The town that nobody knows.

I’m home.

There is nothing so comforting as familiar streets, familiar faces, and familiar sheets.

Travelling is the best thing that I have ever done, but, this will always be my home.

Talking of which, and perhaps getting just a little over sentimental about it (sorry, not sorry) I thought I would share a little more about the obscure, ugly little town that I call home.

I live in Alton, in Hampshire, and I have lived here for all eighteen years of my life (excluding perhaps twenty four hours while I was being born in a hospital a little North of Alton, in a much nicer town.) It should be said that almost all of the towns surrounding Alton are unanimously described as much nicer, which is hardly a recommendation for the poor little place.

High Street

To understand why Alton grew up this way, let’s take a look at its childhood. First, an inauspicious beginning; a watering-hole for horses and their drivers as trade routes began to form between the major cities in the surrounding area. (Yes, literally all Alton could offer them at that point was water, which means it was exactly as useful as a puddle. Again, could do better.) Anyhow, after lots of to-ing and fro-ing of horses and carts, Alton began to thrive as a busy market town. Soon, the main industry became Breweries, and Alton suddenly had something more to offer; Beer. (Much better.)

War Memorial

Since then, it has expanded exponentially and now supports the great spectrum of human life, as well as the health centres, schools, houses and playgrounds necessary to cater for such a diverse population. This means you are just as likely to come a cropper at the hands of a territorial old lady as a child with a bow and arrow. (You’re laughing, but that actually happened to me…)

Closed

The Brewery itself has since shut down, and, despite literally several hopeful ‘Alton in Bloom’ campaigns championed by local councilors, the once busy high street is quiet and abandoned. But it’s this transformation which has created what is, in my opinion, the best part of my home town.

If there’s one area where Alton really shines, it is a pretty unexpected one. Charity shops. Hardly an accolade, right? Thrift shopping (I call Charity-shop shopping thrift shopping because it sounds cooler, and makes me feel like Macklemore…) is a supercheap way of dressing well and being responsible for the clothes that you buy. I’m pretty choosy about the kind of clothes that I will buy brand new, I like brands that support individuality and accountability, and I enjoy recycling or re purposing mine or my friends’ old clothes (mostly with their consent), or finding amazing stuff in second hand shops.

Alton

There are thirteen charity shops in Alton and the variety of clothing and books and other wacky items is huge. It is a perfect town to shop in if you don’t want to end up looking like everyone else on the high street.

That said, and to give you further insight into my funny little home town, here are a few tips on how to make sure you’re getting the most out of the treasure troves that are second-hand shops.

1.

Going thrift shopping without a list is like going food shopping when you’re hungry; you’ll end up leaving the shop with tons of yummy snacks, but no eggs, milk or bread. While it’s sometimes okay to treat yourself to the odd impulse buy (It has to be said that I myself do this a lot), it is much easier to come out with a great item if you have some idea of what you want. If you see an outfit combination that you like, or you wish you had more of a certain type of clothing, make a note that you’re looking for black crop tops or perhaps midi dresses, and it will help you to focus when faced with racks and racks of clothes. It will also give you an extra sense of satisfaction when you find the item you want, so it’s a win-win! (For inspiration on items to pick up for use in future DIY projects, check out online blogs. For example, http://blog.freepeople.com/)

53

After finding the denim jacket base, I looked out for a grey cotton jacket to create this Hybrid. Click the picture for a link to the tutorial…

After

After finally finding a maxi skirt, I decided to change the colour with an easy tye-dye effect. Click for the tutorial!

2.

The stock in second hand shops is constantly changing and you’ll want to get out there (to all thirteen in my case!) whenever you can, just to make sure you don’t miss a bargain. Of course, you don’t have to go mad, but if you are passing, it’s always worth popping in, especially because this can help you with…

3.

Most people working in charity shops are volunteers, and volunteering yourself for a couple of hours a week is a great way to meet new people, make a contribution, and also keep your eyes peeled for the best stock. However, many people won’t have the time to commit each week, and instead it’s worth chatting to the staff of your most frequently visited shops whenever you go in. Not only does this allow you to spread a little love, it also means that you can share your wishlist and work together to look out for your most wanted items.

I found this great cardigan while volunteering at a local charity shop where my friend Zak worked. He said I looked like a granny, but I bought it anyway (;

4.

I don’t do this. (Why am I giving you advice? I don’t know.) But you should. Going home with one great piece is always better then leaving with lots of fixer-uppers that you’re just not that mad about. In general, if you’re not sure about something, leave it on the shelf for someone who will really adore it.

5.

The only way to look good in clothes is to believe that you look good in them. If you don’t think you can pull it off, or if you’re not sure that it’s your usual style, or even if it’s just a colour you never wear, try it on! Wear it confidently and, if you like it, go for it! You are an individual and it’s fun to create a collection that’s as eclectic and diverse as you are.

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*I bought this jacket way back in 2008 from a local Cancer Research shop. I’ve just rediscovered it, and I love it!

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*Remember, your parents and grandparents probably have things that haven’t seen the light of day in years. Dig them out and they could be the latest beautiful vintage piece to add to your collection!

Click any photo to enlarge (:

Even if you don’t live in Alton, you can of course try this for yourself in your own hometown. I just happen to think that Alton is the best place to shop, possibly ever. But then again, I suppose I’m biased…

home

Enjoy!

Note: This post is actually an entry for this competition. That said, I have not written this post in any way to suck up to Free People, (although, they are awesome) and all opinions expressed are, as ever, entirely my own.

Photos taken by me, or Emily Wang, and used with her permission. Illustrations hand drawn by me.

MTG, PV x

Pssst! Any newcomers, check out this post for a bit more about me!

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