In Cardiff, hitting the high street chains for new clothes is old news – vintage fairs, charity shops, and swaps are the only ways to go
If you’re still trying to muster the courage to hit the January sales, you’ve left it too late. The good stuff has most probably gone, thanks to those queuing at 6am on Boxing Day (sorry – some of us had charades to play and leftover nut roast to eat). But hey, exactly how many of your resolutions involve sploshing your dosh in a department store anyway? Priding myself as a ‘two birds, one stone’ kind of gal, I have alternative means of saving the pennies whilst acquiring a snazzy new wardrobe. And what’s more, you will be giving a little back along the way, and thus single-handedly solving the world’s problems.
Charity shopping: arguably the only way to make shopping for oneself a slightly less indulgent act. Okay, I said slightly! Until recently, second-hand clothes were somewhat a write-off by the trendy and fashion conscious. But with “vintage” now a buzzword for us youths, charity shopping has become the epitome of cool. And there’s no better place to charity shop than in my hometown of Cardiff. I know that place like the back of my hand and, fortunately for you, I’m more than willing to share my secrets to successful bargain-hunting in the Welsh capital.
Step away from the rapidly expanding high street and you will find an alternative hub, jam-packed with charity shops, vintage fashion fairs and clothes swaps. Let’s start with the neighbouring areas of Roath and Cathays. Filled with a blend of independent restaurants, fabric shops, charity shops and crafting suppliers, this culturally diverse part of town has a certain buzz about it. Hotspots include Albany Road, Wellfield Road and City Road with charity shops such as PDSA, Save the Children, and National Kidney Research Fund.
Just north of Cardiff City Centre you will find Whitchurch Village, a friendly hub lined with pubs, cafés and yep, you guessed it, charity shops! As you’d expect, it can take a bit of rifling to find what you’re looking for, but there are some real gems buried in those rails. I’ve picked up good-as-new coats and jeans from the likes of Next and H&M. Appealing to a diverse age range, Whitchurch draws everyone from young families to the trendy twenty-somethings, guaranteeing second-hand fashion to satisfy every taste.
Vintage Fashion Fairs
Yes, it’s that buzzword: “vintage”, translated as “overpriced, second-hand clothes palmed off as antiques”. Well, in East London’s uber-trendy Brick Lane, perhaps. But if you are in the know, Cardiff’s thriving fashion fair scene proves quite the contrary.
First stop is Milgi. This arty café-bar space, complete with a humongous tipi, offers students and general hipster types an edgy place to socialise. Their monthly markets, boastingly labelled “The Original Boutique Market”, sees Northcote Lane filled to the brim with up-cycled items, unique crafts and all-round amazing bargains. Among my multiple successful purchases are a £1 denim jacket, £2 checked shirts (Topman), and extremely stylish fifties-style shoes for £5. And their “Famous £1 Jumble Sale” is not to be missed.
Next off we have Buffalo Bar. This award-winning cocktail bar and live music space holds everything from DJ nights and film screenings, to cabaret and fashion fairs. Popular with students and young professionals, this venue is always bang up to date with the latest trends, which is perhaps why it’s safely one of Cardiff’s finest vintage fashion fair venues. Not always the cheapest second-hand clothing about, but certainly clobber of the more stylish calibre! Keep an eye on their website for upcoming fairs.
If you’re not living near a charity shop hotspot, and the drive to Cardiff is not quite justifiable, why not organise something yourself? Clothes swaps are all the rage these days and offer a thrifty and highly sociable way to simultaneously clear out and replenish your wardrobe. And what’s more, you don’t even need to leave the house. Just invite a few friends around, get some nibbles in and Bob’s your uncle.
Clothes swaps are ideal if you’re finding it difficult to part with a favourite item that no longer fits you (and if you’re honest, hasn’t for a couple of years). A pain-free exchange amongst friends can really take the edge off. Houses are usually large enough to host such gatherings which can be as big or as intimate as you choose. I recently traded a pair of one-size-too-small jeans for a beautiful mustard dress, which had (much like my jeans) barely been worn. It was a win-win situation for all involved!
Charity Shop Challenge
Another sociable affair comes in the form of charity shop challenges. These are ideal for fancy dress parties and also make for a fun day out. Simply allow yourself a budget and a strict time limit and set yourself free in the charity shops. Your challenge: to find an outfit for your recycled party. And what’s more, when the party’s over, you can then return your clothing to the charity shops where it can be resold, meaning that, in theory, double the money goes to charity.
These are just a handful of achievable and, moreover, enjoyable ways to tackle some popular New Years’ resolutions. It’s also a good way to feel a part of your community. So, there you have it. An alternative means of looking good for a snip of the original price, while giving a little to charity, which, if you ask me, is a good start to saving the world single-handedly. Small steps…
Photo credits: Rukia Begum
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