How thrift shopping can benefit an international student’s lifestyle

DOES the notion of buying secondhand clothing sound iffy or foreign to you? Dea Putra tells you more about the joys of thrift shopping, and how it’s not at all bad.


Photo by Risa Ikeda on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. No changes were made.

Ever since Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released their massively popular hit, ‘Thrift Shop’, more and more people are visiting op shops and thrift stores to try their luck in scouring for gems they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

And yet, some international students have qualms about thrift shopping, as they are unsure where to go for it, and hold concerns about quality of the items.

“I don’t really know where to shop for [second hand clothing],” said Amber, a university student from China. “And I’m hesitant in buying them because I don’t know who previously owned it.”

However, if you’re able to get past this notion, there’s one thing that helps make the idea of thrift shopping enticing for international students: if you know where to look, you can get quality outfits for dirt cheap.

Why pay outrageous amounts for a simple piece of clothing when you can get it for so much less? If you’re lucky, you might even score name-brand items (sometimes high fashion, too) for not more than what you’d spend for a day’s meals.

“I like buying secondhand mainly because it’s cheap,” said Juli, an Indonesian international student. “Especially for items like winter coats – I managed to get one for $15.”

If you’re looking to change up your look and expand your wardrobe, op shops are the perfect place for being adventurous and taking risks with your choice of fashion. Where else can you find ‘80s style frocks and jeans for that price?

“I love second hand shopping because [you can] find items that are unique, not available in retail stores, or much loved discontinued items. There are loads of vintage items which I love, and places like op shops allow me to buy them at an affordable price,” Diyana, a Malaysian international student explained.

“I reckon my best find so far are the Italian leather boots that I got for $20,” she recalled. “They’re knee-high boots, well-designed, and in great condition; so I thought it was a steal!”

That being said, many of these items are one of a kind – sometimes you might not even know the brand of the jacket you discovered. And if the cut or design is distinctive, you could even be the subject of envy once you realise that you’re probably the sole owner of that awesome thread.

“These unique, most likely one-off pieces … sure help reduce the possibility of me bumping into another person wearing the same, in-trend items from labels that are so common these days,” Diyana said.

If that doesn’t entice you yet, consider this: you’re also saving space and reducing wasteful consumption by recycling clothing. You get to look stylish and help save the environment while you’re at it – one knit cardigan at a time! Additionally, various shops donate a percentage of their sales towards charitable causes, so you can also get a little philanthropic kick while you shop.

And remember those clothes you thought were a good idea when you bought it at the store but ended up in your closet, never seeing the light of day? You can also donate them to your local thrift shop. However, keep in mind that these shops aren’t dumping grounds. So first, you need to ask yourself: would you want to give the clothes to someone you know?

Photo by Zhou Jia on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. No changes were made.

Photo by Zhou Jia on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. No changes were made.

If you’re ready to dip your feet into the world of thrift shopping, here are some handy guides to help you know what to look for and get the most out of the experience:

Know where to shop

There are two places you can venture to in your quest to find second hand clothing: vintage shops and op shops. The former option tends to be a more organised shopfront, but they’re also more expensive – sometimes significantly so. If you’re looking for a bargain, op shops are where you should check out first.

Look around, regardless of your gender/size

Because really, you never know what you’re going to get so have a look in every nook and cranny of that store before you really decide on what to buy.

Plus, ‘boyfriend’ cuts are back in style.

Buy out of season

It may be spring now, but you can do no wrong buying a winter coat if it has a timeless, classic design. The same goes during cooler weather; that Hawaiian shirt or floral sundress would look good in summer.

So just buy it now so you can prepare for the next season much earlier!

Wash/clean them before use

These shops usually clean their merchandise before they put it on the racks. But for good measure, always clean the items you bought after you purchase them.

The best finds are discovered through 50% perseverance, 50% luck

To unearth that precious item, it’s best that you don’t come into a store with any expectations, and simply spend some time rummaging through aisles and piles of clothing.

Sometimes you might find an interesting item within the first five minutes of your search, other times you might leave with empty hands. But you’ll find that it’s all worth it when you strike gold and find that amazing dress for $5.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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