Rosemary Mac Cabe

Hemlines, heels and haute couture – your daily dose

Oxfam George’s St, or, secondhand successes

Today as I wandered over to Crackbird for a freelance project I’m working on, I passed by Oxfam on George’s St and wandered in for a quick look at the vintage section, which is really great, especially considering the fact …

Thu, Jul 21, 2011, 12:30


Today as I wandered over to Crackbird for a freelance project I’m working on, I passed by Oxfam on George’s St and wandered in for a quick look at the vintage section, which is really great, especially considering the fact that a lot of the other stuff in the store is, well, not. Immediately, two dresses caught my eye, and I bundled them up in my little paw, considered bringing them to the cash register, and then put them back, thinking, ‘No, Rosemary, you really don’t need two new dresses.’ Off I toddled.

Then, approximately three hours later, I went back for them. And that, you know, is how you can be sure you both want and need something – if you’re willing to go back for it.

So anyway, because you people don’t seem entirely put out by my posting photographs of myself here, and I haven’t been fired for it yet, here they are:

Here I am, at a jaunty angle in my bedroom mirror. I know, it all looked so much more glamorous the other day. It’s a really nice 1980s dress with a crossover front that’s going to need to be pinned, to save my frightening young children, and a drop waist with a gorgeous tie that can either be tied, as intended, down quite low, or can be tied up higher (as above) to give it more of a waist. It also has a pleated back, all through the back of the dress and the skirt – I quite love it.

Here’s a close-up of my cleavage. I mean, of the pattern. Nice, wha’?

Now please: this is a not-very-flattering photograph. My bedroom also looks a bit messy. I must set up my tripod, because, believe it or not, I have a decent camera that doesn’t have a phone attached, and I even have a remote switch. It’s amazing when it gets its act together. This dress is a gorgeous raspberry colour and has a really interesting button-down detail with an open collar above it. It’s really sweet, although I think the length might be a little dowdy. It may yet take a trip to the alterations folk.

So there you have it! Sometimes the first things you see are the best things! (Is the moral of that story.) But while we’re on the top, here are my top tips for shopping secondhand . . .

1. Abandon all ideas of size. Today’s 14 is not 1980′s 14, nor even 1990′s 14. Try everything on – or, if you’re like me and hate changing rooms, just buy it and then eBay it if it doesn’t fit. Simple!

2. If it has a sweat stain – or any stain – leave it be. Vintage fabrics are notoriously hard to destain, and chances are, that mark has been there longer than you’ve been having hot dinners. It ain’t budgin’ for you, Vanish or no.

3. Don’t go too full-on vintage. Vintage items are lovely. Full-on, all-over vintage is fancy dress. Just bear that in mind.

4. Decent leather is decent leather, no matter how old or new it is. If you find yourself a lovely leather bag, and you’re concerned that it might not last, think about it: if it’s lasted this long, you won’t be the one to break it. Vintage leather can often be far more lovely than modern, and much better made.

5. Lastly, don’t buy vintage for the label. Find a Céline dress? Congratulations, but unless you actually like and will wear it, leave well enough alone. You’re hardly going to turn your dress collection into the world’s first private Sotheby’s auction, let’s face it*.

Happy shopping!

* This may or may not be a lesson I have yet to learn.

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