The Beginners’ Guide To Thrifting in Zimbabwe: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Trip To The Flea Market



Whether you have been there or not does not matter at all, there is a certain bod of knowledge you need to know and understand about thrifting and this is why I am here. For this article to be a success I created certain images of the  type of people I have met and  their attitudes towards thrifting and these are as follows;

The passer-by: the one who passes by the thrift stall and is scared to even look at the clothes for long but sees that they are beautiful.

The people-pleaser: ‘what will people think of me when they see me here?’

The I don’t give a fudge: shops and rests and shops again. 

Talking J: the one who constantly talks about thrift shopping but never goes.

The dark cloud: that person who doesn’t know where to go or how to shop and what to do .

It doesn’t matter where you stand; thrift-shopping is not something you can wake up with a hang on .You need someone to hold your hand and show you the ropes then after two or three visits, you can then go and make your own mistakes and flops. 

I discovered the world of thrift shopping when I got to varsity and it was almost winter time and we had little to wear. One of my friends, Bianca already knew this world which we were all oblivious to and one fine morning our trio set out of the hostels to go on a long overdue trip to Mbare.

My first impression of the place was, “noise, dirt and I want to go back” but I couldn’t; for a camouflage sweater caught my eye and a red shirt after that and a silk blouse after – and I did not want to go back after the silk blouse.

It was the best experience we ever had because it was the only time my friends allowed me to be totally crazy and no reprimands on what I wanted to buy. 

Thrift shopping means going for shopping at a flea market or garage sell where you will find previously owned items at a discounted price (aka ‘bhero’). Thrifted items are said to be ,*preloved* as they have been previously loved by their owners but are usually in good condition to be useful to the new owner.

As time went on I would pass by Copa Cabana whenever I had an extra dollar and get a sweater or tote bag. It was during these random trips where I would later learn that I  do not like everything preloved; I prefer the sweaters and those boyfriend and mom jeans are to die for.

And it was also during these trips that I came to learn that thrifting is an art . Something which my good  friend Bianca did justice when she took me to Mbare.

There are certain things you need to know and adhere to if you’re planning on going thrift shopping or you’ve been there already but you didn’t read on it before here were my top 7 tips ;

1. Dress down

The time Bianca took us to Mbare she  thoroughly made sure we looked like people who stayed in Mbare, we had to blend with the environment. Thus, I wore some old jeans and the others wore similar normal  clothes so as not to look way too extravagant.

The point of dressing down is all on the price. See, the sellers can tell you a different price if you happen to look rich. I remember this aunt who looked so posh and was dangling her car keys who came and said, “how much are these sweaters?” and the guy said 3 dollars but the sweaters were going for 2 dollars.

Her ‘but I heard you just shouting ukuthi 2 dollars a minute ago’ plea was of little help.  You can imagine what the seller said, ‘ haaa  sister’ (pronounced as  si-S-turrr). The price can be changed arbitrarily as you  fan your hands and bat your extravagant eyelashes. No need to come with the extra eyelashes and ombre eyeshadow sis, leave that at home it’s just a few hours after all.

2. Prepare yourself for the noise

I am not a music person since birth, I love conversing  and writing .To me music is something I get to play when I’m  in a certain mood, which is rare. Now you’re probably thinking why I’m dragging you to music but it’s because you have to be prepared for the music you find at thrift stalls.

The loud  lame jokes the guys make of the clothes they’re selling, the offended sister shouting back vulgar and all, the young boy with a breaking voice who is making a living shouting, “dollar, dollar dress”.

Mentally prepare yourself for this music. I suggest three days prior your visit you play loud music at your house so when you actually go and hear those guys, you won’t panic. Never go with earphones or headphones –  they will be stolen before you shout, “how much?”

3. Have a list

The best decision you could ever make when you go shopping is to have a list of what you want to buy. Prepare your budget, write your list, make it small and neat then tuck it in your jeans together with a pen. This will save you from the claws of impulse buying. There are a lot of beautiful pieces at thrift stalls but you have to know what suits you prior needs; emphasis on the *need*. Not wants.

4. Don’t let them tell you how you look

The worst mistake you could do is ask the seller this question, “how do I look?”. Never never ask the seller, if you’re too desperate ask the next customer because the seller wants their clothes bought and they will butter you and cream you till you buy. You get home and realize you just bought something that’s not you.

5. Bring a friend

Try to invite a friend when you are planning to go thrifting. Not only will they  guarantee you honest reviews, they will also help you carry the bag or go through the items . Sometimes you get to a crowded stall which you see clearly that it has good pieces and you just want to slither through the crowd and go through the clothes, but can’t because you are alone and holding a bag.

6. Leave your phone at home

My friend Bianca leaves her phone at home. I cannot leave mine but she believes it’s the best thing to do. This is quite subjective;  I am always holding my phone in Mbare and nothing happens. I think holding your phone is better than tucking it in a bag because in those crowded places the bag can be cut off and you won’t even realize till it’s too late. So this one depends on your level of comfortability with the particular environment.

7. Take your time

When you go thrifting , take your time to go through the items and visualize yourself wearing that blouse or jeans before you pay for them. Most times we have bought clothes in a hurry and later realized that they had tears somewhere, especially clothes with ruffles and pleats. Shuu, be very careful.

Go through everything that interests you before you make a purchase because next time you try to return the torn dress you might find the brother selling underwear and you will be given the familiar, “haaa sorry sister but its not my fault”. And we don’t want that.

Lastly, thrifting is a whole world on its own; the excitement and joy you feel when you find a beautiful  silk shirt you’ve never seen before is unexplainable and nothing beats that feeling: the noise, the drama and the banter between customers who have just met and instantly bonded by a dress are some of the few highlights that make thrifting a worthwhile experience. 

It’s one of the few moments you can never duplicate so live it. Live that life to the fullest. And dress good. Look good.


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