Last year, when confinement was daily bread, the pandemic left several and several unable to update their closet with summer outfits. But this season there is nothing to prevent it —with the corresponding self-care—, not even the always spoiler of personal finances, because there are plenty of alternatives for the shorter pockets when you go to the second-hand market or American clothes.
A Chanel blouse at 500 pesos? It sounds delusional. What does 500 pesos cost at this point?! Well, a second-hand garment like the one bought by Catalina Morales (29) a while ago.
“I found it at a free fair in Peñalolén. It is one of my greatest jewels: eighties, with a pattern of chains; beautiful”, says the owner of Vintage Cat, a store that since 2009 rescues treasures from other times in fairs and second-hand stores, and then resells through her website. A curatorial job that she recently had in the United States among tons of alternatives.
Solange Vásquez (40) also knows that job. Since 2017 she has had the Tesoro Vintage online store, which a few months ago opened a showroom in the Lastarria neighborhood. “Since I was a child I have been a fan of used clothing and it has always been present in my life. I have recovered around 7,000 garments,” she recounts.
The two agree that preferring second-hand clothing is a very good alternative, not only because it is usually cheaper, but also because its bill is better than the new one offered by large stores.
"They were made at a time when the best quality clothing was made, with nobler and more resistant materials," says Morales. "Unlike clothing from retail and fast fashion brands, which can be used at most ten times before it spoils," Morales points out. On the other hand, she adds, "when you buy second-hand clothes, you are taking something unique, that no one else is going to have, something like a treasure."
Stores like Vintage Cat and Tesoro Vintage also promote this rescue as a way to raise awareness about the problems of fast fashion, which with its frantic production of new clothes and trends causes terrible environmental repercussions. In fact, the United Nations estimates that this industry causes 10% of the world's carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater.
Giving garments a second or third life, says Solange Vásquez, "helps reduce the water and carbon footprint." For this reason, Morales celebrates that in recent years, especially during the pandemic, there has been a boom in new American clothing stores. “There are too many clothes in the world and I personally made it my goal not to end up in landfills. It is an impossible goal, but that is why what we do in these types of stores is important.”
By 2012, Vintage Cat had a physical store in Barrio Italia. Catalina Morales says that those who used to enter were older women, the age of her mother. “They said 'oh, this is used, how disgusting'. That doesn't happen so much today, the prejudices that it's filthy clothes or that it belonged to someone who had died have been lost. People freaked out."
The prejudice, according to Morales, comes from the middle of the last century, “when 97% of the clothes used in Chile were manufactured —today that figure is around 5%”. Those who bought second-hand clothes were the most vulnerable people, who did not have the money to pay the prices that new clothes had, so the general look towards her was contemptuous.
Today that seems to have taken a 180 degree turn. “In recent years, used clothing has become cool. Stores like Nostalgic helped change the perception and generated a change in the industry and the market”, says the owner of Vintage Cat.
But one thing is that the look has changed and the other is that there is a culture in this regard. The lack of it can be seen in the mistakes that people commonly make when buying second-hand clothes. Among the most frequent is not trying on clothes and not properly checking if they are stained or torn.
Vásquez adds that when buying and selling online, people often make the mistake of looking at the size and not the centimeters that the garment measures. Although the sizes are standard —all are expressed in large, medium or small—, the dimensions can vary greatly in each case.
"If you know centimeters, you can never go wrong," she says. Morales adds that people should measure their body or take the measurement of a garment that fits and likes them. "The most professional stores have all the details well described and with photos to guide," she adds.
When the purchase is virtual, it is essential to check the purchase conditions. According to Morales, “because in many stores they do not accept changes or returns, since the law gives them the option of being used clothing. At Vintage Cat, for a better experience, we accept exchanges but not returns.”
Another mistake that is often made is not paying attention to the materiality of the garments. The best quality and most durable clothes, according to experts, are usually made of noble fibers such as cotton, linen, silk, wool and other natural fabrics. To know what material they are made of, just read the label.
Here's another bad habit: Few people pay attention to what the label says. "It is important to read it, because they have a lot of information about the garment: where it was made, its materials or what care is necessary," says Morales. The latter is key, “because there are things that cannot be put in the washing machine, only dry clean. Otherwise, it will shrink and be damaged and will not fulfill its function, which is to accompany you for a long time”.
Morales says that many people also make the mistake of buying used clothing from fast fashion brands. “I have seen many used clothing Facebook groups with people looking for clothes from Zara or H&M, as if they were unique treasures. But those brands don't design or make clothes to last. For example, some time ago I bought some Primark boots at the fair, a fast fashion brand from the United Kingdom, known for being very bad. I put them on once and they disintegrated, the sole came off.”
"Do you really need it?". That is the question that Catalina Morales recommends asking yourself before buying any garment. “When I go looking for clothes for myself, I make a list of things I would like to find. The idea is not to fall into impulse buying, but to do it consciously, to have something that will last us a long time and that we know how to take care of, ”she explains.
As for what to choose, Solange Vásquez says that it is essential to pay attention to the details of the garments, such as that the seams are firm. Or if it is elasticated, that its elastics are in good condition, as well as the closures and the fabric in general.
With the heat that she is currently, and considering that summer is approaching, what materials are the most recommended? According to Catalina Morales, cotton, linen and silk. This is not the case with synthetics such as those that are usually used in retail, "because they generate static, and sweat stains them." Unless it's a 1970s or 1980s polyester, "which is much better quality and made to last a long time." And for the winter? “I recommend wool, angora and cashmere. They are garments that if you know how to take care of them, they will last for many years.”
Although buying online means not being able to check the condition or the dimensions of the garments, the most professional stores have solved this obstacle with the concern of detailing each aspect on their websites, complementing them with photographs. If there are still doubts, it is recommended to use the communication channels to make all inquiries.
Regarding care, Vásquez and Morales assure that second-hand clothes are much more resistant and easier to care for than current ones. “Second-hand garments already have a history, they have already been used and washed; They already had a life. So, they adapt more easily to your use, ”says Vintage Cat. Even so, basic precautions should be considered, such as separating clothes by color, using suitable detergents, and following the washing instructions that are reported on the labels.
The supply of second-hand clothing is increasing, as well as the varieties and their typology. Each store usually does its own curatorship, so they can be found for all tastes.
“In the old days there were only the fairs that had used clothing and some stores in the city centers. But now there are many dedicated to vintage and that has another value, it's not just used clothing”, says Solange Vásquez. For a garment to be vintage, according to her, it must be at least 20 years old, and whoever curates this type of clothing must have specific knowledge regarding "labels, brands, details such as certain types of prints, closures and buttons corresponding to each decade”.
Why is vintage so popular? “Part of it has to do with nostalgia. It activates our emotional memory: some memory that transports you to a moment of affection, a dress that reminds you of your grandmother or some pattern of your mother's dress. It also allows you to own a little piece of the past,” says Tesoro Vintage.
What stores do you recommend? Some virtual like Polka Vintage, Cinnamon with Mint, Vintage Lover Chile. Other face-to-face events, such as the José María Caro fair —the largest in Latin America, they say—, in Lo Espejo, and the Pedro Aguirre Cerda free fair, “right next to the metro train”.
The free fairs are the favorite places of Catalina Morales: "I would dare to say that it is the best thing that Chile has." He recommends, yes, going with a lot of patience and arriving early, like 9 in the morning, especially in the summer season, "because the peak heat is very heavy at the fairs." Also take a car, so as not to ask for bags and wear comfortable clothes to walk for several hours. Her favorite fairs are José Arrieta (open Thursday and Sunday) and Grecia (held on Saturdays), both in Peñalolén. The latter, as she says, "has gotten a little more expensive, but there are always good things."
Outside of Santiago, she recommends the El Belloto fair, in Quilpué, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. "It is one of my favorites, apparently it is one of the largest Persians in Chile." There is very good used clothing, I think the imports arrive directly from the port of Valparaíso. The last time I went there was five clothes to buy for Luca. I also really like the fair on Av. Argentina, in Valparaíso; that's on sundays. They have a lot of stuff."
Regarding Instagram stores, he recommends Investidura and Roedora Shop. In the latter, he says, “I bought high-waisted suede pants, beautiful, they cost me 15 lucas. Super good price. In the other, I bought a sleeveless vest, blue tartan, beautiful, that cost me 8 or 10 lucas, maximum”.
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