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Sometimes it is hard to imagine putting yourself into someone else’s shoes – literally, that is. But SheSaid reader Laura Parr did it and discovered the joys of second-hand shopping!

“I just don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes,” a friend recently told me. “You don’t know where they’ve been.”

You could be forgiven for thinking the same thing, as the idea of shopping at the Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul donation centre is a thought that would not even cross most of our minds.

Wearing a hand-me-down from that long lost second cousin, borrowing a Saturday night chick-flick from Blockbuster or even loaning a book from the library, it is much the same thing (and cost!) as buying something from the local Vinnies, apart from the fact that from Vinnies, you get to keep it for good.

St Vincent de Paul centres have been operating all over the country, with a whopping 267 located just within NSW. Their prime focus is on providing donated quality and affordable goods to those on low incomes or in need. However, with a centre located on Paddington’s infamous Oxford Street, St Vincent de Paul is quite clearly emerging as a hot spot for trendsetters and fashionistas (and especially those recessionistas) alike.

I’ll be honest with you; the thought of setting a foot inside one of these shops was not exactly at the top of my list of things to do. A scene from the 1997 film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion sprung to mind, where desperate for a job, Michele finds herself being given a tour of a dismal discount store by an overweight, balding manager. In the background, a tinny song is playing, accompanied by coughs, splutters and the ear piercing shrieks of a baby, and the whole situation is summarised really when over the PA system, a sales assistant asks “What is the markdown for a small blood stain?”

Shuddering at the thought, I was pleasantly surprised (no, make that thrilled) that this was most certainly not the case at the St Vincent de Paul centre in Eastern Sydney’s Charing Cross.

Expecting a chaotic mess of old nanna cardigans that reeked of mothballs, broken Chinaware and stained, one-eyed soft toys, I instead found a warm, sunlit store with clearly organised and labelled sections, and a bunch of volunteer assistants whose genuine smiles were equally as welcoming.

There is no arguing that this season’s staple wardrobe item is of course, the leather jacket, so upon finding one much the same quality as that of a new one, yet at thirty dollars – a tenth of it’s cost, I knew I had struck every fashionista’s dream, so I clung onto it for dear life. Bookworms, find Sex and the City’s author Candace Bushnell’s most recent best seller “One Fifth Avenue” for no more than five dollars. Shimmering Oroton Glomesh handbags satisfy a designer-obsessed woman’s craving for no greater than fifteen dollars. Budding designers would find heaven in the half-a-dozen wedding dresses stashed away in the corner, which although may be a blast from the past with their 80s style frou frou cap sleeves, boast ornately hand beaded silk fabrics, a perfect bodice for that of a formal dress.

I am proud to admit that since my first day at Vinnies, I have bought that lucky leather jacket, brand new summer dresses that still have the tags attached, a piano stool that doubles as a jewellery case, and no less than a dozen handbags. That’s only the beginning.

The great debate of quality versus quantity becomes debate no more, and best of all, you know that your purchase will go towards helping someone in need.

Why don’t you step into someone else’s shoes? You just might like it.
The photo relating to this article is of just some of the many handbags I have bought from Vinnies.

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