Busting Open Your Comfort Zone

Hi lovely charity shop fans! I’m Carrie, a Nottingham based vintage fiend and charity shop addict who boasts an entirely thrifted wardrobe (and a prodigious collection of thrifted books too). I blog at duckduckgoosevintagestyling.blogpsot.com.

One of the things I love most about charity shopping is the fact that it really encourages an open mind approach to fashion. Whilst some might be daunted by such a range of styles, eras, colours, shapes and fabrics, I find it hugely exciting. High street shops seem so finite by comparison! Charity shopping, on the other hand, provides the ideal blank canvas to reconfigure your ideas of what constitutes ‘your personal style’, be that by trying out a colour you’d normally shy away from, a style that seems a bit eccentric but might just be worth a try, or teaming two ostensibly mismatched pieces together. Hey, why not just throw the whole rulebook out of the window – the world (well more specifically the charity shops, but let’s not quibble) is your oyster. To prove it, here’s a handy guide to shopping in sections which you might otherwise overlook.

CarrieKids’ Clothes

A cheeky tip for the uninitiated – children’s clothing labelled age 13-14 roughly correlates to a UK size 8 (you’re welcome), so if you’re petite you’ll still find some gems in amongst the baby clothes, often a lot cheaper than adult clothes too! It’s a particularly lovely section for cute patterns and florals in abundance, as well as for squealing over tiny pinafores and dungarees (or is that just me?). I was also absolutely THRILLED to discover this gorgeous checked dress in my local Barnardo’s a couple of weeks ago. It’s a sixties dream, perfect teamed with a duster coat (or my beloved woolly cardi) and some over-the-knee boots (plus, you know a few thousand other layers while the weather is a bit on the arctic side). Best of all, it was brand new with the tags still on, and only one pound, yes one pound! I was pretty sure it would fit me, as it’s an age 12, and was absolutely delighted when it did.


If, like me, you’re a magpie for an eccentric vintage jumper (the more garish the better, in my opinion – who DOESN’T want to glow in the dark?), then the men’s section is your best friend. The ‘grandad sweater’ trend shows no sign of abating and has been widely pounced on by the high street in the last few years, but you just can’t beat the true vintage original. The men’s section of your local charity shop is likely to be stuffed to the brim with lovely roomy, snuggly jumpers which are perfect teamed with dungarees, tucked into jeans or shorts, or teamed with a tighter fitting skirt or a slip dress to play around with proportions. Pringle or St Michael (vintage M and S) are your star buys here.

But that’s not all this section has to offer – far from it. If you’re ‘vertically challenged’ like me try reconfiguring a men’s shirt as a shirt dress, as Naomi showed us to fabulous effect in an earlier post (‘My Barnados Lookbook’). You’ll also find fab graphic t-shirts, amazing oversized jackets, or you could take a tip from U.S. thrifting queen Carrie Dayton and cut men’s jeans into shorts. It really is an (often overlooked) goldmine.

Not Your Size? Not a Problem!

First things first, sizing has changed an awful lot over the years. And I really do mean a lot. A vintage size 12 would be the equivalent of a size 8 today. Some high street brands (Primark and H and M for example) have changed their sizing specifications over the last few years too. My wardrobe runs the gamut of sizes from 6 to 22, simply because I believe that an item being ‘the perfect fit’ for your style doesn’t have to mean that it fits perfectly! Lots of oversized dresses will look glorious nipped in at the waist with a belt for a bit of definition. Even a black hair tie can be useful in a pinch to scrunch up some excess material. If you’re a crafty type with a sewing machine at hand, so much the better. I usually get so seduced by a pattern or style that I more or less completely ignore the size label – and I’ll be honest, I’ve never been defeated yet!

Hopefully I’ve inspired you to approach your charity shopping journeys with an ‘all bets are off’ mentality. Going in with an open mind and a willingness to experiment beyond what you consider to be your comfort zone will be the first step to finding those ‘hidden gem’ pieces which become wardrobe treasures. Happy hunting!

Spied some pre-loved finds at your local Barnardo’s? Get sharing and tag us using #MyBarnardosStyle

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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