I've always wondered what it is about vintage shops and charity shops that seems to make so many people so reluctant to shop in them, and make them feel uncomfortable even talking about them. From a young age, my mum has been taking me charity/antique shopping with her, and I have grown up learning how to haggle (which you cannot do in charity shops, mainly at car boot sales and antique fairs), and how to distinguish the good from the bad, finding many a hidden gem along the way. So, why do some people look so shocked when I tell them the cute top I'm wearing is from a charity or vintage shop, or my shoes? Sometimes they even look shocked when I tell them the book I'm reading is from a charity shop, or some of my furniture. I remember once at work, I told one of my co-workers that my mum worked in one, and he was shocked and pretty much slagged them off right in front of me, saying he'd never shop in them because he feels the clothes are dirty - which is a common misconception - and that everything was in bad condition - also a misconception, as charity shops do not put out anything that is in bad or unsellable condition!
Of course, a lot of stuff that gets donated to charity shops is in really bad condition, or cannot be used, so a lot of stuff may have to be sorted through and sometimes repaired, but it's very rare that you will find something shoddy in a charity or vintage shop, as they check everything thoroughly, especially clothing. Sometimes, you will even find some designer clothing and accessories in charity shops if you search hard enough, and they will of course be a fraction of the price AND if you buy it, it will be going to a good cause as well - it's a win win situation really!
Over the years, I have got many wonderful things from charity shops - from my favourite pair of flat ankle boots (they were unworn, my size and in pristine condition, and only cost £3 - who could turn that down?) to some beautiful vintage glass perfume bottles, to an amazing chest of drawers! I think a large part of the reason I'm so comfortable buying things from charity shops and being in them is that my mum has always been an avid supporter of various charities, and has worked in and managed several local charity shops in my life. From china dolls to books, when I was younger I used to love looking round at all the pretty, unusual things, and to this day I still love it when I find an amazing bargain. I'm lucky enough that my mum knows a reasonable amount about antiques and what's worth what, so when she's with me I know that I'll be in safe hands. Once, for example, she found some beads which the volunteers at her shop were going to throw away (at the moment she is the manager of a small charity shop down the road from us, and she is doing an amazing job, quite frankly), but she had an inkling about them, so brought them home and looked them up - her hunch paid off, and she ended up auctioning them for the charity and brought in a significant amount for them, so you never know what you may find - from first edition books to furniture in perfect condition, and you may even spy some designer clothes! A good example of this is one of my most recent finds - I got a pair of pretty much brand new MBT trainers for £30, when they retail for around £170 new, and they're in pristine condition.
I once wore something I'd purchased from a charity shop when I was going to a gig, and someone told me they liked my top and asked where I'd got it from - when I said the name of the charity shop, she looked shocked, then slightly disgustedly she asked me why I'd want to buy something from there, and said that they all smell like old ladies and that you never know if someone died in them or not. Firstly, things in charity and vintage shops are often washed before they get taken in, and if something is disgusting or in bad condition, they will often refuse to accept it or not put it out. Secondly, if you're that worried that someone died in it, then you can always wash it again before you wear it - I always wash clothes from a charity shop before I wear them, as it helps to soften them up more too. Most of the clothes I have bought in charity shops are brand new and unworn, often with the tags still attached, so I know I'm getting an absolute bargain!
So throw away any misconceptions you may have, and give it a go - you never know what weird and wonderful treasures you might find!