In the present realm of bombardment with buzzwords like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-conscious,’ I don’t think I need to lecture you on the effects of our choices as consumers on the environment, or the evils of the fast fashion industry. But when it comes down to reverting to the ‘slower’ alternative and actually shopping secondhand, it can be difficult to know where to get started, especially on a local level. Fortunately, I’ve scoured and sorted through all eight of the charity shops in St Andrews to bring you a comprehensive guide of what each brings to the table, just in time for you to start planning your look for Concrete Catwalk’s Studio 54-themed event at the Adamson next month (stay tuned for details!).
Save the Children
4B Greyfriars Garden
best for: accessories
Save the Children’s floor pieces are relatively limited; where their real strength lies in their wide range of accessories, particularly their costume jewelry. It’s always worth rummaging through the tub in the back corner filled to the brim with £1 bags. And if nothing else, there are drawers full of sewing supplies—yarn, patches, lace, ribbons, buttons, beads, and zippers—to dress up whatever you find along the way.
3 Greyfriars Garden
best for: menswear
Just next door, Sense Scotland is probably the only charity shop in town whose menswear collection is equal in size to its women’s. This includes a great lineup of men’s dress shoes and accessories including ties and hats. Sense also has a variety of puzzles and board games at dirt cheap prices, perfect for you to snag for your next cozy night in.
2A Bell Street
best for: pretty much anything
I have to admit that Barnardo’s is my personal favorite; I’ve never been able to walk out without a great new steal. The shop offers a fabulous selection of handbags, boots, and hats, as well as one of the best kitchenware collections, nestled in the back corner by the register. Their color-coded spread of garments is well worth sorting through; in the past, I’ve snagged a Zara dress from here for £4.
British Heart Foundation
35 Bell Street
best for: shoes
British Heart Foundation is my go-to in St Andrews for second-hand shoes. On top of their impressive variety of staple colors and styles, I always come across funkier finds here as well; the patterned knee-high boots above would kill at our Studio 54 event. It’s also worth checking out the store’s selection of DVDs in the back right corner; not only do they have some crowd-pleasing classics, but they’re all only 50p each, or three for £1.
Cancer Research UK
143 South Street
best for: all your autumnal jumper needs
Upbeat doo-wop tunes are always filtering through the speakers of Cancer Research UK, making for a cheerful and nostalgic shopping experience. I’m always finding the coziest knitwear in this shop: turtlenecks, cardigans, all made soft and snuggly from pre-use. They also have a decent selection of home textiles, like pillows and towels, allowing you to expand your sustainable efforts beyond your wardrobe and into your home.
135 South Street
best for: new, sustainable products including baskets, mugs, and jewelry
Oxfam as a corporation has recently launched an entire internal program to pursue and prioritize sustainability at every level through an extensive plan published online that they’ve incorporated with their missions to fight global hunger and poverty. They’ve recently launched a whole line of ethically-sourced products made from recycled materials by people living in impoverished communities around the world that’s worth exploring. Beyond that, our local Oxfam also boasts an unprecedented collection of books at the back of the store, including some unique antique works.
109a South Street
best for: button-downs
Tucked in Church Square, Sue Ryder is admittedly one shop I always forget exists. Their unfortunate array of plastic-encased homeware and holiday decorations takes up half the store and makes them a bit less memorable than their competitors. While their selection of secondhand items is smaller, they still have a great selection of women’s tops in particular. If your Studio 54 ensemble calls for a button-down or blouse of any kind, this is a great place to start.
21 Church Street
best for: chunky blazers & silky patterned dresses
Upon entering the Salvation Army’s location on Church Street, you’re instantly met with an assortment of knick-knacks shelved all the way to the ceiling, giving the shop a warmer, more eclectic vibe reminiscent of your grandmother’s living room. In my opinion, they have one of the best lineups of pieces out of all eight shops, most notably a great range of chunky, oversized blazers and a whole rack of flowy, patterned dresses, allowing you to satisfy your autumn and your spring wardrobe needs simultaneously.
BONUS: other opportunities for secondhand shopping in St Andrews
As ball season (and our Studio 54 event!) descends upon us, Ensemble is a great option to avoid blowing money on a dress you’re only going to end up wearing once. They allow you to both rent and rent out ball dresses from/to other students around St Andrews, saving your wallet and the planet simultaneously.
Sustainable Style periodically hosts thrift fayres in Parliament Hall. With unmatched prices and a fabulous selection donated straight from fellow students, their fayres are one of the most untapped sustainable resources for you to have in your back pocket.
For more upscale, curated vintage items you can also check out the occasional vintage sales hosted by the Union in 601; be sure to get there early though, as the good stuff tends to go out the door pretty fast. G.I. Jane, a local outdoor vintage market that pops up in Church Square when the weather is good, is another good stop for a more curated collection. Be warned, though, that the curation will cost you.