Diary of an ‘ukay’ virgin

CLOTHES for only P150 a piece? I’m never shopping retail again.

For expert thrift shoppers, a P150 price tag is already too much. But for someone who got her entire wardrobe from the mall, the ukay-ukay is enlightening—that is, after you get overwhelmed with the variety of clothes right in front of you.

But I knew my first thrift shopping experience wouldn’t be a bust, especially when I had the ultimate ukay junkie Shaira Luna with me to get me through the basics.

“You guys look like you do ukay shopping yourselves,” Shaira told Nikka and me as we entered our first stop at the Makati Cinema Square.

With a reluctant grin, I told her it was my first time copping secondhand clothes.
“And you chose to shop with me during your first ukay experience?” she seemed touched, her eyes gleaming with excitement.

“First, you dive into a pile, pull it open to the sides, so you can see each piece on the rack. Since it’s still your first time, you should go through each one,” Shaira said.

Our first find was a Peanuts printed coat—not the most reasonable buy for Philippine weather, but with a little sales talk, Shaira convinced me it’s something I won’t find anywhere else.

“Do you like cartoons? I’ll keep an eye on it for you,” she told me soon after.

She also noticed that we had a thing for plain and basic pieces, and suggested that we scourge around for cheaper options, as one was bound to always find similar designs in other thrift shops offering it at a lower cost.

As we took a look around, Shaira pulled out a yellow neoprene sweater with a geometric design in white and gray at its front—she was hesitant to get it before we told her to cash it in. On another rack, she spotted a silk polo printed with Buckingham Palace guards, and decided to put it back where she found it.

Shaira, who started thrift-shopping at 13, shared that her trained eyes already gravitated toward printed pieces. Upon entering a thrift shop, Shaira immediately heads for prints that stand out.

You’d see her darting from one rack to another, going through rows and rows of clothes in uniform neon green hangers, planning outfits in her head and creating shoots around these vintage statement pieces.

“There are clothes that look good only for editorial shoots, but not so in real life,” she said, quickly admitting that she still wears these kinds of outfits anyway because it’s fun. “I’m all for the retro look right now,” Shaira added.

Shaira then handed me a Japanese schoolgirl top—one that could easily pass as a “Sailor Moon” outfit.

“That would make me look like a kid,” I told her. “That’s what I thought you were,” she joked, hanging it back on the rack.

My vintage haul included a denim midi skirt, a Snoopy coat, a flowing teal skirt, pinstriped cropped pants with accentuated pockets, a polo with Chinese inspired ribbons, all for P780—that would only make me end up with a single top if I had gone to the mall!

What was more fun, however, was picking up cheap thrills that we thought Shaira would take interest in and would eventually use in her shoots.

We handed her all sorts of clothes—an eye-print bomber jacket, a color-block polo with quirky geometric details, and a maroon knit sweater with a front pocket, among others—and we couldn’t be more excited to see these vintage finds again as she explores new concepts and shows these in a new light.

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