In my early teenage years I was crazy for vintage shopping. Only it had a much more glamorous name then: "scrounging for hours at op-shops*, markets and garage sales* for second-hand frocks, shoes and skirts that weren't damaged nor resembled the attire of an unfortunate 80s bridesmaid". By the mid-00s, however, vintage shopping in Australia had basically gone to the dogs. Let me explain:
Where once I had purchased an achingly cool chair-upholstery-inspired high-waisted skirt for $2 at a Sunday flea market... I would walk into an op-shop to find nothing but overpriced polyester hell (on a good day, you might expect to find a sauce-stained slogan singlet* originally purchased from Supre* circa. 1998 for the bargain price of $12).
So, while a tarpaulin stretched on a lawn at a weekend market with a torn-off piece of cardboard box reading "$1 each or fill a bag for $5" used to make me as happy as Hugh Jackman's spray tan therapist, I chucked it all in for a weekly Late Night Shopping* raid at Target*.
I still frequented flea markets and plotted garage sale sweeps, but this was all about quirky homewares (I would say antiques but these definitely don't exist in Australia. Note to "antique" dealers in Brisbane: a salad bowl originally received as a wedding present in 1973 is not an antique just because it managed to survive in someone’s cupboard for 30 years).
Alas, My zest for pre-loved fashions was gone (In fairness, by 18 I probably decided I was far too fabulous to wash clothes two and three times post-purchase to get that pre-loved smell out. In all seriousness now, what IS that smell? It's not a bad smell per se, but it's not a particularly good one either. When I one day have boundless financial means I will commission a study to understand the 10-200 subtle odours that invariably lace together to form Op Shop Smell).
Fast-forward to today when I categorically lack the patience to dig through a mountain of torn kiddies clothes in the hope of stumbling across a one-of-it's kind dress oozing the charisma of days gone by, but to a time when, more than ever, I value quality and a more sustainable lifestyle. I also now have a few extra pennies up my sleeve should someone be willing to do (some of) the hard work for me.
With the stratospheric rise (and rise) of uber trendy vintage stores, markets and travelling fairs collating the best of pre-loved loved flair, I'm delighted we can all breathe out and fall back in love with second-hand style.
Now, that's not to say I feel 100% zen about this movement. Especially given that some so-called "vintage" stores confuse "fabulous and timeless" with "smelly and moth-eaten". So, when flicking through the racks and delighting in feeling more civilised than when you were on your hands and knees at the trash'n'treasure stall of your old school, be sure to keep a few tid-bits front of mind:
1. Does it fit perfectly?
If not, are there simple alterations you can make to the sleeves, bust darts or hemline that could see it ship-shape and ready to be flaunted within an hour or two?
2. Is it in good condition?
Study the piece methodically to spot stains, tears and frays, playing close attention to underarm seams, zips and necklines. The $80 price-tag may encourage assumptions that it is faultless but face it, you know what Samuel L. Jackson says about assumptions.
3. Will it work in your wardrobe?
That fur-lined houndstooth cape may be oozing je ne sais quoi, but will it actually emerge from the hallway cupboard come winter-time? (Note: my recent Sherlock Holmes-inspired hand-made wool cape purchase still brings tears of joy to my eyes. Pics to come when it is no longer 48 degrees in London).
4. Honestly, is it really THAT fabulous?
On the scale of ‘Your Nanna's Flannelette House-Dress’ to ‘Ms Monroe's Subway Steam Fantasy’ is it sitting closer to the latter? If so, on the scale of ‘One-of-it's Kind Classic Transcending All Seasonality’ to ‘High-street Trend of the Minute’, is it a bit closer to the former?
5. Finally: do you love it?
Like, really, really love it? In that case, chuck in rules 1-4 and just buy the damn thing already.
*Aussie GlOSSARY of Terms
It occurred to me in drafting this, that Brits may require some translated terms:
Slang for 'Opportunity Shop'. A charity store.
A great Aussie favourite and the alternative to car-boot sales. Usually found via the classifieds section in the local newspaper no one reads, or by following indecipherable cardboard signs stuck to traffic lights and road signs.
A vest top.
Australia's answer to Primark.
Late Night Shopping
Thursday night until 9pm. No 3.5hour period of human history will ever surpass the significance of stores being open 5:30m-9:00pm on a Thursday night.
The most amazing High Street department store. Ever.
A big dollop of love from my finger tips to your screen (I promise that's not as creepy as it sounds). xx