When the coat you didn’t know you wanted, finds you – that’s the beauty of thrifting

It was that awful point in January when it feels like payday will never come around again. All you want to do is go for a huge January sales splurge, but your bank account says a very firm no!

This is the perfect time to hit the charity shops. Not only can you scratch your wardrobe update-itch, but you can keep your bank account healthy, do brilliant things for the planet (save clothes going to landfill, reduce demand on the super-polluting garment-making industry and more!), and the people on it while you shop. How can all that not tempt you out of the house for a good poke around and maybe your next ‘This? It’s designer, but I picked it up for a fiver’ buy?

I set off with only £20 in my purse, so there was a whiff of a challenge in the air. Could I come back with a whole outfit within budget? Well, it was either that or spend the next couple of weeks eating those mystery label-less meals that get stuck at the bottom of the freezer.

I headed to my local Barnardo’s in Whitley Bay, a brilliant treasure trove with a great homeware section too, but that was for another day. Today was all about me!

 I’m not good at freezer management, but when it comes to charity-shopping, I’m organised! I’ve got a system for scouring the rails. Start with the dresses and coats, move on to separates and shoes then a quick recce of menswear – don’t miss that bit out! I’ve picked up some great tees and jumpers in the men’s section and I love a pair of baggy men’s trousers, belted in.

My other top tip is to ignore the size label. My thrift shop mantra is that if I love it, I will make it fit! I’ve discovered this can be the reason that some very lovely clothes end up on the rails in the first place. They’ve been mis-labeled with the wrong size. So, it’s always worth judging clothes by how they look and feel, not what the label tells you. One of the other great things about my local branch is they give you 14 days to return items, so you can always take a chance on something you wouldn’t normally wear and give it a try at home. Or be super nice and just re-donate it if it doesn’t fit. It’s a good excuse to go back and pick up something else!

This is how I came across my lovely coat… it’s a size 8 (I’m a 12) and an extra long (I’m 5’2”) so if I hadn’t heard it’s siren call, ignored the label and given it a try, I wouldn’t have known that this is in fact THE BEST COAT IN THE WORLD!… and all for £9.99. Now, I really don’t need another coat. My cupboard under the stairs bursts open under the weight of outerwear stacked on hooks on the back of the door. I had to make an exception for this coat though, because it’s a magical shape-shifting thing of wonder!

It made me feel like Dr Who here, a bit mysterious, very clever and ready to take on a cyberman (not that we get many of those in Whitley Bay).


Then it had an outing to work. Board room ready! Ignore the-back-to-work Monday blues-face here – just focus on the amazingly versatile coat!


Here it is again, this time belted over a dress on its way to a conference:


And it can even do casual – look!


There is nothing this beautiful wool wonder can’t do, and whoever donated it deserves to not only feel good for helping Barnardo’s, but also for making an old(ish) woman very happy!

Even better, I still had money left in the shopping kitty!

So I spent it on these great cropped wool Marks & Spencer trousers for only £3.99. They’re not something I would normally buy, but at that price, I thought it was worth taking a chance and I’m glad I did. I think I’ll be wearing them right through till Summer.

I picked up these incredible and unworn Autograph sandals for a fiver. I can’t wear heels, but I don’t care. I’ll just put them on and look at them!


For anyone keeping count, that still left a pound in my purse to treat myself to a celebratory Curly-Wurly and a pat on the back for being such a savvy shopper.

Want to share your top Barnardo’s looks with us and feature on The-Thrift? Comment below and we’ll get in touch!



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