Here in England, they call thrift shops “charity shops.” They are owned by charities who contribute the profits they make towards their cause. When it comes to affordable, cute clothing, the charity shops are where it’s at. I’ve come across many so-called ‘vintage’ stores that sell secondhand clothes at such ineffably inflated prices that it’s doubtful whether they cost that much when they were new. They don’t really do it for me. If I’m going to buy used, it better be cheap- otherwise I might as well get it new.
My favorite charity shop at the moment is the Oxfam on Drury Lane. It’s a small store with a green sign out front and bookshelves in the windows. I like their price tags. When you flip the tag over, you see what the amount of money that you spend on that item could contribute towards. Like, the £5 that you spend on a skirt may be enough money to purchase books for a child abroad for an academic year.
I’ve gotten this darling dress there, which actually came with belt loops. It was a penny shy of £4.
Belted and with black tights, you would have no clue that it cost under £4!
I think a lot of people assume that they have to spend a lot of money on clothes to look good, or buy designer items. But, the brand of clothes you wear really does not matter. What’s important is how you match your pieces together. It’s elegant accessories and proper, well-fitting shoes that pull a look together. For me the basics in accessories are two good-quality belts- one skinny, and one thick; one pair of silver earrings and one pair of gold earrings; a pair of nicely tailored boots; and a simple necklace for when you want to dress things up a bit.
You can make a £1 shirt look sophisticated if you wear it right:
I discovered this art deco top in the sale bin at Absolute Vintage, a higher end secondhand shop in Shoreditch. When I first entered the shop, I made a beeline for the belts. The shoes are too expensive (and who wants used shoes anyways when you can’t wash them like clothes lol) and the bags are a bit pricey. However, I soon got bored when I realized that all the decent-looking belts were £20 and up. I wandered over to the sale section and absentmindedly rummaged through clothes at the bottom of the discounted bin while I waited for my friends, and found this top. I paired it with a black circle skirt to tone it down, and a pair of sheer tights. The sweater was a birthday gift from my mom and sister.
As for the wellies (‘rainboots’ in Brit speak), I discovered those in a tiny place called Boutique Marmalade in Southwark. They aren’t secondhand– I bought them new. But, they were just £10, and they are top quality – they fit well and are very durable. Everyone asks me where I got them. They really are so cute.
You never know what hidden gems are tucked away inside the most unassuming of shops. I found Boutique Marmalade when I was wandering around town, walking back from the community garden where I volunteer.
These are all purchases that I’ve made over the course of the year, since January. But my latest buy was last Friday, when I finally sucked it up and bought new shoes. Proper shoes. I own two pairs of boots here, one black and one brown, and they both have holes in them. This was the state of my black boots before I threw them out:
Yes. I know, it was bad. But since they were black, you couldn’t actually tell. After a while, though, they became uncomfortable to walk in, and frayed in the front as well. So I caved and bought a new pair of decent boots that should last me a few years:
Aren’t they beautiful? They’re real leather. I bought them at the Shoe Embassy at Spitalfield Market. They were on sale, but they still cost a pretty penny- £69. They’re lined with wool, so they keep my feet nice and cosy. It was a splurge, but I think it was worth it- I walk around constantly in the city, and my feet need to be comfortable. I don’t like the idea of buying used shoes, and it also didn’t make sense to spend money on cheaper shoes that wouldn’t last as long. Plus these boots were cute. What more justification is needed? 😉
There’s nothing like a pair of smart shoes to effortlessly pull an ensemble together. You can sneak a peek of these shoes in action above, paired with my blue and white polka-dotted dress.
Let me know what recent secondhand (or new) steals that you’ve gotten!
And to those who know the Macklemore song, sing it with me- I’m going to pop some tags/Only got $20 in my pocket…