Charity shops, op shops, thrift stores and markets, oh my. I was a bit lost when I started buying pre-loved fashion, so I thought I'd share with you my tips and experiences.
Why shop second-hand?
It's one of the most eco-friendly ways to add to your wardrobe. Brand new items take quite a toll on the environment, regardless of whether they're named organic or eco-friendly. For instance, an organic cotton tee and a regular cotton tee both use up to 2500 litres to make.
It's fun! There's something oh-so-satisfying about finding a unique little gem in the corner of an op shop, tucked between some uglies. It also satiates my thirst for creativity, because I often buy second-hand on the basis of what I think it could be.
It's cheap. Many people are tricked into thinking that they can keep up with fast trends because chain stores offer clothing so cheap. But the quality is often poor and the styles can date quickly. Second-hand shopping is cheaper because the outright cost is less, plus the items may have longevity.
Truly one-of-a-kind things are waiting for you to find them. If you're buying true vintage, it's nice to know you'll probably be the only one wearing that awesome find of yours.
There is something for everyone. No matter what your style, you're bound to find something you love if you keep at it. I've found lasting basics by contemporary brands for under $5 as well as quirky, unique pieces.
Venturing into the second-hand
I remember my first time in a second-hand store, years ago. I had heard about all these great second-hand clothing finds and I wanted to bargain-hunt for unique items, too. I dropped into Savers in Dandenong on my way back from uni.
I was not impressed. I rifled through an aisle of short, slightly stretched tees from the 'Now' brand of Big-W and other such contemporary junk, and then I just couldn't take it any more. It smelled musty, old and slightly damp, the other shoppers looked a bit withered, not quite with it and were dressed in the aforementioned junk. I just wanted to get out of there. So I did. I put second-hand shopping in the 'no thanks' category and went back to my regular chain store shopping.
My first tip for those who haven't done any thrifting is 'don't give up'. While most opportunity and second-hand shops smell a bit, the atmosphere of each is different and some have worse 'vibes' than others. Savers probably wasn't the best place for me to start. It's huge and often requires lots of searching to find anything great. If I got squeamish at one aisle (probably not even that), I wasn't going to want to make it through the entire store.
I ended up at the Savers on Sydney Road a year or two later. I'm not exactly sure what the difference was, maybe the interesting and stylishly dressed shoppers or the fact that it didn't smell quite as horrible (maybe I had a stuffy nose that day) but I had a ball.
Check out Part II here.