Friday, 25 May 2007

CSC shop of the week - The Red Telephone Box

While I am on the subject of telephones, the ultimate in retro chic must be the iconic British red telephone box.

While you rarely see them in public nowadays, the old boxes are being snapped up by interior designers and creative individuals as quirky additions to homes and gardens.

You can pick up professionally restored and fully operational boxes for around £1,000 online, as well as unrestored ones for a few hundred pounds cheaper - a great DIY project if there ever was one.

Imagination is the only limit to their uses if you have the space - with some owners converting their boxes into tiny bars, mini-greenhouses and even shower cubicles. Quite the talking point, I think you'll agree.

The Red Telephone Box stock a range of telephone boxes in various states of restoration.

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CSC pick of the week - 1963 green telephone

Imagine answering your calls on this terrific emerald green two-tone telephone.

Every single phone conversation - even with wrong numbers and telemarketers - would be a nostalgic trip to the 60s, sans the acid. I love, love, love it and as the specialist shop have more than one, I thought I would share the wealth, so you can all fight over the few that are left - including pillar box red alternatives and pricer bakelite ones from the 1940s.

Retro telephones are far nicer additions to the home or office than the dull grey run-of-the-mill pieces of kit with flashing neon displays you get nowadays. Not only are they stylish pieces of design history, but they are also items that don't just look pretty and gather dust - instead the telephones arrive at your door in full working order for a fairly small price.

Item: 1963 green telephone
Price: £65 + £8 postage and packaging
Shop: Abdy Antiques


Wednesday, 23 May 2007

People watching and window shopping

London was as hedonistic as ever and it was a purely indulgent joy to spend the weekend sipping coffees in the sunshine during the day and slurping far too many cocktails in the bars at night.

London is so lovely on the cusp of summer, whether you're lazing around with a picnic in the park or wearing out the pavements walking for miles and miles. But there really is no better pastime than people watching with a crisp glass of wine in your hand. Like all vibrant cities, I really appreciate how people are free to assert their indviduality - with everything from art school hippy chic, affluent sloane style and experimental emo expressed side-by-side in all its glory.

With so much time spent enjoying myself and catching up with friends, there wasn't that much left to spend shopping before I found myself back on the train with blistered feet and a tired out credit card.

Hanging around Notting Hill Gate and Portobello Market provided some window shopping delights on the Sunday afternoon however. But the exorbitant price tags swinging from the minimalist racks and rails of the vintage boutiques (on items I've seen myself for less than a tenth of the price in 'provincial' charity shops) meant that I came home empty-handed save for some light reading for the journey to take my mind off my hangover. Portobello was awash with funky stalls set-up by young designers and the choice of vintage fashion was spoiling, but once again I just could not bring myself to pay for things I knew were so grossly marked-up.

The shock horror at the hike in prices once clothes have been hung in upmarket boutiques did, however, make me want to go out and find more affordable bargains - which I's say is a good use of a weekend.

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Friday, 18 May 2007

London calling...

I'm dissapointed in myself, I've set-up CharityShopChic to share my bargainous finds with the world and have stopped finding bargains! A weekend in London should sort this out, so expect tall tales of the city on my return. Charity shops here I come...

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Quick update...

The sweet retro girl has moved to a new home already. She is now comfortably residing in Michigan so I have been informed, so stop trying to buy her!

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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Aww a mini Charity!

I know I already mentioned how much I love projectgrabbag, but I had to include her latest shop addition because it's called Charity - A sweet retro girl.

Not only is it adorable, but it has a great name too! Thanks projectgrabbag.

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Monday, 14 May 2007

CSC shop of the week - projectgrabbag

CSC shop of the week - see a seven day theme developing yet?

I am a self-confessed etsy addict, there's no point in denying it. And while I've been procrastinating over setting up my own little esty store, I have relished the chance to while away many a late night hour looking at the delightful items filling up other peoples'. One of my favourite etsy store's is projectgrabbag's. I love her handmade items and would snap them up if I knew a child to buy them for - there not however nice enough to make me want to have kids just yet!

From a customer's point of view - and this goes for all succesful etsy shops - projectgrabbag makes users come back time and time again because of her eclectic mix of handmade products (using reclaimed scraps of fabric) and raw materials. Her prices are good and she is constantly updating her shop, meaning there's always something new to look at. Keep up the good work projectgrabbag!

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Sunday, 13 May 2007

CSC pick of the week - Edwardian silk gown

There are so many vintage finds available on the Internet nowadays that (although it can be half the fun) you don't have to get your hands dirty by rummaging to score some ultra chic retro additions to your home or wardrobe.

Each week I will picking out at least one item of note from the world wide web of wonders, and I think you'll agree my first is pretty special.

This square-necked gown dating back to 1918, would be a wonderful aquisition for your wardrobe - if you're the type of woman who dreads turning up to an evening event wearing the same outfit as anyone else.

The sumptuous ivory silk satin and chiffon would set of your summer tan a treat, while the crystal beading adds a touch of subtle glamour that wouldn't been overdone with some well chosen accessories.

I love the length of the skirt, which is both flattering and feminine and the flower detail is delightfully fresh and flirty for a dress that's almost one hundred years old.

At $395 for an unlabeled gown, it's hardly cheap, but picturing yourself sashaying through crowds all wearing the same high street purchases and the amount of compliments the Edwardian gown is going to attract is worth splurging in itself. Well, I like it anyway - as you can probably tell!

Size: Bust-34, waist-27
Price: $395.00
Shop: Vintage Martini

Friday, 11 May 2007

Could you be sitting on a fortune?

Find out if you have a collectible, and hopefully a valuable, first edition book hidden away.

We’ve all watched the Antiques Roadshow and saw some lucky devil gasp with surprise at being told that the collection of books they’ve hoarded away for years is worth thousands of pounds.

So if you’re attic is heaving with hardbacks or your granny has left you a box of novels unopened for more than a century how do you go about identifying a collectible, and hopefully valuable, first edition?

What is a first edition?

Simply put a first edition is the first ever print of a book, although there can be a number of printing batches within an edition. For example: the first edition and first print of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was limited to 300 copies as no one knew how phenomenally popular it would become – these are now very rare and can fetch up to £10,000 a copy. The next printing of the book was still a first edition as there had been no major changes, but as it was a second printing the value drops significantly.

Most book collectors are only interested in the first edition and first printing (first/first) of a title because it is the first state that the book was available in and because it will become more difficult to get hold of a copy as time goes on – especially as many first edition printings are in small quantities.

How do you identify a first edition?

There are a few do-it-yourself methods you can use to determine the edition of a book, these are the basics:

- The most commonly used system is numeric. Flick to the copyright and dedication pages of most books and you will probably find a string of numbers such as ‘1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9’ which indicate the edition number. If the numbers start from 1 you have a first edition, as 1 represents the first, 2 represents the second and so on. A second edition would show ‘2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9’ with no number 1, while popular books may show edition numbers nearing 100.

- Just to make things a little harder, some publishers show the numbers in a different order (such as 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 or maybe 1 3 6 9 8 7 5 4 2) or use letters (such as a b c d e f g h i), as long as 1 (or ‘a’) is there it is the first edition.

- On some occasions ‘First Edition’ may be written out in words while the number line will start at 23456789.

- While some publishers will write ‘First Edition’, ‘First Impression’ or ‘First Printing’ by itself. Please note that some publishers only indicate a first by their own publishing company and not the first for the title.

- Some publishers will state ‘First Published’ followed by the year, if there are no further printings indicated with subsequent dates, then you may well also have a first edition in your collection.

- You may also find the phrase ‘No Additional Printings’ or the letters ‘NAP’ indicating a first edition too.

- There are some exceptions to these rules, book club first editions for example, which have no price showing on the cover, are only the first of the book club’s series and are relatively worthless to collectors.

What makes a first edition valuable?

First editions vary dramatically in price. Hardback books are much more sought after and more valuable than paperback books. Good quality books obviously fetch the most – check whether your book is in mint condition and has the dust sleeve, for example.

An author’s first appearance in print is often more valuable than later works, unless they have shot to fame as a result of a particular title. Also consider how popular the author is, as it affects how many collectors are likely to be after their work. Most importantly how rare is it? After the exceptional success of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, for example, subsequent first editions of JK Rowling’s series have been snapped up by avid fans, but as they were printed in batches of hundreds of thousands they are unlikely to ever be particularly valuable.

Still unsure?

If you are still uncertain whether you have a valuable book in your collection you can verify it by searching online for the particular author’s bibliography which will show when and where their work was first printed. You can also purchase one of the many first edition buying guides on the market. If in doubt get an expert’s opinion at a local bookshop specialising in first editions. Just don’t wait for the Antiques Roadshow to come to town to find out if you are sitting on a fortune.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

See, it does happen sometimes

If you think the days when people could make a fortune from their charity shop finds are well and truly gone, just ask Sandra Buckland what she thinks. This lucky lady made £1,760 from a £1 plate in an auction this week.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Books, books, books

I cannot stress just how much I love reading, what I don't like however is paying full price for the latest bestseller to hit the bookshop shelves, especially when there are so many unwanted books crying out for a good home and an equally good read growing dusty in secondhand bookshops and charity shops everywhere.

This week, I've treated myself to some classics which I've always been meaning to read - Treasure Island, Around The World in 80 Days and The Jungle Book - all 30p a piece. As well as Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake for the startlingly expensive, ahem, price of 50p.

If only time could be bought at a bargain price, I might find enough to actually read them.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Well, it's been a busy week...

So, I've not had much free time to go scrounging around charity shops, but I did pop into a rather rough around the edges Mind charity shop on Friday afternoon and found a mint condition Harris Tweed men's jacket. I'd like to say it didn't cost much, but unfortunately charity shops have increased their prices to capitalise on the growing market.

I had to buy it, not only because examples of fine British tailoring cannot be passed up, but also because I think Harris Tweed jackets look so stylish on men in the springtime - perfect for a slightly breezy evening teamed with jeans and a crisp white shirt for a casual, confident look with a vintage twist.

I think top-to-toe tweed is more than a little hard to pull off and I would not recommend it, unless you're an authentic English gent with a monicle and mansion in the country - and even then I think it looks naff.

Picture coming soon...

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Second helpings

Bargain hunt with flair with CharityShopChic's indispensible do’s and don’ts of scouring charity shops...

What do Kylie’s ‘Spinning Around’ gold hot pants and Bridget Jones’ singleton penguin pyjamas have in common? They were both picked up from charity shops for less than £1, that’s what. Thanks in no small part to A-listers including Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and even Victoria Beckham shifting some of their sensational spending sprees to their local Oxfam in recent years, vintage charity shop chic has never been more in vogue.

While they were once shirked for stocking second-hand polyester tat that you wouldn’t look twice at, never mind wear twice, charity shops have become twinkling treasure troves of potential that you just have to dig deep to discover. If your wardrobe could do with a seasonal overhaul, pop into your local charity shop for some retro inspiration and you might be surprised at what gems you unearth, by following our top tips to thrifting.


· Visit charity shops in different towns and villages – some areas of Gloucestershire with wealthier donators are more likely to have top quality items in stock, while charity shops in less financially well-off areas are likely to be cheaper and visited less often.
· Be patient – persist even if your first venture turns up nothing but bobbled Primark cardigans – you can’t expect to find vintage Chanel or a pair of Manolos on day one.
· Be imaginative – picture your finds in roles they were not necessarily designed for. If a fabric is remarkable, but the cut or size isn’t, you can customise your purchase with a bit of help from a sewing machine or friendly seamstress.
· Be daring – by their very nature charity shops are cheap – an impulse buy here won’t dent the overdraft and you can always donate the offending item back if you decide you really can’t stand it.
· Leave no stone unturned and buy something if it screams out at you – if you don’t buy it now, chances are you will never find the same item again.
· Let your instincts lead you – yes, things will grow on you, but if your blink reaction to the acid green spandex shorts was ‘hideous’ let it go.
· Look for quality – no matter how cheap your purchase is, if it falls apart the second you get it home, it isn’t a bargain. Particularly look at seams, hems and zips for signs of wear and tear.
· Look at labels – a Gucci jacket selling for a few quid is likely to make you a profit on an auction site, if you can’t wear the designer item yourself.
· Visit regularly, stock comes in to most charity shops every day. Just because your last visit was disappointing doesn’t mean some generous donator hasn’t just handed in bags full of items ripe for the picking minutes before you visit again.
· Ask for details of delivery days – most shops will receive regular collections on certain days of the week.
· Remember that your money will be going to a good cause when you buy from a charity shop and re-using clothes is good for the environment too – otherwise it may well have ended its life in as landfill.


· Think ‘someone may have died in this’ such negativity will blind you to bargains.
· Be snobby – sticking to Oxfam is all very well, but terrific items are just as likely to be donated to the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Marie Curie or PDSA shop next door – and they will probably be cheaper too.
· Buy moth-eaten, torn or falling apart clothes unless you have both the ability and inclination to fix or customise them.
· Become obsessed with labels – yes, we’d all like to find an authentic Fendi for 50p, but a well-crafted handbag that would look great swinging from your arm shouldn’t be rejected because of sheer designer bias.
· Be lured into buying items you neither like nor will be useful because you’re feeling sorry for the bored old lady behind the till – she doesn’t work on commission you know!