What NOT to buy in a charity shop

Surprise! For once in this post I’m not going to be singing the praised of all the amazing things I’ve picked up in my local charity shop (like a £1 dress etc). Instead I thought I’d let you in on a few insider secrets on what to look out for as a red flag telling you to leave something on the rack.

1. Tassels

This might be rather niche, but if anyone has ever tried to wash a tasseled dress you’ll know it rarely survives the journey (especially if it’s a bargain high street buy). So, steer clear unless you only need it for one fancy dress wear and then are happy to throw it away. I’ve learnt the hard way (several times!)

2. White things

A sure giveaway of the fact that you’re wearing old clothes a faded white shirt. Unless something is donated as new I always try to resist second hand whites as they never look quite the same. I wear 90% thrifted but that remaining 10% always goes to whites (and of course underwear/swimwear). Wearing second hand definitely doesn’t have to look dated – when you’re picking up stunning timeless pieces and fun on trend high street buys, you can certainly look up to the minute. But mix it in with a bright white tailored shirt bought new.

3. Check for stains and rips

Even as a veteran thrifter I still sometimes discover flaws in my purchases when I get home. Be sure to check thoroughly in store, especially along seams and collars – or discover the magic of Pinterest for cleaning and fixing tips.

4. The correct size

This may sound a bit backwards but what I really mean is always try things on. My wardrobe ranges from a 6-16 and you really can’t just grab the size 10 rack without seeing the cut. Vintage sizes are far smaller (I wear a 12 at least, compared to my usual 8) and high street sizes are all over the place. Definitely pop to the fitting room and you may surprise yourself!


5. Things to sell on

To be honest even I have mixed feelings about this one! On one hand, as long as you pay full price to the charity shop (please guys – don’t negotiate!!) it’s a sale for them and therefore all gravy. But…it also somehow feels like you’re taking the fun out for other shoppers. Someone would’ve been over the moon to find that £3 Karen Millen bargain (and will probably tell about 10 other people how awesome charity shopping is a result) but instead you’ve put it on eBay to make a (normally quite measly) profit. I’ll let you decide…but it’s just a thought.

6. Well worn shoes

Now this is definitely not a universal tip as I’ve got some amazing charity shop shoes in the past (just check out my Bargain Shoes YouTube video for proof. However, be sure to try them on and have a wander round the shop. If they’re well loved they’ve probably be worn down unevenly to match the previous owners gait, and it can be quite unhealthy (not to mention uncomfortable) for your body to try and correct this. Just be sure they balance well and you’re not being pulled crooked.

7. It’s not your destiny

Finally, thanks to my new found love of decluttering with Kon Mari I suggest you only buy things you truly love. If it’s a total steal but doesn’t fit right or suit your colouring – don’t buy it. If it’s a fancy label but hits in all the wrong places – don’t buy it. If it’s exactly on trend but you just don’t love it – don’t buy it! I think you see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t have to be something you’re going to wear for years to come, but you have to love it so much that you’re running home to change into it even though you’re not leaving the house all evening and no one will see. In a strange karma way I really do believe that item is waiting for someone in particular. If you buy it, promising yourself that this time you really will take up the hem to fit your 5’4″ frame, you’re depriving that willowy goddess on her way in next of her find of the century. Let it find it’s rightful home and save yourself the guilt of re-donating it unworn and out of fashion in 6 months.


So, here’s hoping that’s saved you a few wasted pennies and buyer regrets from now on. I’d love to hear your thrifting tips in the comments below, and any hard lessons you’ve learnt from buying mistakes. Now, off you go to find some amazing goodies to love and cherish!


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  1. Kat May 28, 2016 / 10:22 PM

    My personal rule of thumb is not to buy items which originally came from places I wouldn’t shop on ethical or quality grounds – so no second hand Primark or supermarket branded clothing. This won’t be true for everyone, but for me charity shopping is a way to ‘upgrade’ my wardrobe – allowing me to wear clothes from places by budget wouldn’t let me shop in first hand. So I’m looking for stuff from places like Zara, Gap and Fat Face, so that the saving is sizeable, rather than buying things that would only have cost a few quid new anyway!

    • paupertoprincess May 29, 2016 / 4:34 PM

      Great thought! It’s so true that it’s a great way to afford brands normally way out of your price range. Like the idea of a wardrobe upgrade…. catchy! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Charlotte May 29, 2016 / 5:07 PM

    I agree totally on sizing … I find that a lot of things I have bought from charity shops are not my usual size and I tend to think this is why they have ended up there in the first place. I have a beautiful pair of size 5 ankle boots (I am a size 7) and they look brand new so I tend to think that someone who was a size 5 bought them and then they were too big …

    I tend to agree with Kat too … unless I fall in love with something. I rarely buy primark but I have a daschaund print dress that I just couldnt leave!

    • paupertoprincess May 30, 2016 / 1:11 PM

      Yeah occasionally they are right on the money!

      Wow – I’ve never tried on shoes that aren’t my size, just clothes – will have to give that a go!!

      Thanks so much reading <3

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