Second hand clothes, first rate fashion: charity shop shopping at Myton Fargo Part II

Second hand clothes, first rate fashion: charity shop shopping at Myton Fargo Part II
Second hand clothes, first rate fashion: charity shop shopping at Myton Fargo Part II

October seems to be a bumper month for awareness campaigns.  As well as yesterday’s World Mental Health Day, we are mid way through Hospice Care Week.

Hospices provide palliative care to those with life limiting illnesses. This means that patients admitted to hospices do not recover or leave the facility, except perhaps to spend their final few hours at home.

The annual Hospice Care Week is a time of celebration and action intended to raise the profile of hospice care in the UK and change people’s perceptions of them.

My paternal grandmother and aunt were both cared for by a local hospice, as was a friend’s mum.  I know that they provide vital emotional support as well as medical supervision during the darkest time that individuals and families face.

Hospices are staffed by doctors, nurses and volunteers, but unlike NHS hospitals, they only receive around one-third of their funding from the government.

As a result, hospices throughout the country rely heavily on charitable giving.

An easy way to support your local hospice during Hospice Care Week and beyond is to frequent their nearest charity shop.  

I was delighted when The Myton Hospices, a charity operating three hospices in my area, invited to me to undertake a style challenge at their newest store, Myton Fargo, on Far Gosford Street in Coventry.

I was so amazed and overwhelmed by the fantastic stock that the original terms of the challenge went out the window and I spent a happy day creating a week’s worth of outfits from their racks and rails.

Shortly afterwards, I returned to Myton Fargo with a view to shopping for myself.  In honour of Hospice Care Week, I thought I’d share two items from that haul with you.  Both chime with current and emerging trends from the catwalk, demonstrating that second hand doesn’t mean out of date.

You can use second hand clothes to create first rate fashion.

AW17 Trend: The Cardigan

I’m not a slavish follower of fashion trends but I do love to watch what’s happening on the catwalks as they can (can, not always!) be a great source of creative inspiration.

However distinctive our own style, we could all do with a new twist or turn sometimes.  One way to do this is to see what top designers are doing and integrate elements of that into our look.

It’s not about replicating an outfit top-to-toe, even if we could afford to; rather it’s seeing an idea with fresh eyes.

Case in point this season: cardigans.

For the last decade, they’ve been safe in the stylish hands of Michelle Obama while we all donned sweatershirts and jumpers.

Now, as always happens, the fashion tide has turned.  It’s all about cardigans again!

Even as an ethical and minimalist dresser, this lured me in like a siren.  Oo yes, I thought.  A cardigan is just the thing! (Easily influenced?  Me?  Perhaps).

Myton Fargo provided just the thing: a gorgeous red wine coloured number.  It’s chunky knit incorporates interesting detailing, including what I think is moss stitch on the sleeves (I may be wrong on that!).

It’s an easy wardrobe update that’s also warm and comfortable.

Just look at those buttons!

SS17 Trend: Princess Diana

Princess Diana was a huge style icon during her lifetime and twenty years after her death, her influence is having a renaissance.

Echoes of her famous outfits were evident across the recent Paris Fashion Week, notably in Virgil Abloh’s collection for Off-White, which included Naomi Campbell taking to the runaway in white cycling shorts.

A tad more wearable than cycling shorts is this amazing paste choker.  Myton Fargo shared it on their Instagram feed and I actually drove there the following morning especially to buy it.

An over-reaction?  Maybe.  But it all counts as research, especially having written recently about Princess Diana and costume jewellery!

Nothing has stronger associations with Lady Di than large blue sapphires so it’s a simple style reference – a way of nodding to the trend without going full-blown homage.

Unless, of course, you want to wear cycling shorts.  In which case, go right ahead.

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Charity shop shopping with Myton Hospices: My vintage fashion charity shop adventure at Myton Fargo, Coventry

Charity shop shopping with Myton Hospices: My vintage fashion charity shop adventure at Myton Fargo, Coventry || raeritchie.com
Charity shop shopping with Myton Hospices: My vintage fashion charity shop adventure at Myton Fargo, Coventry || raeritchie.com

I love nothing more than a good rummage in a charity shop so was super excited when Myton Hospices invited me to do a style challenge in their latest store, vintage fashion focused Myton Fargo, Coventry.

Myton Hospices is a charity based in and around Coventry, near to where I live in Warwickshire – right in the centre of England.  For the last thirty-five years, their three hospices have provided palliative, end-of-life care to local people.  In the UK, although hospices provide vital support to the NHS (National Health Service), they don’t receive any government money.  They therefore rely on fundraising to cover all their costs.

Along with events, charity shops (also known as thrift stores, op shops and Goodwill elsewhere in the world) are a central to these fundraising efforts.  In 2016, Myton Hospices raised £8.8 million to ensure their essential work could continue (that’s $11.9 million, €9.96 million, ¥1.325 million, AED 43.8 million).

Vintage fashion focus in Myton Fargo

They have twenty-one charity shops around the Coventry and Warwickshire area, and Myton Fargo is the latest, having only opened three weeks ago.  For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may remember my delight and despair on the launch day: delight at the amazing stock, despair at the Carvela loafers that weren’t in my size!

Myton Fargo takes its name from its location on Far Gosford Street.  This is the heart of Coventry’s new creative quarter.  The shop is directly opposite FarGo Village, a collection of independent businesses including vintage stores, a second hand bookshop, a sustainable clothing manufacturer ethical eateries and a micro-brewery (I’ve previously written about tenants Heaven Vintage and Positive Clothing).

The area’s vibe continues in the Myton Fargo store.  The shop is specifically focused on vintage fashion and retro goods, although there some excellent new and nearly new items on the racks and shelves too.  Manager Angela had her own vintage fashion business so has an eye for what to stock and every item is hand selected, much of it from the charity’s central storage facility.

The charity shop shopping adventure

My brief to style one outfit with a budget of £20.00 ($27.00, €23.00, ¥3,000, AED 100.00) went out the window within minutes of arriving at Myton Fargo on Saturday morning.  There was so much treasure in there that I wanted to showcase more than just one ensemble!

Instead I put together eight looks that I’m featuring on Instagram and Twitter every day this week.  Head over and take a look!  I’m asking people to guess how much they think each outfit costs and would love to hear your estimates.

And because these eight outfits *still* weren’t enough to do Myton Fargo justice, below are some other examples of their awesome stock.

I want to highlight the range of clothing available in charity shops / thrift stores / op shops.  You don’t have to be into vintage to love them!   They’re a great place to experiment with new styles, whether vintage or otherwise.  You can also pick up pieces that nail current trends without turning to the high street and fast fashion.  Plus as you’ll see, workwear and special occasions are catered for as well!

At this risk of stating the obvious, it’s worth reiterating the sustainable element to charity shop shopping too.  By buying second hand, you’re keeping textiles out of landfill and recycling perfectly good materials while putting much needed coppers in the pockets of the charity in question.

If you live near to the English Midlands, I’d encourage you to find your nearest Myton Hospices shop and check them out for yourself.  Wherever you live, pay your local charity shop a visit and support a good cause while securing a bit of loveliness for yourself!

Your favourite charity shops

Where are your favourite charity shops, thrift stores and op shops?  I’m always looking for recommendations so comment below or on social media to share your suggestions.  I’d also love to hear about your experiences of charity shopping.  What’s been your best bargain?  What little gem have you snapped up?

What I found in Myton Fargo charity shop…

This season’s trends

What really stood out for me during my five hours in the Myton Fargo charity shop (yes really – five hours!) was the amount of stock that ticked this season’s fashion boxes.  Here are some of my favourite examples!

Two of the big colours at the moment are red and pink, both of which have a reputation as being difficult to wear.  Uncertain as to whether they are for you?  Buy something suitably hued from a charity shop and you have a great cheap way to play.

Colour without commitment!

Patterned midi dress?  Yes please!  Totally on trend, totally a bargain!  Size XXL but vintage clothing usually comes up small, plus this could be belted.  Cost: £15.00!

I’m normally a bit reluctant to feature Primark clothing in my discussions of second hand clothing, partly because I think even buying used supports fast throwaway fashion, partly because the quality isn’t there.  However I couldn’t resist giving this beautiful beaded collar a shout out!  It’s an easy way to get on board with the fashion world’s newly rediscovered love of pearls.

Primark cardigan, size fourteen, cost £3.00 ($4.00, €3.5, ¥450, AED 15.00).

Accessories

The selection of accessories in Myton Fargo was as lust inducing as the clothing, with a whole range of tastes catered for too.  I’m again having not-buying-shoes regret but I was so preoccupied with what I could you show you lovely people that I didn’t have the brain space to consider charity shop shopping for myself!

From the accessories, I put together an edit of items that I think are particularly awesome.  These are pictured in the grid below and I’ll be offering them to my mailing list in the September newsletter.  Of course you can always be in with a chance of getting your hands on them by signing up 😉

Workwear

Even if we don’t work in an office with a dress code, sometimes we all need an outfit that’s a little bit smarter.  Charity shops can help us achieve that without having to spend full price – but still snapping up some reputable brands.  Here are Myton Fargo highlights!

Top to bottom:

Vintage tunic style shirt, size fourteen, £3.00 ($4.00, €3.50, ¥450, AED 15.00).

Whistles dress, size twelve, £5.00 ($4.00, €6.00, ¥750, AED 25.00).

The Kooples ombre shirt, size small, £7.00 ($9.50, €8.00, ¥1050, AED 35.00).

Marks and Spencer Autograph retro style dress, size fourteen, £8.00 ($11.00, €9.00, ¥1200, AED 40.00).

Christmas

Yes, the C-word in September! But there’s less than one hundred days to go now and I believe that it’s never too early to begin planning for it – especially if it helps avoid a last-minute panic that results in over-spending on something itchy and ill-fitting that you only wear once.

Myton Fargo stocked plenty that would be perfect for a Christmas party or a more formal event.  There will be more about this on Instagram and Twitter this week, but for now here’s just one example: never has the Mrs Santa look been so retro fabulous (nor demure!).

Cost for this size small, unlabelled vintage dress: £15.00 ($20.00, €17.00, ¥2.260, AED75.00)

 

Best of the rest vintage

 

Top left to bottom right:

1980s denim overall style dress, size medium, £12.00 ($16.00, €13.50, ¥1800, AED 60.00).

1990s velvet waistcoat, forgot to note the details – oops!

1980s Mary Quant velvet dress (yes! Mary Quant!), size twelve, £25.00 ($34.00, €28.00, ¥3775, AED 125.00).

Windsmoor houndstooth check jacket, size eight, £12.00 ($16.00, €13.50, ¥1800, AED 60.00).

Classic vintage pattern cotton skirt, size medium, £6.00 ($8.00, €6.75, ¥900, AED 30.00).

1940s style orange lightweight knit cardigan, size medium, £5.00 ($4.00, €6.00, ¥750, AED 25.00).

Sailor style black and white dress, size sixteen, £7.00 ($9.50, €8.00, ¥1050, AED 35.00).

1960s dress coat with matching shift dress*, sold as a set, size medium, £10.00 ($13.50, €11.00, ¥1500, AED 50.00).

Blue and white silky dress, size extra large, £6.00 ($8.00, €6.75, ¥900, AED 30.00).

* Lightly stained but no doubt dry cleaning would sort this.

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Heaven Vintage’s Fab Fill A Bag vintage fashion sales: a new way to buy vintage clothes

Heaven Vintage's Fab Fill A Bag vintage fashion sales: a new way to buy vintage clothes || raeritchie.com

Please note that this post has been sponsored by Heaven Vintage – but all views & enthusiasm are my own! 

Browsing a vintage fashion sale always sounds like a good way to spend a Saturday morning to me, but especially so when I heard that Coventry’s FarGo Village favourites Heaven Vintage had created a new way to shop with their ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events!  Fuelled by a lovely filter coffee from The Big Comfy Bookshop, I headed into FarGo’s central atrium to find out more.

We’re all familiar with the usual ways to pay for vintage clothes.  Mostly items are individually priced, but there are also sales where customers pay according to weight – typically £15 upwards for a kilo of clothing and accessories, sometimes with an admission fee on top.

However Heaven’s ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events are different.  With their unique concept, you shop the racks and rails full of vintage fashion then take what you want for bagging up.  Whatever fits in one bag, you get for £10.  Want more vintage clothes and accessoires?  Fill another bag for £10.

It’s that simple: a tenner for a bag full of whatever vintage fashion you choose.

Not only is it simple, it’s great value!  If your friend chooses all lightweight blouses but you want a beaded dress and a leather jacket, you’re not penalised as you would be at a pay-per-kilo sale where the heaviest items cost the most.

Two customers rummage through the vintage fashion at Heaven Vintage's Fab Fill A Bag sale
What might we find?

 

Whatever vintage clothes you fill your bag with, you will be getting a good deal. 

Well folded and rolled, you can squeeze a deceptive amount into the clear plastic bags that they provide (sized 39 x 45 in the summer and 56 x 45cm in the winter).  You can leave with at least a couple of outfits for the price of one or two cheap items off the high street as well as knowing that that you’re doing your bit for the environment by doing some super cool clothes recycling.

The weight of the bag I filled?  1.75 kg.  That would have cost *at least* £26 at a kilo sale.

Instead it cost £10, and I could have got even more goodies in it if I’d wanted to.  (You can also win the edit that I selected; check out my Instagram for more info on how!).

Literally a treasure chest filled with vintage silk scarves
Literally a treasure chest!

There are other reasons for loving the ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events too.  There’s the thrill of uncovering a hidden gem that comes with their deliberately jumble sale vibe.  Heaven Vintage owner Angela grew up rummaging around in church halls for treasure and that’s the feeling that she wanted her customers here to experience.

Angela’s presence at the end of the tables is another plus point.  She knows her Adidas from her Zandra Rhodes so go chat to her about what you’re looking for – there’s none of the too-cool-for-school vibe that pervades some vintage emporiums.  On the contrary, ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ has a refreshingly friendly atmosphere.

I chatted to first time visitors (including a mother and daughter from Minnesota in the States!) as well as Heaven regulars.  Monthly customer Susie told me that she loved coming because it allows you to dress a bit wacky.  She is totally right.

Because of the low prices, you’re not afraid to experiment with items that you perhaps wouldn’t normally try.

This is true for vintage connoisseurs as much as complete newbies to the scene.  Alongside some new branded and high street goods (I saw several unworn ASOS dresses, complete with original tags), there are retro classics including cut-offs, plaid shirts and wax jackets.

 

This vintage fashion sale stocks plenty of vintage clothing classics such as the cut offs on this table
Vintage fashion classics, from cut offs to plaid shirts

The huge range of different styles represented on the hangers covers various decades and offers something for all tastes.

There’s everything from classic British labels to US imports to rarer European brands.

 

Two happy customers with a bag of vintage clothes leaving the Fab Fill A Bag vintage fashion sale
Happy customers!

You’re bound to find at least one piece, no doubt more, that makes your heart go a-flutter.  Several days later, I’m still slightly gutted that I missed out on an amethyst Liz Claiborne edge-to-edge wool coat.  Damn that Susie!  I’ll be sharpening my elbows when I see her at the next one 🙂

Don’t forget you can win my edit from this sale!  Check out my Instagram for all the details.

The next Fab-Fill-A-Bag sale is Saturday 16th September (11am to 4pm) and Sunday 17th September (11am to 3pm) at FarGo Village, Far Gosford Street, Coventry, CV1 5ED.  For more information, check out Heaven Vintage’s Facebook page.

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#CharityTuesday: Today’s Second Hand Style Haul

#CharityTuesday: Today's Second Hand Style Haul || raeritchie.com

I’ve recently started appearing on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio’s Brody Swain show.  Every few weeks, I turn up and talk about the day’s more lighthearted news stories with Brody and a couple of other guests.

This is fun in itself, but it also means that I’ve got a great excuse to regularly pop in to a row of my favourite charity shops on the nearby Trinity Street in Coventry city centre.  Together they represent three great causes, including two with local links: Mary Anne Evans Hospice, Cancer Research UK and The Myton Hospices.

The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was linked to a skirt purchased from one of these, as I’ve talked about before.  I say in that post that it was from Scope but I think it was actually the Mary Anne Evans Hospice Shop – which is the store I didn’t have time to go in earlier.

Here’s today’s haul and how I plan to wear each item.  I’ve love to hear what you’ve picked up recently in charity shops and what you’re doing with it!  Comment below or pop over and tell me on Instagram or Twitter.

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#CharityTuesday: Today's Second Hand Style Haul || raeritchie.com

Black pleated skirt, £3 (The Myton Hospices)

Knowing how much I wear my navy one, I was chuffed to spot a similar skirt in black.  I’m already imagining it at Christmas with a winter white jumper (yet to be purchased, but I was eyeing up a Finisterre with RNLI one on Pebble Magazine this morning).

I’m thinking of swapping the self-coloured buttons to houndstooth check ones.  Any thoughts?

#CharityTuesday: Today's Second Hand Style Haul || raeritchie.com

Farah men’s vintage fit t-shirt, £3.75 (The Myton Hospices)

Since going to see ‘North: Identity, Photography, Fashion’ at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery back in the spring (soon to be on show at Somerset House), I’ve been aspiring to channel the casuals’ look – largely by wearing my partner’s slim fit Fred Perry t-shirt with my Adidas Gazelles.  I can now branch out to wearing this t-shirt too.

It’s a beautiful jersey cotton that I’m hoping will also contrast nicely with the silk of wide leg pyjama style bottoms!

#CharityTuesday: Today's Second Hand Style Haul

Khaadi long length shirt, £3.00 (Cancer Research UK)

A quick Internet search revealed that Khaadi is a Pakistani clothing brand, which isn’t surprising given the design of this shirt.  I loved its colour, softness and overall look, which is about as near to boho as I ever get.  As Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricketer turned politican, is one of my style icons, it feels like this was meant to be mine!

For now I’m planning on wearing it with linen trousers and tucking in the front.  I saw the latter on a street style blog and it caught my eye.  Loving the popularity of shirts at the moment as I live in them and I’m getting lots of inspiration on different ways to wear them (see also below for more!).

20170815_170736

Top Lady blouse, £2.00 (Cancer Research UK)

The sight of this on a rack is what pulled me into the store when I thought I was done with my Myton Hospices purchases!  I’ve yet to find anymore information about the brand.  It isn’t one I’ve encountered before.  If the style alone didn’t scream retro then the ‘Made in the UK’ label indicates it has to be of a certain vintage!

Turns out I first saw the blouse from the back.  It’s actually a button up with a pussy cat bow, which is nice in itself but I’m determined to try wearing it the other way round as I think it looks amazing that way.  Just need to ensure I get dressed and undressed with my partner around!

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Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry’s Godiva Festival

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

I’ve recently written about Positive Outlook, a conscious clothing company based with a store in Coventry (and also available online!).  While researching this piece, I became more aware of the flourishing vintage scene in Warwickshire and the West Midlands.  Obviously I’d have been surprised if one of the huge trends of the last decade or so wasn’t evident around here.

Still it’s been fun to discover local sources for gorgeous second-hand goods!

I was able to delve further into this new-to-me world when at Coventry’s brilliant Godiva Festival this weekend.  FarGo Village, the city’s home for independent creative businesses (including Positive Outlook), hosted a vintage marquee and I had a good rummage while chatting to various stallholders.

Before I introduce them, I want to say a huge thanks to my partner Mark for patiently holding my Pepsi during the time I was in the tent.  The bars were refusing to give out lids and it’s hard to browse racks, rails and table tops with an open bottle of pop in one hand!  He’s waited outside a lot of shops and stalls as I’ve conducted important research 🙂

So if you’re committed to conscious clothing, here are some great central England sellers.

 A Little Bit of Vintage

Birmingham based Kathryn’s stall stocked some real gems.  With the label ‘vintage’ too often used to describe clothes that are simply used, it was refreshing to see racks filled with genuine old school items.  I was particularly taken with a colourful patterned housecoat and a red and white dress comprised of a peplum top and pencil skirt, complete with original red patent belt.

Kathryn also had a range of compacts, fans, purses and bags, all at great prices.  She’s on Facebook if you want to find out more.

I wish I’d bought: one of the lovely little bags, but I couldn’t choose between the woven one and beaded one (okay, I could have bought both but this was only supposed to be a research trip!).

Martha’s Bazaar

If you’re looking to create a distinctive look then check out Martha’s Bazaar.  There was so much buzz around the stall’s vintage Asian clothing that I struggled to get a look in but even from a distance you could see the beauty and quality.  The dresses, separates, scarves and shawls come in opulent colours with rich embroidery and embellishment.  Anyone who’s ever harboured a Princess Jasmine fantasy (and who hasn’t?!) needs to check them out.

Martha’s Bazaar sell Asian décor and accessories too.  They’re on Instagram, Depop, Twitter and Facebook.

I wish I’d bought: several sets of the always stylish jewelled bangles to stack up both wrists.

Millerchip’s Vintage

There aren’t many vintage stalls that capture the attention of tween boys but that’s what Cindy managed to do with her display of unusual pocket watches!  Her section of the tent was like an Aladdin’s cave, full of quirky jewellery and clothing from the 1940s to 80s.  I was reminded how the high street hasn’t always been synonymous with throwaway fashion when I stumbled across an old Dorothy Perkins top, complete with a ‘Made in Britain’ label.  Hard to imagine.

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

Cindy offers vintage parties – what a great idea is that?  Find her on Twitter for more info.

I wish I’d bought: the patchwork suede purse – a fashionable twist on the Roy Cropper shopper.

Fab Fill a Bag by Heaven Vintage

The concept is simple and familiar at vintage fayres up and down the land: get a bag, fill it up and pay £10 for all the contents.  If it’s an eighties or nineties aesthetic that you’re after then this is the place to stock up!  There were tons of classic sportswear and casual options.  Jean jackets and cut-offs seemed especially popular with punters, which is always good to see given the environmental impact of producing new denim.

Heaven Vintage offer branded high street and branded goods alongside vintage.  They are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and also have a store at FarGo Village.

I wish I’d bought: an old school wax jacket.  It was too hot to even think about trying them on!

Mrs Flower’s Fabulous Card Company

Not vintage clothing, but I had to give a shout out to Alison and her amazing wares!  Alison has a passion for old cards, be they greetings, cigarette or the playing variety, and upcycles these ephemeral items into unique nostalgic artworks.  I ran out of superlatives, not only to describe the beautiful old designs but her skill in giving them a fresh look.  There were people buying gifts for Christmas already!

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

As well as cards, Mrs Flower’s stall housed a selection of small vintage accessories and homeware.  Her website is here.

I wish I’d bought: given Adam West’s recent death, the Batman cards really pulled on my heart strings. Kerpow!

Do you have any ‘I wish I’d bought’ vintage moments?  Or have you splashed out on something that seemed frivolous only to find that you wear it all the time?  I’d love to hear your vintage tales; you can comment here or on social media (links below).

Thank you for reading!

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Scrimping with Style

In an article I wrote for Native Magazine last week, I reflected on how the greatest compliment I’ve ever received was being told by a complete stranger passing me in the street that she loved my style.  The fact that we were outside Vogue House in London only added to the magnitude of my pleasure at hearing this!

Charity shop skirt & the washbag that doubled as a clutch bag

I was also thrilled because what the kind stranger particularly liked was my skirt, which I’d bought for £2 from a Scope charity shop in Coventry the previous day.  Since that January day, I’ve worn the skirt innumerable times in all kinds of weathers and I always feel good in it.

We all have these kinds of treasures in our wardrobes.  The items that whenever we pull them on, we instantly get a confidence boost.  The garments that we know will get us through the day (and night too) feeling that bit more pulled together.

Yet as my skirt suggests, our fashion favourites aren’t necessarily the most expensive things that we own.  On the contrary, sometimes it’s the bargain finds that bring us the most happiness!  My friend Catherine over at Midlands Minimalist shares this view; she found that a cream and black Jean Muir skirt that she picked up in a dress agency fitted her perfectly and lasted for years.

Sartorial scrimping doesn’t mean sacrificing style. 

Choose to make-do-and-mend, whether for financial or ethical reasons, can drive ingenuity.  Not being able to chuck money at wardrobe crisis forces us to come up with more creative solutions.

Scrimping Style: washbag that doubled as a clutch bag || raeritchie.com

I admit that this is a lesson that I’ve had to learn over and over again.  I’ve made expensive mistakes, like limited edition trainers in a colour I loved but that I only wore once or twice because at the time I always wore heels.  In contrast, some maroon canvas pumps that I got for 20p from a jumble sale had a happy life on my feet last summer.  When I then wore out another pair of second hand trainers, I figured maybe it was time to invest in some brand new ones.

 

Last week I forgot to take a clutch bag on an overnight trip.  Given half a chance, I’d have purchased another but as that wasn’t possible I ended up using my small washbag instead.  I got several compliments on it and afterwards was glad to not have impulse purchase guilt.

Changing the buttons

Changing the buttons seems to have particularly magic powers in the realm of make-do-and-mend.  Over the years I’ve had two gorgeous second hand coats (one from a rail at the back of an ice cream parlour in the Cotswolds) that just needed replacement buttons to bring them back to life.  If you’re a bit uncertain about how to do this, Jen Gale of My Make Do and Mend Life has a straightforward guide to this entry level repair job.

Scrimping Style || raeritchie.com

Life styling

It isn’t just our wardrobes that can flourish when opt to make-do-and-mend.  It can benefit our spaces too.  Recently one of the sun loungers broke beyond repair, prompting a search for some new garden furniture.  Determined to continue the thrift theme, I dug two cream kitchen chairs that we no longer use out of the garage (purchased at the tip shop for £3) and found a butcher’s block in a local charity warehouse.  I added two bright cushions from John Lewis in the sale, and that little corner is now a new seating area.  And I feel inordinately proud of what £20 can do!

Scrimping with style

I’m now a bit obsessed with this idea of scrimping with style, looking around wondering what I can tackle next!

To help scratch my new itch, share your scrimping with style stories.  Tell your thrift treasure tales!

Reworked, reused, recycled – whatever it is, I’d love to hear about times when you’ve scrimped but the results have seemed anything but cheap.

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Thank you for reading 🙂

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Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy-box

Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy box

Last week, I looked after Little Niece for the afternoon and she decided that she wanted the toy box and book basket out from their spot by the sofa.

Soon we were outside, having a teddy bears’ picnic in the shade before playing schools.  Little Niece was the teacher, I was her helper and the cuddly toys each had a book of their own.  Helpfully they also doubled up as clipboards when we had to take them on a nature walk.  She is very imaginative!

It was so much fun for both us, with the nostalgia element adding another level of emotion for me.

I’m not sure there is any greater joy than watching a small child enjoy playing with toys that you loved when you were young.  

The experience reminded me of why I put the toy box together in the first place.  I wrote about this two years ago and decided to reprise the post here…


This morning, my mum sent me a photo message showing my poorly eight year old nephew clutching a well-worn soft toy in the shape of a panda.  Pandan, my nephew used to call him, and for years he was never far from his side.  I was always extremely thrilled by how much Joe loved Pandan as I had bought the toy for him (although it is perhaps more accurate to say that I collected tokens from the packets of a well-known brand of toilet paper and sent them off with £1.99 for postage and packaging).

Now Joe is almost nine [NOTE: he turned eleven last week!], I hadn’t seen Pandan around for a while.  It was so heart-warming to discover that he continued treasured him and still drew comfort from his frankly manky and slightly discoloured fur.  It’s funny which toys find a place deep in our heart and which remain simply playthings.

I replied to my mum’s message saying that maybe Joe will put Pandan in a future toy-box too, a joking reference to the toy-box that I have recently created.  Over the last few weeks, I have been boring friends and family talking about my new toy-box (okay, so talking and making them look at it).

The toy-box is one of my latest mini-obsessions.  I love it almost as much as I love some of its contents.  I had thought about putting something like it together shortly after moving into my new home in mid-April, having realised that we live in possibly the most un-child friendly space ever (think lots of potentially dangerous items at low levels and little to distract curious small people with).

Whilst we don’t have kids of our own, I want visiting children to be at home here and want their parents to feel relaxed rather than nervous or worried.

One Sunday afternoon, I read an Apartment Therapy post that mentioned the same toy-box idea and that was that: I seized the moment and tore round the place gathering
up any suitable items.  Some pencils, plastic cups, a few children’s books that happened to be in unpacked boxes.  I had a large basket just right for the job.  I even remembered the two hand-knitted rabbits, one of whom featured in my first day at school photograph, suffocating in a plastic box under the bed.

In the weeks since, more bits have been added.  I picked up a colouring book from a coffee morning.  My boyfriend put in his childhood chess set.  I’m keeping my eye out for suitable bits (please someone somewhere get rid of some Lego!) but most of all I’m encouraging my mum to get up the loft and find more of my actual toys out.  I’ve already begun bringing things from my parents’ when I visit, including the first book I ever remember, yet I know there is more still in the attic.

Suddenly all these possessions that I’ve never been sure what to do with have had a new
lease of life.  This sense of repurposing has bought me genuine joy and contentment. Lots of the standard advice on sentimental items or such like instructs you to have a clearout, perhaps taking a photograph as a reminder of a once-prized object.  But is that really
what we always want?  Whilst drowning in reminders of the past can stop us from getting on with life in the present, surely we can find ways to forge a new path where we give space to honour our earlier treasures and let the happiness that they bought us then infuse our worlds now.

That is what I feel my new toy-box does.  It is my own way through.  It isn’t getting rid
of everything, although there will be much from my childhood that I won’t keep.  Nor is it shoving it all in some place out of sight (under the bed, the loft, a spare bedroom – preferably in someone else’s house), hoping to never have to deal with it but also never
getting any pleasure from it.

Seeing another child being entertained by toys that you also happily played with is a beautiful sight.

Of course it doesn’t have to be a toy-box.  This sense of repurposing can be applied to other possessions too.  What item in your home (or left elsewhere!) is languishing?  What stuff aren’t you sure what to do with?  Is it something that you can breathe new life into in some form or another?

If you like the idea of upcycling then Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to give you
inspiration; I’ve made a board with some of my favourite ideas.  Not that you have to be artistic or crafty; if you love reading, can you simply spare some shelf space to your favourite childhood books?

It may be that you decide repurposing actually does involve giving something a new home or to a new owner.  I used to have a gorgeous ragdoll that an older cousin made for me when I was born; when she had a daughter, I passed the doll on to her.

Or do you need to rethink in a broader way?  Is there a different way of looking at the item(s)?  It may be that a mental shift is more useful than a physical transformation.  Old toys were literally just old toys until I recognised that they still held their magic for a three year old today just as much as they had for me thirty years ago.


Thank you for reading! Share your repurposing stories in the comments or via social media (the buttons are below).  And if you enjoyed reading this post then please do share it – this really makes a difference!

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