There was a stage, back in the 90s, when I was frequently dressed from head to toe in the spoils of charity shops. My friends and I could easily spend entire days rummaging through the rails of Oxfam or the Enable Ireland shop (once, on a day when we didn’t have any lectures in the afternoon, my friend H and I worked our way from the bottom of George’s Street to Rathmines, visiting every single charity shop on the way. And back then, there were a LOT). It was an era when it was perfectly normal for a 19 year old girl to march around in a 1970s polyester shift dress and what was basically an old man’s cardigan, and charity shops were full of rich pickings for those of us who had no problems with man-made fibres.
Patience and polyester
Since then, however, things have changed. Partly because I left college and had to, you know, actually work, which left me no longer able to spend entire afternoons trawling the charity shops of central Dublin in the hope of finding a 60s frock or a ’50s Norman Hartnell jumper (charity shops have always demanded patience and persistence. In order to find the good stuff, you generally have to flick through a lot of hideous tacky dross). Partly because I am 36 and now much more wary of polyester than I was in 1995. But partly because once Dublin’s charity shops started filling up with the products of the modern high street rather than grandmas’ wardrobes,there were very few vintage or indeed modern gems to be found. So it felt like it wasn’t worth the rummaging.
However, old habits die hard, and I can’t resist sticking my head into a charity shop every so often. And today my curiosity was rewarded, because I found, hanging on a rail in the Enable Ireland shop on George’s Street, a rather Prada-esque LK Bennett 100% silk day dress that fitted me absolutely perfectly. For 19 euro. I couldn’t believe it. Some short scrawny rich person had obviously been doing a clear-out, and I was the lucky beneficiary! (I did look around to see if this donor had thrown in any more treats that would fit me – a Margaret Howell shirt, perhaps – but alas no). It was a reminder that glorious bargains are still to be found in charity shops – all in aid of a good cause, too. And this time it was silk, not polyester.
So what about you? Are you or have you ever been a charity shop devotee, or does the thought of wearing a stranger’s cast-offs turn your stomach?
And if you were a charity shop lover, what were your greatest finds?