Thrift Shop Fashion: How To Get Completely On-Trend Using Just Wit, Guile & A Handful Of Small Change

Anyone who is familiar with the comings and goings of mainstream fashion knows that for the past two years British Vogue has resurrected a feature that originated from the dark recesses of the 1980s in the hope that it will resonate with a more financially austere Britain. However, the items contained within the ‘More Dash Than Cash’ photospread are, yes, Dash-y, but more often than not, they are also quite cash-y (cash-y? cash-ish? Will email Anna Wintour) as the true recessionista will attest (as if the problems of free market capitalism weren’t enough, it also directly contributed to the development of words like recessionista the usage of which will be limited to this first paragraph only). Fortunately, I’m here to give you a run-down of all the latest trends and explain how you can replicate them at your local charity shop or thrift store.

Fashion is very into knits this autumn/winter, thank god. This year, Fashion respects your need to keep warm, with particular reference to the ladylike austerity of the twinset. The Dame herself, Vivienne Westwood suggests that you wear your cardigan backwards and accessorise with a pearl necklace. This is a look easily replicated at your local second-hand emporium – knits are a constantly rotating stock item. The challenge will be trying to limit your scope. Obviously, you may wish to buck the demands of fashion royalty and wear yor clothes the right way round, but ideally, select items that are made with natural fibres. Wool, as always, is your friend. Even better: angora, cashmere, merino…check the labels with obsessive compulsive care. Polyester knits have a nasty habit of squeaking and shrinking with regular washing. Pearl necklaces however, are a dime a dozen. Odds are, you won’t find real ones, although a way to tell legit from not is to gently rub the pearls against your teeth. If they feel gritty, you got yourself the real deal. That said, any testing method that involves putting thrift store items directly into your mouth is to assiduously questioned before being put into practice. Do a cost/benefits analysis, that kind of thing.

As the trend-savvy will attest, there is a big yen for layering at the moment. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and the blessed Miuccia at Prada sent models down the catwalk sporting the skirts-over-trousers look. You may remember this from the 90s or a particularly stroppy time In childhood when you insisted to your poor harassed mother that you want to wear EVERYTHING. Still, charity shops are nothing if not the perfect place to try out a trend, particularly if that trend demands multiple purchases. The most important thing to remember is that for this trend to work, you must try on everything instore because the size labelling is even more meaningless than it usually is. Clothes that have been sent off to charity shops are, more often than not, a little different from the condition they were originally advertised. This needn’t be a bad thing – something labelled by its manufacturer as a size 16 might now fit a 12 perfectly. Equally, it’s often impossible to judge the provenance of clothes – if a dress was bought abroad, the sizing system could be entirely different. The point is that only true judge is your eye and your knack for proportions. Experiment, experiment, experiment. One of the many perks of thrift shopping is the assistant’s endless patience with regard to the changing room. Occupy.  Embrace the ridiculous.

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but British charity shops are full of TWEED. This knowledge behooves anyone who is fond of the whole aristo-rural thing that Ralph Lauren does more or less constantly. With this in mind, it’s best to recall that maxim of Real Estate: location, location, location. If you target smaller towns with a high level population of middle class, conservatives, by god, you are going to find some gems. There are those that disparage the art of shopping but good charity/thrift finds are really only consistently achieved with a firm grasp of the specifics of the socio-political landscape. Know your demographic is what I’m saying. Only then will you unearth the £7.99 Barbour jacket of your dreams. Good luck.

Rita Deepner writes about charity, volunteers working with fashion and additional important things.