Do you love beautiful, unique couture clothing, but don't have the budget to shop the boutiques? Satisfy your fashion sense and save big at the same time by spending the afternoon at charity shops. With a little imagination and a little cash, you can please your purse AND your inner Diva!DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Find out where the moneyed people donate their clothes or consign them (which means they get a percentage of the sale). How do you do this? Read the listings in your actual or virtual Yellow Pages, and if you know your area, you'll know at a glance if the shop is worth a try by the neighborhood.. This also applies to open-air market shopping. Exceptions are the big organisations that pick up donations all over the city: You might have to paw through a lot of loser stuff at these giant stores, but there are also plenty of gems.
PREPARE THE DAY
Map out a route of the places you'll be hitting, and confirm their hours: Some places are closed or have limited hours on certain days. Decide on the best day, and start out early enough to have an extra cup of coffee, use the bathroom, and otherwise make yourself comfortable before you start shopping. Use sunblock and sunglasses if you'll be outdoors a lot. Do bring water along to stay hydrated. Being thirsty can fatigue you and spoil the fun of the hunt.
I once read a tip from a savvy French Diva who wore a leotard, wrap-around skirt, and flats, and her long hair in a chignon, when she shopped the marvelous Parisian flea markets. She could "try on" anything anywhere without looking crazy or mussing her hair. It's a great suggestion if you plan to shop in open-air places. Even if you'll be indoors with private dressing areas, get your hair out of the way and wear easy-on-easy-off attire: the fewer buttons or zippers to deal with, the faster and better you can shop.
MEASURE IF NEEDED
The reason you brought along a measuring tape is because you can't always try things on if you're shopping at open-air places. So, having noted your measurements (at least I have to...your memory may be better), you can tell if something will fit properly. Just lay the garment flat, measure the bust, waist, or hips across one side, and double the number to compare it to your own. Some women like things tight. Others want looseness. Measure a few garments you like to wear. What's the excess measurement (if any?). That's how you'll know what to look for. Note it down on your index card.
BE VERY CHOOSEY
Unlike retailers, charity shops have no return policy! Make sure it is right for you, otherwise you'll just be throwing away money--and sister, when you start looking at the really good labels, they can cost you a pretty penny even at bargain prices. Be honest with yourself: Do you really have time to hem it? Will it still be a bargain if you have to pay for hemming? You really want to go on a diet just for a dress? Is that stain really not noticeable? Most women, including me, don't have time to embroider flowers over spots or patch on cute contrast fabric. If you do--more power to you! Make sure it fits well, looks good, and just plain "works" for you and your closet before you lay down your dough.
SKIMP THE ACCESSORIES
Unless you're really, really sure you can carry off a lavish hat, a six-foot skinny scarf, or a tribal-woven rug sweater...then leave it for the daring Divas. It's easy to blow a budget on impulses or add-ons that wind up being useless to you. At least, accessorise for an outfit you've already chosen--a scarf at the neck of the sweater, or a belt for the tunic dress. Then the accessory has a place and a purpose in your closet. Of course, I'm not talking about shoes or handbags: They work on their own, unless they're just bizarre. But maybe you are too,.so it's fine!
FOUR TIMES A YEAR
I find this a good span of time between shopping days, to mark the change of seasons and bring a little spice into a tired, hard-working wardrobe. But that's just me--shop as little or as much as your budget allows, without becoming compulsive or hoarding. Enjoy the adventure, and enjoy your cheap and classy finds. I know I do!
I'm purposely avoiding referring you to off-price deals at places like TKMaxx, I consider those mass-market retailers, and my purpose in this article is to get you away from them for awhile to explore the closets of Divas who travel to wonderful places, shop in selective boutiques, and otherwise buy great clothes you won't find in department stores.
This article pertains mainly to women who live in major metropolitan areas. It's really tough to shop this way if you live in an isolated area. However, you can still shop on-line with almost as much success; you just have to be shrewder about asking the seller questions to get the right fit and colour.
Shopping this way will be most successful for women in the smaller sizes; Couture in larger sizes is harder to come by, so your hunt may not be as satisfying.