Thursday 6 February 2014

How Savemart changed my life

Clothes shopping used to be something I was crap at.  Looking, fine, but actually trying stuff on and making a decision?  Not so good.  The stakes just seemed so high, given that I usually didn't have much spare money and I'm very aware that I'm not necessarily a good judge of what suits me; when I look in the mirror, like so many other people, what I see is perforated with body-image baggage, some mine, some my mother's, a fair bit from Barbie, most from the media images I see All. The. Time.  

Not to mention my insidious fear of shop assistants in clothing shops.  Why do they always look so put together, and intriguingly edgy, and effortless, when I had to really think about what to wear and then ended up going for the safe option every time? I completely understand why Tina Fey so often wears a lovely dress in the same shade of blue to awards shows.

The first time I walked into the Onehunga Savemart I was intimidated.  So many clothes!  Then I noticed that the people who worked there were all in red t-shirts and jeans, the changing rooms were pretty beaten up, and the floor was uneven.  There were trolleys to put your finds in, masses of clothes of a million different types (really), books, more jeans than you would get at a Jeans West. My kind of place!  No one was going to judge me for what I picked off the rack or tried on, no one was going to try to sell me something, it was oddly peaceful and restful, because there is so little interaction between any of the people there.  Which is probably a bit sad for some people, but for me was rather nice.  

I think the first time I didn't even try anything on.  I suspect I bought a handbag - I've gone from having two "grown-up" handbags, both given to me by my mother, to rather a lot more, all from Savemart and all cheap as chips.  I vowed to return, with more time (I can never go for less than 2 hours) and an open mind.  

My fledgling op shopping confidence from my student days has returned, now with more faith in my body that has produced two children and I've come to feel more comfortable in.  Sure, there's heaps of dross, but also some amazing gems.  The best thing I've ever seen was a Vera Wang wedding dress for $60.  I didn't buy it, not being in need of a wedding dress, and I guess it might have been a fake, but it was in great condition.  My best buys to date have been wool jackets - I have little shoulders and seem to benefit from the cast offs of others who discover their new jacket is too tight.  

To start with I was still very harsh on myself, rejecting almost everything I tried on.  But the prices were so low (I often look at the "designer" stuff which can sometimes be as much as $60, but most of the rest is $10 or less) that the risk for me in grabbing something and finding out later I didn't have the confidence to wear it was almost eliminated.  I tried on stuff for fun, stuff I couldn't imagine ever having an occasion to wear, but what the hell, I probably wouldn't buy it, and there was always the chance it could be great.  My trolley got fuller, I worked out a system for myself of how to most efficiently try on masses of clothes while respecting the three items in the changing room limit, and I bought more handbags.

I started to take an interest in putting an outfit together (with a handbag of course), rather than only feeling comfortable in an ensemble put together by a shop assistant for me.  I clashed colours, ignored rules ("blue and green shouldn't be seen", whatevs), and started to value my body for what it does for me, not how it looks.  Clothes have become an expression of my personality, rather than a way to hide.  If something doesn't end up looking right after I get it home or wear it a few times, whether it be the fit or the colour or the style, then it goes back in the donation bin, having cost me often less than a hot chocolate.  If I find a better red shirt or green handbag then the lesser one gets handed on too.  

I have found my attitude has changed from "my body's wrong for this" to "that 's too big/tight/bright/dreary"; the blame shifted from me, my body, to the clothing instead.  This may seem like a very simple thing to many, but for me it was a revelation; it's the clothes that don't fit, not my body.

And that's how Savemart has changed my life.  

Once a month or so I try to shoe horn in a few hours to visit the Savemart in Onehunga, New Lynn or Northcote (I hope to venture to Manukau sometime soon) for a fix.  Sometimes I buy nothing (maybe a handbag) but usually I come home with something I'm excited to wear.  It's a long way from my teens when I wore black constantly not because I was a goth (that would require learning how to do make-up and potentially standing out) but because I wanted someone to ask me if I wore black all the time because of Dinky Bossetti (no one ever did).  

And I also own more handbags than I ever thought I could.  


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Yet to buy a handbag Julie but I have many clothes purchsed from Savemart in Upper Hutt. Because of the way they are displayed, I can just look for colours I like than fossick through the many different styles (many now out of 'fashion'). And if I make a mistake, it isn't costly. Strangely though I'm not making mistakes because no one is pressuring me to buy.

Previously I was a reluctant shopper. Now I find some pleasure in it.

Julie said...

Thanks Lindsay, glad to know I struck a cord despite our usual differences of opinion! ;-)

I should also mention two additional things:

1. I am lucky to be in the range of most shops (size 8 to 16) so there is usually plenty I can try on. I understand from friends who are size 16+ that second hand shopping, including at Savemart, is very limited, because it is so hard to find clothes that fit and look good, so people tend to hang on to them forever and wear them out, rather than recycle them when they are still good to wear. I am a size where I think I am a beneficiary of people buying something with the aim of losing weight to fit it, and finding that doesn't happen. In other words, thin privilege strikes again. That said, I bought a cool dress at SM the other day that is a size 14. Fits me great!

2. I have no beef with other op shops, and have frequented those for years (I remember when I was about 21 telling a new friend that I had got the skirt she was admiring second hand - we were both shocked; she that you could buy clothes second-hand and me that she had got to her 20s without knowing that). But it's been Savemart that has helped me to change my attitude towards myself, as I've outlined.

Rebecca said...

I like Savemart too! For extra fun, whenever I go I have a game with the person I am with (most often my daughter) that we are allowed to choose one whole outfit for the other person to try on. Anything we want, not at all based on the other person's usual wardrobe. It's hilarious :-) and I have discovered that i look Awesome in leopard print...

Anonymous said...

Should probably check this John Campbell piece out:

Save Mart workers sorting donated items say they are barred from wearing gloves despite dealing with things like soiled underwear and used vibrators.