Monday, 4 May 2015

Thrift Shopping in Kuala Lumpur – Overview

thrift buys
Some of my thrift buys

There is no doubt that the latest shopping trend is thrift shopping.  Numerous fashionistas profiled in magazines state that they shop for vintage fashion at flea markets and thrift shops.  Even local Malaysian style websites have jumped on the bandwagon and featured thrift finds and how to wear them. 

For years, I lived vicariously through the finds of the fabulous thrift shoppers on The Purse Forum, wondering occasionally if I should attempt to go thrift shopping in big, bad Kuala Lumpur.   And then I read an old article from the Star that changed my life.  A vintage Chanel purse found for MYR10 at the Amcorp Mall flea market?!  CHANEL?!  With Justin Bieber’s “That Should Be Me” playing in a loop in my head, I decided that I should get myself to a thrift shop.  And guess what, I have been popping into thrift shops every since then. 

Now, when people write about thrift shopping in Kuala Lumpur, they tend not to mention certain things that readers might want to know before they decide to get down and dirty (literally) in thrift shops all over town.  So here they are, gleaned from my years of thrift shopping and wasted money. 

Thrift Shops – Not Always Cheaper Than Retail

Malaysia is not America so don’t expect to buy anything for MYR1 at any thrift shop.  Most of the clothes will be around MYR20.  Dresses, jackets and pants are usually priced around MYR30-50.  Some of the thrift shops will even charge up to MYR500 for a coat.  Yes, I know the label says “Christian Dior Monsieur” but I really doubt that anyone will want to buy a coat for that price, especially in a tropical country like Malaysia.  When you go thrift shopping, do consider that you can get new clothes from retail shops for roughly the same price, especially during sales. 

Clothes Are In Thrift Shops For A Reason

In the past, I used to be so excited about finding some relatively nice clothes in the thrift shops that I didn’t bother to think how I would wear them.  Some of them turned out to be troublesome to wear or difficult to match the other clothes in my wardrobe.  In the end, I re-donated some of them to the thrift shop.  I guess their original owners must have given up on wearing them as well.  One example was a draped wrap silk skirt by Episode.  The front of the skirt could potentially flap open when I walked.  I actually went to buy black shorts to wear underneath the skirt.  I wore the skirt once or twice and then decided it was far too much hassle and we parted ways. 

No Trying Allowed

Sportsgirl pink skirt
A pink Sportsgirl skirt that I couldn't try and ended up donating

Some thrift shops don’t allow you to try on their merchandise before buying.  Others may not have fitting rooms so you won’t have a good idea of how the garment fits you.  You might end up wasting money on clothes that don’t fit you. 

So yeah, why shop at thrift shops?  It’s not all bad, though.  I enjoyed thrift shopping enough to make it part of my regular shopping routine. 

Try Something New
thrift finds
Some brands that I was able to try out, thanks to thrift shops!

The beauty of thrift shops is that you never know what you will find.  Clothing by labels that are not available locally may pop up in your local thrift shop.  There are also thrift shops that buy second-hand clothing from overseas and sell them for a profit.  I’ve seen Country Road, Camilla and Marc, Sportscraft, Burberry Blue Label, Liz Lisa, Gelato Pique, Karen Millen, Ted Baker, James Perse etc.  So, you don’t have to be a jet-setter to shop labels from different countries (with a little digging and luck, of course).

You can also buy vintage clothes.  You may not be able to afford designer labels at retail prices but may be able to own vintage creations from those labels, thanks to thrift shops! 

Create Something New

Some of the clothes found in the thrift shop aren’t easy to wear but can be transformed with some sewing magic.  For example, I once bought a beautiful Scanlan & Theodore ice-blue silk kimono dress at a thrift shop.  It looked terrible on me but I still bought it because I had a temporary lapse in good judgment.   It might have been because the silk was incredibly beautiful or it might have been all the raves about Scanlan & Theodore in Australian magazines and Vogue Australia forums.  I never wore that dress but my mother cut off the sleeves, sewed up the front and added patch pockets.  It is now a wearable sleeveless dress with a round neckline!  It also belongs to my mother now. 

Find Something Amazing

Occasionally, you will magically find something amazing at the thrift shop that costs less than MYR500 (har har).  And that makes all the effort of thrift shopping worth it.  J

Next: Where To Shop

In the next part of this series, I will cover the thrift shops that I have visited regularly over the years.  There are many more thrift shops in Kuala Lumpur but I will only cover the ones which I think will not require you to go out of your way to visit.  

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