Not Quite New Shopping

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Welcome to blog #41. This blog is now officially older than me. It’s also our last full day in New Zealand and the city is obviously grieving for our imminent departure as the skies have opened and the downpour hasn’t stopped all day.

Today I’d like to talk about the different kind of “not quite new” shopping that you can do. This was prompted by yet another magazine article where three women who like to “op shop” were profiled. As I read the profile of each woman, it was clear that two of them were indeed true “op shoppers” whilst one of them was a vintage shopper. The magazine had jumbled the terms up together so it seemed like a good thing to unravel them.

Op Shopping. This kind of shopping is done in stores where the clothes have been donated and the only people who make any money out of it are the charities or churches who run it. The person donating the clothing doesn’t make any money (just in case you missed that part). I found this super guide to op shopping online so if you can read more about it here if you like. The clothes you find in op shops tend to be a the lower end of the quality scale, are usually ‘contemporary’ (you generally wont find a genuine pair of 1930’s ladies leather gloves for instance), and are priced at a low level, like $5 for a t-shirt or $10 for a pair of jeans. That kind of thing.

A number of the big charities (such as St Vincent de Paul, Lifeline or the Salvation Army) have a process for sorting out their donations, whereby everything donated is sent to one warehouse location, no matter where it was collected from or donated to. So I could drop something off at my local Sunshine Coast Lifeline store, and it will be transported to the big Lifeline warehouse in Brisbane. The clothing is then sorted into categories, and shipped out around the State or country. I chatted to a lady in the Lifeline Brisbane City store and she said that was how their store got to have a boutique feel to it. Their store got all the ‘brand’ items of better quality.

You can get good stuff at op shops, but it’s a huge treasure hunt and you’re just as likely to find poor quality gear that you yourself would get rid of as you will a designer piece at a tiny fraction of its new price.

Vintage. Vintage is period shopping where clothing of a particular era is for sale. For example, one store in the Haight Ashbury region of San Francisco has their vintage store organised by the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I don’t know if the 1980s are yet considered old enough for a vintage category of their own yet. So, you could walk around this store and collect items from those decades, if that’s your thing. This is not op shopping as the quality is generally very high (although sometimes its patchy, just like it would have been in during the era in which the clothing was new) and there is a real dedication to authenticity in vintage shopping. I found this online vintage shopping guide which was US-centric but kinda neat.

There are two people who make money out of vintage shopping – the store selling the clothing and the person donating it. The profits are usually split 60-40 or thereabouts with the store getting the greater share.

If you like era-dressing, then vintage shopping is a great option to build your wardrobe. Vintage clothing will not look like a current version of that style though — so a genuine 1970s trench coat will have style differences to it that distinguish it from a 1970s-inspired current trench coat. There’s always some new twist to era-inspired clothing that makes them different to the original… it may be the fabric that’s different or the shape of the collar or the cut under the arm – whatever it is, vintage items clearly come from a different place in time. Vintage shopping will help you reproduce the looks from a particular era. Sticking with the 1970s (one of my all-time favourites and not just because I was born in it), vintage shopping will help you get the look Goldie Hawn had in Foul Play or Jane Fonda sported in The China Syndrome. Fashion icons of their time, right?

Vintage shopping is not op shopping and neither is it consignment shopping. It’s its own thing.

Consignment shopping. Consignment shopping is the third category of “not quite new” shopping. Consignment stores are where you take in ‘gently used’ quality clothing that you leave with the store for them to sort and sell for you. Consignment stores usually have very clear and strictly adhered to rules on what items they will accept. These rules usually are about quality, brands they accept, newness (they usually wont take items that are too old, which would make them vintage), and the state the items are in. I blogged about pre-loved shopping in blog #21 and its one of my favourite kinds of shopping, although there are some pitfalls to it.

Two people make money out of consignment stores, the same as for vintage shopping. The consignment store will usually take the lions share of the items sold, and you’ll take about 30 – 40% of what the item sold for. Consignment or pre-loved stores will also reject some items for their own reasons – they might not think they’ll sell, or they don’t fit with the direction of their store, or some other reason which is sure to offend you if you’re the one bringing them in.

Consignment shopping is different to op shopping (quality) and vintage (newness) and both on price.

Wrap up. So, that’s the wrap up on the three kinds of “not quite new” shopping. There are so many great options if you want to sprinkle your wardrobe with something that’s new to you, but isn’t new to the planet. And that’s got to be good thing. Right?

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