Friday, January 29, 2010

Everything I Know About Thrifting V: Incorporating Vintage into your Wardrobe

I thought I would finish this series by talking about how to incorporate vintage clothing into your wardrobe. I know a lot of you are complete experts at this, and I'll be preaching to the choir for the most part; also, we all have our own individual senses of style, and no one style guide is going to work for everybody. I do know, however, that a few of you are just getting started with your vintage wardrobes, and have asked me for tips on working it into a day-to-day wardrobe. So this one is for you!

Blend it with modern pieces

It all depends on your individual sense of style, of course, but I think that a lot of us like to have a mixture of modern and vintage pieces in our wardrobe. For inspiration in blending the two, I look to my fellow bloggers. There are so many fantastic women out there who provide me with a huge amount of inspiration that it is hard to choose just a few - but here are three of my very favourites!

Anita always looks fresh and very contemporary while wearing thrifted vintage and vintage-inspired pieces. I love the shapes and silhouettes she plays with.

Mary Catherine has a quirky and gamine vintage-inspired style - again, using both thrifted and modern pieces.

Idee Geniale puts together practical, pretty vintage-inspired outfits that I love. I particularly like her casual looks.

The style blogging world is the best source of inspiration for blending your modern and vintage garments, I think - and it's great fun to explore!

Go mad with accessories

If you're just starting to incorporate vintage into your everyday looks, accessories are a great way to begin. Vintage scarves, belts, hats, bags and jewellery are pretty easy to find on your thrifting expeditions, and won't break the bank.

Experiment with trends

Most fashions have been around before, and so it isn't too difficult to find an of-the-moment garment in a thrift store after a bit of searching. And thrifting is the best way to try out new shapes and styles, because it's so cheap! If it turns out that you look like an angry chipmunk in harem pants or an over-stuffed sausage in skinny jeans, no real harm done. And you will be surprised at how many trends work on your body when you find the right way to wear them. I was not a big fan of blazers until I found my vintage little-boy's blazer in a thrift store, and now I wear it all the time!

Be creative

No one is going to jump out from behind a bush and whack you with a rubber mallet if you use a vintage item for something other than its intended purpose. There are thousands upon thousands of clever ideas out there in the blogosphere.
  • Stacked vintage luggage can make a beautiful coffee table.
  • Pin a brooch to a headband to make a pretty accessory. Or wear a cluster of brooches! I love doing that. A length of velvet with brooches pinned all along it would make a lovely belt or headband. In conclusion, I love brooches. And the more I type the word 'brooch', the less it looks like a real word.
  • Attach huge clip-on earrings to your shoes.
  • Vintage bed-jackets and nightgowns are usually intricately crafted and pretty. A bed-jacket can work as a pretty cardigan or cape over an outfit, and a nightgown can make a beautiful dress when belted. I have been lusting after a 1930s embroidered green silk night-dress for ages (it's in my favourite vintage store), because I think it would make a stunning full-length evening dress when paired with a gold belt and heels.
  • Men's bow-ties can look lovely over a collared blouse, or used as hair accessories or brooches (there's that word again).
The possibilities really are endless.

Don't be scared of wearing it!

Starting to wear vintage can be a little intimidating. You're scared of ripping it; spilling things on it; getting it dirty. You're also worried about being too conspicuous (or, at least, I was, when I bought my first full-skirted fifties dress many moons ago and had little confidence in my style!). I think, though, that vintage dresses want to be worn. They want to be out in the world, loved and appreciated and used. You can always mend or clean them. Having said that, though, it may not be a good idea to wear a 1950s dress to walk the dogs in a muddy park; you could, however, pop on a gorgeous vintage hat and scarf!

Create 'special occasions'

I think we all have dresses that we're saving for a special occasion. Most of us don't go to red-carpet events every night, and those lovely evening dresses can go un-worn. Poor dresses! They probably feel a bit sad, seeing their more casual day-dress cousins going on exciting outings while they languish in the mothball melancholy of the closet. Take them out to dinner! You may, like me, live in a very casual culture - I have come to terms with the fact that, where I live, I am always going to be the most dressed-up person at restaurants and the theatre - but dressing up for occasions like that adds to the atmosphere for everyone, I think, and certainly adds to your enjoyment of the event. Most of the stares you get will be admiring ones, I'm sure!

If you feel self-conscious about wearing one of your glamorous dresses out straight away, work up to it gradually by holding a formal dinner party at home. Or inviting friends round for a pizza night with a black-tie dress code. Why not?

Please add your suggestions in the comments, as always - the comments section of these posts is always a fantastic source of tips!

P.S. This is the end of the thrifting series, pretty much, although I'm also going to publish a guide to op-shopping in Christchurch. If there is anything else you would like to see covered, however, or you have a question, please leave it in the comments and I'll address it in a future post!

P.P.S. I have to apologise for my lack of photos from the blogger meet-up last night - when I looked at them today I saw that they were all hideously out of focus and bad. Rather than inviting law-suits by posting them, I'll wait for the bloggers to post about it, and then link to them! Thanks to everyone who came - it was great fun.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Everything I Know About Thrifting IV: Cleaning and Caring for Thrifted Clothing

Thank you so much for all your comments on the previous posts, everyone! If you haven't had a chance to read through the comments yet, you should definitely do so when you get the chance - there are some excellent points and tips in there.

Mending and altering

I know a lot of you are extremely skilled seamstresses and can do most alterations yourselves, but I'm afraid I am not. I can hem garments, take them in and make small repairs, but that's about all. If the garment is vintage, or special in some way, I prefer to take it to my lovely dressmaker, because I trust her to do a far better job than I! (Although I did attack a vintage dress with scissors and thread one Chardonnay-fuelled night. I woke up in the morning with hazy recollections, thinking I had ruined it - it actually looked quite good, but that was sheer luck. The moral of the story is that wine and alterations do not mix).

There is nothing more elegant than a perfectly-fitted garment, and I think it pays to become fussy about the fit of your clothes. Alterations are not usually expensive (although it pays to factor in the cost of alterations when thrifting a garment that doesn't fit, as it may turn out to be less of a bargain than you thought) and they make an enormous difference. The only advice I would give is that I think it's best to take the garment to the dressmaker as soon as possible - it's easy to develop a pile of to-be-altered garments, and it's less overwhelming if you take them in straight away. It also means you'll be able to incorporate the items into your wardrobe - and wear them! - more quickly.

If you do not already have a dressmaker you visit regularly, ask friends and family for recommendations. I found mine by asking the owner of a vintage store who she used - that way I could be sure that they were used to handling vintage garments.


I'm not an expert on any of this; these are just the methods I use! I know that many of you have infinitely more experience and knowledge in this area than I do, so please add any further tips and tricks in the comments. Advice on cleaning special items, like hats (Solanah, are you out there? I have a feeling you'll be an expert on this!) and vintage swimsuits would be fantastic.

Washing vintage clothing

Okay. I'm going to make a confession here. I do wash some of my vintage dresses, the cotton ones, in the washing machine - in warm water on the Delicates cycle, with detergent designed for delicate fabrics. I know this makes me a bad, bad person, but - what can I say? I really hate hand-washing. The one drawback of having a large vintage wardrobe, however, is that you do need to do a lot of hand-washing, even if you cheat with the washing machine occasionally, and it is certainly the best way to wash your newly-acquired thrifted vintage for the first time. I wash each item separately in a little basin, in lukewarm water, with a delicate detergent (without agitating the garments in the water), and then rinse them in fresh water (without scrunching and wringing them). I then dry the dresses flat, in the shade. When it comes to ironing, I use a fairly cool iron, and place a thin cloth (like a napkin) between the iron and the garment. It's a good idea to check if this will work on a small section of the garment first, just in case it explodes or melts or something! I also hang garments in the shower room in the mornings to steam.

As a general rule, you can wash cotton, linen, man-made fabrics and some wool blends by yourself (although there are always exceptions). There are some fabrics, of course, that need to be dry-cleaned. I think it's a good idea to ask the owner of your favourite vintage store which dry-cleaner they use, as then you can be sure that they know how to deal with vintage fabrics.

Basically, when in doubt, get it cleaned by a specialist!

In addition, don't wash your vintage clothing too often, as it speeds its deterioration. We're a bit spoiled with laundry, anyway, in the Western world, and wash our clothes more than is necessary. As a well-brought-up little Zimbabwean girl, in a country where water is a scarce resource, I was taught to keep laundry to a minimum, and I think it was good advice.

Consider buying some dress shields, as underarm sweat is a vintage fabric's Kryptonite. They will help to preserve the fabric, as well as keeping the dress cleaner and sweeter-smelling! If your garment has yellow underarm stains, these can be tricky ... try dabbing at them with white vinegar on clean cloth. This can improve things, but I've never had much luck with it. As always, if you have any tips, please chime in in the comments!

Cleaning shoes

I know a lot of people don't like the idea of buying second-hand shoes, but it's not something that makes me squirm. I will say, though, that I usually only thrift new or near-new shoes - you'd be amazed how often people give away band-new shoes! I do, however, clean the insides with white spirits on a bit of cotton wool, to kill any lurking nasties. You can buy new in-soles, too, to reduce the ick factor.

Cleaning rare or historic items

I don't own any items of clothing that could be museum pieces, but there is a chance that you may fall in love with a rare find from the Victorian era, or one of those gorgeously delicate beaded dresses from the 20s. If so, the garment may be too delicate to clean, or even to wear, but if you want to conserve it, there are conservators who specialise in antique fabrics and who will be able to help you preserve it in a good state. If you are having trouble finding a good conservator, ask at your local museum - they will usually be able to recommend someone. A good friend of mine works as a conservator here in Christchurch, and the bulk of her clients comes from museum referrals.

Storing and displaying your vintage clothing

I am hardly a shining example of proper storage, as my husband and I share a closet the size of a Porta-Loo and my clothes are living in cramped quarters. Basically, though:
  1. Make sure your clothes are clean before storing them
  2. Keep them away from light, as they will fade and become damaged
  3. Try and keep as much air between each garment as possible
  4. Hang scented bags in the wardrobe to make them smell lovely and to keep away insects - cedar oil is good for repelling moths!
I like to hang dresses on the walls of my room, as well, as they are works of art and should be enjoyed (in my opinion). I keep the displayed dresses on a rotation so that they don't spend too much time in the light.

As for hats - well, you've all seen my stairwell of hats! This isn't the ideal home for them, as there is a small window in the stairwell and they may fade, but they look so pretty. Hatboxes are much better - and they look gorgeous, too! You can buy plain ones in lots of different sizes at craft stores, and decorate them yourself. I think they look great covered in pretty wallpaper. When storing your hat in the box, stuff the crown with tissue paper to keep its shape.

Please do add your thoughts, everyone, as this is such a huge subject! I'd love to know any information you'd like to share.

P.S. Woman of the Week is suspended this week while I do this series - back next week!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Everything I Know About Thrifting III: Spotting Vintage

How to tell if it's vintage

These are the signs I look for - I'm sure all the vintage lovers and sellers out there can chime in with more!


If you love the clothes from a particular decade, you probably spend quite a bit of your spare time researching the different styles and looking at gorgeous images. You can often recognise a vintage piece just by looking at the style of it - and after a while, you'll grow confident enough to trust your instincts.


I wish I knew more specific information about these, so that I could give you a definitive list of which fabrics were more common when. I did find this history of textiles, however, which is pretty thorough and extensive, if you want to look up a particular fabric.

I think the best way to become familiar with the sort of fabrics used in your favourite vintage period is to visit vintage stores and have a good look at the garments you love. You will soon get a good idea of the sort of thing for which you should be looking on your thrifting expeditions. I love the brushed cottons, taffetas and tulles of the 50s, but have a pathological hatred for 70s polyester!


Vintage clothing is generally very well-made, with generous hem allowances - not like the stingy hems and seams of some high street garments today (and can I also just have a little rant about buttons sewn on with one tiny piece of thread that fall off as soon as you sneeze?).

There are also lots of handmade vintage garments out there, as it was more common for people to sew their own clothes back then. I have noticed this particularly in New Zealand and Zimbabwe - the fashions imported from Europe and America in the mid-20th Century were limited and often out of a woman's budget if she lived out in the 'colonies' (some of my British friends still joke that I'm living in the colonies ... but then I remind them that we have better weather out here and score a point that way!). You see a lot of handmade garments made from overseas patterns over here. I am particularly attached to the handmade vintage garments I find, especially if they are a perfect fit for me, as it is easy to imagine the woman who put so much love and care into the construction of the dress, and then wore it out with pride. "Oh this old thing? Just something I whipped up." I feel a real connection to that woman when I'm wearing her dress. Some people would think this is weird and creepy, but I just think it's cool.


Items that date from before the 1950s will usually not have a zipper fastening. If the zipper is metal, then the garment probably dates from the 50s or early 60s. If the zipper is nylon, it will date from later in the century - if plastic, later still.


One of the best ways! It is generally quite easy to recognise a vintage label, even if you aren't familiar with the brands - it will be in a vintage typeface, and just have 'that look' to it. I wish I could describe it better, but I'm sure you know what I mean. It will probably also be a bit faded. When you get the garment home, look up the manufacturer online - sometimes you can find really interesting information and date the garment very accurately. (Thornton & Hall and Gainsborough are the two vintage labels I come across most often here in New Zealand).

Washing Instructions

Washing care labels were only made compulsory in the 1970s. Some earlier garments will have them, but this is still a pretty good way to date a garment to the 70s or later.

This is a bit of a side-note, but I couldn't write a series of posts on thrifting without mentioning ...

Thrifting karma (also known as thrifting serendipity)

Anyone who thrifts knows about thrifting karma. You think of an item and then find the exact one on the first rail you examine in the first store you visit. You find the perfect dress in the perfect colour, and it fits as if it were made for you. I don't know why thrifting karma is so common ... Perhaps because the whole process is based on chance? Perhaps because old clothes retain a sort of personality and magic, like haunted houses? Whatever it is, there is definitely a sprinkle of fairy dust in each store, no matter how dirty and dingy, and every so often that fairy dust will do something magical for you.

I present for your edification My Favourite Thrifting Story Ever (originally posted here). My husband bought me a beautiful white 50s dress while we were on holiday in Nelson, for our anniversary. I loved it - it is still my favourite dress. A few weeks later, back in Christchurch, I visited my favourite vintage store. The dress LOML bought me is very distinctive - it was made by Juliet's of Christchurch and has a gorgeous fabric-covered button at the neckline. The first thing I saw when I walked into the vintage store was that very same button, calling to me from a rail. I had found the matching jacket! Same label, same fabric, same buttons. Turns out that the owner of the vintage store had bought the jacket in Nelson, too (but at an entirely different place from where LOML found it) several weeks before we went there. What are the odds of my going to Nelson and finding the dress, and then finding the matching jacket in an entirely different city weeks later? THRIFT KARMA. It was meant to be.

Trust in thrift karma. It comes when you least expect it, but it will work its magic for you frequently - I guarantee it.

And please add any points that I've missed in the comments! Tomorrow - cleaning and caring for vintage and thrifted garments (which I meant to get onto today and didn't).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tattoo Dragon Full Back

full back dragon tattoo design
full back dragon tattoo design
full back dragon tattoo design

Everything I Know About Thrifting II: Finding Treasure

Okay, we're at the thrift store and about to start the actual shopping. As you can see, I'm wearing a simple, low-maintenance outfit in an attempt to follow my own advice about thrifting uniforms (as I mentioned yesterday, I'm prone to making impromptu trips dressed in something completely weather-inappropriate that takes fifteen minutes to get out of). So now that we're here, it's time to hunt for the good stuff.

You can usually tell if a thrifting expedition is going to be a good one as soon as you step into the store. I don't know how this works. I think it is the same sixth sense that tells a hunter there's good eating in them thar woods. Or something. There's a sort of tingle in the air. The rails look inviting. You catch glimpses of tantalising prints and fabrics. Sometimes, of course, you can tell straight away that there's nothing at all for you there, but you press on anyway with dogged determination and maybe leave with a scarf. That's just how thrifting works. And that's what makes it fun!

You can improve your chances, however! (Just a quick note - these are all tips for thrift-shopping for yourself, not thrift-shopping to re-sell, as I really wouldn't know anything about that. I thrift for me).

Take your time

I think this is the most important point, and the one that will yield the most rewards. You usually won't spot the treasures straight away - you have to dig. A lot. For lengthy periods of time. Sometimes you will have to dig literally, if your thrift store has bins of hats and bags and scarves. You can't expect to find something wonderful as soon as you walk in the door (although sometimes you will), and you can't expect to find something wonderful every time you visit a store (although you might have a magic store and if so I envy you). But if you spend enough time rummaging around, I guarantee you will find completely amazing things.

Remember your wish-list, and remember to keep an open mind!

Rummage through the whole store, definitely, but keep your wish-list in mind. It will add focus to your search. On the other hand, though, don't limit yourself - try anything that appeals to you, and be prepared to fall in love with some pretty unexpected things! I know this sounds contradictory, but thrifting is a bit of a contradictory beast.

Be a bit picky

There's a difference between being a thrifter and being a hoarder. You don't need piles of clothing just for the sake of it. The fun bit is actually wearing the clothes! By all means, buy lots of things, but keep your actual, day-to-day wardrobe in mind to make sure you're adding to it rather than drowning it.

Try everything on

It's heartbreaking when something you love doesn't fit, but it would be even more heartbreaking if you had spent money on it and brought it all the way home. Try it on. You can always get it altered (or alter it yourself) if you're desperate - if it is too small, however, check to see how much seam allowance it has. I bought a gorgeous too-small evening dress in December without checking to see if I could actually let it out. And I couldn't. And that thing was TINY. I was very sad.

Look carefully for stains and rips

Someone may have thrown this out for a reason! Yes, you can mend some rips and remove some stains ... but not all. If you find a yellow Monster Stain of Doom on the front of a pair of pants, you should probably leave them behind. (Although I did buy a dress with a purple Monster Stain of Doom on the front once, and dyed the whole dress purple when I got it home to disguise the stain. It worked! But sometimes it won't. So, check).

Become fussy about fabric, quality and cut!

If you have the same high standards whether you're buying new or used, you'll have a closet full of great items. Of course, you can clean, mend and alter secondhand garments, but the garment should have good 'bones' - that is, it should be of good quality to start with. The great thing about thrifting is that it allows you to have expensive tastes on a slim budget. Look for well-made clothes in good fabrics - you'll get to know which ones really speak to you.

Become semi-fussy about fit

I say semi-fussy because you can always get things altered. You do need to know, however, whether the garment actually suits your body shape. That way, you are more likely to wear it on a regular basis and really love it. Be aware of the potential for re-sizing, but be strict with yourself, too: it's easy to end up with Clothes Mountain in your spare room, a ceiling-high stack of garments waiting to be altered or taken to the dressmaker, representing time and money that needs to be invested in them.

I also have a superstitious belief that a garment is really MEANT for me if it fits perfectly. I will occasionally buy one that doesn't fit and take it to the dressmaker, but usually I leave it behind, thinking that it is waiting for its perfect owner. Like a puppy.

Hang on to the things you like!

Don't leave garments on the rail while you think about them - carry them around. That way no one else has a chance to grab them before you've made up your mind. Also, if you think someone else is undecided about the garment they're examining, and you want it, hover unobtrusively and then grab it as soon as they move six inches away. I know it's a bit aggressive, but all's fair in love and thrift! And it will teach them an important lesson: if you like it then you've got to put a ring on it. Whoops, I mean, hold on to it.

Ask: is it really worth the price?

Some thrift stores have ridiculously high prices. I saw a horrible Glassons top in a thrift store the other day for $15, and it would probably have cost about $25 when new. So why buy it? Wait till it's on sale at the actual store and buy it then. On the other hand, I'm willing to pay a bit more on the rare occasion that I find a perfect 50s dress, as it is almost certainly unique. Weigh up the cost and the worth before you hand over your valuable thrifting money.

Don't buy it just because it's old

If it is just plain ugly, it is still going to be ugly sixty years later. Uglier, in fact. Don't buy it just for the sake of owning something from that decade.

Don't buy it just because it's cheap

Enough said, really. If you don't like it, don't buy it - even if it's just a dollar. But - if you can't decide whether to buy it or not (and are agonising over the decision) and it's under $5, you should usually go for it!

Look in unexpected places

The men's section, the children's section and the wedding dress section can all yield treasures. I find some great boys' clothes, particularly - blazers and little coats - and they can fit us girls in really unexpected (and cute) ways. Wedding dresses can look amazing shortened - and even dyed.

Make friends

One of my favourite things about thrifting is chatting to the ladies running the store (it always seems to be women here in Christchurch). If you smile, greet them politely and chat, it makes both of your experiences more pleasant. And, as a selfish side-note, it makes them more likely to give you a better price or save garments for you (if you start going in regularly, which you should!). I have a few favourite op-shops I visit weekly, and I've got to know the ladies really well. In one shop, they saved a gorgeous full-skirted fifties dress for me in the back room, and then refused to charge me any more than $5 for it! So lovely. I bought them chocolate muffins to say thank you. It was all very heart-warming.

Of course, not all thrift-store workers will be friendly. Some are downright terrifying. But be polite and friendly anyway, because, well, you're a nice person.

Tell them what you're interested in, as well! They may remember a garment tucked away in the back room, or point you in the direction of something you'll love. It's worth asking.

Go often

Find out what the store's delivery days are, and visit on those days. Visit on other days, as well. In fact, visit as often as you can. That's really how you find the treasures; you never know what magical item will have arrived! You'll soon learn which stores in your area merit a bi-weekly visit, and which you can pop into once a month, or even less frequently.

Indulge in quick-fix thrifting

Sometimes you just want to buy something to get that happy glow that comes from thrifting. I think we all buy things to cheer ourselves up now and then - I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of, as long as you don't go crazy. In my experience, there are a few things that are always relatively easy to pick up for a few dollars at pretty much all thrift stores. Scarves and belts are usually super-cheap, and it's a quick and easy way to add something new to an outfit. And you can wear them in so many different ways!

Tomorrow I'll talk about recognising vintage clothing, cleaning and caring for your thrifted items, and incorporating them into your wardrobe. Goodness, that sounds business-like. What I mean is that I'll try to do these things. I hope you're having fun!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Everything I Know About Thrifting I: Getting Started

Thank you so much for all of your responses to my previous post! It was fascinating reading all your reasons for thrifting. I can honestly say that I agree with every single one of them: thrifting is a fantastic hobby, and I like nothing better than spending a day rummaging through piles of musty, discarded stuff to find a treasure.

In reading through the comments, I saw that quite a few of you had requested some thrifting tips. I became over-excited, as I do, and decided that I'm going to write a series of posts this week covering every single thing I have learned about thrifting over the years in ridiculous detail, in the hopes that it will be helpful to someone: from sifting through the rubbish for gems to incorporating your thrifted finds into your wardrobe. There are a lot of great guides to thrifting out there already, and you will have to forgive me if I tell you things you already know (and I know that a lot of you are fantastic thrifters who don't need any help at all!), but I hope this will be fun, at the very least.

(Just a side-note on the terminology: 'thrifting' is a North American term, as far as I'm aware, and I use it on the blog because it seems to be the most commonly-used word for secondhand clothes shopping. In real life, however, I prefer calling it by the Down-Under term of 'op-shopping' - short for 'opportunity shopping.' To me, 'thrifting' sounds sort of clenched and virtuous, whereas I'm usually filled with a sort of guilty glee when op-shopping, as if I'm getting away with something wicked ... and it certainly opens up opportunities!)

We're starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start, etc): planning your thrifting trip!

Finding thrift stores

The easiest ways to find good thrift stores in your area are:

1. Asking around

Stylish friends will know the best places - and, even if you don't have friends who share your thrifting enthusiasm, there are probably a couple of bloggers in your area whom you can consult.

2. Looking online and in the phone book

Less reliable for finding the good spots than asking real, live people, but still a good way to find the second-hand stores in your vicinity.

3. Exploring

I don't know if you're the same, but I always seem to spot new thrift stores when I'm driving past on my way to something important, which means I can't stop. I do make a note of the location, though, and come back to visit eventually. I also love walking and spend a lot of time wandering around the city with my notebook, which means that I come across lots of interesting places. This isn't really a method - more serendipity - but I suppose I'm trying to say that you should keep your eyes open, because you never know what you'll find!

Of course, you also won't really know if the thrift store you plan to visit is a rich seam of goodness or a pile of smelly rubbish until you get there, but there are a few clues. Shops near university campuses will usually be picked to the bone, and probably pricey. This also goes for stores in the centre of town, and near major shopping centres. Try to find stores that are off the beaten track - particularly ones in an area where there is a larger elderly population. You're more likely to find vintage clothing there, rather than rack after rack of discarded (and poor-quality) high street brands. Personally, I have found small-town op-shops to be the best, and I always force my poor husband to stop at every one we pass when we're on a road trip.

I do not live in a magic land of perfect, vintage-filled thrift stores. I just go to an awful lot of them. That's the way to find the good stuff - going frequently, going to many different places, and digging. There are treasures to be found everywhere.

Getting equipped

1. Wear something unobtrusive ...

I don't know if it's the same in the States, but often the best thrift stores here in New Zealand are in some of the worst neighbourhoods. When I go thrifting I don't want to stand out too much, or look like I have a lot of money, for fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention.

2. ... and something comfy that you can slip on and off easily when you try things on.

I am hell on wheels when it comes to going shopping wearing something like dungarees or a top with a million complicated buttonings. It makes getting changed a nightmare. Of course, you can't plan good outfits for your impromptu trips, but when you're heading out on a dedicated thrifting mission, it's a good idea to wear something that's easy to change out of. I like to wear something slim-fitting, particularly, so that I don't even have to take all my clothes off to try on the garments. Some thrift stores can be a bit dodgy, with the odd weird person about, and the last thing you want is someone ripping open the changing-room curtain when you're only half-wearing a dress. It also means that you'll still be able to try the clothes on if there's no fitting room at all, or if the rooms are all full.

3. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Well, naturally. You don't want your toes to start bleeding, as mine did on my last thrifting expedition. I learned a valuable lesson: do not walk 11 miles in new shoes.

4. Bring cash.

A lot of thrift stores will not accept cards, and it's not worth the risk. Imagine finding a stack of wonderful items and then having to leave them behind because you can't pay for them! Gah. Just the thought makes me anxious. And bringing cash on your thrifting expeditions also makes it more likely that you will stick to your budget: when you're handing over real, tangible money, it feels more like ... well, real, tangible money. You are less likely to be indiscriminate in your purchases. And spending vast amounts of money on thrifting isn't very thrifty.

5. Bring tote bags.

Most charity shops use donated plastic bags, and they will really appreciate you bringing your own. Proper tote bags are also less likely to break and drop all your treasures in the dirt.

6. This may sound a little obsessive, but think about taking a camera.

I usually carry my camera with me anyway, but it is extra-useful on thrifting trips for taking mirror shots when I'm trying something on. I don't trust my eyes. As any style blogger will know, taking a photograph of what you're wearing immediately highlights all its flaws; taking a photograph of a garment on your body does the same thing.

7. This may sound even more obsessive, but take a tape measure.

You'll get pretty good at telling at a glance whether a garment will fit you, but a tape measure could save you some time in the fitting room. If you can't tell if an item is your size, whip out the tape and have a quick measure. This will also prevent you from getting stuck in a dress, an experience that I think we've all had at some point. Memories of my times spent stuck-in-a-dress are flooding back, and they are unpleasant.

8. And you don't have to wear socks, but it's a good idea to take a pair with you if you're planning to try on shoes.

Just makes the whole process a bit nicer.

Planning your trip

1. Have a wishlist ...

I think we all have a mental list of items for which we're searching. Make it a physical list too, if you haven't already - write everything down. It will help to give your search some focus, and make it more likely that you'll spot your coveted item if it's there to be spotted.

2. ... but also keep an open mind.

Part of the fun of thrifting is coming across items you never expected to find - or to wear! Be prepared for this, and don't stick too rigidly to your list of desired items. (I have learned through bitter experience that I should trust my instincts. Whenever I've fallen in love with something, decided to be sensible, and left it behind, I have regretted it. Sometimes it's worth buying an item that speaks to you, even if you have no idea how you're going to wear it yet, or even if you'll wear it at all. Trust me, you'll find ways.)

3. Make a budget!

If you buy 100 items for $1 each, you are still spending $100. Don't be seduced by the low prices into spending too much money on supposedly 'cheap' things. Sticking to a budget keeps your thrifting appropriately thrifty ... although I do completely advocate going a bit over budget if you come across something life-changingly good. It has to be actually life-changing, though - the kind of garment over which you'll cry yourself to sleep for months if you don't get it.

4. Go early in the day! The earlier the better.

A sure way to beat all the other thrifty people who want to pick through the merchandise! If you can manage to go in on a week-day, even better.

Phew! And we haven't even arrived at the store yet. We'll go tomorrow. See you then!

Friday, January 22, 2010

You tell me: why do you thrift?

22 Jan '10

As you know, I buy the majority of my clothing second-hand, whether from thrift stores or vintage shops (I say 'the majority' rather than 'all' because I did go a bit mad in H&M while I was overseas!). I have many reasons for doing so, from the sublime (I find it more creatively inspiring and ethical) to the mundane (it's cheaper!), but I want to hear from you.

Why do you go thrifting? What is the appeal for you? What do you most enjoy about it?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tempus fugit

I made my first thrifting expedition in nearly two weeks yesterday, walking all over the city to my favourite op-shops. When I got home I calculated that I had walked about 18km (no idea what that is in miles, but perhaps someone can enlighten me?), which explained why my toes were bleeding. It was worth it, though! A bleeding toe is unimportant in the face of new vintage goodies - goodies which included a pair of high-waisted vintage jeans. I've been wanting a pair for ages, and so was thrilled to find them. The injured toe is a badge of honour.

It has been a strange start to the year. Do you ever have the feeling that time has sped up? Like those dreadful montage scenes in movies (New Moon, I'm looking at you) where the seasons change or the pages of the calendar riffle past or the hands of the clock go round far too quickly. I'm living in a time like that at the moment. The sun is barely up, it seems, before it's crashing down below the horizon again. Another night, another day, flickering past like slides in a slide projector. I know that I can't slow time down or stop things changing, but I want to. The last time I felt like this was in the months before we left Zimbabwe, and I think that growing up in such an unpredictable and often hostile place gave me a great gift: I never take anything for granted. I know how quickly your whole life can be erased. It sounds morbid, but is a good thing to remember. It makes you hold moments in the palm of your hand and examine them, remember them vividly.

Sometimes I think that an interest in vintage clothing is just another way in which we try to slow down the passing of time. It seems that many good, gracious and beautiful things are becoming lost as we move into the new century - and someone has to be the guardian of those things. By taking home a discarded and unloved item of clothing or a funny little object that takes our fancy, we're preserving something that was once new and special and loved: something that the rest of our culture is desperately trying to purge and forget, moving on to new and 'better' things. I am naturally very sentimental and nostalgic by nature, and I find change very difficult. Perhaps these are character traits common to all vintage collectors - what do you think? Do you recognise yourself in that description?

I'm going to try to slow down the rest of the day and enjoy this brief (if a bit pale and watery) sunshine while it's here - reading in the garden with Mink and a glass of wine.
Me and Mink in the garden

Sunday, January 17, 2010


After last week's lacklustre efforts, a switch has been flipped in my head. This week is the complete opposite: I am alive and fizzing with ideas, right down to my toes and the tips of my fingers, and the words are bubbling out so quickly that I almost can't keep up with them. I feel invincible. Of course, the interesting thing about all this (as I've mentioned before) is that the work done while you're on fire with inspiration and enthusiasm and the work done while you're straining for each word are completely indistinguishable when you look back: but it does feel good! Writers need this feeling to keep them going on the days when writing feels like giving birth to a broken window (thanks, Timothy Hallinan), and to remind them why they took up this career in the first place. At least, I certainly do, especially as I try to knit this complicated, sprawling story into something focused and beautiful.

(An unfortunate and lesser-known side-effect of inspiration, however, is that you forget to feed the cat and ignore his plaintive mews. Mink's lunch was a couple of hours late today. Whoops! Sorry, Mink).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Scrumptious indeed!

15 Jan '10

15 Jan '10
This morning I went to one of my favourite places, Truly Scrumptious (on Victoria Street) for coffee with Best Friend Ally (whose hilarious blog is here). It's a cafe, but also a shop selling shabby chic giftware, antiques and some vintage clothing. There was an absolutely gorgeous hand-beaded twenties dress there that I coveted greatly - although it would be far too fragile to wear, and was a few hundred dollars over my budget (or any budget I'm ever likely to have, really). There was also a lovely old typewriter. I'm hoping to find one of these in a thrift store one day - not that I would use it, probably, but I would love to have it on my desk!

The owners' dogs were outside by the tables. So sweet!

Attention Christchurch folk! Having this lovely morning tea reminded me that I have been wanting to plan a Christchurch bloggers get-together for ages. I think afternoon tea at Sweethearts at Berryfields would be nice - perhaps next weekend? If you would be interested, please drop me a line in the comments. Thanks!

I hope you have a fantastic Friday, everyone.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010

Collection Figure tattoo just for you. Here are 41 desaign Portraits tattoo. Interesting to have. Tattoo4art Download Tattoo potraits here
Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010
Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010
Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010
Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010
Download Tattoo Portraits 41 Collection 2010
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My little corner of the world

Sometimes when you hit an existential funk, a puddle of ennui or a squelchy bog of melancholy, the only things to do are
a) write through it
b) enjoy the little details of home.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Could you really balance a mattress on a bottle of wine? (And 1,000th post)

Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin' like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it's really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.

I did not realise there was a Bob Dylan song about this hat until I bought it - apparently I have been living under a rock.

So, my 1,000th post is coming up. I'm not sure if that is impressive, frightening, or a bit of both ("bit of both!" I hear you chorus). I want to do something special for that post, but I'm not sure exactly what - so I'd like to hear what you would like to see or read! Please leave a comment with your idea - I would really appreciate it. Thanks, everyone - and thanks, as always, for reading.

Inked Tattoo

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