Charity Shop Clothes

Hi, I’m Bridget, a filmmaking student at Leeds Beckett. In this blog I’ll be sharing why sustainable fashion is so important and how you can create a sustainable wardrobe within your student budget.

Sustainable fashion has been something that has become more talked about in the last couple of years and is something that I think every student should explore. Not only are you helping the planet, but you also end up with a far more individualised wardrobe than if you shop exclusively in high street stores. 

Here are my three top tips on how you can create a sustainable wardrobe and be more sustainable with your fashion choices.

  1. Shop in charity shops and buy second hand clothes instead of buying into fast fashion.
  2. Upcycling and reusing/repurposing clothes you already own.
  3. Donate unwanted items to charity shops for others to enjoy and use again


Charity shopping

Why I do it

When I was younger, receiving a huge binbag of my older cousin’s hand-me-downs twice a year was the most exciting thing I could imagine. As we got older, and she stopped growing out of her clothes, this eventually stopped, and I had to resort to buying my own clothes. Only in the last couple of years have I re-discovered the thrill of sifting through random garments for hours - in the form of charity shopping. 

Charity shopping has now become a sort of tradition in my uni house. We go at least once a fortnight and spend hours browsing. It’s a fun day out as a house, and I would definitely recommend finding a friend or two to bring along. We always manage to find a good selection of clothes, which are not only cheap, but also help charity and the planet too! As a household of people with very different styles, charity shops are ideal as there’s something in there for everyone, if you’re willing to take the time to find it. As a bonus, we always pick up extra bits and bobs as well as clothes, and have a ridiculous amount of second hand DVDs piling up.

How to got into it

The best place to shop I’ve found (so far) is Headingley’s main high street (Otley Road). This has about eight charity shops within a five minute walk of each other, and is a short walk from Hyde Park, the main student area of Leeds, making it super accessible.

Striped top

One of my favourite charity shop finds

My first tip for anyone charity shopping, is to commit your time to it! Unlike most shops, every single item is different to the next, so you need to take your time looking at every item on every rail, or you might miss something perfect. It can be exhausting, and sometimes feels like everything is ugly, but trust me it will be worth it when you find your new favourite jumper for £3. It can also be made more bearable by bringing along a friend and making a day out of it.


Why I do it

Upcycling my clothes is something I only got into over lockdown. It started off when I noticed my old prom dress, which I knew I’d never wear again, was made from silver velvet which I loved. I decided to use the fabric to make a shorter dress, literally just by cutting the dress shorter and hand sewing a hem, to make something more wearable.

This practice of upcycling ties in well with my love of charity shopping – if I see something that I wouldn’t wear but think I could turn into something nice, I’ll buy it and transform it into something I like. For example, I recently bought a men’s polo shirt, cropped it and elasticated the bottom. This means that not only do I end up with entirely unique clothes, but also gives me a new hobby to explore, and something to do with my time during lockdown.

How to get into it

All I used to start off was some scissors, a needle and thread, and some simple YouTube tutorials. It’s handy to watch videos of other people upcycling (on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram etc) just to get an idea of how it works, even if they’re not making the same item you want to try. I also use some of my actual clothes to measure against what I’m making, to make sure I get proportions and sizes right. It’s important to remember to leave enough room for a seam, and it’s better to have a bit too much fabric than not enough, as you can always cut off more.

After making a few simple items (cropping t-shirts etc), I moved on to harder things such as a bralette, made completely from scratch, and have even got a set of embroidery thread to start embroidering a pair of jeans. Embroidery is something I would never have thought I’d be able to. 

embroidery on jeans

Embroidery on a pair of jeans. I drew on the flowers and then filled them in with embroidery thread.

My top tip is to start off by making something simple and slowly progress to more detailed creations. This method has definitely helped me to advance my skills and meant that I never struggled so much that I wanted to give up, as it was manageable step by step following the YouTube tutorials.

Overall, sourcing clothes sustainably not only looks out for the planet, but also your bank account, meaning that you can have individualised and good quality clothes without spending too much. Equally, both charity shopping and even upcycling is something that I think everyone is able to do, if they are committed to putting in the time and effort.