5 essential charity shopping tips to always find hidden fashion gems

Including where to shop to find the best designer clothes

charity shop
(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Including where to shop to find the best designer clothes

We all love the idea of finding that secret designer bargain or vintage clothing in a charity shop, but when it comes to it, hunting them down in all those racks can be a bit confusing, and more often that not we end up leaving empty-handed.

So we asked Sara Ashraf, Retail Media Manager at the British Heart Foundation, to share her ultimate charity shopping tips to get the best out of your visit.

1. Get to know your local shop managers & volunteers

Speaking to your local shop manager and volunteers will give great insight into where the best labels are located and when stock is often put out. There is even a chance they might give you first-hand knowledge of when and how to take advantage of the best items.

2. Select your location wisely

Selecting your location is very important as this will determine the quality and range of stock available in each shop. If you’re looking for higher end pieces, then make sure the location matches your requirements as pieces on display represent the demographic of the donators. Should you be looking for more high streets items, stick to a location with a higher representative of students, this way you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for.

3. Keep your eye out for designer pieces

Always look and know your designer labels as they come at a fraction of the price in charity shops. Get to know your niche designers as more often than not, the average shopper will not be aware they are designer pieces and will allow you to take advantage of these at a bargain price tag. At the British Heart Foundation, all designer items, from Burberry to Vivienne Westwood, are exclusively placed on our eBay shop. This allows discerning customers to focus on finding items online rather than in-store, with their needs being catered for and met.

4. Upcycle

Look beyond the item as just a charity shop find. Most clothing and accessories can be upcycled to create unique wardrobe staples more suitable to your preference. Upcycling is so easy nowadays - with patches which can be ironed on, tassels being easily added with pins and rips being created by pulling thread, shoppers don’t have to be a textile genius to get crafty with clothing and make it their own. Our nationwide campaign, The Big Stitch encourages shoppers to utilise basic sewing and dressmaking skills - something which has been lost in today’s generation. Don’t be afraid to pick up a needle and try your hand at sewing at whatever level. Learning these skills also gives shoppers wider options when charity shopping.

5. Time your visits

What day and time you pop in can determine what is available. Weekends are always going to attract an influx of shoppers and thus the best stock may be limited. Try and go on a weekday when traffic is quieter, giving you scope to select the most desirable items and get first dibs on products.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.