Monday, November 15, 2010

Heck in a dress

In my last post I mentioned a five hundred dollar dress at a op shop (or thrift store if you will) I was rootling through over the weekend. Sheila, a reader with whom I am certain I share an op-shopping gene, asked what the heck kind of dress could it have been?

I would love to report that it was an original mint condition Fortuny in a pale custard coloured silk, or the wild red frothy hip-clinging number from La Dolce Vita. It was nothing as exciting, but it was elegant, quite practical and looked a lot like this. Not exactly, but by the same designer (Betty Jackson), and in a very similar shape and shade. In short, it was a great work dress and in very good if not new condition.

And I was in a rather posh part of Sydney, miles away from my usual stamping ground. I had no doubt the local charity shops would be pricey.

Perhaps I should offer a case for the defence here? I have been doing the rounds of op shops since I was a little girl for my mother was also a champion op-shopper. I grew up wearing second clothes; some of my favourite, best loved items have been found on the racks and shelves of op shops. I love the process, I love the results: things are donated, they are priced reasonably, the money goes to a good cause and I get a great dress. I'm also happy to pay a fair price for an item - $30 to me is a good price for a clean, practical garment that I know I will wear. I would have handed over $50 for this dress.

In fact, I was certain the tag on the dress was a mistake, that they had meant to price it as $50. I asked the lady in the apron behind the counter. "Is this meant to be $500?"

She creased her brow and shook her head. "I don't think so, but I'll check."

I followed her out to the back where she had a hushed conversation with other apron ladies of the shop. About as much as I could glean is that the dress had come in with a particularly impressive load of designer clothes and they had all been priced very high. "It's $500 dollars," the boss apron lady said.

$500? It wouldn't have cost that much new.

I put it back on the rack. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Salvation Army but I feel their pricing policies, and indeed a little bit of the fun of op shopping, jumped the shark on Saturday.

But it wasn't a complete loss. There were brooches, a lovely old hair clip and some very hard-to-find Liberty bangles.

I washed the Liberty bangles in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle in my rather snarky washing machine. I thought they came up rather nicely. The bangles, I should add, were much more in line with op-shop pricing at fifty cents each. The jewellery was eight dollars a piece. I wore the blue bangle with this dress today.


  1. That's crazy - I have a beef with thrift/consignment stores that sell items for more than they would sell for new.

    Love your dress - that brooch is lovely!

  2. Your dress pictured above is actually much nicer than the overpriced one, I think. I've never seen a $500 dress in a thrift store, though in NYC sometimes the prices in thrifts can be out of my range (which is, to be fair, in the $3 ballpark). We have a thrift store here where the ladies seem to sip sherry while pricing the goods--the weirdest prices, but sometimes, the best bargains.

  3. It is crazy Sheila, yet they were defiant - I wasn't getting that dress unless I handed over the 500!

    It was my first $500 thrift store dress too, Charlotte, and way out of my price (and tolerance) range. None of my clothes - new or thrifted - cost that much. American thrift stores seem to be much cheaper than Australian op shops, and the range of goods is much much better. It's been many years since I've seen any second hand clothes locally for three dollars, except in the occasional clear out sale. I would love to a store where the pricers are sipping sherry!

  4. I wish I were a better thrifter. I used to be very good at it when I was young, but now I often get repelled by the smell of the clothes - I know that's silly, because of course I'd clean it, and it would be fine, but it's off putting.