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Fabulous darling! – Cheapskate’s guide to clothes

Anyone old enough to remember The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop is old enough to have at least three decades of bad clothes choices in their wardrobes. Beth Davies ’fesses up…

Those impulse buys bought for that wedding you didn’t want to go to that was in April, so it may have been very hot but in actual fact turned out to be very cold indeed, in fact there was snow and you were wearing a chiffon tiered affair. Or the suit you bought for the job interview that you were desperate to be successful at however once in the hot-seat you were so nervous that you spat cornflakes at the interviewer and managed to forget your own name. Yes those unwanted best forgotten outfits.

Take them out of your cupboards, bring them down from the loft; say goodbye to the bad memories and hello to new ones in the guise of either hard-cash or a swap – Noel Edmonds does not own the copyright to swapping! (From what I hear he’s far too busy opening boxes daily on Channel 4 to care).

If you have any designer pieces that are still in reasonably good nick then make sure they are clean and pressed and take them to a second hand clothes shop. We have plenty here in Hastings and St Leonards (Keep it Local!). Certain names will always fetch a good price but do a little research first. Try sites such as eBay to get a good idea what the going rate is. Don’t give your items away but be realistic. If something is torn or missing buttons then do your best to get this fixed first as it can make a huge difference to the price you are offered. For example, I had a dress that I hadn’t worn for at least five years and decided to get rid of it, I bundled in to a carrier bag and took it to a dress shop and she offered me £5, now although I hadn’t worn it for a while I had paid about £80 for it and wanted more than that. So I took it home washed, pressed and did a little tidy up on the seams etc. I then took it to another shop and was offered £15. Not enough to send me off on an exotic holiday I grant you, but 300% increase for very little effort. Multiply this by the items you have lurking around your house and maybe that holiday isn’t such a wild idea. Don’t forget handbags, shoes belts, designer luggage – they all fetch good money.

Maybe you need a new outfit but can’t afford one? Have a Swap party of your own (invite Noel if you feel you have to). This can be done either very informally by asking your friends over with an allotted amount of unwanted items, an average of between 5 & 10 is about right, and then swap away. You hopefully get rid of the aforementioned torture outfits and end the evening with a ‘new to you’ get-up befitting of any self respecting fashionista (assuming your mates have a modicum of dress sense). Alternatively, you can be more ambitious and organise a ‘Swishing’ party (this has nothing to do with leaving your car keys on the coffee table). This is best done in a space large enough to have clothes rails and tables set out or it can all become a bit of a bun-fight. Then you will need to advertise the event, Facebook is most effective. All attendees bring their swaps and given a ticket stating how much they have brought along and how much they are entitled to take.

There are several companies organising large scale events like these – some for profit, some purely ethical and some for charity. You chose. You could sell tickets at a cost of around £5 maybe to include a glass of wine (don’t invite Noel in this case!) and either keep the money or donate to charity, either way still ethical in that you are recycling unwanted items. You MUST be clear at the outset so that participants know exactly where the money is going. You are entitled to use a proportion of the money to cover your costs of renting a hall etc.

Of course, I’m here to try to encourage you to make/save money and the most obvious way would be to buy cheaper in the first place. This isn’t always the best option though and certainly not the most ethical and, although I’m not here to preach, the older I get the harder I find it to buy goods that are so cheap there has to be a catch (i.e. someone barely older than my nursery aged son working long days with little pay in a hot and dangerous factory). So I do try to avoid ‘bargains’ as such. Also the old adage ‘buy cheap buy twice’ is more true now than ever as we seem to be in a very disposable age where we think it’s acceptable to only be able to wear an item a handful of times before it falls apart at the seams! This is NOT acceptable and if you have followed the garment’s care instructions and the piece is out of shape, faded or in some other way unwearable then the shoddy goods should be returned to the retailer as being ‘not fit for purpose’.

We should all be buying fewer clothes but good clothes that will last (ask Noel, he’s been wearing those shirts since 1975). Buy good quality from the second hand shops you sell your old stuff to, strike up a relationship with the retailer and you may well find you get better deals when you sell and when you buy.

Car Boot season is upon us and a perfect opportunity to de-clutter your wardrobe and kit yourself out at the same time. Be wary of dealers knocking your prices down. They are the ones that crowd around you before you have even unpacked. Say politely that you’re not ready to start selling yet and ask them to come back in ten minutes when you’re set up. If you seem to be selling what they want they will be back, don’t panic about losing out on sales, it may take longer but you will get a better price. Be organised before you get there, know what you want for good pieces and be prepared to do deals on the not so precious pieces as everyone goes to a car boot sale for a bargain. Go with a friend so that you can take it in turns to seek out your own treasures. Check items for stains, smells, tears and missing buttons, none of these can’t be rectified with a little hard work but you should get a better deal! DON’T buy things you’re not sure about or you’ll spend time, energy and money trying to put it right and probably end up selling it for less money than you paid for it at the next car boot sale!

Of course if you feel uncomfortable buying second-hand clothes and really must have something new to wear to an important event then shop wisely. Take a friend, an honest one, wear the right underwear and don’t buy it unless you are 100% sure that you will wear it not just for that one day but again and again.

Last but not least, listen to yourself. When you say ‘I need a new dress/suit/pair of shoes’ ask yourself whether this is really the case. Have you got something that will do or that with a little imagination and effort will actually be fantastic? Get out your sewing machine! Alter and adorn. Seriously there is nothing more satisfying or money saving than making something from a piece that had been retired to the depths of the portal to Narnia.

For me I like nothing better than feeling that I have bought something cheaper than someone else that I have recycled someone else’s cast-offs or that I have given that hideous shirt a new lease of life. Sorry, my mistake, I’ll pop it in the post Noel! Oops.

Posted 23:24 Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 In: Cheapskate

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