I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer by the time I was Nine years old. I’m not sure why- maybe it was my naïve perception that my greatest injustice was my op shop threads never quite made the cut against the school yard parade of flared jeans, hoodies and skate shoes. Fast forward 20 years, to the 30-something ‘Closet Curator’ I am now, I have clothes en masse that would make Nine year old Me swoon.
I’m not a fashion designer. I work in Tailoring and I really love it. This job suits my obsession of second hand clothing like a bohemian love affair at best. I help people wear their clothes beautifully. A high street, off-the-rack suit becomes a tailored and well manicured ensemble. A vintage dress is adjusted to their new body to go for ‘one last dance’. Tailoring allows for people to feel amazing in their clothes, assume their own sense of personality and fashion identity. It’s rewarding to see how much of a difference changing buttons on a shirt or taking up a hem on a skirt can make to ones self esteem.
Some people have a stigma about second hand clothing. It’s gross. You may look cheap, or poor, or outdated, or the clothes are just ugly. Okay, so it isn’t a concept that suits everybody. Regardless, nobody can ignore that vintage clothing is a big part of the fashion industry. Creating a fashion identity is becoming a more popular concept than looking like you walked out the store like the mannequin. And of course, the evolution and never ending environmental, economic and social aspects surrounding Fast Fashion is a pretty big discussion that would invite you to look at more interesting ways to take a good hard look at your wardrobe.
It’s easier than you think to delve into second hand clothing, or customizing your current pieces. Do you borrow your friend’s clothes? Swap pieces at the last minute to make your outfit? Do you wear your jeans folded at the hems for length, rather than trend? Have you kept a shirt even though the buttons are lost and need replacing? Turns out you are halfway to bliss.
There are a few simple things you can do to preserve the life of your clothes, as well as keep in mind while hunting for second hand treasures:
1) If you know you can mend it, or you have someone who can help you mend it, then definitely mend it! A small mend now will save you a big headache later.
2) Hem your bottoms. Nothing is more satisfying than wearing skirts or pants that are the perfect length.
3) If you are bored of a detail on your favourite garment, replace it with something new, eg new buttons or pocket; or remove an embellishment to update the look eg take away pleats or frills for a refined silhouette.
4) Always, ALWAYS try it on. Sizes differ in brands, ages, countries, and eras. The rule then means if it doesn’t fit (and you aren’t convinced it will be resized in decent time) then don’t buy.
5) Check for stains. Unless you have a great dry cleaner, or a tonne of enthusiasm, some stains simply won’t come out and can ruin the look of a garment- not to mention the torment of knowing that it’s there and you are going to be worried everyone else sees it too.
Once you become a frequent flyer in second hand clothing and customizing, your possibilities are endless. And addictive. Op shopping allows you to create a beautiful and unique wardrobe for pennies, plus it is Eco chic and your fashion identity is limited only by imagination (and maybe actual wardrobe space). I love the thrill of the bargain and knowing that nobody else has my Mothers hand painted Thai silk pleated skirt in their closet, or my beloved Prada sports blazer that I bought for a song, or even the 50’s inspired silk gown I whipped up last minute for a party from recycled fabrics (another story entirely). Sectors hand clothing is fun. Fashion is meant to be fun. And style must never be underestimated.