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Charity shop windows 1

Calling all visually creative people - and if you're interested in my blog, that's likely to include YOU! Gather together your skills and imagination, take them down to your local charity shop or thrift store and put them to use! My newest and most compulsive design activity is dressing the windows of a local charity shop - I love it. Trawling through rails and boxes of disparate clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac to create something glamorous and eye-catching is an addictive challenge - AND YOU CREATIVES OUT THERE WOULD LOVE IT TOO!

And the best thing is that I'm using my design skills to help raise money for the charity - so much more satisfying than just putting money in a collection box. It's great to see how a good window display helps to sell the stock.

Here's my shop - the PDSA on Kilburn High Road, north west London. The mission of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals is to care for the pets of people in need by providing free veterinary services to their sick and injured animals.

On my first day I wasn't quite sure how to go about the displays as I'd never done this before and I knew lots of people would be looking at them - it's a busy high street!

I realized quickly that the best way to get lots of incongruent items to work together would be to theme the windows by colour - so that's what I do.
This was an autumn window.

Once I've picked out a few good dresses or separates for the dummies then it's just a matter of hunting around for accessories and bric-a-brac in the same colour scheme. I have to admit, turquoise items tend to jump out at me, being my favourite colour.

This was a Halloween window. In the world of window dressing, it turns out, there are lots of special dates throughout the year which set a theme - and it's always fun to step up to the challenge of finding 'stuff' to fit.

One thing's for sure, we are never short of jewellery to match ANY colour scheme - we have drawers and drawers of it in the back room.

There are some things which when you put them on the dummy you just KNOW will get snapped up right away - this black feather boa was an example, I think it stayed there just long enough for me to take a photo.

Black and white are surely the most sophisticated outfit combination! I loved the black fur hat with the white pearls - rather Italy circa 1960 I thought. When I got home after doing this display I regretted not buying the hat myself - quite a cool look for our freezing winter - but needless to say it had gone by my next visit to the shop.

It's so great when you find a pair of PINK SATIN SHOES to match your display!

Sometimes I have to redress the dummies 2 or 3 times before I can get out the door because people snatched off the outfits as soon as I put them on. It's been interesting to observe how much impact display and presentation can have on people's perception of the stock. We have a lot of regular customers and I've noticed them totally ignore an item on the rails but once on the dummy they snap it up! I've had quite a few laughs with them about that.

To create mini plinths to display things on and to add colour I pile books with spines in colours which match or contrast with the scheme.

Valentines day! The perfect date to put together my favourite combination of clashing pink and red.

I am actually addicted to window dressing now - other shops I'd like to try - chemists, hardware stores, auto parts shops, haberdashers............................................................

I defy anyone to identify this as a photo of a charity shop outfit! Amazing what great looks you can get by teaming things together. (fake) fur and feathers always add a certain je ne sais quoi. And I must say, as much as I love it, Kilburn High Road (or KHR as some of us call it) is NOT Knightsbridge - but that's why it's specially great to bring a touch of glamour to the neighbourhood!!

One thing I do know, women buy a lot of shoes which turn out to be too pointed, too high, too tight and generally TOO uncomfortable to wear more than 5 times! And a lot of them end up in our charity shop!

The second best thing about these shops - after the fact that they provide income for a charity - is that they are the most brilliant focus for recycling. I personally cannot stand rampant consumerism and waste and charity shops offer the most perfect vehicle for giving millions and millions of items a second - or third, or fourth - lease of life. Long live charity shops!

Kilburn High Road in all its glory. There's a high street just like this near you - so dust off your artistic skills and go and experience the thrill of rummaging through heaps of discarded junk to create alluring and inventive window displays for your local charity. You won't be disappointed I promise - I can honestly say I get as much satisfaction from this creative challenge as I do from working on new ideas in my studio!
And when you do - please send me the pics, I'd love to do some guest blogs on the subject!
In fact I'll be back soon myself with another post on my displays because 5 months volunteering has produced a lot of windows - and a lot of snaps!


  1. what an amazing idea - you obviously had fun doing it. I'm interested in how you approached the staff with your idea. I think my local charity shop ladies would get a mite huffy with me if i suggested doing such a thing.

  2. Anonymous19/2/11

    its a really good idea...i might try it out.

  3. Glad to see some of you fancy a bit of window dressing yourselves! Whitney-Anne, you'll find that if you sign up to volunteer for a charity there's likely to be a place on the form where you can write about skills etc you think you can offer - so I just wrote that I was an artist / designer and could help with presentation and display. And luckily on my first day the manager gave me a try! You only need one chance as the staff and customers will soon notice the difference! Good luck!

  4. These windows are fantastic- you've really made the stock look interesting. Perfect for people who don't have time to look through the rails. Will you do a post some time on how you alter clothes from charity shops in all sorts of clever ways- like adding sleeves, or lengthening them- that would be inspirational too!

  5. This is such a good idea!!! I will definitely be trying this out. I love charity shops! And when I do you will be the first to know about it :)

  6. I agree too. This is one great idea.We are getting ourselves some nice items and at the sane time we are giving back to the community.
    Charity Broward County


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