Recently, thanks to a wise friend who is further along the sustainable path than I am, I discovered op shops. Now I recognise that to many people that’s equivalent to saying I just discovered eating, or breathing. No revelation at all, except for the shock that it has taken me this long. To others, though, I might as well have admitted to some sort of embarrassing social disease – not something I can necessarily help, but certainly not to be talked about in public, goodness me, what about this weather we’re having?
I grew up very much in the latter camp, so this has been a huge step for me. It all started when my friend kept appearing in gorgeous, flowing, floor length skirts, and saying “and I had to take a panel off – it used to be longer!” Being 185 cm tall, finding long skirts can be a challenge, to say the least, so the idea of a possible treasure trove of swishy, lacy, feminine, and above all long skirts was more than I could resist. Also these skirts didn’t look in the least second hand.
I suspected that said treasure trove was more likely to be found in the hills than in the local op shops in my conservative, suburban area, but since there are a couple not far away, I thought it was worth having a quick look. Oh my goodness. I found a long, black dress with purple, sparkly roses that looked new and cost me $15. I found a long purple skirt – not floor length, but almost – that cost me $8 together with a matching top. I found a gorgeous blue wrap around skirt with bright yellow sunflowers on it ($2.50). And in another raid on an op shop I was passing in Hawthorn, I found a set of beautiful Maxwell & Williams mugs with bright flowers on them, for 50c each. And they’re huge – just the way I like my coffee.
I am totally hooked. In the absence of reliably ethical clothing (most of our clothes are made in sweatshops, even the ones made in Australia, but that is another blog entirely!), buying second hand is a way to opt out of the exploitative fashion industry. It is also an ideal way to find the quirky, different sort of clothes that tend to appeal to me, odd as I am. It is sustainable, because nothing new is being made, and I am reusing things that might otherwise be thrown out. Op shops generally fund charities, so I am also contributing to a good cause while getting lovely things for myself. I can’t see a downside!
Of course, there is a lot of stuff that doesn’t appeal to me, but I have walked out of every op shop so far with a find of some sort, which is a vastly higher hit rate than I ever manage in commercial shops, even with whole shopping centres to trawl through. Check out your local op shop. You might be surprised!