Charity shops are the industry for ethical shopping and value for money, but can they offer glamorous wedding-worthy outfits?
I’m being invited to a wedding in June and I’m on a mission to look super stylish and sophisticated, although I really don’t want to blow my summer clothing budget with a designer dress.
I also don’t want to show up in the same outfit as someone else. Once bitten twice shy. I’ll never forget that wedding where it was me and two other ladies wearing the same yellow Reiss number.
I could rent a brand new designer dress that might cost €1000 for €148 from BT but I think it’s more affordable than that so instead I visited a few charity shops and hope to find trumps with an amazing dress.
If I do, I will have saved a lot and feel satisfied knowing that my money went to a good cause and not to a hedge fund.
Last year, items sold at the country’s 470 charity shops saved the equivalent weight of Dublin’s entire bus fleet from going to landfill. So if you are going to a wedding why not turn to charity shops. Here’s where I went and how I made progress.
Dublin Simon Community Shop, Camden Street, Dublin 2
For a small store, there was a wide selection. I liked the look of a light blue Pied A Tierre dress for €12. It was too tight for me – even with the spanx underwear on, things might get too choppy on the dance floor, but a good option if you like bodycon.
The Pied A Terre brand no longer exists so you can rest assured that no one else will wear the same thing to the wedding. A gold sleeveless dress with a pleated skirt also caught my eye but this one turned out to be H&M (for 7€) and for a wedding I wanted a top.
Paul Keegan, who works in the shop as a volunteer, said the dresses arrived daily and if someone asked him to set aside a selection in a certain size, he could do so for a few days. not much time for hunting.
St. Vincent de Paul, Ballinteer, Dublin 16
I always find that suburban charity shops tend to have more finds because people may be able to deposit more with the extra parking. And indeed there was a fabulous selection of well-known brands here, all at bargain prices, as well as plenty of black tie bargains. A long navy blue chiffon dress stood out – a €15 Ci Ci.
The wedding I went to however is more casual during the day so I was on the hunt for a dressy floral print. I was tempted by a bright blue midi dress from the Anna Field collection but it was 50€ and I felt I could get a better price elsewhere. Declan Dunphy, who works at the Ballinteer branch, told me that the manager, Fiona, has a great eye and therefore recognizes designer clothes when they arrive and prices them accordingly. Still, there were plenty of dresses from places like Hobbs for €15 – where would you go?
There were a lot of new dresses and Declan said that was because stores that were closing often gave away stock and individuals also handed over items with tags still on because on occasion a lot of people don’t never wore it at all. He said the store is very popular with young influencers who show off their upcycling on Insta.
Irish Cancer Society Shop, Camden Street, Dublin 2
Instant success. Lots of classy dresses – and some serious bedazzlements – here, but I only have eyes for one. I can scan a rail in seconds and choose a print that appeals to me and I was delighted to spot a cream and caramel Cacharel dress with a lovely v-neckline. The heavy fabric is obviously of shiny quality and although the dress is probably quite old, it is in excellent condition. And there’s even a cream jacket and gold strappy sandals at home that will go perfectly with it. With the hair styled and the fake tan applied, I’ll be sorted. And the dress still costs 4€. What a complete bargain.
Charity Buying Tips for Wedding-Worthy Outfits
Do not wait the last minute. There isn’t a range of sizes, so it’s likely you’ll have to step in a few times before you find gold.
Be a regular visitor to get an idea of what a store is good for. For example, Oxfam in downtown George’s Street has new shoes and jewelry but isn’t great for second-hand dresses, while Oxfam in Rathmines has a good designer rail.
Bring along a few jackets and bags to try on with dresses you see because, as Declan warns, decent things tend not to hang around the rails for long, although a store will have something for you if you ask nicely.
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