Isn’t it annoying when a friend is wearing something you like and you’re dying to know where they bought it from and when you ask them, their reply is “it’s vintage” or “I got it from an op-shop.”
I sometimes think, sure sure, you just don’t want me to go out and get the exact same thing, but then when you check out the tag with its stained and cursive writing and your friend points out a flaw in the hem that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, it dawns on you she’s telling you the truth.
As annoying as it is when that happens, I shouldn’t be one to talk as I know that I’m guilty of saying the very same thing many times over the years. In fact, nearly half of the contents in my walk-in wardrobe is comprised of items I’ve picked up at the op-shops over the years, and many of my favourite items of clothing and accessories are from vintage and second-hand stores like Shag or the ever popular Savers.
I have been shopping for vintage and second hand clothing or what I’ve often referred to as “op-shopping” since I was in Year 8. I was 13 years old and had no income and did not receive pocket money, so I would save the money my mother had given me to buy lunch at the canteen and instead I would go to the local St Vinnies or Salvation Army after school and sift my way through the recycled clothing.
I found it tedious and a lot of hard work at times, swarming through moth balls and listening to classic music as only Magic 693 can provide, however I was often rewarded for my persistence when I’d find the most amazing sequinned 1950′s style cardigan or gorgeous blue velvet 1980′s wiggle dress. And many of the items I purchased cost me $4 or less.
I used to think I was weird in some way for loving garments that were pre-loved and pre-worn. My friends looked at me as though I was nuts and my mother would lecture me on being a scavenger and I should be above that and that she could afford something better for me to wear. I always felt that my friends and my mother would come around and would find the beauty and the specialness in something they couldn’t find in a normal retail store. That the attraction for me was the fact that no-one had what I had, it was unique and I would be the only one wearing it.
Yes, granted I was traumatised when I was in Year 7 and my mother helped me to purchase a cream coloured velvet sleeveless baby doll dress from Miss Shop to wear to a birthday party only to find that another girl was wearing the exact same dress! Needless to say that I spent more and more time looking for clothes that I knew no-one else would be wearing and mind you, I didn’t look at popular retail outlets the same way again after that incident.
And I have to be honest, because I know that it is rare to find a diamond in the haystack, I don’t have a high level of expectation in finding something. So if you are looking for that perfect little black dress for that cocktail party, you’re taking some big chances trawling through vintage shops and second-hand clothing stores. Remember that even if you find that perfect dress, it might be 2 sizes too large or small in which case you could have better spent the time trawling through normal retail stores. My suggestion is always to go to a shop that carries independent or emerging designers because you’ll find styles that you may not otherwise see carried in the mainstream chain stores.
So for those of you who cannot be converted or convinced; those of you fashionistas who continue to pout and raising your snotty little noses up in the air thinking “I would never wear something someone else has already worn” and all the whilst donning your current season Prada skirt and Gucci blouse, remember that anyone can look like they stepped out of the covers of Vogue magazine with the right bank balance. It takes someone with imagination, creativity and real style to put together an ensemble of vintage and second hand clothes and still make it look an effortless stroke of genius. And if you need lessons on the art of vintage styling, feel free to contact me