An Interview with My Mother - Charity Shopping

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I owe so much of my love of all things second-hand to my Mother. Early childhood memories take me back to early Sunday mornings, browsing antique markets with both of my parents, in search of china, furniture, and ornamental pieces. Mum and I would admire glass cabinets filled with shiny earrings and pretty necklaces, most of which were eye level to me as a child.

Mum introduced me to car boot sales and charity shops from a young age, as we would scour our local markets and charity shops within the county of Hertfordshire, in England, UK.

Mum loves to meander through British charity shops today, as much as I love to browse Australia’s many opportunity shops. Same activity, different hemisphere. I thought it would be nice to get an insight into the history of my Mother’s second-hand shopping jaunts, as well as her recent escapes, through British second-hand wonderlands. Herewith, an interview with my Mum, through the wonders of modern technology:

:: Mum and I in the late 90's ::

Erica: When did you start charity shopping, or shopping second hand?

Mum: About 35 years ago! 

Erica: Where there as many charity shops 35 years ago, than there are today?

Mum: There are most definitely more charity shops around now, at that time I only looked locally, but I tend to look in every shop I see if I have the time 

Erica: Why did you start shopping second-hand?

Mum: Really can't remember, curiosity? 

Erica: Do you admit to others that you shop second-hand, or are you embarrassed to say?

Mum: I think it was not something I talked about, back then there was a bit of a stigma about it. 

Erica: What about now? Would you say there is still the same stigma when shopping second-hand? Do you admit to your friends now that you buy some things from charity shops?

Mum: Its now completely different, I like to show off even brag about my finds! 

Erica: What has been your best ever second-hand purchase?

Mum: A silver Swiss watch that now belongs to our wonderful daughter. (thank you Mum) My recent purchases were a designer suit unworn for £5, and some French Connection items all unworn with originals price tags attached. One thing that some of my friends say, the person before them had grabbed the most amazing things! On saying that, one friend came across 3 Beswick figures dated 1948, that's a real find. One other friend likes old walking sticks; she now has several with silver and ivory handles (these are over 100 years old, as ivory is now illegal). Her gem of a find is an Indian walking cane with a steel sword hidden inside the ornate cane. Another friend found some Burberry items. 

Erica: Which is your favourite: antique markets, car boot sales or charity shops?

Mum: Charity shops by far 

Erica: Which charity shop/s in particular, are your favourites?

Mum: That’s a tricky question, we have a gift aid card for the cancer research shop (which helps them with tax relief on sales), due to family and friends suffering from cancer, it is important for us to support a cause we believe in. We also are quite passionate about animal rescue so we also donate and shop there. But really, there are so many bargains to be found in many charity shops. 

:: Cancer Research - Shrewsbury ::

Erica: I remember you always liked to go to antique shops and markets, were you looking for anything in particular? Do you still shop for antiques now?

Mum: We still go to antique shops, we love old china and old cutlery, there are some seriously good finds out there in silver cutlery! 

Erica: What is your favourite fashion era?

Mum: I like both the 50’s and 60’s styles. My mum had some amazing dress if only we had kept them! I also shopped at the first Biba shop in London in the 60’s… the skirts where very short. At that time my legs where good…. I now wear much longer skirts! 

Erica: Do you think charity shops have changed over the years?

Mum: I think they are far more organised, colours and sizes etc, also some of their window displays are very clever...... They encourage people to pop in and have a look 

Erica: Now that you've visited Australia a few times, how would you compare charity shops vs op shops? Are the prices the same? The quality?

Mum: I think they are very similar in layout, and similar in pricing, but because the UK £ is very weak against the Au $ things can look dearer for UK visitors. 

Erica: Anything else you’d like to mention with regard to UK charity shops?

Mum: In the UK we have The British Heart Foundation now selling unwanted furniture, and also white goods. The white goods are all checked before put up for sale. Most of the items sold there are of a very high standard, and it would be easy to completely furnish a house. We have been very impressed with these stores and the prices are incredibly reasonable. We have even found things we didn’t know we needed.. keep up the good work all you charity shops. On a final note some of the stories and welcomes we get from the ladies who volunteer to work in these stores for free is second to none. 

I’ll leave you with two more photographs Mum has taken of her local charity shops in Shropshire, so cute, and so very English!

Did your parents, grandparents or relatives introduce you to second-hand shopping too?



cookiecrumbs said...

My grandmother used to volunteer at the Vinnie's in a little country town in Qld (I grew up on a property outside town). I would often get to visit with Nana while Mum did the shopping, and I would sometimes go with her to Vinnie's.... So I remember my first experiences of op shops were actually playing in the sorting room!

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

Oh what a wonderful interview with your mum Erica, she sounds like she'd be a load of fun to shop with:). I loved reading about some of the amazing treasures like the walking sticks (sword!). She's also reminded me to keep all my vintage clothes for my daughter (I don't have anything modern to pass on except for shoes) - she already appreciates them:). Thank you SO, SO much for sending me the red heart patches, that was an amazing giveaway and I can't wait to use them! xoxo

Patti said...

What a lovely interview, Erica - I love the photo of you and your mum, too. I think my parents would not have talked about charity-shopping, if they'd done it. but times have changed so much, and now I boast about my finds too!

Laura said...

Great idea for an interview and an interesting insight into how things have changed. It's hard to believe how popular second-hand shopping has in comparison to the stigma that used to be attached to it. I remember even when I was younger you were considered 'poor' if you were seen in an op shop. I'm the same as Patti now though – most of my friends get jealous and I love to boast about my latest finds! :D

Helen @ Blue Eyed Beauty Blog said...

LOVE the photo of you and your mom together! Photos like those are so sweet! :)

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Helen Le Caplain said...

Yes it was my mum and aunty and uncle who got me into shopping second-hand.

I love rummaging around for great buys, and can spend many a happy hour charity shop hopping.

My dad on the other is a funny beggar who for some reason or other gets uber embarrassed about going into them. :D

Unknown said...

What a beautiful post Erica! I had a giggle at her comment on having good legs 'back then' haha. My mum didn't really frequent op shops, but given we were a single parent family I'm suprised we didn't. I think, like your ma mentioned, there was a stigma about it then, more so than now... xx

Unknown said...

Thankyou for posting this interview, it was a joy to read! It was actually really helpful for my dissertation writing too and has actually made a few quotes, all referenced and cited accordingly ofcourse :)

Winterfell Mixed Media said...

My mum had her own second hand business and we always bought second hand or charity shops. The best were ones in Leeds.Then we moved to Australia and continued the tradition. I am now 42 and my daughter has the bug, nothing changes through the generations in our family.

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