Thrifting: A Guide to Charity Shops around Nottingham

It’s a known fact of university life that keeping your wardrobe fresh can be a bit hard on the ol’ purse-strings. One excellent source of clothes that are both cheap and of good quality, but doesn’t seem to be taken advantage of, are charity shops!

I am a serial charity-shop raider; I would be surprised if anything over 50% of my wardrobe was bought new from the high street. Obviously, I buy basics (leggings/jeans/socks/underwear) new, and I usually buy my shoes from the high street as well (though I’ve added a note about buying shoes below!).

I do love charity shops, though – you can find quite a lot of on-trend items in there for far less than the high street, and quite often supermarkets will donate their unsold clothes stock to the nearest charity shop, so you can get brand new items as well for a fraction of the price!

The three outfits below were all put together from items I found in charity shops in Beeston, all on a typical Saturday morning; I spent a maximum of ten minutes in each shop finding items, so the idea that finding ‘good’ clothes in a charity shop is a load of rubbish! Beeston has a great selection of charity shops (Salvation Army and British Heart Foundation are my favourites), though Hockley in the City Centre has some amazing ones too (White Rose and Sue Ryder are great).

British Heart Foundation

Dress: £2.49 (George at ASDA, new with tags)

Necklace: £3.99 (BHF, new with tags)

Boots/tights: Writer’s own (Deichmann and Tu at Sainsburys, if you’re curious!)

I fell in love with this dress, so much so that I bought it! It was brand new with tags, and is super comfortable, with a great silhouette. It looks like jersey or a wool knit, but it’s really breathable, and could easily be worn as we move into warmer weather. I’ve got an interview next week that I was struggling for outfit ideas (I left my ‘smart’ clothes at home…) but this dress will probably be my choice! Wear this style simply with tights and either some chunky boots or some smart loafers, with a simple cardigan or jacket over the top. I just picked this pendant elephant necklace off the rack, but it could work with any necklace, really – just make sure that it isn’t too short, as it might not be the most flattering for your neckline.

Salvation Army

Jumper/tunic: £3.99 (H&M, men’s)

Necklace: £2.75

Leggings: £1.99 (H&M, ladies)

Shoes: £2.99 (New Look)

I am a big fan of the oversized sweaters trend that seems to have taken hold this past winter, and this outfit isn’t that different from what I would usually wear. The leggings and slip-ons just make this a really comfy outfit, and it matches the ‘athleisure’ trend that’s everywhere at the moment!

H&M is known for its comfortable and affordable clothes, and the leggings are no exception – the fact they’ve been pre-owned just makes them more comfortable, like your favourite t-shirt! The shoes and necklace add a little glamour to the outfit, but overall it’s just a simple but effective outfit! Plus, Salvation Army have a great student discount on clothes (10% during the week, 20% on Saturdays), so there’s no excuse!


Skirt: £3.00

Top: £2.00 (Tu, at Sainsbury’s)

Shoes: £8.50

Tights: Author’s own.

This outfit is a nice prelude to spring, I think; the florals and autumnal tones make it a year-round outfit, which could easily be dressed-down or smartened-up, depending on the occasion! This skirt felt comfortable and trendy; the top was just a basic tee, but such a gorgeous colour! The Chelsea Boots are just a wardrobe staple by this point, and these were really well-made – leather, with a structured sole to support your feet.

If you’re looking to buy more from charity shops, here are a few general tips to give you a bit of a hand!

  1. Be careful when buying shoes. Shoes are given to charity shops either because they’re not liked anymore, or because they’re damaged/worn through – check that the pair you’re looking at is there for the first reason! Look for any obvious tears or rips in the fabric, or issues with the seams. It’s worth looking inside the shoe as well; some shoes can hide some awful secrets! If you’re looking at some structured boots/shoes, make sure to try them on first – more expensive shoes like Dr. Martens or heels will have shaped themselves to the shape of the original owner’s feet, and it will take a while for them to fit your own feet!
  2. Wash any clothes you buy. Most of the time charity shops will not wash donations, so clothes could have come from anywhere – the previous owner might have smoked or had pets, which can spell disaster to those with allergies or asthma! Just wash your new purchases on a regular cycle when you get them, then they’ll be right as rain! That being said – don’t be put off if something smells a little funky, the smell will more often than not wash out really easily.
  3. Consider paying a bit more. Charity shops are there to fund incredible causes, more often than not ones that help to save lives. If you’re buying a top that would normally be £10 and you’re getting it for £3.50, consider adding an extra £1.50 to the donation pot by the till! You’re still getting at 50% off, and being an even greater help to the charity you’re buying the item from!
  4. Check carefully before you buy. One of the worst things about buying from charity shops is getting home and realising that the hem of your new top is coming unstitched, or your cardigan is missing a button – make sure to check every item carefully before you buy it – but if you think you could repair the fault easily, don’t let it stop you from purchasing!
  5. Consider buying gifts from charity shops. Quite often people will donate unwanted gifts to charity shops without even taking them out of the packaging, making charity shops a great place to find presents if you’re in a pinch. While it is advisable you think twice before buying them a crockery set that looks like it hasn’t been used since the 80s, if you see a book or knick-knack you think someone might like, get it! At Salvation Army I was tempted into buying a microwaveable heat pack (still in its box, sealed and unused) that was priced at £3.99 – when I checked on Amazon later it was £10.39! Charity shops often carry their own products as well, like notebooks, bags and sweets, so consider buying those as well!

Charity shops are a great way for the impoverished student to get some great new clothes at amazing prices. Even if you don’t like the idea of wearing other people’s hand-me-downs, quite often there are new-with-tags items for sale as well, so keep an eye out! Happy shopping!

Ellen Smithies

Image Credit: Fabian Blank via Unsplash

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