Friday 5 December 2014

Anyone who had a heart

I am very happy to report that I am loving my experience as a charity shop volunteer.

Why the bloody hell didn't I do it sooner? 

(Well, I did do a stint in Oxfam back in 1986, when I was an unemployed ex-student with no clue what to do with my life. Now, I'm an unemployed ex-employee, still without a clue. Plus ca change...)

This 1960s dress came home with me from work on Wednesday, along with a few other things.

Funnily enough, the 1970s wool coat is from the same charity shop, but about 3 years ago; it was on the £1 sale rail.

I liked the long sleeves but they were uncomfortably tight and made the shoulders ride up, so...

I chopped them off. I still need to do a quick hemming job, but I much prefer the shorter sleeves.
Just as a side note, it appears that I'm channelling Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black in the recent-ish TV series. 
What's it all about?
Never mind Cilla - back to the charity shop.

I've been itching to get at the window display and play with the mannequins, which I did this week.  It's like being a stylist for someone who doesn't whine about all the things they can't possibly wear, and simply accepts my suggestions without any argument. Fantastic.

And although I have picked up bits and pieces from the shop each week (it seems rude to leave empty-handed), I've been waiting for some vintage clothes to appear. 

Along with the blue 1960s frock, these two 1970s shirt dresses are rather elegant; good labels too.

They were rescued from the rag bag. I wasn't on sorting duty, but I spotted a fellow volunteer putting armfuls of what looked like old fabric into the Black Bag of Doom, and squeaked out a request to take a look.

From 1950s bark cloth to 1960s psychedelia, there was so much fabric - a lot of curtains but also lengths of unused material, all musty and fusty but in great condition.
My colleagues laughed at my obvious (and to them inexplicable) excitement, and commented that none of it would sell, as it was all old-fashioned
They also observed that it smelled; and yes, it did. 

But it doesn't now. I brought home a huge bag, full of the fabrics shown above, which have been washed and are now fragrant and beautiful and awaiting transformation. (The photos show their before state; unwashed, creased, and probably untouched for well over 40 years.)

1960s dress, 1970s C&A wool coat, 1960s pendant, beret and bangles - charity shopped
Boots - retail (sale)

So help me out here, my dears - what can I do? 

The manager and volunteers neither like nor value this kind of donation. The whole lot would have been consigned to the rag bag if I hadn't been there. Goodness only knows what gets binned on all the days I don't work. They don't want to put it out in the shop, and they don't realise that there is a market for it. I have explained that I like it, and that I know other people who do too, but I think I am seen as rather eccentric and odd. 

Do I accept that I can't be there every day to check the donations for anything vintage, and gratefully pay whatever pittance the manager charges me for taking this stuff off her hands? Do I try and educate them? Where do I start with that? I would love them to put aside anything old and quirky for me to look at and advise them about, but I am only there once a week, and there is very little storage space. Donations come in and are usually sorted within the hour - it's a fast turn around. 

Should I feel guilty for paying just £5 for a bag of vintage clothes and fabric which I know are worth more than that? I feel there is a moral maze here which I am struggling to negotiate, and a practical/logistical one too, come to that.

I'd welcome your thoughts and opinions.

(Just to add; the charity does put items on Ebay, but only if they believe they will fetch over £20.)

Am I making life more complicated than it needs to be?

Should I just take the money (vintage frocks, fabric, lithographs, old Christmas baubles) and run?

Have a great weekend!



Mother of Reinvention said...

Wow, I see the dilemma but am thinking "how could they?" all that lovely stuff in the bin. If things were going in the rag bag does that mean that they would not sell in your shop? Do you get people interested in vintage? If so could you ask to see if anything old is worth keeping? Would the customers buy things if they were a bit fragrant? I know I would. :) Otherwise, just keep the status quo and not feel guilty. Better you have things cheap than them being lost to landfill. P.s. your outfit is lovely. You really suit blue. Xxxx

Mother of Reinvention said...

Yay, first! Xx

mondoagogo said...

Makes you wonder if the same thing is happening in charity shops all over the country (or the world)

If they already use eBay, maybe you could just show them some websites that demonstrate vintage fabric love, to prove there is a demand?

Unknown said...

I say, take the cheap finds and run! Just wish I was there to go through it with you! I love your finds by the way, esp. the blue dress and the fabric! :)

Patti said...

I'd try to keep educating the other staff about vintage-love. and, I'd pay whatever they're asking for a bag full of gorgeous fabrics like these. I am going to start volunteering at the Humane Society Thrift next month, so I may be looking to you for guidance as well! Love your dresses, btw. xox

Unknown said...

Hello Curtise my lovely. As you know I am all up for a bargain and getting great stuff for next to nothing that you either keep or sell on for a profit - it is a buzz. Going to jumbles, car boots, charity shops (as a customer) and finding a real gem is quite simply a great day. However I do see your dilemma.... my suggestion would be this; take what you can for what ever they want for it... if you sell it on decide beforehand what % of the profit you will give back to the shop, you don't need to tell them this is what you plan to do.... once you have got together a few quid then offer it to them saying that you sold some items and would like to share the profits with them and that you are interested in any vintage items that come in. They don't need to know what you keep, sell on, how much you got for it etc they just need to know that actually they can pass this 'old fashioned' stuff onto you and they will get a few quid back in the process. Your wardrobe is healthy, your concious is clear, their rag bag is no more. Everyone's a winner baby. x

Jazzy Jack said...

I like what Kathryn said. If they get some money back from your efforts they may be more willing to stockpile old stuff for you. You had some lovely finds! I especially love the complementary play of your hair and that bright blue.
Your dilemma makes you wonder at the different mindset in the world...only modern will do!
I, like you, would be itching to do the window display. Playing dressups...can't beat it! Have a lovely weekend. xo JJ

SAM said...

I agree with all the other comments, particularly about showing them the sites you sell on and how people crave vintage. Don't feel guilty about the great stuff and low prices-you always can choose to donate any future proceeds to that charity or another cause you support so nothing but wins. I wish I had any knack for sewing. A coworker had a "to die for" dress on, made from an old pattern she found at her mom's, and made with $.50 yard mixed remnants. She estimated the dress cot about $1.25.

Suzanne said...

Guilt. It ruins so many things in life. Such a stupid emotion.

I say you just be happy you're in the spot you're in and managed to rescue what you did. You're not the superwoman of the thrift world...well maybe you are ; P but don't feel guilty if you make a little bit of $ from the pieces you get. You still make the effort to make it happen.


Becky said...

It's tough. But, if they don't want to sell it themselves then don't let it get tossed!!! Save the vintage!
You look so cute in that blue dress. Great job on the sleeves!

Sheila said...

I like Kathryn's idea too - why not profit yourself, but let them know they could be making more money with the stuff they consider "junk".

Redheads and blue - always a winning combo!

Connie said...

Wow is right. Beautiful fabrics. I see your dilemma. I also see a budding business for you. It is a gift to have an eye for style. You obviously have it. And the bod for it, too, I might add. Gorgeous blue dress on you. Grab all you can. See if you can get them to stow the discards in the back until you get there. Take that gorgeous stuff and run with it. Don't look back. If you ask the clothing it will tell you that it wants to be rescued.

ArgentGal said...

That is a thorny dellema indeed. Some of that stuff is quite sought after. Genuine barkcloth commands high prices on etsy for example. It really seems a shame to let it be destroyed. Etsy might actually be a good resource if you want to show them the value of what they're tossing. There's lots of vintage clothing on etsy too. Maybe they could create a vintage corner in the store and try to attract more of that clientele? You could always take it and resell it yourself but that does get into a moral gray area. But if they're really not interested in capturing the profit for themselves and would otherwise throw it away, I say grab as much as you can when you can and go for it!

Jayne H said...

Only you can decide what you feel comfortable with doing Curtise. I read your post last night, slept on it and was going to suggest the same as Kathryn. That's my two-penneth for what it's worth.
Love the blue frock with the shorter sleeves and you do look like you are channelling Sheridan Smith. xx

Sue said...

From my experience of working as a volunteer in a charity shop over here a couple of years ago, you can try to tell them the stuff is worth selling, and if they still won't sell it then take what you can get. Where I worked the old girls chucked out so much stuff and I remember bringing so much unwanted stuff home. Charity shops get given so much stuff, so I guess they think the modern/new stuff is the sellable stuff. Glad you saved all that fabric and I cannot wait to see what you create!!

Unknown said...

Love that blue dress , a perfect fit

Kezzie said...

I'm now wondering if the reason I never find any vintage is because of this!?? Ahrgh!!!!
I like the ideas everyone else has given. Great ideas!! You shouldnt feel guilty as you are saving beautiful clothes!!!
Can I just say that you look stunning, I adore the whole ensemble and since you are downing TARDIS blue, please go and link up with Maricel for TARDIS Tuesday next week at Xx

Melanie said...

I really like your new to you blue dress. I took the sleeves off of a Zandra Rhodes dress because they were so tight, I think it looked far better afterward and it's at least wearable now.

Well done on saving the fabric, it all looks fabulous! If they want to bin these things, then I would take, pay your pittance and run xxx

Diane said...

The main problem with charity shops these days is that they don't sell the "rubbish" - and that's what I want. That fabric is stunning. They should at least put it out for people to take for free and not chuck it. You look as if you've found your ideal place to work. Enjoy it. xxxx

Lizzie Cole said...

Maybe take over the E-bay site and bundle some items together so they are worth more than £20.

Lizzie's Daily Blog

bahnwärterin said...

take it and run!
if you make a lot of money selling the treasures then you can be a charity lady yourself and donate some of your profit.
maybe they can put it all in a corner and you swing by 2-3 times a week to just sort out?
my chic granny used to love this jersey shirt waist dresses, her rich sister on the western side of the wall did send her a couple of every season. your blue dress with tweed coat is great - gorgeous pendant!
sheridan smith/cilla black is channeling you my dear!!!! xxxxxxx

bahnwärterin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angels have Red Hair said...

If that's what they want to charge, then that's what I'd pay ... you're really doing them a favour cause they were going to bin it and make nothing at all. I'd definitely get them to put anything aside for me ... either that or take on the role of manager and work full time ... you'll definitely get your pick then :0)

Sarah Jane said...

Yep, I'm with the majority. Take it and run. How could they get rid of such treasures. The thought of it actually makes me queasy. The fabric is just too good to be real. And that dress looks as though it were made for you. Volunteering is certainly paying off. Keep us posted with what else you find xxx

Anonymous said...

1. Many folks take stuff to the charity shop because they'd feel guilty binning it so the charity shop can do it for them.
2. Most charity shops want quick in - quick out turnaround.
3. Most charity shop buyers want high street brands (Next, M+S et al) or a costume for fancy dress.

Some of us live for the rest :)

Take what you want but bear in mind there'll always be someone who will accuse you of profiteering. I'd always be sure that there was some cash exchange and it wasn't always the same person who set the price. Money does funny things to some people.

I don't think theres a moral issue here - you've tried to do what you consider to be the right thing so I'd enjoy what you find. Yes, you might sell stuff on but you have the eye for it, you launder it and love it!

Anonymous said...

I sure love that 60's pendant. I'm always on the look out for something like that.
Yay, you're volunteering!! I love it too. But one thing led to another and now I have a paid job. It feels so great to have a regular income and I hadn't had a traditional job in about 5 years so I feel lucky to not have to look for work anymore.
They are lucky to have you at the charity shop and no doubt you're really enjoying it.

Bobbi said...

I had to stop volunteering at the charity shop here because no one would listen to me about not throwing away stuff just because they personally didn't like it. It made me too angry.
I'm drooling over the pink fabrics you scored! What will you be making with your new fabric stash?
You always look so cool. No wonder television characters are copying your style!

Ivy Black said...

A friend of mine who works in a chazza in town keeps all the 'nasty' fabrics for me. They would all end up in the rag bag because 'who would want them'? And they smell. Don't they know that smells can be washed away? Anyway that's a helluva haul and that dress is stunning. Looks better short sleeved too. Love the whole look. Steo inside love...on account that it's a bit parky.
Loves ya.

kobieta niewidzialna said...

Curtise ,you are great person. I understand your dylemmas. I love vintage and I have some "pearls" from the same shop(magazine). Best for you.

Goody said...

I've run into this at my favourite shop where they want me to take things essentially free as no one else would want it, and it is just going to get tossed. The thing is, they do so much volume, and they know their local clientele. The stuff I like would bring down the boutique look of the place, and they can't be bothered with listing it on ebay. I go the end-of-year cash donation route and figure it evens out in the end.

Excellent score on that dress, and yes-fabric can be washed (most of the time). The pendant is so elegant looking-nice lines.

Forest City Fashionista said...

I like what Kathryn suggested, that you take what you can get and then if you are able to sell it on Ebay, donate a portion of what you get back to the shop (or a charity of your choice). I think that when it comes to vintage, it's very hard to educate people as to what is valuable and what isn't, especially if they only see it as old and tacky.

Obviously this place is a treasure trove of great fabrics (I like the orange and brown swirls). Bark cloth goes for a pretty good price over here. Can I ask how you washed it, because I have a good length of it that I would like to have made into something, but it needs to be washed first...

I'm so glad you're enjoying your volunteer job!

Miss Magpie said...

I suspect this happens in a couple of the shops in my town too. I'd be having sleepless nights over the stuff that I might be missing!

I agree with other people here take it enjoy it and if you sell it make the odd donation here and there.

Melanie said...

I love your blue dress, the colour, the cut. I'm glad you managed to add comfort to the mix with lopping off the sleeves.

Re. the charity shop, what you don't know can't hurt you garbage-wise. People discard treasures every day. Live in the moment. Each time you're there, mention how great that stuff is and pay what they ask, like a mini-vintage missionary.

But most of all, be happy with your finds. Some day, SOME DAY they might understand, but don't count on it. In their eyes they are just old clothes/fabric. Don't feel bad for your good fortune.

at my dressingtable said...

Hello Curtise , I would say don't feel guilty you are giving a donation . I must say Curtise you have had some gorgeous outfits lately and this one is gorgeous to ! best wishes xxx

Mrs Bertimus said...

You are my vintage rescuing hero!
You are saving pieces of history from being destroyed because they're not from Per Una! (No offence Per Una, but I hope you know what I mean!)
You keep on being the saviour of such delights, they were going to be destroyed forever!
Go girl!

thorne garnet said...

you're saving the vintage from the trash, don't feel guilty!

Beth Waltz said...

The blue dress fits as though it was tailored for you, Curtise! And the lovely line of the coat completes the sleek chic look of a well dressed lady who goes forth to do good works.

Your concerns do you credit: do you attempt to educate the shoppe staff? do you attempt to pay what you believe their 'trash' is worth? I once worked on the staff of an antiques periodical and noticed some chazzas regularly priced treasures as junque, e.g. an Aynsley tea cup was priced the same as a mug. I mentioned this and soon learned their only interest in white elephants was to herd them en masse out the door ASAP. They did not! want staff discussing pricing per item. So. Yes, you're making life more complicated than the shoppe ladies want it to be. Take the treasures and run!

Melancholy and Menace said...

looking as lovely as ever! What amazing finds! I'm always saddened by the things charity shops regard as rubbish. xx

Emma Kate at Paint and Style said...

It's a tough one. I also work in a charity shop and have tried to get good prices for them for things in the past. They didn't sell. All the older staff and customers laughed. You have to remember a charity shop isn't ebay and your prices must reflect that. If you or other customers want to buy and then sell on ebay, that's kind of the whole point. The customer has to feel like they're getting a bargain.
You are giving freely of your time and in a way it's right that you should get first pickings and also raid the rag bag. A full rag bag is only worth a couple of quid to the shop.
Even if you only manage to educate the staff to keep the old and quirky stuff for you, it's a start.
I used to have a policy of only buying from work if I could use the item, not just because it was valuable. It hasn't worked out because if I left it, it would just be put out for someone else to profit on, so occasionally I do snap things up.
You will work out what is right for you. I can't imagine you would give them a few quid for some very sought after label you could sell for hundreds. If you sometimes slightly overpay, they'll be delighted.
I'm glad you're enjoying it and saving treasures. Thank you sooo much for the bauble filled tin! xxxx
P.S. LOVE the dress!

Fiona said...

Thank fuck you rescued those fantabulous vintage fabrics, what a tragedy that would have been! I'm with the majority here, grab what you can, if you profit from it and get an attack of the guilts, make a donation. (They may be more inclined to keep things by for you if you do this?) Window dressing is brilliant eh? I loved it, you can really let your creative side loose and knowing how good you are at accessorising I wouldn't mind betting you could shift frocks that have been hanging around for ages. The new blue frock is perfect for you and ....what madness, a wool coat for £1! I LOVE that pendant.
Who's your money on for tonight then? xxxx

Vix said...

That dress is fabulous with that bargain coat! I'd take you over Cilla any day of the week (your singing voice is much better!)
Great finds and the fabric is to die for. Thank feck that you rescued it. What a waste. A donation, no matter how small, is 100% more than what they'd have got by chucking it into landfill.
As lomng as you're paying the price asked what's the problem? Its like these odd bods who reckon its wrong to buy stuff from chazzas to sell on. If you were haggling the price down that would be wrong but you're not. Its nobody's concern what you do with it after you've paid for it fair and square and its not like you don't donate (and give your time) to charity anyway.
I've got that pendant, too. Wonder who made it?
Love you! xxxxxxxxxx

Shawna McComber said...

I love your blue outfit! I am sure Cilla is channeling you, which she is wise to do. I see your dilemma with the vintage/charity shop situation. Now you are sounding like me with all of this guilt and thinking. You've had lots of good suggestions already so you don't need mine and mainly I agree with what has already been said. The more people are educated to the value and marketability of vintage the more its price will go up, but that may appeal to your sense of fairness. If I were in your vintage boots, I would just continue as you are doing. All of us who shop are at the mercy of those who decide what and what not to sell, whether it is vintage or not. You've gotten a taste of control over that, the ability to get in there and rescue some valuable items but you cant' do it every day and good things are being tossed in the bin all over the city every day. Take what you can, enjoy the bargain because market value is all relative and subjective and in that sense artificial anyhow, and if you want to, keep trying to educate them. Perhaps show them all the vintage focused blogs. And definitely grab yourself some more blue and wear shorter dresses more often!

Señora Allnut said...

wouu, such interesting opinions about the question!, I think fabulous ladies are giving you a lot of good advice!. Yes, you can try to spread your vintage love on your co-workers, to increase incomes, but anyway, you can still take the most of your own knowledge and enjoy your finds!.
Because those fabrics are Fabulous!!, and your blue dress is so awesome!, such a lovely shade!, you look gorgeous!
besos & dilemmas

Natalia Lialina said...

Curtise, I just love this monochrome outfit you've created here! It's stylish, elegant without being boring, it's totally vintage and so YOU! One of my favorite on you for sure. The coat and the pendant are amazing, the dress is a perfect fit, beautiful color and details, and I agree with you - even better with short sleeves.

I am really happy for you - you found your dream job! Creating what you love without anyone complaining and whining about a thing? Yes, that is a dream job in my book. I wonder what is it called? Oh I know - Artist! :)

As to educating your coworkers... did they read your blog? Vix's blog? I think it's the best way to educate someone - by showing. I sure learned a thing or two about the vintage world from both of you.

The Vintage Knitter said...

Wow- fabric heaven! I'd say don't feel guilty about it as you're saving it from landfill and you're paying for it, so alls cool. Mind you, I would be doing exactly the same as you if I were in your position :-) xx

freckleface said...

Hell's teeth and custard, you've won the lottery! You've found something you love doing, which you're good at, you're contributing to the community and charity, you're saving things from landfill and finding treasures along the way. In business terms, you're 'in your flow'.What could be better? I love everything you've got from your chazza. The coat, the dress, the fabrics (bottom right especially). I say enjoy it while it lasts. Did I mention you look terrific in blue? Xxxxxxxx p.s. I like a bit of Cilla, but I didn't see that series. Is it worth a look?

Porcelina said...

Such amazing finds, all those lovely patterns and colours! You are indeed chanelling Sheridan Smith, you look fab in the blue hues.

I really don't know what I'd do in your situation, that's a tough one. We were aghast to hear recently that anything vaguely 'old' looking in our local charity shop is passed on to the am drams! Really, that lovely 1940's hat as well?! But at least it's being used and not chucked.


Unknown said...

I find it amazing that a good 25 years has passed since we all started collecting vintage treasures, there are still lots of people who don't get it. I think at best you could ask for this old "tat" to be put aside for you to look through before they throw it out. In my town there is a fully fledged vintage shop run by a charity - they make a lot of money but they are still charging a fraction of the market value. It sounds to me like the educational angle is going to be a waste of time, or at least a lot of work for you - do your best with what you find and if you sell it for lots then do donate something back.

Mim said...

I say take it, and offer it to people who you know will love and use it, but ask them to make a voluntary donation to the charity if they can. That way the stuff finds a nice new home, landfill stays unfilled and the charity gets stuff it wasn't otherwise expecting.

Have they considered starting a small 'vintage' rail? Once word gets out that your shop has one, it might attract more shoppers.

Unknown said...

I wonder if i could do the same with my charity shops i go to?
Here they keep the old vintage clothes, they don't put them in the rag bin - But mind you same here the folks go for the newer stuff of course- I'm an odd one as well, i pick up all that vintage stuff at charity shops
I would take it the stuff and run
You could educate them of course but you know they are there for a quick sale i guess especially if they have no storage room.



Helga said...

FARK that fabric was a great score that fabric was! Thank heavens you were there, what is WRONG with those ladies?! Interestingly, here, the know perfectly well what they have, and frequently over price it just because it's old. Something must be done there, as all that vintage heaven going to WASTE is cruel. Jeez.
Anyways, I adore that blue frock, it's frigging divoon. The sleeve adjustment is splendid. Makes it wearable and comfortable, and doesn't interfere with the frocks ingrity, in my opinion! The shirtfrocks are also fabularse!!!

Peaches McGinty said...

I'd be chuffed to find such fabric! ours only seem to sell curtains/duvet covers which aren't suitable (beige/greige, I want colour!)as for your dilemma I think I would definitely buy the fabric and if it was to be sold and reached a decent price then give a percentage as a donation back to the shop anyhoo I think there should be some perks with any job - LOVE your frock, isn't it gorgeous! and your other finds, you look amazing in your fab outfit, Cilla wishes haha! x x x

Debberoo said...

What about if you start with asking them to let you go through the "old fashioned" that is about to be tossed on your day/s at the shop. Pay what ever they and you are happy with (not much since they were chucking it for rags) then see what you can get for it and then, ONLY if you feel inclined (certainly no obligation to) you could give them a small cut of your profit.

You might find that if you are able to bring them back that little extra dollar or two they might be motivated to work with you to keep some stuff aside for you to check from the days you don't work.

Love that you are loving the job and also loving that you are rescuing stuff from the rag bin.

The Berkertex label is taking me back to my JL days. When it was quiet we used to have a grand old time playing dress up with the the label clothes, Berkertex, Jaeger, Country Casuals, all that stuff oh and a German label I can't for the life of me remember. Oh and I relate to the joy of mannequin dressing, buggers to get the clothes onto but highly satisfying dictating what they will wear.

Vintage Bird Girl said...

That frock is absolutely divine on you. I love the colour, the fabric, the cut. And I'm salivating over that fabric haul. Geez I really must be a bonafide sewer now. Xx

The Style Crone said...

This volunteer job is the perfect fit for you! And you look gorgeous in blue.

I don't think I can add anything to what has already been said, but I think that you're doing a service by saving treasures from a landfill. The donation of a small percentage sounds good too. Whatever you decide, knowing you, it will be the perfect solution.

Trees said...

Thank you for saving that fabric - I nearly choked on my tea when you said they were going to THROW IT AWAY!! That kind of stuff sells really well in vintage shops (well here in Wellington anyways) I can't believe they would through it away!! If you even have too much, I will gladly take it off your hands (I will pay postage). Now I have gotten over my horror - you look absolutely WONDERFUL in that frock! I think it looks better with shorter sleeves too. Isn't it wonderful having sewing skills?