14 Simple Truths About Preloved Shopping

Posted by Jill Chivers in Simple Truths

Preloved Shopping


I loved preloved shopping. It was one of my favourite formats to shop in, and I still enjoy it from time to time, although quite differently to when I was shopping in my unconscious shopping days.

All that time spent in preloved stores has led me to these 14 simple truths about pre-loved shopping:

  1. Preloved shopping is about buying items that someone else has owned (and possibly loved) before.  The items may have been used (heavily or lightly) or they may be in new mint condition.
  2. It bothers some people that items have been pre-owned – they can feel like they are wearing “dead men’s clothes”, or that there is some “Eewww!” factor to it.   For me, so long as the item is in good condition and is clearly clean, I couldn’t care less if someone else has worn and loved it before.
  3. Preloved shopping is a way to have needs for novelty, interest and stimulation met through shopping, but in a different way and an environment at the opposite end of the spectrum to a big soulless shopping centre.
  4. Shopping preloved often means we spend less in total dollar amounts. This is one of the biggest advantages to preloved shopping – the prices are often a fraction of what the items cost when they were brand new.
  5. Shopping preloved can give a feeling of being ‘green’ and not contributing to the fast fashion cycle that may be wearing out the world.
  6. Preloved shopping offers a treasure hunt. You just never know what you will find!These are interesting items that cannot be found or purchased in stores that sell only new merchandise.  They might be items that were only available new many years, even decades ago (vintage and retro items), or perhaps even just a season ago.
  7. Preloved shopping offers the opportunity to shop consciously and discover ‘finds’ – unique and interesting pieces that aren’t available at the mall.  These items have much potential:
    • Combine them with existing wardrobe pieces – mix and match across eras and genres to create a unique look.
    • Re-purpose, upstyle, transform and create entirely new items from.  Turn a silk jacket into a scarf, a dress into a tunic, a printed shirt into a purse.  Just avoid the pigs’ ears – they make very poor silk purses.
    • Add pizzazz, interest and variety to a wardrobe that has become a little stale or dull.
  1. Preloved shopping comes in three main forms:
    • 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 clothes you find in op shops tend to be the lower end of the quality scale, are usually ‘contemporary’ (you generally won’t 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. 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 shopping. Vintage is period shopping where clothing of a particular era is for sale. The quality is generally very high (although sometimes it’s 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. 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 and vintage items clearly come from a different place in time. Vintage shopping will help you reproduce the looks from a particular era.
    • Consignment shopping. Consignment stores are filled with ‘gently used’ quality clothing for sale. Consignment stores usually have very clear and strictly adhered to rules on what items they will accept (about quality, brands they accept, newness (they usually won’t take items that are too old, which would make them vintage), and the state the items are in). You can often find quality, designer items at a fraction of their new cost.
  1. There are a number of downsides to preloved shopping, one of which is sizing – if they don’t have the item you love in your size, they can’t get it in from another store in another size; what they have is what they have and you can miss out if the item in store doesn’t fit you.
  2. Quality can also be iffy in preloved stores, especially op shopping from charity stores, but sometimes in vintage and consignment stores too. This is where your skills as a savvy shopper come into play and you need to inspect the item carefully for signs of wear that will render the item uncomfortable, unpleasant, impossible (or just plain ugly) to wear.
  3. Recognise that you cannot shop in charity stores the way you do in a regular boutique or department store.  It’s essential to recognise that this is a different kind of shopping experience to mall shopping so adjust your attitude before commencing.
  4. Get into the spirit of the treasure hunt.  To get the most out of charity store shopping, treat it like a treasure hunt where you don’t know what you’ll find. You may find a bit of treasure – something quality, unique, “you”, delightful, an item you’ll use and wear and will be able to integrate into your wardrobe immediately, something that will bring some personality, versatility and novelty to your existing collection of clothes.  Or maybe you’ll find nothing of interest or value.  Just like any kind of treasure hunting – the result cannot be guaranteed.  But it’ll likely be interesting, no matter the outcome.
  5. Go through items one by one.  In a regular boutique or department store, you can look at a rack of clothes or a set of shelves from a distance – just a quick scan from the aisle or the doorway or 6 paces away – and be able to tell if those are items you are interested in looking at further.  But in a charity store, you can’t do that because you can’t tell from 4 paces if the rack or shelf has items of interest.  Racks, shelves, boxes, rails, however the store displays its wares – they must be fossicked through item by item for you to be able to tell if the items are of interest.
  6. If you have had or still have an issue with compulsive, impulsive over-shopping, then beware preloved shopping. Why? Because it can seem like it’s a “non shopping” shopping option, mainly because the items are so discounted. It can lure you into thinking you’re not really shopping, when of course, you are.   Use the same principles for savvy shopping for new items in other stores that you do when shopping preloved.
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    2 Responses to “14 Simple Truths About Preloved Shopping”

    1. Ignorant Awareness says:

      Good points here – the other thing I’d add is that most charity stores don’t have guaranteed fitting rooms (not here at least!) If they do have them, they tend to be makeshift ones (ie- a small cubicle with a knee-high curtain and no full length mirror).

      So that means you have to be really honest with yourself when eyeing an item on the rack & determining whether it would fit you or not (unless they have no fuss returns policy in place though).

      • Jill Chivers says:

        Charity stores here in Australia, at least in the ones I know of and go to, have undergone a revolution in the last years, perhaps decade, and now resemble cute boutiques in many respects, complete with fitting rooms, sometimes beautiful fitting rooms. So that’s a shame that the ones near you aren’t fitted out with fitting rooms. Even if an item looks great on the hanger, it’s impossible to tell how it will look and most importantly, feel, on you until you try it on!

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