I’m totally gripped by a thread on Netmums this week, which poses the question: ‘How do you feel about buying clothes in charity shops?’ Well, I reckon I source about three quarters of my wardrobe - and a goodly proportion of the Misses Ps’, too - from the likes of Oxfam and Sue Ryder. (Not to mention shedloads of books and bric-a-brac - call me a tight-wad, but I would never buy a paperback or a butter-dish new.) Luckily we have no less than seven charity shops from which to plunder these riches in the small town I call home. (People often write to the local paper to moan about this, but these people are morons.) It means I can go into a different one every day of the week if I wish to. And sometimes I do, since Help the Aged is now open on Sundays.
Why give your custom to charity shops? For the thrill of the bargain, of course – and let me tell you, anything that originally came from Monsoon which now has a £3.50 price tag has got to be a good buy. Besides, it’s green – you’re giving a new home to something that might otherwise have gone into the ground. And it's ethical. (Whether ethical enough to offset the remaining 25 % of my retail choices - involving as it does Very Cheap Clothing Stores - I do not know.)
Some of those commenting on the Netmums thread find the whole idea, well, a bit gross. They cite sweat, dead skin cells, fleas, and verrucas as reasons why you wouldn’t. Lordy, but it’s never crossed my mind that there might be 'hygiene issues'. Often I don’t even bother washing my sweat-drenched garments once I get them back home – unless they truly do boast that lingering essence of Nan’s Knicker Drawer. (On which note, I can confirm that I do steer clear of charity shop undies. I have some limits.)
It’s true there are some pitfalls. You won’t always (although you do sometimes) get just what you’re looking for. You must be prepared to pitch up, rummage, and take what you find. And you won’t always (although you will sometimes) find anything that can call itself this season. At my age – when classic is a better bet than high fashion - this is of no consequence. I also tend to be a bit gung-ho in my purchasing, rarely troubling to visit the changing rooms on the basis that if it doesn’t fit, looks all wrong, or turns out to have dubious stains on the armpits that weren’t obvious in the shop, I can re-donate it and my money’s gone to a good cause rather than down the drain. Needless to say, this happens frequently.
On a final note, may I remind any charity shop refuseniks out there that all the best celebs have taken lately to parading the red carpets in second-hand clothing. What you’ve gotta remember, when people stop you to say, ‘ooh that's nice, where did you get it from?’ is that the right response is not ‘Oxfam’, but, ‘It's vintage, darling’.