They say a great outfit can make you feel good… but when you add in the thrill of secondhand shopping and sharing with a “lovely community” on TikTok and Instagram, the feelgood factor is even better, as one local lawyer found out on her journey to recover from chronic burnout.
Georgina ‘George’ Cook (47) has been sharing her charity shopped treasures and how she styles them on Instagram and Tiktok under the handle @awomancalledgeorge.
Sharing her outfits is a way for George to express herself - something she felt was necessary after she experienced some mental health challenges a few years ago after “climbing the corporate ladder”.
Pictured: "Part of that journey was realising I’m quite a creative person and my life, as it was, wasn’t allowing me to show that."
“I was quite poorly three years ago, I suffered chronic burnout and sustained depression,” she explained.
"This led me to have therapy and to go through a process of putting myself back together after being so poorly and re-evaluating what I wanted out of life, what kind of person I wanted to be and what I want to put into the world.
“Part of that journey was realising I’m quite a creative person and my life, as it was, wasn’t allowing me to show that. Law is a pretty conservative environment, there isn’t much room for quirkiness. It is getting better, but it’s still very traditional. I realised I wasn’t getting from my work the creativity and expression I perhaps needed or wanted and so I decided to find an outlet for that elsewhere.
“After going through therapy, I decided I wasn’t going to go back and be the same person, I would live more true to my values.”
Pictured: George’s first “act of rebellion” was to stop dying her hair.
George’s first “act of rebellion” was to stop dying her hair and let it grow and be grey instead. She then started expressing herself more through her clothes, inspired by Trinny Woodall, whom she remembered from the tv in the 1990’s.
“I really connected with some of the stuff she was talking about, especially on ageing and expressing herself through clothes,” George said. “She doesn’t give a damn; she just expresses herself as she wants to be happy.”
But while she wanted to be “less afraid” to be herself, George admits she didn’t have unlimited resources to buy new clothes and didn’t necessarily want to partake in the fast fashion culture. Even so, she says she “stumbled” into charity shop shopping.
“If you had told me I was going to be a charity shop ferret I wouldn’t have believed it,” she said.
Pictured: For George, there are no downsides to shopping in charity shops.
“I’ve always had an interest in clothes and fashion, but I have become more conscious of seeing women sharing their fast-fashion ‘outfit of the day’ or shopping hauls on social media.
“I felt a little bit uncomfortable from an environmental point of view with this. I liked the idea of the charity shopping circular economy as you can go and find a jumper for £3 in a charity shop, enjoy it for a time and then give it back to the charity when you’re bored of it. The charity has had £3, you enjoyed the item and then somebody else can enjoy it.”
For George, there are no downsides to shopping in charity shops. “It gives you peace of mind that you are not contributing to fast fashion, and all the negatives that come with that, such as the waste and the exploitative labour market,” she said.
“You’re not wasting something, you are making use of something that somebody else thought had reached the end of its useful life, and you’re giving it a new lease of life. You are keeping from buying new and stopping things from going to landfill.”
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Video: George visits Acorn and Durrell, both part of what she calls the "Trinity Triangle", regularly.
“Plus, I get to have lovely clothes but at only a fraction of the cost,” she added. “I can buy clothes that are much better quality than if I was buying on the high street. You can also take more risks with what you buy if you are only spending a couple of quid. You can try something different, and have lots of experimental fun.”
Among George’s best finds are a 100% silk leopard print shirt which retails for £250, which she got for £3, a £5 Sticky Fingers suit and a £4.50 pure wool hand knitted Aran jumper. As she lives near Acorn Reuse Shop, George frequently visits there as well as the Durrell Charity Shop – “I call this the Trinity triangle: my house, Acorn and Durrell,” she laughed.
She recommends shopping around to find great items. “Jersey is blessed with so many amazing charity shops, you can spend a whole weekend going round all of them, it’s a fun day out,” she said.
“You need to go regularly as the turnover is really high,” she added. “Sometimes it’s feast, sometimes it’s famine, so regularity is the key.
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Video: George shares her charity shop "hauls" on Instagram and tiktok, where she has found a community of likeminded fashion enthusiasts.
“Don’t be a slave to your size either, I don’t always shop to my size. If you see something that you like but it’s a bit big, nine times out of ten you can adapt it to fit. If it’s not absolutely the right size, you can still pick it up and have some fun.”
After enjoying creating outfits with her charity shop treasures, George started sharing them on social media, without expecting to garner any followers.
“I only started doing it almost as a diary for myself,” she explained. “It’s just a laugh, it’s not with any particular goal. I’m just doing it for a bit of fun and to put myself out there: it makes me feel good and I’m enjoying it.
“I thought Tiktok was just lip syncing and make-up tutorials but there’s so many different genres! Pages are curated to each person, and I very quickly found other people who were on the same wavelength and now have 20 thousand followers!
@awomancalledgeorge @closetlondon @beautypie #prelovedfashion #prelovedstyle #thrifted #prelovedclothes #prelovedbranded #charityshop #charityshopper #charityshopchic #charityshopstyle #charityshopfashion #sustainable #sustainablefashion #sustainableclothing #upcycle #recycle #recycledfashion #upcycledclothig #secondhand #secondhandstyle #secondhandclothes #thriftshop #fyp #ootd #over40style #over40 #over40club ♬ original sound - awomancalledgeorge
Video: One of George's most popular reels on tiktok.
“It’s just a lovely community that we may not have time for in real life as we’re all so busy. There is a massive online movement with charity shopping, with thousands of people sharing the gems they’ve found. It’s great for your wellbeing; it makes you feel so good that you’re part of this family that seems to be growing.”
George says that while her followers are mostly women, their ages vary from 18 to 70+. “It’s so supportive, so lovely, I haven’t experienced any trolls, so far,” she said. “People comment and share their own stories. Maybe it’s a little bit unusual to see a middle-aged grey haired woman who is unapologetic about who she is and what she’s doing.”
“It’s lovely to see people being confident, particularly women in their 40s, 50s or 60s who I feel kind of become invisible, you just don’t see women of a certain age that much in the media,” she continued.
Pictured: “I’m not worried about having to fit in and impressing people anymore," George said.
“It’s a nice thing to step into yourself, through experimentation with clothes and make-up, it’s about owning my space in the world for myself and for women my own age and older.”
After spending years putting her focus into work then, George is enjoying having more time to express herself.
“I dialled down many aspects of my life and personality to succeed in law, but I’m no longerstriving for the same goals,” she explained. “I’m not worried about having to fit in and impressing people anymore.
“Of course, it’s fine if you choose to modify yourself to get where you want to be, but if that’s not aligned with who you truly are, it can be difficult. You can begin to feel you’re not good enough or that someone else is always doing better than you.
“It can lead to ill-health and really affect your sense of wellbeing and feelings of self-worth.”
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Video: One of George's most recent finds, purple "Austin Powers" boots from Acorn.
“Don’t get be wrong, it’s great to have goals and to do what you need to do to achieve them, but always keep an eye on what makes you happy and what allows you to be who you really are - and not what other people want you to be,” George added.
“I think this was a big factor in what made me so ill. You never quite get to the finish line do you? You achieve something and then the next ‘want’ comes along and if that pursuit isn’t 100% what lights your fire, it can be draining. Some people will absolutely thrive on it giving them so much satisfaction but, for many people, you can also find satisfaction in other things. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable in your own skin. I am now comfortable in mine - this is me, a 47-year-old woman doing her thing and this is who I really want to be.
“It’s about having balance; by all means work hard, but also find the things that inspire you and light your fire - go for it!”
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