You may need to take a peg along with your wallet, but with vintage shopping now out-pricing the high street, charity shopping is one of the few ways left to stock up your wardrobe and home on a budget. From the Dior and Chanel lining the rails at Retromania, to the bargain beds of the British Heart Foundation Furniture and Electrical store, we’ve compiled a list of the best charity shops for your thrifty purchasing pleasure.
224 West End Lane, London, NW6 1UU
Best for shabby chic
There's plenty of granny cast-offs to root through here - and believe us, you'll need to root. Apparel and bric-a-brac are in plentiful supply, and while reasonably organised, the stock is not as ruthlessly edited as that of more commercial-minded charity shops.
184 Balham High Road, London, SW12 9BW
Best for accessories
This clean (it reeks of Mr Sheen) and brightly lit branch sells a good selection of high-street and mid-range brands at very good prices. The shoes and jeans are well worth a look here. They're all sold alongside a range of new, cheaply priced accessories, including necklaces, earrings and hairbands from at little as £2.
36-38 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5SP
Best for sofas
This expansive store situated just off the heady eclectic thoroughfare in Brixton has everything you need to make a house a home, whether you're looking for a cheap TV from £15, a fridge from £30 or a three-piece-suite from £100. On our visit, there were plenty of artily distressed pine goods in good condition starting from £99 for a TV unit.
22-24 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0QP
Best for conservative clothing
Located a few minutes' walk from Victoria station in a salubrious street, this branch of the British Red Cross - always stuffed with expensive labels - has a comically conservative vibe. Navy blazers? Check. Padded Barbour-style jackets? Yep.
69-71 Old Church Street, London, SW3 5BS
Best for workwear
This expansive store is arguably Chelsea's most popular and well-known charity shop. It shares a street with the only Manolo Blahnik outpost in London and it's where Chelsea residents like to off-load last season's wardrobe. The store suitably bills itself as a designer charity shop, packing its rails with pieces by Vivienne Westwood, Jaeger, Max Mara, and the like.
Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4PQ
Best for vintage
One street back from the chain stores and bustle of Oxford Street is this two-floor thrifty oasis of calm. On our last visit we found a red-and-navy wool military jacket, rails of men's suits around and a great pair of 1970s silver platforms. It's a favourite with students from the nearby London College of Fashion and employees from Vogue, so if you want to bag the designer bargains, you'll need to visit regularly.
Churton Street, London, SW1V 2LY
Best for jeans
With its Shirley Bassey soundtrack and dedicated gay section, this charmingly eccentric charity shop was coined 'the Harvey Nichols of charity shops', by comedian and regular shopper Alan Carr. Happily, the prices are somewhat more purse-friendly than the Knightsbridge department store.
40 Tachbrook Street, London, SW1V 2JS
Best for childrenswear
Pimlico, a real destination for charity shops, is home to three Fara stores - including Retromania - and they're close enough to do all of them in one sweep. This childrenswear shop offers an excellent selection of quality stock, which makes sense when you consider that children are likely to outgrow their wardrobes far quicker than they wear them out.
211 Brompton Road , London, SW3 2EJ
Best for vintage books
A large, slightly austere space packed with designer donations from wealthy locals. Plus a 'brilliant' hushed vintage book department with oriental rugs and coffee tables covered in art periodicals and old Christie’s catalogues.
La Maison Maille
Amongst rows of impeccably kept shops in the grand old Piccadilly Arcade stands La Maison Maille, a chic boutique for foodies. Beyond the black and gold exterior lies row upon row of mustard pots, vinegar and the world's first mustard macaron. Since 1996 Maille has produced limited edition mustards. One that's particularly sought-after is their seasonal black truffle and chablis, which is sold in sandstone jars once a year – conveniently just before Christmas. Prices start from £5.50 per jar, £6.95 for vinegar, and £29 for that truffle chablis. You'll also find gift sets, accessories, dressings and few other items instore. Plus, you can have a handful of mustards pumped straight from the tap, like you're at a condiments pub.