Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: Thrifty thrills and unexpected designer delights in store for op shop rummagers

Kirstie Clements: Thrifty thrills and unexpected designer delights in store for op shop rummagers

Woman shopping in London second hand marketplace
There's nothing like finding a bargain at an op shop, writes Kirstie Clements. Photo: Getty
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I read a lovely article from US Vogue this week about a young woman who came across a very sweet crème short Balenciaga dress in a Goodwill store 10 years ago.

It first caught her eye because it was beautiful, then she saw the label, and anyone who likes to shop vintage will know the feeling of excitement that a discovery like that brings.

She paid $100 for it, went home and discovered it was from the 2006 collection, stored it away in her wardrobe and wore it on her wedding day, 10 years later.

It made me think about those wonderful moments throughout my life when I have unearthed an unexpected delight at op shops, car boot sales and trash and treasure markets.

My cousin, Pascall, and I were only one year apart in age and absolutely simpatico in our love of a vintage find from about the age of 11 or 12. We regularly combed all the stores in our nearby suburbs, buying with our pocket money or proceeds of our after-school jobs ’50s and ’60s handbags and brocade stilettos, paste jewellery, beaded twinsets, and retro party dresses.

I once found a clear plastic evening purses at a car boot sale in Hurstville, flecked with multi coloured glitter, one of those 1950’s classics. I decided to give it to Pascall as a present, and when she unwrapped it on Christmas morning, she actually cried with joy, something our respective mothers didn’t understand because they thought it was all old tat, but Pas’ and I knew how special it was.

There is nothing that beats the thrill of finding something incredible at a low price, certainly not paying retail at a pricey boutique. I recall going to a brocante aka garage sale in the suburbs in Paris in the 90’s when Gucci had become red hot again.

I discovered a burgundy leather Gucci handbag from the 70’s, mint condition lying on a trestle table and I nearly keeled over with excitement. The woman was asking for the equivalent of about $10.

I ordered my mother-in-law, Malika, to stand watch while I raced to the auto teller, and when I came back, she was haggling. “Noooo,” I screamed, thinking we’d lose the bag, but I underestimated Malika’s skilful powers of negotiation because I then was given the bag for $7 and with four ugly coffee mugs thrown in.

I still have a pair of pale pink embroidered silk slippers from the 1920s, never worn, that I found in a bin at a Vinnies in Paddington in the 1980s. They make me happy every time I re-discover them in my wardrobe, they are such a thing of beauty.

Earlier this year, I went into a thrift store in Wauchope, NSW, and spied a gorgeous brown crocodile handbag from the sixties, never used, with one of those metal clasps that snap emphatically.

When I opened in, there was a tiny matching purse inside, I almost hyperventilated.

I think that instead of selling expensive clothes or accessories that you don’t wear anymore, how wonderful to plant them in op shops instead, and make someone’s day. Or indeed, make some memories for life.

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