Quality fabrics and charity shops...
When I was younger, I dressed almost entirely from what I could find in charity shops. I didn't have much money and what I had had to stretch quite far so I started using them out of necessity rather than choice but found I liked shopping in them.
They made me work to find clothes that a) I liked that b) fitted and c) that I could afford. It made me think about how my clothes related to each other because if your clothes 'go' together you can easily create more outfits that look (and feel) like you have many more clothes than you do.
I didn't (and still don't have) have a 'summer' wardrobe. Instead, I have clothes that I wear throughout the year, but I wear them differently depending on the season. Dresses can be worn with tights in the winter and without in the summer, short-sleeved shirts can be layered when it's colder with a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath to keep warm. Scarves can change a look but be functional too. I view clothes are clothes and not really fashion because I don't dress to fit in but to be comfortable.
I started choosing to buy/wear natural fibres years ago. Wherever possible (I get elastane is in all stretchy things) I try to get as near to natural fibres as I can; I find the fabrics more breathable and I don't get static in my hair. Using charity shops enabled me to buy quality fabrics at a time when I couldn't afford to do this in ordinary shops.
Charity shops enabled me to wear quality fabrics that would, generally, last longer which meant I spent less money in the long run. The charity got the money they needed from the items they sold which enabled them to fund the projects that they had identified as being needed. Charity shops, for me, were a win-win idea.
Fast forward many years and I can't seem to find the quality clothes in charity shops that I used to. Yes, they are sometimes available in a 'vintage' or 'designer' outlet of an enterprising charity but not often in the run-of-the-mill shops you find on your local high street. These items are now creamed off and sold separately either online (Oxfam I'm thinking of you here) or as I've said, separate outlets. These higher-tiered, more valued items are now, you've guessed it, more expensive. I've bought them more because I buy lots of second-hand clothes and am still after natural quality fabrics.
Is this right?
I totally understand that charity shops have a remit to raise as much money as they can, but I would imagine a large part of their customers has always been those who might not be able to buy similar items full price. They are providing a valued service to those who benefit from their projects but also a hugely valuable service to those who buy their products. They were there for me as a solution to wanting good quality clothes that cost a fraction of the price new which meant I had an economic longevity to clothes buying because they lasted so much longer.
T’s coat is a really great example of quality clothing providing economic longevity. Hubbie and I bought the winter coat he wears nearly 7 years ago now. It was £120 (new) and something we really stretched to afford. We thought that as we had 3 sons (at the time) that we would get 3 children’s wear from it so that would bring down the cost in the long term. It did O for 3 years as he didn’t grow much (and we always operate the ‘too big first year, fits second-year’ attitude towards coats), H then had it for 2 years, T has already had it for 1 year and this is his second. So far, the coat has been worn for 6 winters and this year will make it 7. This makes it £17.14 per winter and next year it will be £15.
To have £120 to buy the coat initially is completely out of reach for many parents but to find this coat in a charity shop for £5/£10/£15 would be wonderful. It’s still got many years left in it.
I would like charity shops to think more about their customers. I would like them to remember that many of their customers aren’t just trawling their shops to find a designer bargain but those who are in need themselves, like the projects the charity supports, and they must not be forgotten...