just a corner of the room with a poorly positioned curtain, but it's worth it as you can not take something back to a charity shop if it doesn't fit, that's like stealing money from charity!

This one looks like something from a dress-up box
but makes me feel like a princess
If you're cynical about buying people's old clothes, just take a second to think about the popular craze for 'vintage' clothing nowadays. A vast majority of 'vintage' clothes, are actually just clothes scouted from humble charity shops and made to look cool with a snazzy clothes tag on them. Which i'm sure make the chosen clothes feel special, but is not good value for money!
These Next shoes were flawless when I bought them

the pattern is perfect for summer
Gorgeous Richards blouse with such beautiful detailing
Buying these clothes I have included pictures of genuinely made me happy (and every item was less than a fiver each). It's an achievement, rooting out the buried treasure, guarded by smoke-breathing, old dragons. It's good for the environment as they aren't in a landfill somewhere, and if everyone recycled their clothes and wore recycled clothes there would be no need for the manufacturing of them! (I'm not suggesting that though).

Miss Selfridge denim jacket, modeled by my lovely mannequin, looks good with my prom dress
Also, they give you them in old, recycled carrier bags instead of those big fancy card ones you get in posh shops and awkwardly hang on to for about a year because you're sure it will in handy.

It's also important to remember that these shops rely almost entirely on donations! We always hand our old clothes into our favourite charity shops, and it's nice to know that someone will appreciate as much as you did once upon a time!

And finally, your money is supporting a good cause. Your money is making someone else happier, along with your happiness. So help another, by helping yourself to some lovely and sometimes unique clothes!

I don't think retail therapy gets much better!

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

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