If you have walked down Harpenden High Street in the last couple of weeks you may have seen a mannequin styled by yours truly, with a little help from the fashionable fundraising pioneer Caroline Jones.

Caroline committed to wearing a charity shop bought outfit every day in 2015 after her mother, who worked in Cancer Research UK’s charity shop in Harpenden, died of breast cancer in October 2014 at the age of 72.

In the first 18 months she raised £57,000 for Cancer Research UK and that was before releasing her book, Knickers Model’s Own: A Year of Frugal Fashion, in May this year.

The book charts her 365 outfits as well as style advice aplenty on how to put outstanding outfits together on a budget and every penny goes to Cancer Research UK.

Almost two years later she still visits the charity shop every Friday to help style the mannequins and so I decided to go along and observe her shopping skills while picking her brain for charity shopping tips ahead of cancer awareness day today (Oct 21), Stand Up To Cancer.

“You need to start with knowing your body shape” she tells me. “I can’t stress that enough, maybe that comes with getting older; you settle, you accept what your body shape is because it changes when you have children, I’m a different shape than I was when I was in my 20s.

“You also need to know what your gaps are, know what you’re looking for. I know I have a lot of tops but could do with more skirts, for example.

“I’m always looking for colour, for a great fit. I know what is in my wardrobe so I know what I need to add in.

“That’s the mistake people make when shopping generally. You don’t go with a list and you just wander around.”

The unworn items hanging in my wardrobe testify to the truth of what she is saying.

However, that is all well and good but she is a preloved – as she calls second-hand items – fashion aficionado and rummaging for what we want isn’t quite as simple for the rest of us.

“Start with jewellery, that’s a no brainer” she tells me. “Now is the time, when it isn’t freezing, to think ahead a couple of months.”

So we look at the jumpers, all £10 or less, and I consider telling her I have spent almost £100 on just two jumpers. I don’t, but I tell her that is how much it would cost.

Caroline hasn’t bought brand new clothes in almost two years and she looks at me wide-eyed in absolutely shock before composing herself and continuing with her valuable advice.

“The first thing you need to do when you’re stepping into a charity shop is just look. I look at everything.

“Sometimes you don’t see things, but that is what shopping is like. That’s not because you’re in a charity shop.”

Looking at everything may sound time consuming, but in less than 10 minutes we go through two rails. Rails that are organised by product, colour and size; much easier to manoeuvre when you have a specific item in mind than a high street shop.

Caroline picks out items and holds them up, away from the rest.

“Sometimes when you get things away you start to see them differently,” she explains, and she’s right.

She holds something up that I would have skimmed over and I suddenly see its appeal. If she likes the item she will hang it somewhere in the shop and start playing with its features.

“Style things up, rolls sleeves up, do it up and undo it. See what you can make of it,” she instructs me.

We continue in this fashion and in less than half an hour Caroline has picked out a beautiful staple wardrobe for us to style our mannequins with.

“One of the comments I hear is ‘I haven’t got time’ but I’m not spending time getting in my car, driving to a shopping centre or department store and parking. Walking to the shop and browsing all the in-store trends. Now I come in here and do 10 minutes and go.

“You’re supporting a campaign and you’re shopping local – everything is right about that.”

In less than two hours Caroline and I scour the shop, dress three different mannequins, take photos of said mannequins and do a lot of chatting.

If we had been rushing it would probably have taken the same amount of time to find and style the three outfits as it would for me to choose one for myself for a special occasion.

I cannot tell you how many times Caroline pulls something out with a label still attached and says “look, that’s brand new”.

As well as your normal high street brands she also pulls out Marc Cain, Joseph, New Balance, Jack Wills, M & Co, Mint Velvet, Phase Eight, French Connection, Old Navy and a pair of unworn Levi’s jeans for £7.50.

At the end we total up the value of each outfit and each comes to less than £20 with accessories, but without shoes and bags.

The styling session turned out to be a schooling for me and I hug Caroline goodbye having already decided to return my new jumpers and head to my local charity shop.

For even more tips and to see how Caroline does it, her book, Knickers’ Models’ Own: A Year of Frugal Fashion, is available from the Harpenden Cancer Research UK shop along with a wonderful selection of ‘preloved’ items, or online at giftshop.cancerresearch.uk.org