London – Best Charity Shops for Women
How do we define ‘best’ charity shops in a city as big as London? Well, it’s got to be – the most shops, in the nicest place for cafes/bars, in the least picked-over territory, with the wealthiest and most stylish donors. And that’s Pimlico.
Where else would you find a matching pair of Miu Miu plum-coloured scrappy shoes and a Vivienne Westwood classic (just add tights) than the legendary Trinity Hospice on the main shopping street?
The Pimlico Charity Treasure Hunt
Pimlico, tucked away between Victoria London Underground Station and Pimlico London Underground Station, is a treasure hunt, so allow at least two hours. Begin your search at the best first, which is Trinity Hospice at 85 Wilton Road SW1V 1DN with its designer labels upfront in the window. It’s open 10.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Saturday and 11.00am to 5.00pm on Sunday. Very close by is an Oxfam shop at 15 Warwick Way SW1V 1QT. And that’s just the start. If you are spending any time in London, or live there anyway, think about volunteering as the best stock crosses your radar first in the back room.
The New 21st Century Rules on Charity Shops in London
Thrifting, as it’s known in America, is called op-shopping in Australia (opportunity shopping) and has become a huge industry as it heads into the Twenties (2020-2029). The Climate Emergency push-back is part of that, and one of the first new rules is – One. Learn how to sew and remake your bargains.
Australia’s Evelyn Wood who has an entire 1940’s tribute going on – shows you how to do just that at her amazing Thrift-to-Vintage website.
It’s all about Bay Garnett Taking Vogue Out of Selfridge’s
Since September 2019 when Oxfam launched its Secondhand September campaign to stop women shopping new – and start thinking charity – spokesperson and Vogue stylist Bay Garnett has been taking designer out of the big, expensive, climate-affecting stores and into British charity shops. Best-known as the creator of Cheap Date magazine, Garnett’s T-shirts are now also charity finds and worth a mint.
“The Cheap Date tee is based on the original run of promo t-shirts given out with Garnett’s ‘zine of that name in the ’90s – “I printed the logos out in the office and literally ironed them on, Liv Tyler still has hers!” she told Vogue.
Bay Garnett did a lot of thrifting with Anita Pallenberg in her time and is now working with Stella Tennant for Oxfam. She told The Financial Times “Second hand is about empowerment. And not being a fashion sheep. I’ve always loved the independence of it. The spirit of finding and developing your own style and eye. Of not being force fed what’s trendy…”
With Stella’s teenage Millennial daughter Iris also on board, Garnett is backing a new way of thinking about fashion. Clever styling, and rather like ‘Dry July’ for wine and cocktail drinkers, a whole September of zero new clothes. This brings us to the second rule of the new thrifting.
2. Nothing new unless you have to.
Dealing With ‘Where’s My Size’ Problems in Charity Shops
The only issue with ‘buy nothing new’ is the notoriously flakey sizing in most charity shops in London. Holiday Goddess would like to see the clothes stacked not by colour (looks great, it’s a nightmare to go through the racks) but by type, labelled size and designer brand. It’s easier with shoes (below) because there are so few of them and you can scan them in seconds.
Commando Raid Charity Shopping
Until every shop manages this, you can deal with ‘Where’s my size’ issues by finding one square mile in London where you hit maximum choice, for minimum effort. That way your chances of swiping a great coat are much higher. This is the Commando Raid Charity Shop. More fun with friends because you can also double up and ‘find’ for each other.
Licence to Experiment
Something else we really like about charity shopping, is that the boots (Gucci, below, at Trinity Hospice) and the shoes, frocks, coats and bags are affordable enough that you can experiment. You’ll be bolder. More experimental. After all, if it doesn’t work out at home, when you mix and match with your existing wardrobe, you can always donate them back. That’s double the plus for a good charity.
From Barbour Jackets to Top Shop
The Daily Telegraph also rates Trinity Hospice in Pimlico. We would rate it, because it’s part of half-a-dozen charity shops within a short walk of each other, surrounded by good places for lunch or a late breakfast, and close to both Victoria London Underground and a big taxi rank (if you have armfuls).
Remember that chains like Top Shop churn through fads and often, those fads end up in charity shops. The fad of 2000 can become like new again, though, in the hands of someone who has an eye for style
“Best of the lot, though, is Trinity Hospice on Wilton Road, which seems to have an endless supply of vintage cocktail dresses (usually less than £20) and aged-to-perfection Barbour jackets for £30 to £40.”
If you’re thinking about no-sweatshop, no-water waste, no-clone-fashion then Pimlico is a great place to begin building your look. Scan your favourite stylists’ magazine websites, or peg them out on Pinterest, to be inspired before you go. Don’t be put off by scuff marks (like these on the soles of Jimmy Choo last season sandals at Trinity Hospice) and remember, most things can be cleaned or even dyed. We’d dye this.
Another New Rule – Shop by the Armful!
When you ‘shop by armful’ you are slinging together a whole look the way a professional stylist does. It can take a little practice until your eye is trained. What you are basically doing is putting a jigsaw together, mixing and matching on your way to the change-room. It’s not like any other kind of shopping but it will give you a genuinely brilliant, original, super-stylist look. Remember, Vogue’s Bay Garnett has been doing this for years. You’ll need to get the hang of it.
We often see brilliantly original trends, like Kate Spade’s faux snakeskin, or Stella McCartney’s fake reptile handbags, copied by Primark and other cheap chain stores. This reduces their value, so they end up in charity shops, because nobody wants their fashion snob friends to assume they have a mere (sniffs) Primark knock-off hanging around their neck. You know the difference, though. And these Kate Spade sandals (below) were below one-third of their original price at Trinity Hospice, Pimlico.
Pimlico Charity Shopping – Average, Good, Great
The Fara Charity Shop at 13A Warwick Way is too small for much choice, but as it doesn’t take too long to rifle through the racks or eyeball the front window, it’s a good extra add-on to Trinity Hospice. Open 10.00.
The Octavia Foundation at 58 Wilton Road is not far away. It’s worth a look. Sue Ryder at 36 Warwick Way has great bargains parked in the front window. The Terrence Higgins Trust Charity Shop at 19 Churton Street has more menswear for the obvious reasons it raises funds for men with HIV, but this brings us to another rule about the new charity shopping:
3. Always check the menswear as well as the womenswear
Just about every woman goes for the average size 12 or size 14 size Kate Spade or L.K.Bennett shirt. Nobody ever goes through the menswear racks, but we’ve found beautiful 100% pure wool V-neck black and navy sweaters that look amazing with pants. Big shirts can be sexy for summer cover-ups if they are pure cotton or linen and a lot of very big businessmen inhabit the Pimlico postcode. Some mens’ shoes work. Trainers in particular: we’ve found nearly new Converse sneakers.
Stella Tennant, seen here in Vogue, styled by Bay Garnett, is often seen in blokes’ boots or distinctly masculine shoes. It works well with heavy eye-makeup, a frilly tulle dress, big socks and a brilliant stylist like Bay. You could so easily approximate this look just by wandering around Oxfam.
Remember – Charity Shop Staff Swipe the Chanel
Women who think they’re going to trawl through the racks of a charity shop and find Chanel and Dior are mistaken. The staff get there first and the best brands to go specialist outlets.
Anyone who fondly imagines that Gucci or Vuitton will be nestled in a straw basket on the floor of your average charity shop, is much mistaken. It’s like fondly imagining you’ll be upgraded to business class because the British Airways staff like you. Myths, all lovely myths…
Yet – Retromania London at 6 Upper Tachbrook St in the Pimlico square mile is a great catchment area for designer. In fact, it’s outstanding. The thing we like about Retromania is that not only does it have a huge stash (channelled by staff from other branches) of Yves St. Laurent, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Chanel, Dior, Armani – it also has clothes that are just as nice if not better, crammed into a super-cheap basement. And that’s where your inner stylist comes in.
We also think you should try Hospices of Hope at 40 Warwick Way as you wind your way around Pimlico, from one pot of tea, to the next rack of heaving frocks. Charity shopping is a commitment. But – what could be more fun, than being your own stylist, saving a fortune and saving the planet?