The Thrift manifesto (Part 1) - The Oxfam Oracle

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The economy may be in dire straits, but who says your wardrobe has to be? Six shopping experts give us their tips on recession-proof dressing

The Oxfam Oracle: Jen Holmes


“When you head into a charity shop, you need to totally zone out, root through the rails and be really thorough. That’s the only way you’ll get the top bargains.

“I recently picked up a pair of Gina shoes in Oxfam for $12.80. They’re classic and go with everything. My top find so far is an Hermès purse, still in its box, which cost me $6.40 from a tiny shop in Leeds. I do feel a bit guilty when I buy something so cheap and I know it’s worth a fortune, but it’s such a rush getting a fantastic bargain.

“Where I’m from in York, the charity shops are brilliant. More falluent postcodes do tend to have amazing items, although that is sometimes reflected in the price. It’s worth checking out lots of different areas.

“Charity shops are good for buying men’s clothes: the men’s section is always massively stocked and you never find men shopping in there. Last winter, I picked up a gorgeous wool coat for just $16 and I often find good-quality Thomas Pink shirts that look fab belted up as shirtdresses.

“They’re also great for homeware and quirky gifts – I once picked up an old-fashioned typewriter, still containing a letter written by the original owner in 1978!

“I write my blog A Little Bird Told Me to give tips on shopping for bargains. I’ve been doing a feature called ‘second-hand home challenge’, where I have to furnish my house entirely with second-hand items from charity shops, car-boot sales and auctions. It’s difficult, but fun and inspires people to shop in a different, thriftier way.”


Jen’s tips for charity-shop find:

Hit the shops frequently

“Shop daily. Charity stock is replenished constantly – it’s not just once a week like in the high-street stores.”

Check for hidden damage

“Inspect everything closely – check the lining for rips and look for stains and discoloration. Smell it too – certain odours can’t be washed out.”

Beware hidden expenses

“Don’t buy something just because it seems cheap – if it needs to be dry-cleaned or repaired extensively before you can wear it, it’ll end up expensive.”

Don’t pay attention to the label

“Sizing guidelines have changed over the years, so don’t dismiss something you think isn’t your size.”

Don’t ignore something just because it’s not perfect

“You can always tweak things – I often remove shoulder pads or change the buttons on jackets. If it’s too big, have it taken in, belt it, or get it shortened. Only leave it if it’s too small for you.”

Get online for more tips

“For inspiration, I check out A Thrifty Mrs, Pretty Much Penniless, Vintage Vixen and the Oxfam blog.”

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