Vintage clothes for sale

I just bought six dining chairs. 

I saw them online. Obsessed over them for a week. Showed pictures to a friend who confirmed I have good taste. Rearranged half the house to accommodate them. Booked a van to collect them last Thursday. Then rebooked it because Kate from Crownthorpe wasn’t back from the beach yet and Saturday would work better for her. 

They were her chairs. But now they are mine thanks to her toddler who doesn’t fit with the cream cushioned seats. And Facebook marketplace. 

Except for underwear and footwear, I don’t do ‘new’. New is for the tacky nouveau riche. New is for the numpties who hanker after trendy and end up with trashy. New is for the Joneses and those trying to keep up with them. Classic, classy and timeless only come with brocante. 

There’s so much stuff in the world. So many people remodelling, redecorating and reworking their interiors so often. So many people buying on-trend, shedding weight, piling it back on, changing their look, discovering they’re not a ‘spring’, they’re an ‘autumn’. Then flicking their schmutter at the recycle boutique. So many people buying the things they want instead of what they need, then finding it’s the feeling of new they needed and not the thing itself. I may as well win from their whims and their whimsies. 

Trade Me is groaning with people’s consumption misfires. And the stuff they got – or gave – for Christmas, which wasn’t wanted, ‘cause they had one already. That’s why I’m more into ‘Buy Now’ than ‘Buy New’. 

Quality costs the first time around, but lasts, so second time around it still gives out. Cheap ‘mink’ from the Warewhare won’t keep you warm come winter while op-shops are bursting with quality blankets: 100% wool, hand knitted, peggy-squared or pastel tartan donning the Napier Woollen Mills emblem. If your goal is warmth, quality and value for money, go for used not new. 

There’s joy too in rummaging for curios. That heart flutter that comes with finding a bona fide Sylvac condiment pot, Cobain clout goggles, atomic Eames-era barkcloth curtain sequestered in the back of some Granny’s garage. You can’t go gooey over mid-century modern unless you commit to cast-offs. Those interiors you salivate over in House and Garden?…they don’t come from Freedom Furniture. They come from years of collecting bits and bobs from op-shops (or their flashy siblings: vintage, retro, antique). 

My favourite bumper sticker is one that says I Swerve For Thrift Stores (it’s American but you get my drift). The only reason I drive to Wellington is to stop at the big-barn junk’o’rama in Woodville. Best of all though is driving through <insert small town name here> and spotting a flea-market. The electric thrill of that first glimpse of the obsessive collector, one driftwood owl away from becoming a hoarder, hocking off brown Crown Lynn coffee cans for $2 a pop. I once bought a set of six nesting enamel dishes from a woman in a patchwork turban who aggressively insisted they were called ‘Nana dishes’. That’s the stuff real memories are made of, not a quick whip round to Kmart for another piece of Pyrex. 

When you do ‘go new’ – and sometimes there’s little choice – thinking about how you’re going to dispose of the thing before you even acquire it is vital. If it’s plastic or packaged in polystyrene, liable to break within the year and unfixable when it does, then stop, think and reconsider. Chances are there’s a second-hand, upcycled alternative. 

Back in the day there was a saying: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”. 

Implementing that rule of thumb now would take us a long way towards less consumption and more pride in the objects we do love, use and value. Looking at the true cost of the whole life of an object means thinking about how much you’ll use it, how long it’ll last, what you’ll do with it once it’s no longer fit for purpose. It means thinking about how much it cost to make, not just money-wise but environmentally, ethically, socially, culturally. 

A rampant lion plant stand from Guangdong might be cheap in dollar terms but it’s price-prohibitive when we add in sweatshop labour and airmiles. 

If it’s been made well enough in the first place that ornamental Chinoiserie could go on to have a whole other life once its original purchaser carks it and their descendants – seeing no discernible use for it and having no discerning taste – cart it off to their local auction house. Mine’s in Hastings. It gives me endless fun when on Wednesdays I peruse the goodies, place blind bids, forget all about them until I’m messaged on Thursday, then turn up by Saturday to collect my latest whatnot, firkin or chatelaine. 

The fun is in the hunt. And when your newly acquired wysiwyg is lovingly placed on the hutch in the hall it does well as what-ever-it-is, but it does better as a memento, a middle finger to the consumption society, a supportive salute to all those who would rather fossick for treasures than trawl through the Big Box. 


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