Don’t mock the frock
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.