So today I want to talk about something I’ve been getting really into over the past few months – thrift shopping! I just want to share my experiences, why I love it so much, and why I think everyone should go thrift shopping at least every once in a while.
I only really started thrift shopping when I moved to Auckland. I feel like it’s quite a significant part of the culture here; people of all ages, genders, and budgets enjoy doing it. Tatty’s High St. is the shop I most frequent as its so close to my uni, I usually just pop by whenever I have a long break in between classes.
Thrift shopping is one of the ways I sustain my champagne taste on a beer budget. However, the common misconception that thrift shopping instantly means everything is cheap as chips is so wrong. I have no idea how Macklemore came up with those lyrics cuz I have never seen a leopard mink coat for 99 cents. Secondhand shopping is not always cheap, but it is definitely cheaper. There are many different tiers to it, just like regular clothing stores.
1. Charity/Church/Op shops – This is definitely where you’ll get the cheapest vintage finds because all stock comes from donations and the sales assistants who work there are normally volunteers. There are sure to be at least a couple of these shops in every suburb. It takes a little rummaging around, but once you find something it’ll likely be a real gem!
That military blazer in the lefthand photo above was one of the gems I found in an op shop at this random, provincial suburb I passed by en route to the airport the other day. I didn’t have time to get it when I initially saw it, so I decided I’d get it on the way back from the airport a couple of days after. But when I came back the shop was closed :(((( It was only $6 and I’ll remember that before ever even considering getting a military inspired blazer from Bershka or something.
2. Vintage/flea markets – I’ve never actually been to one of these, but I remembering hearing a lot about “flea markets” on American television growing up haha. These are basically either one-time events or weekly setups at a public space where vintage goodies and other crafts or handmade items are sold. This is probably the only kind of place out of all the places to thrift shop where it would be acceptable to haggle.
3. Consignment stores – Consignment shops are made up of clothes that have been deposited by regular folk like you and I, that they no longer wear but are still in good to pristine condition. The shops basically sell your clothes for you, in exchange for a consignment fee plus a share of the earnings from the item sold (usually 30-50% of the final price). They generally don’t agree to take in every item and just select what they think will actually be sellable.
From the customer end of things, consignment shops tend to feel not necessarily expensive but overpriced sometimes, since there are two ends trying make a profit (the store and the original owner of the item). BUT from my experience, consignment shops are the most accessible way to go vintage shopping and give the most fun experience. My favourite is Tatty’s, which I love/hate but it is where I’ve made the purchases I’m most proud of. Namely, a wispy Nike windbreaker in the colours of a rainbow parakeet, the most flattering pink and white gingham dress, and a blue satin blazer. Recycle Boutique is also another popular one in NZ, but I personally have never found anything that called to me.
4. Online marketplaces – Then of course, you could go Nasty Gal style and scour the self-made online retailers on eBay, Etsy, and Asos Marketplace. I find eBay hella confusing to shop on so TradeMe is my personal fave, I’ve only truly appreciated and taken advantage of in the last week or so and I am having such fun with it. I’ve recently been piquing an interest in New Zealand fashion designers like Trelise Cooper and Karen Walker, so TradeMe has been my way of getting a taste of these designers for a fraction of the price. I snagged this gorgeous Cooper dress that I will do a separate post on once I receive it in the mail!
5. Curated boutiques (online and irl) – The prettier side of thrift shopping comes in the form of curated boutiques that you could find either in your city centre or on Instagram. They usually stock both vintage and new pieces that have been carefully selected to all go with the store’s particular aesthetic. There are a couple in the Auckland CDB, namely, CouCou and JetsetBohemian. As for online, @naninvintage, @girlsmoneyclub, and @dinner_dates always got some cute shit plus there’s a whole bunch more similar shops all over Instagram. I tend not to buy anything from these types of stores just because they are pricey, but they definitely make for a lovely browsing experience.
6. Luxury vintage – So luxury vintage can come in any of the retail models mentioned above but they get their own little section because buying luxury goods in particular is a totally different experience. Firstly because authentication is the biggest thing you have to be aware of – you gotta make sure you’re buying from someone you trust or you yourself know how to authenticate designer items. Secondly, pricing is kind of tricky because while they are pre-owned, some things actually go up in price over time so it’s helpful to do some research on what is actually a fair price to be paying.
Some good places to start luxury thrift shopping (sounds like a bit of an oxymoron) would be TheRealReal, Yoogi’s Closet, Vestiaire Collective, and Farfetch online. Below are some of the coolest finds I’ve come across on these sites:
Farfetch honestly has an amazing selection of truly vintage, rare finds, but they are definitely for those serious collector types, not uni students looking for a good deal. For a time, TheRealReal was an obsession of mine and I’ve previously written about my experiences with them here and here. But I just recently read their reviews online and they were either really positive or REALLY negative that it’s clearly a hit or miss experience with them. While I was lucky that my first 4 orders with them were all big hits, it just began to feel like a risk after reading other peoples’ experiences and I’d prefer to just stay away for now. Idk, does anyone have any opinions on whether it can be trusted or not?
There are a bunch of other articles out there sharing tips on how to break into the initially confusing and overwhelming world of thrift shopping and vintage fashion. The most helpful ones I’ve come across are:
- Two Vintage Shopping Experts Reveal Their Top-Secret Tips via ManRepeller
- Eleanor Ozich’s Guide to Vintage Shopping via Viva NZ
- How to shop for vintage clothing via FashioNZ
- A Realistic Guide to Quitting Fast Fashion via Catalogue
It’s definitely important to know your approach to secondhand shopping and understand how it will go in line with your personal style. To be honest, I find that secondhand shopping is most successful when it’s almost completely based on gut feel, which is something that just develops over more exposure and experience.
I think secondhand shopping is something that takes practice, and becomes more fun and fulfilling the more you know how to do it. Honestly, it just makes you feel good inside for a variety of reasons. For one, these garments have stood the test of time. This proves their quality, and all the more you’re sure you got your money’s worth and usually even beyond it. Thrift shopping gives you the opportunity to own something more unique and/or incredibly stylish without having to splurge beyond your pay check. It’s the most sustainable way to shop and I think that’s reason enough for everyone to make their way into their local thrift shop instead of Forever 21 every now and then. I hope this post convinces someone who’s never tried secondhand shopping to open their minds and give it a try 🙂