Dressed to impress?

Canadian blog

Have you ever packed a suitcase to bursting point and then realised you haven’t got a thing to wear? All my T-shirts look dingy in the sunshine, my dresses are too “dressy” and my one pair of shorts make me look like a very old Boy Scout! The girls woke up saying almost exactly the same thing. They were dressed for Camden market in black vests and sawn off denim not a Canadian lake, where the colours are bright and the shorts cut to perfection.

So, rather than blow our holiday money on maple syrup and Canadian souvenirs we have decided, as we are here for a month, to invest in some proper summer clothes.

As we don’t have limitless funds but a limitless fascination with vintage clothes and charity shops, we head for Value Village, a concept so brilliant it should be wrapped up with a bow and put on a boat to the UK immediately.

From the outside Value Village looks like any other suburban Canadian shop – a bit like Homebase without the hanging baskets and unsteerable trolleys. Inside it is junk shop heaven. Rows and rows of second-hand stuff, organised, sized and labelled literally as far as the eye can see.

We started at the left hand side, grabbed a basket and shopped for England. I was fascinated by the household section – fabulous 60s casserole dishes going for a couple of dollars, sets of glasses of every shape and size, a whole shelf of Christmas china, candles and decorations and row upon row of candle holders, table linen and pots and pans. If you were setting up home you would be able to equip your kitchen for a few dollars. The only thing we have close to it that I know of is the British Heart Foundation furniture shops, which are wonderful, but few and far between.

It works just like a British charity shop, with people donating unwanted clothes and goods at the back where they are sorted, priced and put out for sale. All the profits go to local good causes – in our case a mentoring system for local children and teenagers, and the shop provides decent cheap clothes for those whose budgets don’t stretch to The Bay, GAP and Sears.

Tempted as I was by the griddles and waffle irons I had one eye on my luggage allowance so I browsed but I didn’t buy, until I hit the clothes and came face to face with rail upon rail of T-shirts, shorts and dresses. We only had an hour so I didn’t dare start on the denim! But as I trawled the aisles, occasionally bumping into the girls whose baskets were overflowing, I managed to pick up a pair of un-embarrassing shorts for $4.99, a grey Calvin Klein vest for $3.99 and a mock 50s skirt for $14.99. And as everything in North America is bigger than home – including dress sizes – I appeared to have shrunk to a size 8 overnight. Result! We had enough cash and calories left to splash out on a Dairy Queen ice-cream while we wilted in the heat waiting for my sister to collect us in a speeding drive-by swoop (lest the neighbours spot her!)

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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