PICKING up the leopard print blazer mum-of-two Beckie Bond’s heart started to pound with excitement.
The soft texture and smooth lines – she knew instantly it wasn’t cheap.
‘And I was right,’ says Beckie. ‘It was Moschino – and I paid just £8 for it in the Debra charity shop where I live in Swindon, Wilts.’
Looking online the same blazer, which dates from 1995, retails for between £150 and £500 with vintage fashion lovers desperate to get their hands on one.
Trendy pop-up car boot-style stalls are all the rage across big cities in the UK and vintage shops bump up the price of clothes from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
But Beckie knows if you’ve got a keen eye and are prepared to dig through racks of hangers you can get the best designer bargains in good, old-fashioned charity shops which line virtually every high street in the UK.
The 38-year-old, married to careers coach Dan, 39, and mum to George, 12, and Betsy, 10, visits the shops in the areas surrounding her hometown weekly.
And even when she is on holiday she can’t resist popping into charity shops to fulfil her thrifty urges.
Now her wardrobe is jam-packed with designer bargains which cost as little as £4 as well as fashionable Marks & Spencer outfits for a tenth of their original price.
‘I also got some never-before worn Dolce & Gabbana men’s jeans from Cancer Research UK for £8,’ she says. ‘They sell for between £385 and £775 so it is mad they were on sale so cheaply.
‘They actually fit me and I love them. My husband doesn’t care. He loves Ben Sherman shirts and I am always bringing them home for him.’
Beckie, a data governance manager, also picked up a grey Max Mara women’s blazer, believed to cost around £395, from Sue Ryder for £15 and another one from Mind for £6.
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‘I love them,’ she says. ‘They are really smart for work. I didn’t just buy them for the label although of course I was chuffed when I realised they was designer.
‘I also love the colour and texture. They are nice and smart.’
Meanwhile two pure linen brown and cream Nicole Fahri tops from Debra cost Beckie £4 – rather than their RRP of £225.
But her favourite recent purchase might be a giant £4.99 Osprey bag from Age UK.
It should have cost in excess of £100.
‘I even have clothes that have a link to royalty,’ she says. ‘I got a Paddy Campbell velvet dark green skirt which is a little snug but I love
‘He attended Charles and Camilla’s wedding.’
It’s not clear how much the skirt cost new – but other items of his have previously sold in the high hundreds.
She doesn’t just buy clothes, picking up accessories including a ‘quirky cassette tape bag’. ‘I love it,’ Beckie says. ‘It came from a shop in Dubai and was on sale there for £100 – I paid £2. I’ve not worn it much because of lockdown but I will.
‘I’ve got size nine feet which makes shoe hunting harder, but I managed to find some leather Banana Republic boots for £8.99 which are great.’
Beckie’s top five charity shop tips:
- Look for what suits you, it’s not a bargain if it doesn’t fit or suit you
- Feel the fabric – it’s the sign of a great design and whether it is expensive
- Try and go earlier in the week, people donate at the weekend
- Avoid the weekend – they are so busy and things get nabbed quickly
- Be prepared to trawl through the rails and be patient. It’s all about commitment
‘I’ve got one wardrobe full of stuff but it is a bit overflowing,’ she admitted of her hobby, adding she re-donated stuff.
‘But I don’t spend loads of money because although I go regularly I am cautious about how much I am spending.’
Beckie, who visits charity shops weekly, attributes her skills at finding designer items to perseverance.
‘I go all the time,’ she says. ‘I just pop in and see what’s been updated so it doesn’t interrupt family time.
‘It is like a hobby and I love being there on my own just rummaging through the rails.
‘You have to sift through things but I have got pretty good at spotting what is designer.
‘It’s not necessarily what’s currently fashionable. Often it is more neutral or richer colours, softer fabrics or cleaner cuts.’
Beckie is praised for her style.
‘People compliment me on my clothes and I always say to them ‘oh it is from a charity shop – and it is designer,’ she says.
‘But I have had some duffs. I bought a silver coat because I really liked it but I just have never worn it. It doesn’t go with anything.
‘Now I’ve learnt you should always go for style over fashion. I love high heels. I will never wear them.
‘Classic, stylish items will always look fabulous.’
And she says there is no shame in shopping in charity shops. ‘I’ve been shopping in them for 10 years,’ she says. ‘I know some people are snobby about them. I always wash the clothes when they get home.
‘In the past 18 months I’ve only bought one thing that isn’t from a charity shop. Sustainability is so important.
‘My daughter is now borrowing loads of my clothes so hopefully I’m starting the new generation.’
For more real life stories, check out this woman who was a homeless single mum who couldn’t afford a loaf of bread & is now set to turnover £100k.
Plus lockdown nearly killed their fashion business but sisters Natalie Reynolds and Lexi Panayi are are making £600k a month selling face masks – and Sam Faiers is a fan.
And one woman gambled her life savings to set up a chalk paint business – now Frenchic is worth £16m.
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