This might sound utterly ridiculous but I believe in thrift shop karma. Unspoken rules and etiquette, mysteriously set out by Mother Universe (or, idk, was there a Greek Goddess for second-hand shopping? Is that who St Vincent de Paul was?) that if you follow with care, mean that your op shopping days will be nothing but blessed and bountiful.
So, here they are, my self-proclaimed thrift shop rules to live by, to ensure nothing but good karma, for all of your vintage adventures:
1. HUNT BY STYLE, NOT LABEL
Stay true to yourself and browse those racks looking for what YOU like and enjoy wearing. If you fixate only on finding a bargain, designer labels, or the ‘holy grail’ of thrifting, something like a mint-condition 1950’s Dior New Look gown for $7, it simply ain’t gonna happen. That’s not the spirit of the thrift. The joy of op-shopping is picking up unique and special things that speak to you, regardless of label or value. The thrill of the hunt, and unknown.
You simply have to go out there with an open mind, following your heart and passions. You’ll know a winner when you see it, you’ll feel it in your bones. In many ways, I guess, vintage clothing is a lot like dating. Except that I’m a lot more successful with op-shopping. Hence why I’m here today giving you advice on clothing and not Tinder.
You see, sometimes, when you least expect it, and you buy for style, you hit designer gold by complete accident. Which is exactly what happened last weekend when I fell in love with the cut, colour and fabric of a green plaid blazer, with leather trim, which I picked up for $10, only to get it home and discover that it’s actually a genuine, mint condition, Balmain jacket, from the early 90’s, made in Paris. Hooray!
2. DON’T BE GREEDY
Unless it’s your core income or something you really feel passionate about doing, I don’t believe in buying for anyone except yourself or your loved ones. Leave the good stuff out there for other people, if it’s not right for you.
It’s sometimes tempting to spot a good item that you know isn’t for you – be it in size or style – for a couple of bucks and know that if you put it on Trademe or eBay you could probably achieve a tidy profit on it, but something about that just feels wrong to me. It’s already so much harder these days to find a true bargain out there, thanks to online auctions, and dealers buying up a storm then on selling for 500% profit. It’s vintage gentrification! Don’t become the Starbucks or Air BnB of old frocks!
By only buying for yourself, you are leaving items like that $10 Balmain jacket that I found, the wonderful, golden, find that makes all of the effort of thrifting worthwhile, because as you’ll know yourself, it can be a jungle out there.
3. BE IN THE MOOD
Don’t go when you’re tired, feeling impatient, or in a shitty mood. I can promise you that you won’t find a single good thing and you’ll just pollute the air with negative energy.
I go on designated op-shopping trips probably only 4 x a year, when I know I have an entire free afternoon, lots of energy, an open-mind, an abundance of patience and a reasonable budget. I take my sweet time, stopping for coffees and lunch on the way, and as a result I always end up finding the best items on days like this. And it always works out like this.
Thrift karma simply knows when you’re in a good mood!
4. SHARE THE LOVE
Don’t be stingy on your sources. I strongly believe this for all clothing and fashion purchases. if someone is nice enough to compliment you, or ask where you got it from, for heavens sake tell them!
A number of people I know of guard their vintage sources like a great-grandmothers top secret recipe for Christmas cake, but I just don’t see the point, nor see who it benefits.
Firstly, most of the good op shops, you do tend to only hear about via word of mouth. Chances are that the people being assholes and not sharing their favourite vintage shops, only discovered it through a friend or another blog telling them about it, so I feel they have a duty to pay it forward.
Secondly, by withholding information, you’re harming the amazing, independent retailers, who are bringing you the goods in the first place. Are you going to buy so much from them that you can single handedly pay their rent and wages? I doubt it, so by being a stingy bastard and not sharing the source, you’re just hurting the retailer, and increasing the odds that they’re going to shut up shop, which is just awful. Congratulations, you’ve now shot yourself in the foot and lost your favourite thrift store. Nice one, dummy.
Finally, if you’re only buying for yourself, and your specific style and taste, the chances are slim that anyone you tell about the place is going to swoop in and buy the exact things that you might have purchased. They’d have to be the exact same size as you, and go there on the same day. My personal most-wanted items in op-shopping are always coats, blazers, hats and capes. However I am also the only person I know with the stomach for ridiculously impractical hats, and in possession of a closet full of multi coloured capes. Just because I thought that the bright greed, tartan Balmain blazer, with HUGE shoulder pads was bloody fabulous, I also know that it’s not the cup of tea of many. So don’t flatter yourself thinking that your own tastes are universal.
So if someone compliments you on an op shop find, tell them where you got it. Pay the love forward. Not only are you being a good friend, supporting your community, but thrifting karma means that one day someone will give you a hot-tip of a little place, where you might just end up finding that rarest Dior of your dreams!
You might think the idea of thrift shop karma a load of hooey, but actually it’s just good manners and, following that old life rule: Don’t Be A Dick.
Following all of the above rules, down to the letter, I did have one of my op shopping days last weekend, and true to form, it was a belter of a day, where I acquired some absolute gems.
To recap, my finds (and sources!) were:
Blue chiffon dress – Tasman Traders, Sydenham – $2
Orange felt beret – Menage a Trois, New Brighton – $20
90’s Balmain plaid jacket – Seaside Vintage, New Brighton – $10
All of these items are pictured in this post.
What are your own op-shopping tips or superstitions, or is it just me?!