In these hard economic times, people everywhere are looking for cheaper options. Second-hand clothes shops are one of the industries that have thrived. With just 100 zl in my pocket, I set out with my friend Fabiana to discover if the fashion-conscious girl about town could score a Krakow winter outfit on a budget.
Second-hand clothes shops are everywhere in this city, as you may have noticed. They advertise ‘Odzież na wagę’ (clothes by weight) or ‘Odzież używana’ (second-hand clothes) and there are some areas where you can find one every few hundred meters, making it difficult to choose the first to visit.
Roban, one of the biggest chains of second-hand shops, seemed the best place to start. They are better organized than many, which makes everything easier, and have amazing promotions at the end of each week.
Fabiana Vieira models the 100zl Winter Outfit (Photos: Angelika Witkowska)
Prices require some explanation. For the seemingly simple business of buying second-hand clothes, it can be bewilderingly complicated. Many of these shops have different prices for every day of the week or, sometimes, of the month. They issue hugely complex calendars detailing these price variations, but the basic rule is that Mondays are the most expensive, when new stock arrives, and Saturdays are ridiculously cheap.
In some shops, you pay for clothes according to their weight, in others you pay per item. In others still, like Roban, you pay by weight until the end of the week and then, on Saturdays, a fixed price of a few zloty for each item.
We entered the first Roban shop, fiercely determined in our role as fashion warriors. There was a chaos of clothes everywhere, a musty smell and a lot of people milling around. But, a challenge is a challenge.
Victory did not come as easily as we had hoped. Huge, long jackets attacked us at every corner and the jeans were vast. Each item of clothing was a one-off, a lonely soldier looking for its time to shine with a brand new owner.
Just as we were about to give up, we saw a girl pick up a beautiful, shimmering salmon-pink top and our resolve was hardened: “We’re not leaving until we find something as gorgeous as that top,” we declared, “Or, if we can arrange it, that top.”
As we battled on, we began to form the strong impression that second-hand shops are mostly supplied by fanatical dieters triumphantly throwing out their ‘fat’ clothes. Most of the stuff is huge, but that is just part of the fun. Somewhere, hidden among the useless sacks, are true gems – like that salmon-pink top that will haunt us forever.
There is every type of clothing you can imagine: shirts, sweaters, skirts, jeans, jackets, ties, pyjamas, robes, hats, scarves and tonnes and tonnes of clothes for kids and babies. Winter sports clothes are a feature at this time of the year, and some of the ski-suits are cool enough that you almost decide to take up snowboarding just so you can justify buying them.
We ended up visiting a Roban shop three times: twice on a Saturday, and once on a Thursday. The adventure was greater each time, and we started to enjoy roaming the aisles in search of those amazing deals.
The result of our tireless efforts – a stylish and practical winter outfit consisting of jeans, top, jacket, long coat, muffler, winter hat and handbag. The total cost: 38.92 zloty, plus 30 grosz for three plastic bags. The most expensive item was the bag, bought by weight on a Thursday for 7.92 zloty. All the other items cost between three and five zloty.
Fabiana Vieira on the streets of Krakow (Photos: Angelika Witkowska)
Second-hand clothes shopping can be time consuming, but it’s a lot of fun. We were frequently in fits of giggles trying on huge old clothes and finding things we’d only ever seen in our grandparents’ photo album. Occasionally there were gems – expensive and super comfy clothes that you could never think of buying new.
Another friend, Diogo Fernandes, for example, found a jacket that he had seen in a mall shop for about 400 zloty, priced at 8 zloty. The same with Sanita Pumpure, an avid explorer of Krakow’s second-hand shops. I still suffer from envy over that vintage circular purse she bought a few months ago – exactly the kind of thing that drives you to keep on looking.
If clothes aren’t your thing, Krakow’s second-hand shops have plenty more besides. Books, shoes, all kinds of accessories, teddy bears and other toys, souvenirs and domestic appliances. One shop on ul. Filipa even has a special area for costumes: hats, wigs, carnival outfits and fancy dress ideas.
The moral of the story: one woman’s cast-off can be another’s awesome find. If you have the patience, there are amazing things to be found out there for ridiculously little money. I’ll see you on the battlefield.