Have you ever bought an item from a charity shop because you like the fabric, and then remodelled it into something completely different?
Recently I bought some nice old embroidered antimacassars from Cancer Research. Antimacassars used to be draped over the back of sofas and easy chairs to protect the fabric from hair-oil, and similar. Perhaps people were grubbier, or sofas just had to last longer. But these items are rarely used today (except on trains and aeroplanes), and are often for sale in charity shops. I have seen this “flower basket” design many times, and was probably a really popular design in its heyday. There are five pieces (one large, and four smaller), and I think I could make a dress or top from them. The linen cloth is really nice quality. One blog I like is Trash to Couture. Laura produces some really beautiful pieces from thrift shop finds – but beware she looks like a model and can make a doily or tiny T-shirt skirt look amazing!
When I was growing up you could still get amazing vintage clothes at low prices – flapper dresses, silk satin evening dresses, amazing original shoes and underwear. But most of these treasures now find their way direct to the much more expensive vintage industry. Recycled usually means not very nice, hardly wearable or grim design. You can rarely take an item and just incorporate it wholesale into your wardrobe. I find that Shelter, a UK charity close to my heart, has many new clothes, especially the branch in Finchley Road. They get the samples from M&S and other big shops (usually with the labels cut out). These can be really great items at about half or less price. My yellow leather skirt came from Shelter and Autograph this season has the same skirt in light turquoise – obviously yellow was seen as too out there. My skirt was £60.
Yellow leather charity shop skirt
The turquoise version is in the shops for £199.
While it is relatively hard to find a really nice outfit in the charity shops, second-hand clothes can be a very cheap way to acquire antique or unique fabric, or yarn. This weekend in one of the many charity shops in Clitheroe – raising money for the YMCA – I found an extra-large knitted jumper with Rupert Bear on it. Hmm. If I were a keen knitter I would have had that and unravelled it. Instead, at Help the Aged, for just over £4, I got a tiered maxi skirt in soft cotton, lined in plain white cotton.
Obviously it’s horrid, and I haven’t attempted to style it with a toning top, belt, and reasonable shoes. My navy and white rabbit socks look ludicrous. But even with styling I can’t say much for this item. It is exactly the type of garment worn, with headscarf and sleepy baby, by Roma beggars in our nearby Edgware Rd.
However close up you will see the fabric is quite pretty, and probably made in India where it imitates a wood block print. I picked it up as it included charcoal grey, two slightly different colours of turquoise, green, white and a nice bright red pink. I was thinking it may have a role to play in my SWAP this year, with its emphasis on re-cycling.
It looks a bit like William Morris’s Strawberry Thief, at least from a distance.
Because the skirt is a large size, gathered, full length and unshaped it will yield quite a bit of fabric. I don’t know what I will use it for at the moment. Maybe a top, a scarf or even a lining.
And I bought something else. A bright blue Angora/Wool Kangol beret for £2. The problem is – it’s very itchy. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?