Jane and Beryl's 
Charity Shop 
Christmas Special

 Christmas is a time when the WOACA's (Woman of A Certain Age) wardrobe needs often come bottom of the heap. But that doesn't stop us wanting a little something new, or at least something new to us. Enter the charity shop: charity shops are positively groaning with evening gowns and sparkly tops, velvet jackets and even good party shoes. Jane and Beryl set out in Marlborough in Wiltshire, to see what they could add to their festive evening collection without much of a spend.

This dress caused some dissension between our middle-aged shoppers. Beryl owns this Alexon dress already in green, and would have cheerfully bought it again, due to the fabulous cherry red colour for £20 from Prospect Hospice Shop. Jane however thought it looked dated and made Beryl's body look square. 'It's not actually the dress doing this, its the mince pies and crisps,' Beryl replied. The lady in the shop was enthusiastic: 'That will look lovely when you've got your heels on,' she said. Beryl was actually already wearing her heels. (Humph.) Jane, who in theory is never wrong, got her way. 

This does however raise the perennial charity shop question, of clothes looking dated. True vintage clothes have done their ageing and therefore can look marvellous, whereas anything from the 1980s or 1990s, belongs to the time fashion forgot. The young of course think that 1980s fashion is fantastic, and this is their right, mostly because they did not live through the reign of terror of the gi-normous shoulder pad. Therefore, no Diana-esque taffeta ball gowns, please.

Jane is very pleased with herself in this outfit as its sum total cost is £12.95. The jacket was £7.95 from the Enham Trust shop near Andover, which is a veritable treasure chest of goodies. It comes from Principles and is in stretch velvet, rocking the military look which is right on the fashion button. The trousers were Beryl's personal best find as far as Jane is concerned: she bought them on a day out in Blandford Forum for herself, brand new for £5 from Svetlana ( ha, ha, ha) Jane grabbed them and they were a much better fit, so Beryl really had to do the decent thing and hand them over before an unseemly tussle ensued. 

 Many charity shops now have an allocated vintage rail but, as ever, sizing tends to be an issue. Beryl would have loved this seventies velvet gown with gold embroidery, as the 70s vibe is very 2016. Alas, bodies have just got bigger, and Beryl at a 10/12 could get no zips done up.

 This beautiful 1950s gown was too tiny to even bother trying to squeeze into. Beryl and Jane suggest for all sorts of reasons throwing away the tyranny of sizing. If it looks like it might fit try it on, if it doesn't, don't. Simple as that really.

Why the charity chop look can work for the WOACA is that many of us are really after a style fix, not a fashion fix. This lovely top Beryl bought for Jane's birthday from a vintage shop and is by Caroline Charles. Much to Jane's chagrin, it claims to be a size 18 but, as with much pre-loved clothing, size means nothing, (see above).  She is wearing it with a Paul Costello skirt which is 20 years old from the back of her wardrobe and a Sticky Fingers jacket from the Dorothy House Charity Shop in Devizes, bought for £12. Jane has here found the holy grail of Christmas dressing here: comfort as well as elegance. These are very beautiful, well crafted clothes that are meant to be cherished for years and they will be!


Beryl is wearing top to toe charity clothes here, an outfit costing £30 in total. The Coast skirt cost £7 from Save The Children and always makes Beryl want to break out into a few 'Strictly' heel raises and a step-ball-change. The Monsoon top is excellent on our vertically challenged and short-waisted friend, as the length of tops is often a problem. Too long and she grows a pot-belly like a Vietnamese pig. The front and back V, help with the hod carriers shoulders. The shoes were unworn, boxed and from Hobbs and cost £15 via The Red Cross. Charity shop shopping like vintage shopping, does require frequent looking, determination, imagination and a good alterations person, but the thrill of a great find is amazing.

The fit and flare shape is a favourite of Beryl's and the net skirt and net over the bosom area have a 1950s vibe. This Monsoon dress was £25 and will probably be an extra £5 for alterations. The unworn Dune shoes cost £12 from the RSPCA. Most WOACAs by mid-life know what shapes suit them best, as the lovely Trinny and Suzannah pointed out it's all about balancing out your figure. Beryl is slightly top heavy, and therefore the addition of a big skirt works well.

Jane and Beryl always head first to the coat rack in any charity shop as this is where the best bargains are to be had, they have found. This Italian checked wool coat  by Artigiano was £15 from the British Heart Foundation shop in Andover and there are equally good pickings in most second hand emporia throughout the land. Jane's student daughter had been eyeing up a full price version which was £275, but has decided to pinch her mother's instead, strangely enough.


Our Beryl was quite simply over-joyed with finding this pink velvet jacket. It was in last winter's Precis collection, Beryl knows this because she eyed it with lust in the sale, and lo! it turns up ten months later in a charity shop in Blandford Forum for a fiver. This is the sign of a good charity shop find, one for which you would consider paying full price. Beryl is wearing this with a Damsel in a Dress Jumpsuit bought for £175 last year. This is another great ruse as mixing old and new, takes away that 'Second Hand Rose feeling.'

And finally, and this took a bit of convincing, Beryl found a man's silk dressing gown for five pounds. Beryl wears this as an evening coat, as this dressing gown look is the current update of the pyjama look, which has been all the rage.
At an evening do, this week, a woman told Beryl that this would look wonderful on somebody taller...

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