I thought I’d comment on Lynette’s post but have so much to say it’s turned into a post all of it’s own!

You can see from Lynette’s piece (published 7th April) that there’s quite a difference between shopping in a thrift store in the States and shopping in a charity shop in the UK. Gosh, I’m so grateful to her for drawing attention to these differences as now I realise that when I write about my charity shop finds a reader in America will have quite a different image in their head to how that went.

Lynette, you say you prefer shopping in small boutiques where the assistants hand you articles of clothing that suit you. OK, that intimate, attentive service doesn’t happen in a charity shop in the UK, yet. And I say yet, because UK charity shops have changed considerably over the years – some of the change has been good and some not so, and I’ll go into that in moment.

But I think the key to the difference between the two countries is that nearly all UK charity shops are really small, and easily accessed on our local High Streets. I don’t know of any big charity stores in the UK like your Goodwill stores (but do let me know, UK readers, if I’m wrong about that).  Your Goodwill stores sound, from your description, to be a little like our TKMaxx which I actually don’t like, because of the way the shop has racks upon racks of clothes that you have to rummage through in an effort to try and find your size and a style that suits you.

So for me, in comparison to the experience of shopping in TKMaxx, shopping in a charity shop is a delight!

Ah yes, the rummage sale, or jumble sale as we call it. My love of a good pre-loved piece of clothing is firmly based on the premise that I can’t spend as I used to when I was working. But unlike today’s women I had a long period not working when I had my kids – that’s over 30 years ago now! Then, charity shops were few and far between, but there was always a church or charity jumble sale at least every other week to go to. And I clothed not only myself, but my children as well, for years, from these jumble sales. Mind you, I look at some of the photos of us in the 80s and think, ye gods, the clothes, not a good look! Was it the 80s or was it our jumble sale outfits?!

But to get back to charity shops – they have a long history here in the UK. Although the Red Cross raised money through having a bazaar in Shepherd Market in London during World War I, the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind began raising money this way in 1899.

It was from the Second World War that charity shops became an almost ubiquitous and every-day presence in our High Streets. Oxfam opened its first shop in Oxford in 1947 and now has over 700 stores, and many other charities, too long to list, have charity shops selling not only clothes but also books, music, china, bric-a-brac and even bridal wear.

UK readers, do you remember how charity shops used to be? They were scruffy, a bit untidy, with clothes hanging on old metal hangers, and you had to hunt through the clothes to find anything. But, my word, the goods were cheap. Now prices are either up, going up or, sometimes, even on a par with the prices at the cheaper end of the High Street like Primark.

And why is that? Because, pretty nearly all UK charity shops are now like little trendy clothes shops where everything is beautifully set out and arranged, usually, in their correct sizes. Although, yes, there are one or two charity shops that have the clothes in shades and colours rather than your size, which is annoying – why do they do it? So, charity shops in the UK are now almost upmarket, but, literally, at a cost, as we, the customers, have to pay much more than in the past!

Do have a look at that great little film made by my friend Lorna, where you can see how small the charity shop is.   And how, yes, there are lots of different colourful clothes to rummage through, but, with an eye for the style and colour that suits you – you can find that bargain – and you can also enjoy the experience of shopping in a charity shop, at the same time!

That’s all for now, next post, next week, is on jackets!

With love, Penny

The Frugal Fashion Shopper

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