Around the time my high school friends were spending their pocket money on Levi’s and Bata Bullets, I was scouring our town’s first ‘opportunity shop’ for old ladies’ cast-offs. There was an orange tweed blazer, a pleated camel skirt, and a pair of extremely nana-ish shoes (so nana, my actual nana had some just like it) that I took to with shoe paint and turned bright pink.
Desperation had started it. My wages from my weekend job at the local dairy didn’t stretch to store-bought jeans, so I was stuck with the perfectly serviceable but also uncool elastic-waist-denim-trouser scenario my mother whipped up on the Singer at home.
Immediately, my op-shop budget unleashed op-shop tastes. I couldn’t say if there was a rack of pre-loved jeans to rifle through – too distracted was I by polyester blouses with pussycat bows (wish I still had those) and Silverdale twinsets in pastel shades (same).
It gave me a sense of independence and power that, even with very little in my wallet, I could probably buy one thing that caught my eye. Low-risk spending meant I could also afford to experiment, make mistakes and donate the yellowed petticoat or felt hat back to the store if it turned out it wasn’t my thing.
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