Everything that I know about thrifting I owe to my mother. I grew up in Sydney’s Western Suburbs, which, in the 2000s, dripped like the Atacama. Retail shopping was sacrilegious in our household, blaspheme! My mother would rather I commit a violent, sinister crime than be clad in Cotton On.
Desperate pleas for too-short Supré rara skirts (those perverted numbers gilded with “bad kitty”) fell on deaf ears. No lurid neon ‘DIRTY DIRTY HOUSE MUSIC’ slogan t-shirts. Instead, hours-upon-hours of sulkily trawling through musty Salvation Army’s (slim pickings in Blacktown!) Nightmare stuff as a teen. I hated the wretched process. Who wants to wear old, ugly, sticky, manky clothes? Dead girl walking! I want to be like everyone else.
Retrospectively, my mother was right (mums always are.) Op-shopping is my one undying love. The greatest hereditary skillset. Op-shopping is daunting. Here is wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of thrifting. May we all go forth, unto the breach, donning a $20 Issey Miyake Pleats Please set we scored at a community centre jumble sale.
I love and adore my glamorous friends more than anything in this sick little world but I will never, ever take them thrifting! Thrifting is a sacred ritual that should be enjoyed in solitude.
- You do not want to be bogged down with bad vibes. Thrifting is a time-sucking process, you do not want the company of someone who makes you feel guilty about taking too long. It is, however, a good means to screen which of your friends are terribly impatient, whiny pissbabies (if you have a penchant for twisted little psychological experiments.)
- Most of your friends are probably too nice. If you’re going to bring someone along for the ride they need to have a real mean streak. The kind of person that has probably made you feel bad about your weight at least once in your life (mums are perfect companions.) You do not want to bring someone along that will feed you wretched lies. Tell you look good in something when you really look like a FRUMP.
Don’t be seduced by designers
This is my achilles heel. Just because something is Prada doesn’t mean it’s not FUGLY! AS! SIN! My wardrobe is overflowing with unwearable, vile designer clothing. I KNOOOOWWWWW that it’s almost impossible to walk past a pair of $8 Maison Margiela espadrilles. But they’re also espadrilles and they’re two sizes too small for you. Stick to your sartorial true north, brands will only lead you astray.
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Hit the rich areas
Ignore the spectacle I just made about bypassing designers. Hit up the suburbs of the sloane rangers, those toffs are constantly culling good gear. Rich suburbs are great for copping denim staples — good jeans never die (think jeans by Acne, Bergdoff Goodman, Paige, Citizens of Humanity etc blah blah blah.)
Also tres’ fabulous for finding coveted yuppie items that you’d never in a million years buy otherwise: Barbour overcoats, Moncler puffers, it’s all there baby.
Read American Psycho
TRUST me on this one. I don’t think Brett Easton Ellis meant for his scorching yuppie takedown to be a pearl of great price in the way of thrifting but seriously… the thing is a damned manual for identifying LUXURIOUS tailoring. BILL BLASS !!!
Some op-shops are more overwhelming than others (Tempe Tip!). If the thrift store you’re tackling is a monolith, give your eyes a rest and rely on touch. Seriously, just skim through the isles, fingering the wears. You don’t want to be buying anything that reeks of that awful Boohoo polyester. Train your hands to recognise plush cashmeres, sumptuous mohairs, Mulberry silks. With enough practice, you’ll be plucking out luscious Joseph loungewear in no time.
My brain is a Pinterest board mind palace. A series of “looks” I will spend my entire life cultivating. You can’t anticipate what you’ll find in a thrift store so it’s good to have a series of references to go back to. IE: military chic, 90s’ Commes des Garcon editorials, that one picture of Jane Birkin that’s literally SCORCHED into my retina.
Having a perennial moodboard will stop you from impulse buying things that don’t have a place in your wardrobe. I too have fallen victim to Y2k nostalgia buying.
Don’t buy anything that needs fixing
If you’re intrinsically the kind of person that is good at fixing things ignore this. If you’re like me and can’t thread a needle without edging on the precipice of a full-blown mental breakdown, a word to the wise: if something needs to be fixed it’s absolutely not worth it. You will literally neverrrrrrr do it!
Go through all of the sections
I mean all of the sections. The kids section, the size 18+ section, the wedding dresses, the knick knacks. All of it. Leave no stone unturned. It’s tempting to just skim through the curated designer railing and call it a day but you MUST perservere.
Develop a lasting rapport with your op-shop workers
From personal experience, a little kindness could score you that elusive Yohji Yamamoto wool-blend trouser. Strike up a conversation with the lovely ladies at your local op-shopping haunt, subtly allude to your wants and desires and sure enough, it will be waiting for you every week. Same time, same place. Look after them, and they’ll look after you.
Don’t fill the coffers of the greedy fast-fashion hyenas. Instead, spend a little time with salt-of-the-earth people, musing over articles that have had a previous life. Op-shopping is about community, sustainability, patience and looking TRULY fabulous.
For more on this topic, check out the Fashion and Beauty Observer.