Last week I bought a dress from a charity shop for £8. It caught my eye as the material was pretty and, joy of joys, it still had its original store label, so it was unworn, it was new.  Wow!

Mind you, I could see it was a tight and sleek cut, even more interesting it had no zip so would I even be able to get this size 12 dress over my head let alone it be wearable?  But the material was stretchy, so it was easy to put on and I looked OK in it.  Actually, I felt quite daring as it’s such an unsuitable dress for a 72-year-old, but you know what I’m like, I just felt, ‘bring it on’, and ‘who cares what people think!’

I got home and googled the name on the label – – as I’d never heard of it. Hmm! I could see this wasn’t a high-end label as the prices seemed amazingly cheap. And by cheap, I mean cheaper than Primark. There were dresses at £5. Oh, I thought, well, that really is a rock bottom price. And what’s more I probably paid more than the original price (!) but that’s OK, it was a charity shop after all.

Now, I happen to have abandoned Twitter for over a year, but in the last couple of weeks have gone back to it. I got rid of a lot of extraneous people I was following and, unlike before, when I aimed to promote the FrugalFashion blog, I’m now using Twitter for My Other Blog and, because of the political situation here in the UK, I’m following and looking at tweets from journalists and political pundits.

Late last week whilst scrolling through my timeline I came across a retweet describing how a parliamentary committee was grilling that self same label (alongside two others) for buying dresses from UK manufacturers for £2 and £3.  There was a long and interesting thread, which showed the committee cross-questioning a CEO who could not give exact costings for their £5 dresses. Two things: i) this shows Parliament at its best (but see my latest on My Other Blog for Parliament in near, if not actual crisis!) and ii) Kudos to the FT journalist @sarahoconnor for her FT investigation. I followed her instantly.

Well, that rather put me off that dress.  Will I wear it?  Not sure. Because this is exactly the kind of dress one should avoid. On reflection I might, as I did pay more than its worth to a charity, and not to a shop. Also, can I say that virtually all labels will beat manufacturers down to the lowest prices.  And don’t forget the very highest end of the fashion industry will use people to hand cut and hand sew, and are these people paid enough?  Wouldn’t know.  But the clothing industry sure is not a pretty one.  Best, as I keep saying, to buy second hand and in thrift and charity shops as there you can be sure that your money is going to do some good. And don’t forget you can get some pretty good items as well. Charity shopping? It’s a win-win all round!

Finally, thank you for decent journalism.  We need to support and thank our journalists and newspapers in these rather difficult times. And buy their papers!

Thats all for now

With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper

P.S. Watch this space as I’m aiming  to do more on makeup with videos. Just recently we filmed a makeover at my fave beauty salon Balm of Lewes and we’re editing it right now (actually Mr F is doing this).  This is a development that I’ve been thinking about for some time and could include makeovers at Balm and then me attempting to do the makeup on my own at home. Quite excited about this.

P.P.S. And on a more serious note there is another post up on My Other Blog – link on the icon at the side or at the bottom if reading on a phone.

Plus do have a look at the blogs I mention on Blogs I Love (see menu) and note that I share with several blogs through the week 🙂









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24 thoughts on “An unsuitable dress?

  • 4th December 2018 at 8:55 am

    Difficult one.You have supported a charity via the purchase so maybe ,onthis occasion,this justifies your mistaken puchase.
    I have just discovered (whisper) Giggleknickers .
    I look foward to the makeup videos….yes,I know they are in other places too.
    I reaaly enjoy reading of your finds.

    • 4th December 2018 at 4:42 pm

      I think because I bought the dress in a charity shop I will wear it, but in future I will avoid that label even if I find an item of theirs in a charity shop.

      The makeup videos are an experiment. It’s exciting but also there’s a big learning curve to go through as I can’t say I’m all that au fait with YouTube and all that goes with it! Let’s see what happens!

  • 4th December 2018 at 10:26 am

    Oh dear, I understand your concerns! Very surprised to hear that the dresses were manufactured in the UK for that price.
    The problem is that the price of or label on a garment is not a reliable indicator of how much it cost to produce and whether or not workers were exploited either here or abroad. I’ve always been wary of Primark because their stuff is so cheap that I worry how the people who make them are treated and paid. However, M&S also buy from abroad and some of their prices seem too low to have done so ethically. There was something on radio 4 yesterday about the durability of clothes not necessarily being related to the price of them. I suppose if you spend more you are more likely to keep and wear things longer but I have a coat that I bought about 20 years ago which was not expensive but has a flared skirt which is great under midi skirts and with boots.
    On balance I think you should wear the dress as that was what it was made for and maybe avoid that label in future. I wear things like this but with a cardi or shrug over to cover the tops of my arms.

    • 4th December 2018 at 4:48 pm

      When I went into the issue of cotton production I found that Primark (according to the WWF survey) has good policies but not much else – mind you it’s a start as some stores had nothing. If you’re going to buy new then with regard to cotton H&M and M&S are the best. So I’ll never feel bad about buying in H&M. Interesting that you say that about M&S asI’ve noticed that M&S prices are getting lower – and sadly that isn’t a good thing

      On balance I will wear that dress but will avoid the label (wherever I find it) in future.

  • 4th December 2018 at 11:45 am

    Having watched Stacey Dooley TV programme Fashions Dirty Secrets, she showed the environmental impacts of water to grow cotton (the Aral see it’s now the Aral pond, you couldn’t drive across a creature four hours there is no life there anymore ) As it uses 37,000 L of water to make enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Then there is the spinning and dying where Stacy took us to the Philippines where there are 100 factories discharging Effluent, a lot of which is toxic, into rivers. The river water is used for drinking and irrigation.

    Watching the CEO being interviewed was disingenuous, as the products that are sold so cheaply externalises environmental and social gift benefits of production. So that degradation is not factored into the cost of the garments, whether or not you buy it from the charity shop, Internet, or store.

    My latest by from Oxfam is a coat that was from sheep in Gloucestershire, woven in Gloucestershire and made in Lechlade. It was £100, but I reckon I will not need another coat in my life.

    Shopping from a charity shop is far better Than just throwing stuff away. But there are environmental impacts of clothes bought from charity shops.

    • 4th December 2018 at 4:54 pm

      I saw that documentary which was horrific – I did know about the water factor but to see the Aral Sea like that was so shocking. And I agree with you that not everything is rosy re: donating clothes to charity shops as a significant amount goes to Africa where it’s ruining local craft and local trade.

      Actually, we should all buy less stuff – end of. And that includes me!

  • 4th December 2018 at 11:54 am

    Buying clothes has become a bit of a minefield , hasn’t it !

    • 4th December 2018 at 4:59 pm

      I know! Yes it has! But that WWF report on cotton production showed that H&M and M&S were amongst the top 5 for so many of their questions. So I feel OK about buying H&M. But we all need to buy fewer clothes! I wonder if I can reduce my buying?! But I d feel that if you have to get something then buy in charity shops.

  • 4th December 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Ah yes, I read about Boohoo and others (including Marks and Spencer) being summoned to a parliamentary committee. Boohoo are famous for their £5 dresses which they describe as a loss leader to attract people to the site. Frankly Penny if you can look good in a stretchy dress, good on you! I also read that a lot f Boohoo’s manufacturing is done in the UK (Leicester) and although there are concerns about working practices, at least it’s UK retail jobs.

    Looking forward to the makeup videos.

    A few Brexit mentions in my Sentence a Day post.

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:18 am

      Honestly I’d never heard of Boo-Hoo! Yes, the thread showed that the manufacturing took place in Leicester, and always it’s jobs v better conditions. I mean I totally believe in union negotiated working conditions and then I realise that’s cloud cuckoo land re: that! But still £5 dresses are so bad.

      Haven’t been on your blog (or any really) for a week as so caught up with Brexit !!! Off to your blog right now as we share so many similar views! Also time has been taken up with the make-up thing. Watch this (very amateur) space!

  • 4th December 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I think that’s such a pretty dress, and amazing to think it was only £5 on the site! My son has literally just tried on four tops bought from Boohoo man, and quite honestly they aren’t good quality at all, but server a purpose for fashion at low cost!!! Thanks for sharing this post Penny – can’t wait to see the dress on! Jacqui Mummabstylish

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:20 am

      See above – honestly never heard of Boo-Hoo and for a moment wondered if it was high-end, then looked at the website and at the quality of the piece – oh! Thank you for commenting Jacqui!

  • 4th December 2018 at 1:45 pm

    There are 300,000 wearable items thrown away each year in the UK, that equates to £12.5 billion. One of that many disbenefits of cheap fashion is that because clothes are so cheap, many people, especially the young look on clothing as disposable. There is a total lack of ehthics in Business models that exclude the carbon emissions from production.

    I do know a lot about this as my work was in landfill and waste management.

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:22 am

      Oh, dear lord, to think of artificial fibre clothing going into landfill where it will never rot down. Clothes are definitely too cheap.

  • 5th December 2018 at 2:54 am

    What you found out about the company would really bug me too. Outside labels like Patagonia and American Giant, I ‘m pretty suspicious of most fashion manufacturers. I. Guess I’ vet just become pretty cynical. There are a few companies whose clothes I won’t even buy on the thrift level; any Walmart label and Forever 21 are two that come to mind. Good post Penny because this is something we need think about and I enjoyed reading the comments that it inspired.

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:28 am

      Cheap clothing seems to be such a universal situation – but there are clothing companies here who are ethical, but gosh, their goods are expensive, which they should be. We have to try and change our ways, though. In future I will avoid that label even if I find it in a charity shop. Thanks for the feedback about this post, Terri – much appreciated.

  • 5th December 2018 at 3:07 am

    It can be a quandary. You think that you’re doing the right thing then find out that you’re not. It’s the same for me with $2 shops – I wonder who has suffered to be involved in the making of something so cheaply. It took me a while to wake up, I must admit.

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:30 am

      I think we’re all waking up to this, including younger people. The only people I won’t diss re: buying cheap clothes are people on low incomes. We have to be really careful I think when extolling the virtues of the ethical clothing companies – their prices are way beyond a lot of people in the UK. That is a dilemma.

  • 5th December 2018 at 3:41 am

    Your make up videos sound really cool. Inspiring instruction will be welcome.

    Thrift shopping makes my experimenting affordable. Caution to the wind, I say! Buying an interesting fabric design on a garment too small is still doable. I simply cut it up and flip it into another piece of clothing or simply add to the sides.

    However, I agree that there is darkness lurking in incredibly cheap frocks hanging in our thrift and retail stores.

    Having lived in third world for many years where ANY job is valued, this is not a black/white judgement call.

    Your sharing is always food for thought. Cheers. Judy

    • 5th December 2018 at 8:34 am

      Thrifting is the best way to buy clothes I think! But there is even a dark side to thrifting as here in the UK I know a lot of the surplus of donated clothing goes to Africa where it has wreaked havoc on their own clothing industry. Geez – there’s always something! Thank you Judy I so appreciate your comments and feedback. Have a great rest of the week!

    • 5th December 2018 at 9:52 am

      For me marginalised people working in a factory that will cause cancer, skin lesions and birth defects is a black/white call. The reason it is an easy call, Is because none of the chief executive’s in the companies they work for our exposing themselves to health risks, the cost of the garments can be manufactured cheaply because the health and safety of their workers is meaningless. The cost of the garments can be manufactured cheaply because the health and safety of their workers is not costed into the sale price of the garment.
      In role on landfill assessment that I made there was not one family that had not been cruelly affected by birth defects and cancer. It was not garment manufacture but mining, and the slurry from the mining was just placed on agricultural land, it was mountainous in this area and the leachate from the mining slag went directly into reservoirs. This water was used for irrigation of crops and drinking.
      Look at Bhopal, decades later the adverse medical conditions inflicted on the workers still not settled. No individual working in the pharmaceutical company in the West has suffered because of this, have they? Or are or are they all still on big bonuses?

      It’s not just the manufacture of garments it is in food production (loss of forests for palm/soya ), mining for metals, jewels . Where is the bauxite mined So we can have a can of Coca-Cola, where is the Bauxite sludge left? Of course it affects wildlife as well, not to mention all the watercourses.

  • 5th December 2018 at 10:45 am

    I bought something at Boohoo a few times. Now let me tell you that I havn’t bought something new in months. Only pre loved. And at this moment a Dutch designer is making me a dress. But you did buy it in a charity shop so wear it, otherwise it’s money spend. Btw, I want to see you in that dress!

  • 5th December 2018 at 10:51 am

    I don’t think we will ever persuade everyone to buy secondhand, Too many people are too proud or too squeamish or snobbish to do so but I see no problem with buying these labels second hand. As you said the charity in question will benefit.

    As for these labels and their working and business practices it’s a Catch 22 because the consumer should be able to insist on improvements but that will cause the cost of the clothing to increase which some consumers won’t like…

    I shall continue to shop second hand forever!

    BTW it was a very pretty dress and I bet it looks fab on you.

  • 7th December 2018 at 11:42 am

    Late commenting – as ever! However, this has given me the opportunity to read all the comments; fascinating. When I saw the initial photo of the dress, I thought it was lovely and would suit you. I still do. Obviously when you bought it, you knew nothing about the manufacturer. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! My mother used to make all my clothes. When I was a student, she made me a gorgeous maxi coat. This was later converted into a midi coat. How I wish I could sew… I think posts like this are so important. They encourage us to think carefully about what we buy and throw away.

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