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sartorial musings : second-hand tips

Now, just to clarify; the tips themselves are not second-hand. I am just going to helpfully give you some tips for shopping in second-hand clothing stores. But I can see how the title was a bit misleading.

Anyway. I have pretty much been shopping second-hand since I was in the womb (well, I was inside my mother at the time, but I am quite sure pregnancy wouldn’t have quelled her shopping urges at all). I am a big fan of second-hand shopping and not just because I am living on a student pension right now- there are some excellent clothes to be found. And it’s fun!

I am sure that a lot of you are also second-hand shopping fans, and you probably know all the tricks in the book; you guys feel free to comment and give me your tips! And for anyone who is brand new to the whole second-hand shopping thing, I am here to help.

Tip # 1: Be patient

This is tip number one because you are going to be in the store for a very long time if you do it properly, and you are just going to have to be patient with it. Sure, a quick rifle through the racks is great if you want a size eighteen Miller’s shirt with yellow stains under the armpits (and if that’s what you’re looking for, then great, you found it!), but a determined and strategic sift is usually required for the really special finds.

There are a couple of strategies to enlist for the strategic sift; firstly, you have to shove all the clothes as far over on the rack as they will go. This will give you room to flick through them quickly. Then I like to hang all my selected items on one wrist and use the other hand to flick through the clothes on the rack at lightning speed, but this always leaves me with deep, scary-looking indents in my wrists from the wire coathangers that tend to frighten the kindly old salesladies. Plus it hurts! So if you have a better method, do that.

All this sorting can take some time, and it might be frustrating for a while. But when you do find that ankle-length black nineties dress with splits up the side that you know you could rock like no-one’s business, you will thank yourself for not hurriedly and carelessly flicking past it.

Tip # 2: Don’t discount the men’s section just because you’re a laydee

This is a really important one, because men’s clothes can look really, really cool on a woman. I personally have a penchant for huge worn-in men’s t-shirts and baggy jumpers, which I tend to style with leggings or jeans and nice boots. Sometimes the men’s pants can even work, as my friend found today when she picked up a pair of scruffy black corduroy pants that fit her like a glove. Jealous! I had not even looked in the men’s pants! What a fool.

Tip # 3: If it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it

This should seem obvious, but the line between what looks awesome and what makes you look like a brick can seem blurred during second-hand shopping because everything is SO DAMN CHEAP. And you always find yourself making excuses like “I can just dye it a different colour,” “I will take it to a tailor and get it taken in” or the worst one “maybe if I lose/gain some weight it will fit.”

Now, chances are you are probably not going to purchase fabric dye, take the thing to a tailor and pay another $40 or lose/gain weight for this item (and so you shouldn’t!). And you just know you won’t wear it until the magical change takes place, because it is actually quite unflattering. Ditch it and find something that you feel great in.

Tip # 4: Try everything on first

Sometimes you just grab something you think you like off the rack. You can’t be bothered changing out of your stockings or taking your boots off, and so you make the purchase without trying it on. Everything seems fine. The world is calm.


You are feeling a bit curious, and so you try your new brown plaid pants on. They looked great on the rack. But you can’t zip the fly. The pants cling weirdly and tightly around your ankles, yet they are baggy around your thighs (why? Who would make pants like that?!). Your once lovely bottom is nowhere to be seen. You rip the pants off and are left standing in your underwear, exposed, vulnerable, and also a little chilly, because it’s winter in Australia at the moment.

Lesson learned, my friend. Try before you buy. That was $10 that you could have bought a couple of tacos with. Or a cocktail, if you are that way inclined.

Tip # 5: Bring a snack

Because, sometimes, I eat a snack when I’m feeling hungry.


By Jane Boulton

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