Not much to report this week apart from we’re now wearing masks outside at all times and not just for going into a shop. It’s interesting. We’re doing this because of the new variant that originated here and the fact that there are so many cases currently in the UK. Yes, there’s a slight decrease in numbers after nearly 3 weeks of this latest lockdown but even so, the virus is now much easier to catch so, no surprise here, I am not taking any risks. Anything not to get it. Mind you, doing this makes me understand just a little more where those nuts who are mask-haters are coming from, as it really isn’t quite as pleasant doing our daily walk. Despite the cold temperatures the face gets sweaty, and the mask becomes wet really quickly. Furthermore, my glasses constantly fall off my nose as the mask strap and the specs vie for space behind my ears! And you can’t see me smiling!
Still, needs must.
The walks continue to be spectacularly beautiful, especially when the sun shines on the sea.
The swimmers usually go in on days when the sea is as flat as a pancake – it would be rare to see people swimming with the waves like this.
As you know, I am usually a cup half full person and here are some things that are making me feel quite positive – note the quite! Not saying I am totally over the moon about this year so far but hey, congratulations America on the successful inauguration of Joe Biden as your 46th President. Hurrah for sanity! Lady Gaga – wow – wasn’t she stupendous and wonderful!
Another reason to be cheerful is that most of the over-80s in the block (must be half the owners of apartments here) have now had their first vaccination. Hurrah for a more normal life to come!
And wowser! I’ve been booked to be interviewed live on Zoom by Trisha Cusden, founder of Look Fabulous Forever, not on makeup but on my approach to buying clothes. Hurrah…. oh, wait a minute I’m quite an introvert made far more so by this pandemic, so my first thought on being contacted was, not sure, should I, could I? I’m a writer not a performer. But hey, of course I said yes, as I do have things to say.
Although this interview is not until April, it’s always good to gather ones thoughts, so here is a compilation of my views and reflections on buying clothes.
When and how did I become a frugal shopper?
I wasn’t always a frugal shopper. When I worked I earned enough to buy what I fancied, when I liked. For instance, when I was on a national project based in London, I bought my office suits in Jaegar – that’s an expensive brand. I had numerous jackets to go with the skirts and had silk shirts galore. There are no photographs of me in this work gear as we were just not into the constant photography we do now with our phones. And during that time, for the days I didn’t work it was jeans every time, jeans dressed down for the day and dressed up in the evening.
Then I retired and for about 3 years after that the office suits were slowly discarded and I wore jeans non-stop because after all, I was ‘off-duty’. And here’s a pic of me in the kind of gear I wore all the time (taken in 1993 during my working years) wearing black jeans with one of those big cardigans that were so popular then, and is rather similar to the one I have now.
My kids were teenagers then and are now in their 40s! That’s Pete with his red hair, and Susie who inherited her dad’s natural curls.
But back to how and when I became a frugal shopper! I was beginning to get bored with the constant jeans-wearing, and then the turning point happened. Just over ten years ago I got ill and lost a lot of weight, as in two stone, that’s 28 pounds, and I wasn’t at all overweight. Anyway, I got over it (it being an unfortunate encounter with antibiotics) but the consequence of losing so much weight was that not a stitch of clothing fitted, I needed an entirely new wardrobe. But where from? Because, people, I was never particularly clever with money and my pensions were so not the best. I absolutely could not replace the clothes I needed from the High Street, not even the cheapest shops, and did I want cheap, as in cheap and nasty? No I did not. So I started visiting the local charity shops and found that I had a knack for finding the really high quality items. I never looked back.
So there you have it that’s the why and when. But I can hear some of you say, well I wouldn’t go into a charity shop anyway. I usually reply by asking them whether they are remembering charity shops as they used to be – rather scruffy and indeed scuzzy, with ghastly clothes. But charity shops in the UK have really upped their game. They now emulate small boutiques and are pleasant places to be in.
Then the cry is but how do you manage to find anything? I never can. So, how do I find good quality clothes? Well, it’s like this:
- Get to know your area. If you keep seeing really awful clothes in all your local charity shops, then this is not the place to shop. Go further and find a town or city with charity shops that have better quality clothes – those shops are there.
- Be prepared to look often, but, be prepared to walk out with nothing. These shops are not like the High Street fashion shops, they don’t have a rack full of midi skirts or black jeans or party frocks, it’s serendipity. You look and you pounce when you find something. But you do not buy for the sake of it – walk out of that shop!
- Be aware of what is the current fashion, and yes, I am saying that, as what you want to do is find a cut-price version of the ‘in’ thing to buy.
- Learn to recognise a good charity shop. I can now walk into a charity shop and very quickly assess whether it’s worth my time even before beginning to look through the racks.
- And when looking through the racks of clothes, run your hands along the rack to feel the material – is it wool, is it cotton, is it linen, is it silk, is it leather? Stop when you find quality material, if it’s your size, even better.
More reasons to shop for second hand clothes
- You can experiment. At the moment I am wearing mostly ‘comfortable’ clothes. Like the rest of the population, I’m not going places. But charity shop shopping allows you to experiment with your style. Do you want to be a bit more risqué? Do you want to be a bit more adventurous? Do you want to be elegant and stylish, but cannot afford designer wear? Truly you can find designer gear in charity shops – you just have to look. And you can experiment by buying clothes at rock bottom prices. This is one of the key reasons I buy in charity shops – the hunt for the style. I have an image of me being a little bit goth, a little bit steam-punk, most of the time I don’t achieve this, but it’s fun thing to aim for, being steam-punk(ish).
- Honestly it’s such fun to shop like this. The thrill of the hunt – I love it! Pic taken 5 years ago but that skirt cost all of £3 and I wear it a lot.
And finally, this way of shopping is ethical. It’s win-win, you have found an item that suits your budget, and given to a charity. And you are keeping the item from landfill.
We all know that there is a huge problem with our way of life and our constant consumerism. I’m also aware that there is a huge trade in second-hand items that are sent in bulk to Africa ruining local manufacturing. Btw, have you seen that an exhibition on African fashion is being planned for 2022? I shall be first in the queue for that, as I remember a similar smaller exhibition at Brighton museum a couple of years back which was excellent.
But at the very least, if you can give a second-hand item of clothing a home that has to be a positive. You are re-using, re-loving and re-affirming the life of a garment. I’d say that has to be a good thing.
I totally admit that I have a passion for fashion. With all the shops closed including charity shops I confess I am still on the hunt for clothes. I am not trawling the entire internet but I do look at M&S and Mango websites and I do buy items but only I hasten to add from the sales section – so I’m still being frugal!
That’s all for now, but do let me know if you have changed your mind about buying from charity shops. Is it a fun experience for you?
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper