Thomas Woods sets himself a challenge of forming a £20 outfit comprised of strictly charity shop finds.

As a society, we are now at a point where we must be aware of the environmental impact that our everyday actions and general consumption has on the world around us. The clothing industry is a central contributor to current environmental issues, with the fashion industry being the second largest polluter globally. With the seemingly constant growth of fast fashion, it is important to look elsewhere to find sustainable substitutes to big clothing polluters, and charity shops are exactly that. While it is often believed that charity shops are simply filled with poor-quality items, I am here to show you that they’re not.

Over the last week, I have put together an outfit composed of items that I purchased along a stretch of charity shops in North London (a hotspot for lots of second-hand clothing stores), all for just £20. I’ll provide each item with an overall product rating that considers the condition of the product, the comparative retail or online pricing, its price, and material quality.

Next Cropped Smart Trouser- Black

While finding big brands in charity shops is always an exciting discovery, I always feel that picking up an item that is brand new holds just as much meaning. This brand-new pair of Next cropped trousers were a no-brainer for me in the end, with the £5 price tag giving me the chance to spend my remaining budget on other items. This purchase helped me envisage what kind of outfit I wanted to put together, with the trouser often being the central base of a good outfit for me.

I decided that I wanted a chic smart-casual outfit for a night out in London, and nothing says formal wear like black. The cropped fit provided the casual tone that I was looking for and its snug fit around the waist left me no excuse not to buy it. Despite this, one downside to the product is the overall quality of the material, as it was not 100% cotton and had a slightly rough texture. In saying this, this was not the fault of the charity shop. I found this item at All Aboard charity shop and I would thoroughly recommend making a visit to one of their branches, with there being several scattered over London.

Product condition: 5/5

Retail/online price: £35

Price: 5/5

Quality: 3/5

Overall rating: 4/5

Primo Ciro Citterio Monogram Shirt- Black/White

Again, this find wasn’t about discovering the most sought-after brand, but more so an  example of how having a certain outfit or look in mind can open the gateway to more pieces  that charity shops have to offer. Essentially, broaden your horizons and look that bit deeper; there are some treasures. This vintage Primo Ciro Citterio monogram shirt comes in this lovely black and white colourway, with the covered button detailing and flattened collar adding a retro 70s flair to the outfit that I didn’t know I needed.

Having done some online research, most of these shirts only go for £15-£20 in a used condition, which means the £5 price tag still got me a relatively decent bargain. The most impressive part of this purchase was the quality of the shirt, with the roughened cotton-like touch to the material providing a soft and comfortable texture against the skin. Alongside this and its slightly oversized fit, the shirt was the perfect addition to the top half of my outfit as it provided quality, comfort, and it fitted perfectly into my desired aesthetic. I’ve always found that Cherry Lodge Cancer Trust have had some hidden gems, and this time was no different. The shirt and jacket selection is amazing!

Product condition: 5/5

Retail/online price: £15

Price: 5/5

Quality: 5/5

Overall rating: 5/5

Converse All Star Hi Trainers- Black

Finding shoes in charity shops is one of the more challenging obstacles when thrifting, and this £20 challenge was no different. Having just £10 left of my budget, I knew it would be difficult to get a shoe that matched my smart-casual ‘night out in London’ look. However, on one of my last days of looking, I came across a gem.

The Converse All Star High is an all-time favourite of mine, with the classic silhouette having survived the ages as it continues to maintain its popularity today. Despite the shoe’s slightly used condition, it was nothing that some wipes and shoe cleaner couldn’t repair with the clean black colourway meaning that I could easily pair it with the rest of the outfit. The high-top look sat nicely with the cropped trouser and thus complimented the outfit’s dimensions nicely. A £9 spend on this pair was one of my better bargains, with the shoe retailing at £57 and reselling in used condition for £30-£40, meaning this pick-up was the best value-for-money purchase I made throughout the challenge.

Cancer Research UK was the purchase point for this piece, with this big brand pick-up being a trend I often see at Cancer Research branches across London as they regularly provide customers with those premium treasures.

Product condition: 3/5

Retail/online price: £30

Price: 5/5

Quality: 4/5

Overall rating: 4/5

Outside of the challenge, I managed to pick up several other steals at affordable prices, highlighting just how many good-quality and sustainable clothes there are up for grabs. These included a vintage leather Harrington jacket for £20, a pair of black and white Nike Blazer Mids from 2013 for just £19.99, as well as a blue Dallas Cowboys hoodie for just £2.50.

My range of finds just goes to show that charity shops can cater to a whole array of demographics and styles, giving everybody the opportunity to shop sustainably and help out the environment little by little – all for an affordable price. Visit your local branch today!

If you enjoyed this article, you can follow more of Thomas’ work on his Twitter @iamthomaswoods_

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