By Mariam Mokhtar

Psst.....here’s my secret....How to pick up a bargain and dress like a princess!

So, you want to dress like a princess, and kit yourself out in designer accessories, but spend just a fraction of what they normally cost! No problem! I have the solution.

Tucked away in a little corner of Ipoh’s Old Town, is a charity shop called “The PWW Shop”.

“The PWW Shop” is run by the Perak Women for Women NGO. It is an Aladdin’s cave for people who have a keen eye for a bargain. Designer clothes, vintage and cosmetic jewellery, glassware, electrical gadgets for the cook, fine china, shoes, books, handbags and the odd-looking ornament. You never know what you might find!

In Europe, charity shops, especially those located in affluent areas are well patronised. You never know what you can pick up for a fraction of the original cost. Chanel dresses. Louis Vuitton handbags. Edinburgh crystal. Victorian silver jewellery. Leather trousers and jacket. First edition books.

Before I set off on holiday, I buy a selection of books from the charity shops. They are cheap and I leave them at my destination so that someone else can read the books. Upscaling!

Once, when I was on holiday in England, I picked up a Samsonite, hard shell suitcase for three hundred ringgits, instead of the four thousand ringgits, when new. The suitcase was perfect with hardly a dent, just a few scratches on the wheels.

Some Malaysians may turn their noses up at second-hand goods, but one friend, whose daughter is at university in England, told me that her daughter has saved thousands of ringgits buying shoes, boots, and warm clothing at charity shops. Even sporting gear was easily available. Her daughter managed to buy skiing boots, skis, gloves, and salopettes at a fraction of the normal price. On her visits to see her daughter, my friend has also purchased many gadgets for the kitchen as well as stoneware to complement her crockery set.

“The PWW Shop” is no different. Like its many patrons, I love to trawl through the shop when I am in town. The trick is to be patient and keep your eyes peeled for the things that take your fancy. It is sometimes difficult to limit my purchases, as I keep reminding myself that someone else may snap up the item.

If a dress is too long, all I have to do is shorten the hem. If it does not fit, it has not cost me an arm and a leg, and I may give the dress away or donate it back to the shop. It is all about raising money for charity.

On my last visit to the shop, I picked up a beautiful cheongsam, which I will be wearing at this year’s Chinese New Year party. The fabric was free of stains, snags or rips. The workmanship was superb. (See photo). At the same time, I spotted a perfect be-jewelled hair clasp, which I will also wear for my CNY party. The variety of earrings and brooches was so plentiful, that I just grabbed a handful of them. I was spoilt for choice. The difficulty was limiting myself to just a few purchases. Then again, I may not be able to locate such choice items again.

The proceeds from “The PWW Shop” are meant to empower women. It is managed, staffed and stocked entirely by women. The smallest and oldest of the volunteers is Mai, who is also the toughest but is the one whom everyone depends on for help. She is our ‘go to’ person.

Mai can do a lot of things including fixing a lot of stuff in the shop. On the whole, each volunteer has their own strengths, and do what they can.

“The PWW Shop” has attracted the interest of the people, residents, office workers, salespeople, and tourists around the area. According to the volunteers, a few of the regular customers drop in at least once, if not twice, a day, to see what new things the shop has acquired. They have also bought a lot of very nice, expensive and branded items, for a song.

The volunteers speak very fondly of the many dedicated regulars.

One lady comes in every lunchtime to help “The PWW Shop” weave ribbons for their one million stars project, and she has now become a friend.

Another lady comes every day, buys a few trinkets and donates some of her own trinkets – ‘a widow’s mite.’

Another one will buy some stuff, to sell to her colleagues at a small profit, and she donates the profit to “The PWW Shop”. She said, “Buying things from the shop has brought me luck.”

As she has been making small amounts of money from gambling on 4-digit numbers, “The PWW Shop” also gains as she makes a small donation from her gambling wins.

“The PWW Shop” has been well received. Friends and patrons donate their pre-loved things for the shop to sell.

The volunteers are eager to acquire more things, especially costume jewellery, crockery, flatware, pottery and books. One volunteer said, “Clothes are a bit more difficult to sell, but what we can’t sell, we donate to the homeless”.

Her colleague added, “Donations to ‘The PWW Shop’ are most welcome. Clothes should be clean, with no rips or tears. Zips and buttons should be in working condition. Please bring the items to the shop.

“Sometimes people donate things in error. If they phone us, we will return the item, providing it hasn’t been sold. Fast moving items are good costume jewellery and household items.”

SuWin, one of the volunteers said, “Thanks to Siew Keen, one would never think that the shop sells mainly donated items, old and new. It is a veritable magpie’s nest. Going in, you never know what bargains you might find. Right now, we have Jimmy Choos and Louboutins!”

So, if you still want to dress like a princess for CNY, head for “The PWW Shop”!

(With special thanks to the volunteers, Mai, SuWin and Siew Keen)

Location: 5 Market Street, 30000 Ipoh. Tel: 05 246 9715
Opening hours: Mon-Tue – 10am-1pm; Wed-Sun – 10am-4pm