As crowds settle on the country’s High Streets this week following the reopening of non-essential stores, the brightest shoppers can be found in charity shops and vintage emporiums for deals.
Thrift stores were ready for a flood of donations comparable to the volume received after the first lockdown ended, as millions of us have once again had enough time to empty our wardrobes.
Last summer, Cancer Research UK saw a 31 percent increase in donations, while Oxfam’s online sales during Christmas were 90 percent higher than the same period the year before.
Prue White shared her top tips for navigating the second-hand minefield as the UK’s brightest shoppers scour charity shops looking for bargains (file image)
The time is right to get on the much-loved cart – it’s an ideal way to buy sustainable garments and move away from the ‘fast’ fashion, where clothes are mass-produced at a low cost, worn a few times and then thrown away.
And with a surplus of stock in charity stores right now, bargains abound if you know what to look for.
But if you’re put off by thoughts of musty dresses and ill-fitting garments, follow PRUE WHITE’s top tips on how to navigate the second-hand minefield and create a stylish, unique look.
Go armed with a tape measure
We all know that modern sizing can vary from store to store, but when you’re shopping vintage, the nuances are even greater. You have to know your body well, because labels are sometimes missing and it is not always possible to fit pieces. Make sure you have your waist, hip and chest measurements on hand and are willing to adjust items.
If you are a good hand with a needle and thread that is perfect, but if not, then go to your local tailor. Most dry cleaners also offer a conversion service. Try this out with an item you haven’t over-invested in before handing over your most loved item.
Prue said making friends with the volunteers at your local thrift store can help you clean up clutter. Pictured: Armstrongs Vintage
Make friends with the volunteers at your local thrift stores by often bringing your own good quality clothes. Not only does this help clear up your clutter, it also ensures that you check in regularly for fresh inventory.
Keep in mind your location, though – the people you see on the street are likely the same people who make the donations, so think about where to find the best loot. It might be worth going to a fancy zip code!
Two-tone: Chanel 2013 cardigan (size 16), £ 595, ukdesigner exchange.com
Search for ‘tells’ from the designer
When shopping premium, it is imperative to know the signatures of specific brands to avoid buying counterfeit products. To limit counterfeiting, some use hologram stickers, often sewn into seams (UGG boots have these), while bags with labels like Gucci or Fendi include serial numbers. More premium retailers, like Designer Exchange, have already done this verification process, so you can rest assured that you’re buying the real thing. But the price will reflect this, so you’re going to pay more here than for a gem discovered in Oxfam.
Focus on fabric
Prue recommends investing in items made from natural fabrics for durability. Pictured: £ 68, wolfangypsyvintage.co.uk
Look out for natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk (like this pink Cacharel blouse with bib from Wolf & Gypsy Vintage in Brighton) as they are all eco-friendly and hard-wearing.
That said, some original ’70s polyester pieces will wear well without creasing – and be happy with their disco vibes, too.
Inspiration: Chanel bag, sellierknightsbridge.com
But don’t rush …
Remember, there is no going back. Most sellers, including the upscale, beloved retailer Sellier Knightsbridge, do not accept returns. Make sure you love the piece before you say goodbye to your money, but don’t dismiss something just because it’s a little bit broken. When it comes to designer handbags and shoes, it can be worth reviving them. The Restory (the-restory.com), with locations in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, will collect your item and restore it carefully.
Where you can create the fanciest, loved pieces
Determined that nothing but designer will do? Consignment stores that only sell high-quality labels are growing in popularity. If you’re lucky enough to already have some designer gear, you can sell your old pieces there too. Here’s my pick of the best stores …
Prus said Sellier Knightsbridge (pictured) has been receiving so many submissions lately that it only accepts items from very specific designer brands
The clue is in the title: Sellier Knightsbridge (sellierknightsbridge.com), in London, specializes in luxury items and sells one of the best collections of beloved Hermes and Chanel bags in the country. It is difficult to authenticate documents so that customers can be confident that they are getting the real deal.
The store has received so many submissions lately that it only accepts items from very specific designer brands, such as Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, giving you an indication of current stock levels.
A Dolce & Gabbana dress costs £ 360, and you can buy Christian Louboutin platform shoes for £ 170.
With stores in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London, the Designer Exchange (uk.designerexchange.com) is a nationwide network that buys and sells popular designer goods. The website and Chelsea store sell clothes, and the others specialize only in handbags and accessories. Buy a Jimmy Choo clutch for £ 175, or a Saint Laurent blazer for £ 220.
Based in Grassmarket in Edinburgh, Armstrongs (armstrongsvintage.co.uk) was founded in 1840 and is hailed as one of the best vintage shops in the UK. Levi’s and Wrangler clash with Burberry and Aquascutum, as well as some no-name styles from the 1950s and 1960s. Prices vary accordingly, but expect to pay over £ 60 for each branded item.
Wolf & Gypsy
Nestled in The Lanes in Brighton, Wolf & Gypsy (wolfandgypsyvintage.co.uk) is an absolute treasure trove. A boldly striped 80s Dior blazer (£ 220) sits next to a MaxMara puffer skirt (£ 70) and an authentic 1960s Wrangler denim shirt (£ 85). The website is also the most user-friendly, non-headache-inducing of all the vintage sites.
Retro Rehab (retro-rehab.co.uk) in Manchester buys pieces locally in the North West and sells vintage pieces at something akin to High Street prices. You can find Moschino Cheap And Chic cocktail dresses with gold sequins for £ 96 and classic velvet Laura Ashley dresses for around £ 80. The aesthetic is decidedly feminine – perfect as the oversized, boxy silhouette that currently abounds on the High Street. does not suit you.