frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

Charity shop shopping in St. Lucia & beyond!

Hello everyone!  This week I’m pleased to introduce you to my great friend, Olivia, who lives in St. Lucia in the West Indies.  We trained as psychiatric nurses together at a well-known London hospital and have remained in contact ever since.  A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from her telling me about charity shop shopping in St. Lucia and Scotland.  I thought it so good I’ve put it up for all to see!

Here’s a photo of Olivia taken all those years ago in the grounds of our hospital.


Ollie“Charity shops aren’t common in St. Lucia but there is one in the small town of Vieux Fort. It’s a charity for kids and some of the key players have British origins and connections – so that probably made them set up the shop. It sells everything including clothes although St. Lucians don’t seem to favour 2nd hand apparel preferring to buy cheap new clothing.

But me, well, twelve years ago when I retired I decided to go to my favourite country, Scotland, to work there for a ‘wee’ while.   I packed up and got rid of my entire Caribbean wardrobe. But I didn’t like the job and had to return to St. Lucia after 4 months. It was then, before I left, that I discovered charity shops. I must have ‘done’ every single one in Edinburgh. Not only did I find knick-knacks for souvenirs I was also able to refurbish my entire Caribbean closet with good quality items and, at the same time, helped a variety of causes from cardiac to cats.

Five months later a cruise to the Antarctic required a slightly different wardrobe. Flying from the UK I managed to pop up to Scotland and several items of ‘layers’ were obtained from, once more, the Edinburgh charity shops.

My lifestyle is a simple one as is my dress – shorts of all descriptions and tops. Unlike Penny I don’t empty the wardrobe frequently. But if weight change occurs, or if I’ve not worn an item for an age, I do de-clutter. Ironically, a lot of my UK charity shop items went to – guess – the Vieux Fort charity shop!

My philosophy is quite straightforward – waste not, want not – after all, one woman’s wardrobe is another woman’s opportunity. And I’m not what you would call fashion conscious, as I’m always floored when looking through glossy magazines; the price of a cotton skirt and plastic earrings is something I can’t get my head around, but at 67, I find myself looking forward to Penny’s blog. Long may the blog and charity shops, last! Amen!”

Well, thank you, Olivia!  I’ll certainly be writing the blog for some time to come and as for charity shops – they’re here to stay, as they are just such a good way of raising money!

Two more photos.  Here’s the two of us on a skiing holiday with me wearing really pale lipstick – hmm!



And another taken when I visited St. Lucia in 1999.

St Lucia 1999

That’s all for now

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper

P.S I’ve still got that dress Olivia, which is worn in hot places.  Put it on a couple of times this year whilst in the UK as it’s heating up here as elsewhere.  Apparently we’ve just had the warmest and driest September since records began – in 1910.  And although everyone is loving this weather, not sure about it to be honest – feels unnaturally warm for the UK for the time of year.


Coats, coats, coats. Yes, I found that fabulous coat and some!

Perhaps the weather is just a tad chillier here in the UK – being a Celt I don’t mind. I love the autumn and relish dressing up in wool and tweed in the winter. And I found my fabulous coat, well, *coughs, covers mouth and feels slightly embarrassed* perhaps I should say coats!

First of all, I found a long mackintosh; a bit beige, but beautifully cut. Did I say that the big, long coat is the on-trend winter buy? That’s good for keeping warm, although I don’t know about you, but I have to be really careful, because, despite my height, these almost floor-length, coats can look a bit like a dressing-gown on me. And this one is very long – won’t wear it going down the escalators on the London underground, that’s for sure. It’s an Aquaberry mac, which, I think, no longer trades, so you could call it a vintage coat or, as I see it, pre-loved. And not bad at £8.99.

Then, what about this fabulous Vintage snow-leopard faux fur coat found on a stall last Sunday at the Brighton Vintage Fair?






I’m so pleased I bought it as I’ve been searching for a leopard skin coat for a long time, but, oh my, the price! It was an eye-watering £65 but that’s vintage for you – still cheaper than the High Street, though. I went up to an old fort on a hill in my town for a shoot (actually just me and my husband, Mr Frugal Fashion Shopper) and I sure am no model because in the majority of photos I was pulling a face!!



But the view here is great– I love my town.

Then, finally, I bought quite an unusual, navy, knee-length wool coat. No lining, beautifully cut, in perfect condition, I’ll wear it over jeans. I spotted it in a great little charity shop in Seaford, had a look and saw the labels. On one side of the coat was a big Harrods label, and t’other side, a label saying Weill, Paris. This, my dears, is a ready-to-wear couture label – what a find! What a bargain! It was just £5.00.

That’s it for now, but do drop me a line on what coats you’ll be wearing in the coming months.

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper




In praise of plaid, and tartan and all things Scottish

From the outset I’d decided that this blog wouldn’t do politics and so I keep my (quite strong) views outside these pages. Although, you could say that everything is political and the posts on ethical and sustainable clothing, and even ageism, touch on decisions made in political arenas.

Anyway, can’t let last Thursday go without saying a little something. For those of you reading this outside the UK, I’m sure you’re all aware there was a historic vote in Scotland on ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ (Being a bit of a pedant re: wording I did wonder whether the ‘should’ ought to have been ‘could’. As in ‘should it?’  Yes, of course. But ‘could it?’  Ah, well.) And the result was a quite a reasonable margin of votes (10 points) saying ‘No’ to that question.

I didn’t have a vote, living in England, but I was so torn beforehand. I wavered back and forth.

If I’d been brought up and lived in Scotland I’m pretty sure I would have voted ‘Yes’. But most of the time, I thought, ‘Nooooo’.  Why?  Because I am a Celt born in India, brought up in England, who feels European and tries to be an Internationalist. And I feel very uncomfortable around any form of nationalism. Therefore, the last thing I wanted was the break up of a 300-year-old Union that brings the people of four countries together. I want fewer barriers, please, between people, not more.

I noted also from various parts of social media that there was a bit of an emphasis on England bad, Scotland good, therefore, Scotland should break free from the wicked and evil rulers in Westminster.  Ah but wait a minute, England is not Westminster. We are not all Eton toffs, and we are definitely not those Downton Abbey types. We are ordinary, usually but not always, middle-of-the-road people, and possibly far more left-thinking (for US readers I guess left means liberal) than this government feels comfortable with. For example, the government is rapidly moving us to a US insurance based health care system but a majority would accept a tax raise to support and pay for our beloved NHS. And want the NHS to remain as it is (or was, sadly, as the ‘reforms’ are quite far gone).

However, the aftermath of the ‘No’ vote could bring a massive change – it could mean substantially more devolution, not only for Scotland, but for all countries including England.

But we remain a United Kingdom, and for that I am so grateful to the Scots. Being a lover of many things Scottish – mists, lochs, neeps (yes really), shortbread, Dr Who, haggis (have you ever tasted it, it’s delicious) tartan and plaid, I would have been heart-broken to see the UK split asunder and Scotland gone forever.   Thank you Scottish voters. But now over to those Westminster politicians to sort out Scotland’s devo-max – here’s hoping it goes well – gulp!

That’s my politics over and done with!

With love, Penny


My skin sorted plus I’m searching for a fabulous winter coat!

Last week I had my two miniscule skin cancers zapped – all good, and OK now. You remember I wrote about this in February, when I went to London and treated myself to the Isabella Blow exhibition, after going to the Mole Clinic for a skin examination. And no, the NHS waiting list isn’t that slow, I’d postponed one appointment.

But, seriously, I cannot emphasise enough to you – if you’re fair skinned go get your skin checked. Forty years ago we all wanted to get that Bridget Bardot look of bleached hair, pale lips and dark suntanned skin. Well I did! Now, there are the consequences of that tanning, but if caught in time (and most of these skin things are very slow growing anyway) there’s no problem.

Haven’t done much charity shop shopping lately, although I did try on a beautiful grey Jaegar winter coat yesterday, but it was too big *sighs*.  Pity, as that’s a very good brand and it was just the colour of the coming season.

We’re having lovely warm weather in the UK at the moment so it seems a bit odd to think of winter clothes, but charity shops are beginning to put out their winter stock and you could find yourself a great bargain.

Hadley Freeman’s written her usual amusing article and this week it’s about cheering yourself up through the winter months by buying and wearing a fabulous (slightly wacky) coat. How I agree with her.

brown-top-webAnd, before you say, I want to be warm not fabulous, and furthermore, I can’t afford to buy that type of coat, the point is when you shop in charity shops you can buy a fabulous coat plus another warmer one – it really is cheaper buying coats that way – and it’s great fun looking.

Hope to put up a photo soon of a fab coat, but in the meantime here’s a grey (!) M&S Per Una top I bought for £1.00 in the depths of Dorset, where we had a short break at the beginning of the month.

That’s all for now

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper


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Grey for the autumn – why not try this excellent colour

I packed far too many clothes for that cruise. Seriously, I could have taken fewer evening outfits, and as for my day clothes, well, the colours oscillated from that in-your-face yellow cardigan and scarf (which looked good) to pink trousers and a green t-shirt (never wore it). When going on holiday, the saying goes, take double the money and half the clothes – yup, that just about sums up what I should have done.

But I’ve just come back from a week away, and this time I took a capsule wardrobe of three pairs of jeans (all from Primark) in black, grey and pink, plus a variety of tops and one statement outfit (for a conference) that fitted nicely into a small suitcase – was proud of myself!

Grey’s an interesting colour. Jess Cartner-Morley says that grey is often associated with the colour of one’s underwear after a lot of washes. You know, that dull dishwater, off-white colour. But grey clothes can look stunning. You know I love the way Claire Underwood dresses with that muted palette of grey, blue and black clothing, which is to die for – can’t wait for the next series of House of Cards. But grey can also look good on the older woman especially against our ageing and paler skin. And it can also look good with both grey hair and the blonde colour that I, and so many others use for our greying locks. Yes, I know I could go white, but that’s a debate for another time! And if you think grey is too leaden a colour for you to wear, think of the variety of grey colours there are, and, perhaps even see silver as a possibility for you.

No need to spend £300 or so on a cashmere top, though. Here’s some suggestions for wearing grey from the High Street and my favourite autumn/winter top is a grey cashmere jumper bought from a charity shop three years ago for just £5.00! What I will be looking out for, however, is a grey coat similar to one that features in the Cartner-Morley video. But more about coats and winter wear later this year.

jacket-&-skirt-webAnd, last but not least, I’ve just read in the latest Vogue issue that one should forget frou-frou and go urban edgy. OK, I could go for that but, oops sorry, couldn’t resist this frothy skirt bought last week, not in a charity shop, but in a sale for just over £10.00 in, you note, grey, teamed here with my favourite jacket.

That’s all for now

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper



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