It is often said that ‘charity begins at home,’ an old fashioned saying that is generally thought to mean that we should take care of our family and friends first, before we extend our help to others. However this has been challenged and I tend to agree this was not it’s intended meaning, in fact it was that children learn charity first in the home.
I have always donated unwanted goods to charity shops and enjoy shopping in them too. It is interesting how over the years the status of the High Street charity shop has changed. According to Wikipedia the first Oxfam charity shop opened in 1947, but even earlier than that the Salvation Army ran second hand clothing shops to provide the urban poor with cheap clothing. At the outbreak of World War Two, other charities such as the British Red Cross also started to operate shops as a way to raise money for the war effort and relieve hardship. They provide a much needed service then, as well as being a great way to recycle.
My first experience of shopping at a charity shop was in the mid-80s when I was at college. The fashion then was baggy jeans and oversized sweaters, both of which could be purchased with ease for a few pounds from a charity shop, which made them popular with the college crowd. They were generally quite good quality clothes from the 60s and 70s, woollens by John Smedley, Tootall scarves and heavy denim and corduroy skirts and trousers made by Levis and Wrangler.
I didn’t use them in the 90s, having much more expendable income and working in a large shopping centre probably had a lot to do with that. Also it did seem as though there were so many cheaper shopping opportunities there was really no need to dip into charity shops anymore. It would seem though as people’s shopping habits change, many of us now do a large percentage of our shopping online, the High Street has less to offer in the way of retail and more places to spend our all important leisure time, such as coffee shops and restaurants.
Beeston is a bit like this, although recently more independent retail outlets have started to trade, it has lost some of its High Street names and has a lot of charity shops. Maybe they are the only ones who can afford the expensive rents. The locals moan about the lack of shops in Beeston, then continue to do all of their household shopping in the giant Tesco regardless, but I like the diversity of my town.
And it seems as though the status of the charity shop has risen again. If you look at the way they market themselves, they tend to promote their bargain hunting qualities as much as their fundraising intentions. They are also full of old and unwanted things that often have a history and often items you will not have seen for years! I like treasure hunting, and you never know what you might find when you walk through the doors of a charity shop, that’s a huge part of the appeal for me.
It took me less that five minutes to spot this groovy blue 70s blouse, in our local Sue Ryder, and even less time to try it on. You won’t be surprised to find that it came home with me. It could be that as many people have been feeling the need to rein in their spending in the past decade that charity shops have become regular shopping haunts for some families, or maybe it’s the need for people to remain individual in a society that seems to like to homogenise people into groups.
Whatever the reason, I have no shame in admitting that I spend many a fruitful hour browsing the charity shops of Beeston and enjoy creating outfits and making a home based on my finds. It allows me to continue to maintain a lifestyle rich with leisure time and interesting hobbies and focus less on earning a large income. I like that fact that my wardrobe is varied to suit my mood, I have lots of clothes but don’t spend lots of money buying them, and I still find the odd bit of vintage treasure.
This make do and mend attitude was where honey bee started as a hobby and it is the ‘say no to new’ ethos that still resonates in everything I try and do with my ‘hobby turned business’ and with the work I do in the community. Now I am choosing to work part-time I am planning to get back on board with developing the wholesome honey bee brand into a small business again. Pulling together much of what I have learned in the past.
In the meantime, I shall continue gathering interesting and reusable pieces, from the shelves of these showcases of British history, and enjoying the search as much as the find. Never let it be said that I am a little bit obsessed with nostalgia…
Until next week
keep looking for treasure