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The Gift That Keeps on Giving…

The Court Circular explores why Mary’s Living and Giving Shop, Teddington’s much-loved fashion hotspot, could be the answer to your Christmas shopping dilemmas…

Words | Orin Carlin

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is fast approaching which means that many of us are on the hunt for the perfect gift. If you’re keen to avoid a certain hysteria induced specifically by a weekend trip to the department store in the lead up to 25 December, maybe you ought to reconsider your options?

But what exactly are your options? Shopping for clothing gifts online, at least in my own experience, can end in disaster. It’s virtually impossible to get a feel for exactly what it is that you’re spending your hard-earned cash on. More often than not, the end result is disappointing: too baggy, too tight, too itchy, too bright or too flammable (and if your recipient is particularly unlucky, it’s all of the above).

“A shift in the landscape has meant that more of us are foraying into the world of sustainable fashion.”

This is where the quintessentially British charity shop comes in. The thought of giving (or receiving) a second hand gift is controversial for some. The charity shop has unfairly become synonymous with moth-eaten wool jumpers and the occasional woodland creature figurine. However, a shift in the landscape has meant that more of us are foraying into the world of sustainable fashion. Simply put, there are some brilliant charitable organisations that are working hard to teach us how we can change our consumer habits – and we should to pay attention.

Mary’s Living and Giving shop for Save the Children in Teddington are a great example of a local charity shop that is getting it right. I fear I may have tasked shop manager Melinda McHugh and volunteer Hannah Ryland-Brown with a tall order when I pop by on a sunny September afternoon in search of ‘the ultimate Christmas party outfit’, but they are unfazed by the challenge. The pair spring into action, carefully compiling a covetable selection of sequinned, sparkly and shimmery garments that could all equally fit the bill.

It is this ‘above and beyond’ attitude to customer service that has made the shop into something of a local icon. “It’s part of the Teddington experience because it’s been part of the community for ten years now,” says Melinda. “We get people coming in of all ages, it’s just a very welcoming environment for everyone.”

This shop, among several others, was set up by retail expert Mary Portas with the aim of enabling children in and around the UK to fulfil their potential. In 2020, Save the Children supported an impressive 44.9 million young people. Voting with our wallets is a great way of making a positive contribution to the organisations that we care about and allowing them to continue working hard within the wider community.

The charitable cause behind Mary’s Living and Giving offers one explanation as to why the Teddington branch is so adored by its loyal customers, but Hannah presents a convincing alternative. “The options that you get when you shop second hand can be unique, you might find something that nobody else has got,” she says. “I’ve only been volunteering here since April and I don’t think that I’ve bought anything from anywhere else since! It is very addictive.”

And what better way to put Hannah’s words to the test than to indulge in a festive shopping challenge? It seems only right to scope out some dazzling Christmas party gear to honour all the killer outfits that never saw the light of day this year, thanks to our lack of social interaction. For my first look I choose a white long-sleeved sequinned top with a navy and silver beaded miniskirt, black patent boots (expertly suggested by Melinda) and a silver studded clutch. Unbelievably, the Prada boots are very comfortable – this could be a great look if you’re planning on hitting the dance floor. My next outfit consists of an embellished silver slip dress with a beaded necklace and glittery Mary Janes to match (which felt very roaring twenties!) complete with a classic black leather clutch. Finally, a gold lurex jumpsuit, layered bronze necklace and burgundy snake-inspired ankle boots.

I’m bowled over by the selection and by the fact that the team are passionate about delivering quality service alongside quality garments. Retaining a bit of Christmas spirit all year round seems to be their secret ingredient. “I’ve been volunteering here for nearly five and a half years,” says Melinda proudly. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. It’s just one of those things that really gets to you.”


How you can help…

Do you have any hidden gems that are lurking away in the depths of your wardrobe? The Teddington branch is always seeking donations to add to its collection of pre-loved clothes, shoes, accessories, books and children’s toys.

If you’re interested in joining the second hand party, Mary’s Living and Giving is always looking for new volunteers. The Teddington team play to people’s strengths, with some volunteers working behind the scenes, steaming, sewing and sorting, while others take on customer-facing roles.

Mary’s Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children

93 High St, Teddington TW11 8HG

Instagram @maryslivingandgivingteddington


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