IN this economy, spending too much money on clothes is overindulgence and fast fashion, albeit cheap, is an epidemic – look it up, the environmental cost is unsustainable!
So where does a responsible penny-pincher go to look bougie on budget? (The word is slang for upscale – derived from bourgeoisie – to all my titas asking) The ukay-ukay of course, a fashion haven for everyone from frugal mothers, to eclectic bohemian types, to savvy bloggers. Here’s a friendly beginner’s guide to the art of thrifting.
PATIENCE PAYS OFF
A lot of times it can feel overwhelming, the sheer number of choices as you walk into an ukay-ukay, but the key to finding the best bargains is patience.
Take time to sift through the racks of clothes – and signature fluorescent green hangers – of your favorite thrift store knowing what you want and with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. It’s easy to be distracted with all the visual stimuli in ukay-ukays, but keeping in mind your personal style and what you feel best looks good on you will always lead you in the right direction.
Once you do find a piece of clothing you like, examine it with a fine-tooth comb for any rips, tears, and damages – as well as mulling over if your wardrobe really needs it. Basics and athleisure wear can be great finds – but ask yourself: Does it spark joy? Do really need another statement tee or polo shirt in your OOTD rotation?
It’s also easy to feel weighed down by all the clothes you’re carrying after a round of browsing and picking out pieces you adore. What I like to do is to transfer a piece of clothing to the end of a rack and make a mental note to come back for it later if I don’t find anything else more to my taste – that way I’m not lugging around a heavy load on my left arm while going around the store.
DON’T CHASE THE LABELS
The dopamine hit of finding a designer piece at your favorite ukay-ukay haunt is undeniable, but finding holy grail name-brands shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all of your thrift shopping experience.
Instead of obsessing about labels, focus instead on finding unique statement clothing that speak to your style and apparel you probably won’t find anywhere else. Sure it’s nice to spot a bargain Zara button-down or a Bershka bomber jacket at your favorite ukay-ukay, but there are plenty of amazing non-branded clothes out there for you to discover.
That being said though, my fave thrift store find – which I wear to this day – are my black checkered Dolce & Gabbana pants, snug and tapered to perfection, that I bought when I was a college freshman (If I remember correctly they were only P150). On the other end of the spectrum, I have a grey double-breasted suit that fits me like a glove and a houndstooth-print jacket that I really love – both found proudly without name-brand labels.
Full disclosure: My thrifting goal is to one day find a Dries van Noten jacket – that can actually fit me – at an ukay-ukay. Then, and only then, will I be able to die happy.
SIZE DOES MATTER
Some sage tough-love advice: Never buy in “aspirational” sizes, and by that I mean pass on those 30”-waist pants, even though you well know they’re a few sizes too small for you. (I should know; I’ve fallen for this more times than I can count!)
Don’t be tempted to bite the bargain in the hopes that – if your fad diet works out in the next few months – you’ll be able to slip them on without a hitch. Let’s face it, the chances of that happening are slim, you’ll most likely be only wasting your money.
However, buying garments in larger sizes may actually be a smarter and better choice. If you’re a crafty kid, you can simply cut, trim, tailor, and resize it to be more flattering to your frame. For those who are less skilled with their hands – and probably fall more on the lazy side – maybe you have a sewing-machine-expert family member willing to help you out. If you have no one else to call on, there’s always your friendly neighborhood sastre or the pricier alteration stations at major malls.
LEARN TO HAGGLE
This isn’t H&M! Feel free to negotiate a better price for your ukay haul – leave your reluctance at the door.
In some cultures, it’s actually an insult to a salesman if you don’t try and haggle – (I’m not entirely sure where, but I’ve heard this said before, ahahaha). The best way to bargain is by negotiating when you’re already ready to check out – don’t waste a store attendant’s time by haggling for each piece of clothing as you find them. This way you have a better chance of lopping off a larger sum from your bulk total.
In bargaining, you can go the back-and-forth track – though more for expert hagglers – wherein the seller throws you a price, and you pitch a lower bill until one you budges. Or you can go the more direct–to–the–point route by asking “What’s your last price for this?” The former will probably land you a better discount, but any savings is a start, right?
Now that you have your ukay haul, launder them before going stuntin’ in your newest threads – you don’t want to reek of mothballs while hanging out with friends. Most prescribe drenching them in boiling water to get rid of any musty smell. I, for one, am not the finicky type and I’ve found a single wash, a long soak under the sun and a good iron is enough to make any clothes look good as new.
Over time you’ll be able to find your favorite thrift shop – there are plenty of ukay-ukays to choose from in Iloilo City, with prices that range from less than P20 to P500 pesos or more. But maybe in the near future you’ll want to step up your thrifting game – by then you’ll want to visit stores outside your locale, like the popular Anonas Complex in Manila, or the mecca of ukay: the Baguio Night Market!
Till then, happy bargain hunting!/PN