Charity Shopping: Mrs B's Mini Guide.

Even before my cash dwindled, I was a passionate charity shop advocate. Everyone loves a bargain, a one-off, the thrill of finding an item in your size and your size alone. But it ain’t always easy, especially now so many people are on the hunt for vintage and magpie-like types swoop down on items for their eBay stores (and all credit to ’em!) But necessity now dictates that I spend less, and so I have to put in the legwork. Armed with the right attitude, your own bags and ready cash, charity-shopping can be enjoyable…and let’s face it, sifting through those rails can do wonders for the upper arms…

Used with kind permission of Wrongun / All Our Hearts Content.

I’m not usually the prescriptive type, but I’ve been asked about my charity-shopping habits several times of late. So here goes: the Dos and Don’ts that have helped me navigate a fantastic resource…



…suss out the area:

Any seasoned charity shopper knows – you can tell a lot about an area by its charity shop selection. Shops in ‘wealthier’ areas are likely to stock the more high-end high street items – or designer if you’re lucky. The shops near my last house had a wealth of Monsoon, Linea and M&S Autograph ranges, with few items over a fiver – if you find the area that has the stuff you like, you’re onto a winner.

…mean business:

If you’re in a rush, you gotta get brutal. Prioritise. Divide and conquer. My experience tells me that I have most luck with shoes, coats and skirts (in that order), so when time is short I make a bee-line for those sections. Some shops group by colour rather than style, and in that case I steer clear of colours I rarely wear. By the same token, if there’s something specific you’re looking for, head to that section first (I personally am always on the look-out for silk shirts). If there are a few items, make a list to keep you focused. Whatever it takes! Last week I did four charity shops in the five minutes I had to wait for a bus, and I came out with the item I was looking for – it can be done!

…buy things you love

On the other hand, if you’ve got bags of time, you should have fun. Want to try something different, but couldn’t justify the outlay? Now’s your chance, while you’ll get change from a tenner. I dipped my toe into leopard print with a £3 skirt, and I now have a small but fabulous array of colourful dresses that I would never have bought at £50 a pop. You can also forget about ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in a charity shop, and just try on things you like.

They said, "NO!" I said, "Yes."


…forget about the seasons:

Would you feel weird buying a lightweight dress in the depths of December? Or a thick winter coat in July? (If you’re British, it’s likely you greeted that question with a knowing sigh – summer is being rubbish again.) Well if you’re on the ball, that’s the way to do it: I’ve found all my best second-hand winter coats in the warmer months when everyone’s hunting down flipflops. As the summer-resistant type I avoid skimpier items…but if I was more carefree I would be buying silk vests by the armful when everyone else is looking for jumpers. You get the idea.

…milk them for all their worth!

Much as I love unearthing something that’s both beautiful and a bargain, I also use charity shops when hunting for basics. When I’m short of cash I resent forking out my precious money buying boring black skirts for work, or a waterproof coat for northern Britain’s inevitable downpours. So I hit the charity shops, and they’ve not let me down yet. Same goes for something you’ll only wear once, such as fancy dress costumes, or a replacement bag when the strap on yours breaks on your way to an interview.

The Joker and I both shop at Oxfam, you know.




…bother with fast-fashion cast-offs:

Charity (and even vintage) shopping can be a pain these days – 50% of donations seem to be from Primark or Matalan. Each to their own, but I resent forking out for an item that probably only cost the same new. I know that it’s for charity, but it’s the height of ‘false economy’ to me unless it’s an emergency purchase. There are better discoveries awaiting you. Promise.

…buy underwear:

If you’re the type of optimist that believes a hot wash will sort everything out – good luck to you, my friend. When it comes to underwear, my motto is; “neither a borrower or a lender be”…so I’m sure not going to don a stranger’s knickers. Some people  also draw the line at footwear, refusing to go where other feet have gone before…

Be careful now, Li-Lo...

…neglect the other sections:

So you’ve had no joy with the women’s clothes? Cast your eye over the men’s and kids’ sections. I’ve found cardigans and t-shirts for 13 year-old girls (and at half the price), and my favourite pair of trousers came from the men’s section – easy to shorten, and beautifully tailored, too. Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll come away with bagfuls, but it’s always worth a shot. Also good spots for scarves, gloves and hats.

…duplicate because it’s cheap:

I know whereof I speak. I’m a sucker for tan leather clutches, and if I see one in every charity shop I visit, I will buy one in every charity shop I visit. It’s a waste, both of your precious budget and of the items themselves – don’t give in to the siren cry of materialism, and let some other nice soul find pleasure in them.

"I'll take all of them."

…buy without checking the crotch:

Or underarms. This one came from Mr Bossa, after he made an unfortunate discovery when queuing to buy a second-hand suit. Do I need to elaborate?!

What tips would you give for charity shopping?

Have you had any charity shopping disasters?


Other must-reads:

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Budget Fashion: Can you afford to shop ethically?

Northwest is Best: What happened to charity shop bargains?


How to Colour Block in Vintage…Whilst Moving House.

Isn’t moving fun?!!

Moving Day - used with kind permission of Mariel Clayton

I’ve moved the blog with relative ease – did you notice? – but the house move is proving to be much more stressful. So I’m keeping it light today (there’s enough heavy stuff lying around here) with a little peek at one of my new vintage faves – from Fashion Pearls of Wisdom’s Shop Street Style.

This is the perfect antidote to these grey Manchester days – a shocking pink dress. Bored of black and feelin’ bold, I decided that a dress this colourful needed…more colour. So I cinched it in with a purple belt, dug out my favourite turquoise heels (featured in the header), and took it our for a spin with my orange clutch in hand.

Dress and belt - vintage, shoes - Kurt Geiger via charity shop

At one time I wouldnever have worn pink because of my red hair, but it’s now one of my favourite combinations (gender-coding aside, of course!).  Just shows – your hair can be a valuable accessory.

See those boxes behind me? That’s my freshly-packed shoe collection. Not the most glamorous of backdrops, I grant you, but I wanted to give you a little insight into what an organisational geek I can be. At least when it comes to shoes. If only I could say the same about Mr B…

36 hours to go until we move…so wish me luck!

Any last-minute tips for surviving the move?

And are you this nerdy about your shoe collection?!


Outfits and Vintage and Shoes – Oh My!

Well, what a month March was, eh? I have to say, I enjoyed doing the Feminist Fashion Blogger posts and getting my teeth into something really juicy. From some of the comments, it looks like you did too – the debate on here was fantastic.

But…I still have shopping needs, my friends, and I still had my wardrobe cull money burning a hole in my pocket. So let’s start the week off with a little look of some of my recent outfits and fashion finds, shall we?

I wrote recently about my little family trip to Blackpool, a bracing and blustery seaside town on the north-west coast of England. Unfortunately the pics of my Carrie-esque white ankle boots disappeared, but I did manage to salvage a couple of one of my favourite vintage skirts:
And lo! Another lightswitch.
Want a gratuitous vintage bag close-up? Course you do:
Glad I painted the old nails…


The vintage bag was my great-grandmother’s; I nabbed it before my brutally-tidy mother donated it to a charity shop. My great-grandmother had good taste, no? I’m quite sentimental about heirlooms, and got a little choked up when I found her old hand mirror inside. I never knew her, but she is one of the ancestors I inherited my red hair from.

Wearing some of my favourites gave me a thirst for a few new threads. I actually went a little wild; not in quantity, but in style – Mr B displayed a tremor of fear when I mentioned the fact I’d bought orange silk trousers… They are pretty fabulous though:
On a more demure note, I bought this vintage silk dress for a few pounds. It doesn’t look much on the hanger, but when I belted and donned my tan heels, I felt great. Like myself. The effect was unfortunately undermined by my attempt to show my sister how high I could kick…when I ripped a hole round the bottom button.
This baby was advertised as a Mad Men-style dress – which is enough to get many a girl drooling. It has all the magic ingredients for me: a pussybow neckline, an unusual print…and just the right balance between ugly and ladylike. Behold, my darlings:
And oh! I almost forgot! Look at these stunning vintage shoes – immaculate condition and in a beautiful combination of cream tan and brown leather. Yummy.
What are your most treasured items of clothing?
Have you found any bargains recently?


* * * * *
Like this outfit post? Or is there another kind of post you’d like to see more of?
I’m having a re-think for Mrs Bossa Does the Do, and would like input from you, my readers.
Click the image below to take a quick survey.

Mrs B's Bargain Buys.

Thank you all for your comments on my second Body Image post. I’m so glad I bit the bullet and got all emotive on your asses. 😉

Anyway, in the spirit of that post, I’m chucking another couple of outfit posts your way. I made a bit of cash on eBay after my Wardrobe Blitz, and so it was with light heart and a spring in my step that I set off on an expedition to the local charity shops. I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the selection – everything seems to be from Matalan and Primark so can’t have been more than a few quid to start off with – but I did nab a few cheap treats.

I was so excited when I found this vintage dress for a mere £3. A rich cherry red with black detailing, it has flattering sleeves and a cute little belt. In case you’re interested, that second shoe-shelf down is in the header of my blog…

I think I was channelling Penny Dreadful in this one…

Shortly after I found these boots – I have a real hankering for grey boots these days, inspired to no small degree by one of Vintage Vixen’s latest outfits. I already have several pairs, but you know the score; it’s this magpie-like tendency that means I have 13 tan leather clutches. Totally unnecessary, 100% satisfying.


They’re grey with a low-ish heel and a few straps and cost £4. I don’t know where they’re from, but I think they’re understated and simple and they’re ever so comfortable, you know. I’m not sure what the upcoming trends are on that score, but my ankle boot love continues apace. I was just glad to find some that I could walk in without having to do preparatory ankle exercises or call my chauffeur. (that was just a little joke – in reality, being a northerner, I have to work 27 hours down the mines and walk 15 miles home before preparing bread ‘n’ dripping for my 9 children – we can’t afford chauffeurs at present).

I also found this lovely little blouse, in a colour I’ve coveted for ages without ever finding the right style. This is the one for me, my friends – in a pussybow style with a Peter Pan collar, for £3.50. White bra though – what a faux pas, eh, fashionistas?! I know you’re all gentlemen so wouldn’t have mentioned it.

As if my Special Shoe Rack wasn’t exciting enough, there’s also the Bossa Lightswitch.
I’m getting into the swing of this now. Stay tuned, chickens, for next week’s outfit posts from the glamorous BLACKPOOL…

What do you think?

Have you found any bargains lately?

Orange IS the only fruit.

Instyle magazine

It’s no secret that colour is gonna be big this year. So, after my recent post on wearing colour, I’ve decided to branch out.

Folks, I’m embracing orange

Jaeger AW 2011
Orange has cropped up all over the catwalks, from Jaeger to House of Holland, and although I draw the line at orange stripey socks (they are cute, mind) I do think it makes a great accent colour.

House of Holland AW 2011
Yet again, finances mean my only option is to delve into the depths of my existing wardrobe (and since I threw half of it out last night in a ‘fit of pique’, that was much easier than usual). I don’t know how I forgot about it, but I unearthed this lovely orange leather clutch that I found at a vintage shop in Prague…

Here it is again, having lunch somewhere near  Malostranská Beseda. I was a mere 23 years old…
And again, at a wedding in 2007. I look quite impish, don’t I?

So, lovely bag, never fear – you will get an airing this year. And I think it’s quite a restrained step, considering I’ve embraced it with such gusto in the past:

Mrs B as Cyndi Lauper, 2006
How will you be wearing orange this year? 
Will you be wearing orange this year?!

O vintage shops, how you call to me, call to me…

You know how it is. 

You hit the town, telling yourself you can only justify buying something practical – in this case, a black cardigan. But after two hours of listlessly rifling through uninspiring dark knitwear, you get bored. “This isn’t what shopping is about!” you exclaim to yourself. Then your eye is drawn to something in Yves Klein blue. Something silk. The practical black cardigan couldn’t be further from your mind as you race to claim this dress as your own…

This is the way it went for me, at Dirty Blonde vintage shop in Stoke Newington. I have to say, they had some really special items, including an entire colour spectrum of dresses, and a beautiful array of silk shirts. As you know from my one of my last posts, I have a thing for silk at the moment, and when it’s such a stunning colour, and it fits…well, how was I expected to resist? 
The shoe boots are M&S Autograph, via Oxfam.
The drape and folds are beautiful.
So, no black cardigan then. But at least I’m not a selfish spendthrift; I also managed to nab a fabulous BCBG skirt in orange leather for my sister’s birthday present…
So, dear readers, do you think I’ve been naughty or nice? 
Which shops always manage to weaken your resolve?

My need for tweed.

After my last Friend Friday post – and with a little encouragement from some helpful readers – I have decided to give some more outfit shots a try. I don’t know if my day-to-day wardrobe will hold up to daily scrutiny, so instead I’ll share with you two of my recent charity shop bargains. On me. And I’ve even included my head in some of them.

Oui Set silk shirt, tweed skirt, both from British Heart Foundation.
I love pussy bow blouses, but this is a more relaxed take:
I think I might be one of the palest people in the world…

So, with this silk and tweed combination, I feel I am well on my way to embracing the heritage chic I so love – and all for less than a fiver. May need to work on the hair though…

What autumn bargains have you discovered…?