Habit shifts: clothes shopping

  
(Racks filled with vintage goodies at my favourite thrift store)
There’s no beating around the bush on this issue- I’ve been dubbed a fashionista for as long as I can remember, toddler diva days included:

  
(It’s all about the accent details)

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up to spend on clothes, so the clothes that were purchased were well- considered and had to be deemed “classic” by my mum, and things that I’d fall in love with at the shops my mum would try and replicate on our faithful old sewing machine at home. My formal/ prom dress was home made, my calisthenics leotards came from an op shop, a lot of dresses were thrifted or were hand me downs from relatives.

I then spent my university years in a mishmash wardrobe made up of thrift shop finds, discount Dotti purchases, and clothes from the kids section (I was pretty tiny then!), and clothes I’d alter myself with you know… A stapler. People would stop me in the street and ask me where my outfit was from (“the kids section in the Whyalla Target”).

Then I got a proper paid job and things got real- I was stressed most of the time and turned to shopping as my form of escapism. This manifested itself in a bursting wardrobe filled with things that were beautiful but didn’t sit well or suit me, mainly because I was chasing this ideal of being well dressed, but just ended up looking like a clothes horse. I call these years “broke but fabulous”. There was an expensive designer bag purchased for each major stressful life event (hello, exams and job interviews!), and many beautiful shoes and clothes to be had (I once flew to Hong Kong for 5 days with an empty suitcase during their sale season just to shop during my week off while on night shifts).

I then started moving around the country for work, and gradually started to feel more and more burdened with *stuff*, mainly all the clothes and accessories I had accumulated over the years that sat in boxes packed up most of the time. My lifestyle was not of the carefree fashionista blogger, it was one of long on call shifts and dirty scrubs. I didn’t even have time to unpack and sort out all these clothes, let alone wear them out and create fabulous outfits. 

When I started going zero waste last year I really set to work with downsizing my wardrobe. Things got donated and sent to consignment stores, I sold things at a market and even held a garage (yard) sale at home. I gave things away to friends and family. I then went on a self imposed “fashion diet”, prescribed myself a capsule wardrobe and waited it out. I wore the same chambray shirt/ striped t shirt/ black jeans/ grey v neck a million times, and it didn’t kill me. It helped me develop my style and also further weed out things that no longer suited me. I then created a “wish list” of things I would like to have, and instead of going out shopping or browsing the Internet to get them straightaway, I’d keep a casual eye on eBay to buy the item second hand. Buying second hand also didn’t kill me πŸ˜€

With increasing confidence this year I started venturing more and more into shopping second hand at thrift shops, as I now had a more defined sense of style.

It also makes environmental sense- most pieces of clothing are still in circulation, so instead of creating more demand for a “must have” item we should look around and see what is already in existence before asking for another new piece to be made from raw materials. The converse is also true- if you have a wardrobe full of things you no longer love and don’t fit you, set them free so that someone else can look after them and shower them with the attention they deserve πŸ™‚

How to shop second- hand and not look like a bag lady (unless that is your signature look πŸ˜‰):

  1. Try eBay. Dipping your toe into eBay is a great way to start. You can browse at your leisure and not contend with crowded hot musty smelling stores. I mainly use this for “targeted” shopping- I have a wish list of things I’d like to add to my wardrobe, I’ll know the brand and size I’m looking for and will set up a “search alert” feature on eBay- so items will pop up and if the price is right I’ll consider getting them. I’ve bought things like second hand Charlotte Olympia kitty flats this way :  
  2. Know what brands, styles, colours and materials work best for you. This helps you tackle the sometimes daunting task of trying to sift through a packed store to find gems. I found my new never worn hot pink silk Equipment shirt this way- I could pick the silk out of a mound of polyester. It also cost $12.70   
  3. Keep an open mind. You actually often find things when you least expect it, so keep looking and go thrifting often but don’t get discouraged if you leave empty handed. That unique piece is still out there, trying to make its way to you  ^__^
  4. Only buy what you truly love or need. This applies to shopping new or second hand. Just because it’s super discounted or you found it for 50 cents in a bin, doesn’t mean you should automatically bring it home just because it was cheap- it should add value to your wardrobe, not be a dead weight. Mindless spending is what gets us into trouble in the first place, and we’re working on breaking that cycle, not perpetuate it
  5. Embrace it. A few years ago I’d turn my nose up at hand me downs or something I’d picked up at a market somewhere. Nowadays I love being gifted a hand me down from a friend, and love being able to create outfits out of beautiful one-off pieces. 
  6. See the potential in a piece. I’ve learnt to be a lot more creative and my eye has become better trained to seek the potential in thrifted pieces. I recently bought a vintage Japanese kimono not for the usual purpose of displaying it or wearing it around the house, but to wear as an elegant “going out” cover up coat over a dress. I know how to hem, I’ve cut off buttons and 80’s shoulder pads and “frou frou” pieces of ribbon to modernise pieces to fit my wardrobe. You can always enlist a tailor to help you. Don’t limit yourself to just brand names either (although they tend to be good investment pieces).

Do you still buy things new?

Yes, I still do- it’s still a weaning process for me unfortunately. However nowadays I am much more mindful of things that I do buy, and when I do buy new it has to fit absolutely perfectly and I must love it or else it goes back on the rack. I no longer buy for the sake of buying something. Things like pants are something I still need as I find it difficult enough as it is to find things that fit me right (flat-bottomed tall girls unite!)

What’s the next big challenge?

I’m engaged, which means there will be a wedding of some description on the horizon. I’ve spent the last few months perusing eBay and stillwhite.com.au for the right dress and I’m probably 80% of the way there. So far I have a veil, purse (both second hand) and wedding shoes (6 years old). I may still commit to a new dress if I don’t find one that I love that will fit me right, but fingers crossed!

  

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