Guide to Thrift Shopping (Kaunjika Strategies)

I was out here living my quiet life, when one of my good friends, Angasa, sent me this:

This girl pushes me beyond my limits, you guys. I have never considered modest style blogging but I told her I would think about it. So, I am literally starting my “modest clothes blogging section” thing (I’ll have a better name for it soon) with exactly what she suggested: Kaunjika Strategies.

Kaunjika is a Chichewa word, loosely translated to “heap” which is how second hand clothes are ‘displayed’ this side of the world. Customers pick the clothes they like from this heap of second hand clothes and pay for it; basically, thrifting. Which is something I absolutely love. I have very good reasons why I am such a lover of thrifted clothes.

  1. I am very tiny. The shops in Malawi hardly stock my size or style. I find my size and style in kaunjika.
  2. Most store-bought clothes are too common for me. I hate having to wear something everyone is wearing (the uniform I wore in school was enough).

I have a shopping problem but I am too poor to have this problem (*sobs*). Thrifting allows me to have retail therapy and still feel satisfied lol. Anyway, main reason here is that I am poor. The other reasons are just there for decoration.

Dress and jacket totally thrifted

So let me get right into it. Here what I think is okay to buy second hand:

  • Skirts

  • Dresses

  • Shirts/tops
  • Jackets
  • Coats

  • Belts

I personally avoid buying these things second hand:

  • Leather anything
  • Shoes (not worth the disappointment)
  • Handbags

These things are usually second hand for a reason. Sometimes you do find good shoes or handbags second hand, but it is very rare. I would recommend saving up and buying these items brand new. Because of my size, most of the clothes I buy are a little big for me; either it’s too long, or just a size or two bigger. But if I think it’s cute, I do not hesitate to buy it. Tailors in Malawi are affordable. Find a tailor who is excellent at adjusting clothes (yes, there are tailors that specialise in adjusting clothes- find one and stick to them because they get used to your style and size). Here is a dress that was waaay too long for me that I had adjusted:

Here is another that was too big also, I had an elastic added around the waist too so it would flow.

Another thing to look out for is ‘belo yotsegula kumene’ i.e. second hand clothes that JUST came in. These usually have clothes that are of a higher quality; some that still have their tags on them. When you find something you actually like, do not be too quick to pay for it. INSPECT IT. Most times, the item really is too good to be true. It’s a shame to go home and find out that white dress you picked has a big stain you can’t remove; or the jacket you picked has no buttons at all.

My trick to not get tired easily when I’m kaunjika shopping is to inspect the first five-ten clothes I see on the heap. If that sample doesn’t interest me, I move on. Another trick is to actually ask the seller what kind of clothes they are selling, and if they have your size. Most of them take the hint and start searching with you. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, you save a lot of time and energy.
Lastly, I hope I look back at this some years later and laugh about what a thrifty girl I was although I won’t lie, I derive a lot of pleasure in thrift shopping. I hope this little guide was of good use to you and that this is the start of something wonderful. I also hope to have better pictures next time.

Happy thrifting!

Posted in Modest Dressing and tagged , , .


    • Hello Grace. Do you have any thrift shops that side? Anywhere they sell second hand clothes? That would be the perfect place to search for clothes you like because they are usually sold at a very low price.

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