What movie instantly comes to mind when you hear “the nineties?” I think immediately of the Clueless crew- Cher Horowitz, Dionne, Ty, and their band of glamorous Californian sidekicks. The quintessentially nineties fashion, music, and chaos that ensues in that movie has made a serious comeback in American mainstream culture. Interestingly enough, it appears that 90s culture is also thriving in New Zealand. On my first day at the University of Otago (after getting severely lost and frantically asking the international office for directions), I felt like I had stepped into Cher’s high school in the Valley. Never before had I seen such a concentrated group of long-haired boys carrying longboards and sauntering around in high top Vans! Or girls wearing overalls! Or dreadlocks! Or denim jean skirts! It was as if I stepped out of Doc Brown’s Delorean and into a grungy nineties wonderland!
Dunedin students are at a definite fashion advantage due to an abundance of local thrift shops. At home, I thrifted loosely, getting a cool sweater or pair of jeans from Philly Aids Thrift or the Salvation Army in Manayunk, but the majority of my clothing came from chains like Urban Outfitters or Zara. As soon as I got to New Zealand and realized how much I would be spending on hiking/camping/skiing/living the outdoorsy but also not cheap NZ lifestyle, I decided that shopping for new clothing from expensive, popular chains was not a priority. Instead, I decided to scope out the best thrift shops in Dunedin, get rid of clothing that I no longer liked/wore, and spend my time looking for inexpensive, funky pieces that I could love for a little while and later recycle. At first, I started out with a specific clothing item in mind- I love turtlenecks not only because they make me look like female Steve Jobs but also because there’s something very snuggly and safe about having your neck covered. After scoring a few really cute turtlenecks, I branched out to high-waisted jeans. It’s really hard for me to find pants that fit me in the legs and waist, so I started buying comfy men’s jeans and re-sewing them so that they fit properly. Two months in, I had a pretty solid set of basic thrifted pieces (all for a total of 25 NZD!!) and started to look for brighter/more unique items to add. My most recent favorite is a bright pink short sleeved sweater that makes me look like an extra in an 80’s exercise video.
Now, with only two (sad!) weeks left in Dunedin, I own a wardrobe that has been almost entirely thrifted. After accumulating so much funky vintage garb, I decided to sort through the clothing that I brought with me to Dunedin and ended up donating a lot of it to Salvation Army. As I mentioned in a previous post for the Temple Study Abroad blog, consumer culture has really gotten me down recently. Through thrifting, I have escaped from the sameness and apathy that is associated with massive clothing chains and fast fashion. Rather than just wearing whatever clothing item is currently popular, I find it rewarding to hunt for special items that no one else will own. To me, hunting through a thrift shop is a therapeutic experience. If I’m having a particularly rough day, I can pop in my headphones, grab a hot chocolate, and wander through rows and rows of orphaned clothing. Sometimes I feel like my mood is particularly cyclic or lacking in some way, and finding/wearing the right clothing item can help to put me in a healthier mindset. Being able to recycle and replenish my wardrobe in a way that is so cheap and entertaining has also taught me to be more conscious about other products that I buy. I realized a few weeks ago how bothered I am by the amount of waste that is produced just from my weekly food shopping, so I started buying almost exclusively items that do not require packaging, carry a reusable bag/mug everywhere, and decided to go vegetarian (for the animals but also for the ozone layer)!
Once again, New Zealand has proven that minimalism triumphs. This, more than anything else, is what I am going to take back with me to the US in two weeks. I cannot emphasize enough the increased mental ease, happiness, and appreciation of life that I have gained through living a simpler life in Dunedin. This has been a result of multiple small changes that all started with my thrifting excursions. If you do not deeply connect with personal belongings, people, or jobs, cut them loose. Time passes ridiculously quickly. Life is too short for rude people, bland food, and boring outfits!
For any friends reading this who are looking to thrift a little bit in Dunedin, here is a tiny list of my top 5 recommendations:
- Salvation Army – this is my personal favorite! I like to start at the front where all of the women’s pants are located and work my way back to the 50 cent rack (I have scored many cute 50 cent items here!). Salvation Army is also cool because you can buy other neato things in addition to clothes. I got a nice little needle/thread set and some books the last time I popped in.
- Vincent de Paul – the first time I visited this shop, I was not impressed but went back again and found so many things I liked. St. Vincent de Paul is more hit-or-miss than Salvation Army, but will deliver some really awesome items from time to time. My 80’s sweater (as discussed earlier) is an example!
- The Hospice Shop – in terms of pants/tops, the Hospice Shop is not great. However, my friends and I have had a lot of success with finding cool coats/jackets here. Slightly pricier than the first two but worth it for a nice fluffy jacket.
- Paper Bag Princess – in terms of ambiance/cool stuff, Paper Bag Princess definitely wins! I’ve been to locations in Dunedin and Wellington and both have unique clothing. PBP is also expensive for a thrift shop- be prepared to spend a little extra $$ if you plan to shop here.
- The Dunedin Vintage Market – to be honest I have no idea when this will happen again but it’s a real good time! The market is a pop-up event that lots of local Dunedin vendors come to to sell vintage jewelry, gifts, costumes, clothing, etc. I bought a really awesome pair of jangly earrings with blue stones for $10 and my friend Alex got a really suave looking velvet jacket that makes him look like a magician. When I went, the market was right by the Octagon in Burns Hall.