The concept of pre-loved clothing is not a new one for me.
When I was little, mum would sometimes take me to a charity store on the corner of our local shops just a few doors up from the toy store, newsagent and bakery (you know the ones that used to sell the sprinkle covered sponge cakes and bright pink and brown neenish tarts?) I remember rummaging amongst the treasures and hiding under clothes racks and, on one occasion, I was was literally walking on a colourful cloud nine upon finding a pair of white patent leather ballet flats which lit up like a Christmas tree. It was only in hindsight that I realised the items were pre-loved – it was such a neat, well lit store, a far cry from the jumbled clothes racks and dusty scent that some op shops can have. One of my other childhood dresses was dubbed “The strawberry fair dress” because I had found it in a “$2 fill the bag” stall at a local strawberry fair. It was love at first sight and I was completely taken with the puffed sleeves, lace overlay and eighties floral print.
In high school I abandoned op shopping for the pursuit of “newness”, hoping like most teenagers, that looking the same would be my gold ticket to fit in. Still, every so often my sisters and I would receive a huge bag of clothes from a friend or neighbour who had spring cleaned their wardrobe which we would open like a Christmas stocking and parade around the lounge room before carefully selecting our favourites.
My love for op-shopping was re-kindled last year after I was inspired by The True Cost – a documentary about the impact of fast fashion. Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the scope of the issues raised in the documentary, I saw incorporating more pre-loved pieces into my wardrobe as an immediate change I could make. This was especially so given that clothing consumption is a major problem and, according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s 2017 report, “of the total fibre input used for clothing, 87% is landfilled or incinerated, representing a lost opportunity of more than USD 100 billion annually”. This report then went on to say that this was the equivalent to “one garbage truck of textiles…landfilled or incinerated every second”.* This is evident from the crowed clothes racks of my local op shops and when I scroll through on-line pre-loved stores where it’s not unusual to see items still with their tags in place.
However, all is not doom and gloom and it is particularly exciting to see companies finding innovative ways to extend the life of items through online pre-loved stores (such as the Vestiarie Collective and The Real Real) and clothing rental sites (such as The Glam Corner) as more people begin to realise how shopping for, and selling pre-loved pieces, can benefit the planet and people as well as their pockets.
I’ll admit that op-shopping is not always easy and the musty feel of old clothes and the push and shove of hangers can be a bit intimidating at first particularly if, like me, you prefer decluttered, minimalist spaces. However, as I mention here, the exhilarated feeling of finding the perfect item is worth it. So from one minimalist to another, here’s my approach to thrifting
Consider op-shop locations:
Sometimes it isn’t always the trendiest op-shops that produce the real gems, but it might be ones that are tucked out of the way. I also find that those in more affluent suburbs can have a range of hardly worn, quality pieces.
Shop regularly, preferably earlier in the day
When it comes to thrifting, regular small doses is what the doctor orders. I love ducking into nearby op shops on my Saturday morning walks and seeing what new items have arrived has become a fun weekend ritual. I also find that I have more choice and variety if I shop earlier in the day.
Be systematic and thorough
I like to work my way around the shop systematically collecting all items that catch my eye. I find it’s worth trying on any piece, even if it is a size too big or small or is a bit different from what you normally wear- you never know what might look good on.
Be selective but have fun
I always try things on and sort the items into three piles (yes, no, maybe). If something is a “maybe” I might see if I can put it on hold to think about it. Op-shopping has been a great way for me to experiment with outfits that I would usually think twice about buying new or full priced. That said, I hate having excess clothes I don’t wear, thrifted or not, so I’m selective and ask myself the following questions when trying to make a decision about something. Do I absolutely love it? Does it fill a specific need in my wardrobe? Can I see myself actually wearing it?
Consider getting a garment altered
If you absolutely love a thrifted garment but it’s too big or small, consider whether it could be altered. Because you can often find beautiful quality clothes at a much cheaper price it maybe worth spending a bit extra to ensure they fit right if you think you’ll wear them for longer. I recently found a pair of Calvin Klein work pants, which I found op shopping, to the tailor and they now fit perfectly.