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Sunday, 21 March 2010

Secrets of my wardrobe Part 1: Charity Shops

I've long enjoyed dressing in my own unique 'Momtaz style' which is characterised by mixing and matching bright colours with different patterned prints and textured accessories. The most accurate portrayal of me on Mastercrafts was my wardrobe - what you saw was very much me - I wasn't dressing up for camera, just wearing what I normally wear.

I do not believe in dressing down, more you can never dress up enough....a philosophy that's been with me since primary school where I loved not having to wear school uniform. At secondary school I took every opportunity to revolt against the rules by sneakily wearing jewellery underneath my shirts and pulling my jumper up around my collar whenever I walked passed the headmistress. I'm extremely proud that I pulled this off for our year photograph at the end of Year 11; out of 180 pupils I managed to get away with wearing beads!

When it comes to shopping I'm always on the look out. I don't assign particular days as shopping days, wherever I go, my eyes are peeled for bargain items that fit into my style - generally wearing things that I know I'll never bump into someone else wearing and things that are very cheap!

It always surprises me when I hear stories of celebrities saying how much they love shopping in charity shops, it's such a cliche - clearly they can afford to buy designer clothes and as if they actually have time to scout around local charity shops....

On the other hand, I go to charity shops at every possible opportunity and a quarter of my wardrobe is indeed second hand, purchased whenever I go to a new place or town in the UK. One quarter of my wardrobe is handmade by me or customised, one quarter is bought in sales and the remaining quarter is a mixture of places like markets, holidays, clothes swaps - I hardly own any items that I have paid full price for from a normal shop in fact I can't think of a single item.

Yesterday I was visiting a friend in Harrow and on the way stopped by some of the charity shops just adjacent to Harrow on the Hill shopping centre.
In Scope I found an amazing beaded shawl, the photo doesn't do it any justice, it is so stunning in real life and it cost just £2.75.

It was prefect timing as I was able to wear it to a glamorous gala dinner and fashion show last night - people were very surprised I wasn't looking colouful for once but it's good to keep them on their toes - it's a rarity to see me in pale colours but it's still a very unique look. The hat was £2 from a charity shop, the floaty dress was £6 and bought damaged, I attached some shoulder straps to it and embellished it with some shiny acrylic gems.

I have recently been on the look out for jackets as the seasons begin to change. The best thing about charity shops is because you are spending less you can buy more, so I bought these two jackets for £3 each from Traid. Both fit me perfectly but are a little dull so I intend to customise them. The top one is a woolly felt cropped jacket and the one below is woven.

As I mentioned whenever I go somewhere new I and visit it's charity shops. Last year I was passing by Aberdeen for just 45 minutes and during that time squeezed in 10 charity shops and this is what I uncovered, an amazing dress, the most comfortable I own, it's so wearable for almost any occasion and was just £2 - it was a size 16 and it took me a mere few minutes to adjust it to a more flattering size 10.
I know charity shopping involves a lot of luck but if you're prepared to look around and keep an open mind it's a very rewarding way to shop!

Here are my top 10 rules for clothes shopping in charity shops:

1. Do you 'love' the item? Only buy things you honestly like and can picture yourself wearing
2. When will you wear it and what with? It's sad when you buy something and think it will go with something you don't own, you may never get that item and it will cost more money to purchase one, only buy what you can wear straight away.
3. Does it fit? Buy clothes that fit you well as you are likely to wear them. If it doesn't fit think carefully how and where it can get altered and what the cost for alteration would be, if you can't alter it yourself. It may not be worth buying it if, you'll end up spending much more to change it.
4. Is it value for money? Increasingly people buy cheap clothes, wear them less and dispose of them, it's sad but true that charity shops across the UK are being flooded by Primark rejects - just don't fall into the trap of paying more for a second hand item then you would if you bought it new.
5. What kind of condition is it in? Some things in charity shops look old and worn, it's up to you if you want that look but it's better to only buy things in good condition because again you are more likely to get more wear out of them.
6. Where is it from? Look carefully at brands and labels. A friends of mine bought an amazing original Harris Tweed jacket for just £1 in a charity shop, clearly it was worth so much more - these types of high value items are the ones to keep your eyes peeled for.
7. Shop around. Don't despair, you won't find things suitable for you in every shop you go into so go in knowing this. Go to all types of charity shops, remember stock changes and what you find in British Heart Foundation will be different to what you find in Age Concern.
8. Get to know the staff who work in your local charity shop - tell them the kind of things you're looking out for, i.e a coat and ask them to put aside things they know you'll like. This only works if you're a friendly regular and you build a genuine relationship with the staff.
9. Stick to your budget Just because things are cheaper it doesn't mean you should just buy things, you still need to be aware of your finances, apply all the above rules to ensure you show sensibly.
10. Enjoy yourself! Shopping in charity shops is not for everyone but everyone should give it a try! Treat it like going into any other clothes shops, try items on, pose in the mirrors, and test items you wouldn't normally think would suit you. Keep an open mind and when you're tied of looking at rails, leave - charity shopping is not a chore, it's a fun activity that's a good way to feel good about yourself - remember you're not just pleasing yourself, you are raising money for charity too.


  1. What fab advice, being an absolute bookworm I am always looking for craft and recipe books in charity shops, but don't think i've bought clothes since I was a student - will look harder now x

  2. I love charity shops for picking up craft items, like knitting needles and great cotton dresses to cut up for patchwork - I know, sacrilage!

  3. I totally agree that charity shops are brilliant places for craft items, one of my favourite finds is other people's crocheted blankets, such works of art and so affordable!

  4. I really enjoyed this post, thanks for the tips. Your dress and shawl combo is utterly FAB, i love the whole look.....xx

  5. A fab post! I completely love charity shops and if I'm anywhere new always head into one. I used to mainly look for books, accessories and things that fitted me, but now my sewing machine skills are increasing I'm pleased to say that i'm getting more adventurous in my buying!

  6. I too am a charity shop fan, but you have a real eye for spotting great items! thanks for engrossing post.

  7. Brilliant, informative article. I too am a charity shop nut case and love to alter and customise things.