Don’t mock the frock

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - OPENERS - KATHY LETTE

One woman’s trash is an­other woman’s trea­sure. How else do you ex­plain di­vorce? Helen Mir­ren, Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, Kate Winslet, Bar­bra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Drew Bar­ry­more, Tracey Ull­man, Wi­nona Ry­der and many other celebs are ad­mit­ting to a love of rif­fling the racks of sec­ond-hand shops. Sharon Stone has ad­mit­ted to a par­tic­u­lar pen­chant for cash­mere jumpers from the ’50s and ’60s. And Babs and Drew said they pre­fer wear­ing vin­tage frocks on the red car­pet to en­sure they’re never ac­cused of look­ing bland or iden­ti­cal – a case of Send in the Clones.

Spurred on by the credit crunch (the only bank you can count on th­ese days is the sperm bank) and the re­al­i­sa­tion that I’ve spent way too much money over the years on out­fits I’ve barely worn, I headed to my lo­cal Sal­va­tion Army store. Would I too find sar­to­rial sat­is­fac­tion?

The first out­fit I tried on was to­tally tongue-in-chic. But strug­gling my way into the skin-tight Ly­cra leg­gings proved so stren­u­ous that I pulled a mus­cle and thought I might have to be rushed to hos­pi­tal. Once I’d re­gained cir­cu­la­tion in my legs, I added a feather boa and lime green jumper – which was a look which didn’t quite come off but gave the im­pres­sion that it def­i­nitely would later, and for the whole band! But could I ac­tu­ally wear it in pub­lic? OK, it was a bit mut­ton-dressed-aslamb. But no­body lam­basts men for be­ing mut­ton-dressed-as­ram now, do they?

I se­lected a few more so­phis­ti­cated ensem­bles. But the strappy red evening dress proved more com­pli­cated than ad­vanced al­ge­bra. Flum­moxed, I opted for a strap­less gown. It was so sexy I’d have men stick­ing to me like ny­lon un­der­wear in a heat­wave. But one false move and all would be re­vealed. I’m amazed ex­treme sports en­thu­si­asts haven’t taken up strap­less-gown-wear­ing as the ul­ti­mate risk-tak­ing thrill. The silk cock­tail frock was just too skimpy. I’d seen more silk on a worm. The stud­ded leather mini dress looked good from a dis­tance… a dis­tance of say, 200km. Up close it was the kind of out­fit which would frighten a gar­goyle. As for the pon­cho? Well, only about seven fe­males in the world look good in a pon­cho. And they’re all un­der nine years old, or no­mads tend­ing their yaks. The less said about the se­quinned cat suit the bet­ter. Suf­fice to say that if I wore it into the House of Hor­rors I’d come out with a job of­fer.

Af­ter two hi­lar­i­ous hours I was knee-deep in a moun­tain of dis­carded out­fits and start­ing to feel a tad de­spon­dent. I looked at my­self in the mir­ror and ad­mit­ted that I’d seen bet­ter dressed sal­ads. Just when I was about to give up all hope, I spied a lit­tle black cre­ation on the dummy in the win­dow. It was short. It was chic. It was just the thing. All it needed for added ooomph was a won­der bra (so-called be­cause when you take it off, you won­der where the hell your breasts went).

I wore it out last night for the first time. Would friends mock the frock? My dress stood the test. I even re­ceived com­pli­ments. When I was able to non­cha­lantly con­fess that I’d bought it for five dollars and the satin hand­bag for two, I started to ex­ceed the 100 per cent rec­om­mended daily al­lowance of smug.

Men are so much luck­ier than women. Not only do they have an op­tion about grow­ing a mous­tache, but they only need one pair of shoes and one suit, and in one colour, for their en­tire adult lives. But I’ve now learnt that to be well dressed, you don’t have to break the bank. (Some­thing fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions are so good at do­ing to them­selves.) Just buy some­thing preloved. Hav­ing do­nated money to the Sal­va­tion Army means that I can also wear the ul­ti­mate ac­ces­sory – my heart on my sleeve. You can also do your bit by mak­ing a cloth­ing do­na­tion dur­ing National Op Shop Week from Au­gust 25 to Septem­ber 1.

Tell us about your best op shop buy. Best let­ter wins theatre tick­ets.

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