Hey Bethany, can we go thrift shopping?

Cheap doesn’t have to mean ugly – BETH BALKHAM creates vintage styles at charity shops.

Charity clothes fashion mind outfits oxfam oxfamboutique salvationarmy scope shopping style thriftshop Vintage

With only twenty dollars in my pocket, I decided I’d pop some tags with Van Mildert’s Imii Mace. We set out on a charity shop trawl in search of Durham’s best bargains – but how do you shop vintage when standing in a musky-smelling shop full of unwanted Christmas presents and dead peoples’ dresses?

Our first stop was Durham’s Oxfam Boutique, a classy charity shop if ever there was one. We put together two outfits, the first fabulously floral and furry. The vintage floral print dress is perfect for spring and was complemented by a fur coat in chocolate brown (perfect for those windy Durham evenings!). Styled with a black patent quilted clutch, this girly number is ideal for a ‘sophisticated’ night out, if such a thing exists in Durham.


Classic vintage shirt. We dug this out of the men’s section for an oversized 90s look. Teamed with high-waisted jeans, vintage shirts are perfect for a casual outfit. We even found a £49.99 camera for any budding photographers out there!

The next stop on our vintage voyage was the charity shop Scope. Spotting the trending tartan, we styled a contrasting black and white miniskirt with a simple black halterneck top and statement costume necklace. With students protecting their pennies, why not try trawling through charity shops to pick up trends like this, instead of going into your overdraft in Topshop?

But it was also in Scope that we unfortunately laid eyes on the once stylish corset, and Imii kindly modelled what looked like Gran’s curtains or some sort of Princess undergarment…

Gobsmacked by the label which boldly displayed the British multi-national fashion designer’s name, Karen Millen, be warned, labels aren’t everything.

Just because something happens to be labelled Louis Vuitton or Prada and flashing a price tag of £3 does NOT mean it’s fashionable. Although it might have been once, vintage fashion is old trends that are still stylish today, so don’t be lured in by luxury but outdated labels that were left in your grandmother’s closet.

We did have some success, however, in The Children’s Society having found a bargain £5.99 oversized blazer. In a perfect pastel pink for spring 2014, the blazer would look great teamed with a pair of jeans or high-waisted shorts.


We also found Doc Marten style patent black boots, unworn, for £20. Being hard-wearing shoes, they’re practical footwear for the death hills of Durham, but are also brilliant boots for the 90s ‘grunge’ look, which could be styled with an oversized shirt or a baggy off-the-shoulder jumper.

The key to charity shop hunting is never to give up. We searched the stores head to toe for anything stylish, and in the process came across this little number

Unfortunately, the sexy shopping had to be thrown out as we continued our vintage hunt in mental health charity shop, ‘Mind’. We found a black velvet t-shirt, a similar style sold in shops like Urban Outfitters, but this was only £3.50! Styled with a contrasting pearl necklace, the velvet top is plain but pretty.

Our final stop was the Salvation Army. There are plenty of vintage oversized denim jackets in Durham and we found one for a fiver.  Not only are denim jackets a must-have, as they can be styled with almost anything and everything, but they’re handy for cold nights out. We styled it with a silk turquoise tie blouse, which could be dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a skirt and heels.

Here are a few tips for those of you now considering having a snoop around Scope or a mooch around Mind.

  1. Don’t be put off by the smell. Yes, charity shops do have that pungent smell of old age, but this doesn’t mean you have to walk straight back out the door. Anything you buy can be Febrezed to death.
  2. Persevere. Charity shops are often full of crap and stuff you wouldn’t even dress a homeless person in. BUT you have to trawl through everything to find something that fits your fancy.
  3. Don’t be embarrassed. Charity shop buyers are probably stereotyped cheapskates or the kind of people seen on Benefit Street. That’s a lie.. In fact, it’s a pretty nice feeling buying something and knowing your money will go to someone in need.
  4. Experiment. Try on things you wouldn’t have dreamt of trying on before. If anything catches your eye, put it on. With vintage it’s often the most unexpected of items that look the best.
  5.  Ignore sizes. We often associate vintage with baggy, oversized clothing, so trying on something a few sizes up is no biggy. Also, sizes change over the years, so give anything a go.
  6. Forget the death scare. Yes, quite often charity shop clothes are those of people who have passed away. But don’t let this put you off, where do you think the original owner of your recent Durham ding-dong purchase is now?

Charity shops are cheap sources of fashionable vintage clothing, so give something back to society and give the thrift shops a go. You could be in a granddad’s coat, looking absolutely incredible.