AAfter the US election, Congresswoman Cori Bush started a conversation on Twitter about the high cost of acquiring a professional work wardrobe for Washington, saying she was heading to a thrift store to stock up.
“The reality of being a normal person who goes to Congress is that it is very expensive to get the business clothes I need for the Hill. So tomorrow I will go second hand shopping, ”he wrote.
Bush’s experience as a single mother working as a nurse and pastor means she’s building her professional wardrobe from scratch, and the cost of that can be staggering.
Also a Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quick to offer her support, as did other congressmen, noting that, among its other virtues, second-hand clothing was “good for the planet.”
“Save, rent and be patient while you gather your closet, sister,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez. “The capsule wardrobe will be your best friend.”
Wearing used clothing in parliament is a practice that has long been adopted thousands of miles away in New Zealand. Seeing this exchange on social media, Aotearoa MPs were quick to join in and share their best saved outfits.
Of those who revealed they had been wearing secondhand clothing for years in the country’s halls of power, many said they had done so out of necessity.
Marama Davidson, co-director of the Green Party and minister of family and sexual violence, has been called “the queen of savings” by her colleagues, a title she describes as “fabulous.”
“I have always liked supporting sustainability and local businesses with my clothes. The vast majority of my wardrobe is second-hand, bought or locally sourced, ”he told The Guardian.
“During the campaign, I had a team of amazing women from my local neighborhood who went through the supply stores to find me new clothes for the elections. It completely transformed my wardrobe. “
“I’ve never really liked buying fast fashion or something fancy and expensive, it’s just not me. I’m happy with the operational buying experience, in particular being able to support local sustainability. “
“Op-shopping”, as it is called in New Zealand, is a popular hobby in thrift stores in most suburbs and cities, and is attached to garbage dumps. Most of the stores are linked to a charity.
For National Party MP Louise Upston, business buying was a necessity as a single mother living on charity. Now, he enjoys it for other reasons and usually makes a donation in addition to his purchases when shopping at a charity store.
“Before, my motivation was purely budgetary. Now, I’m more interested in consuming less and making sure the clothes are reused rather than creating new ones all the time, ”says Upston.
As a longtime business buyer, Upston says the hobby helps her source one-of-a-kind clothing, but the stigma can remain, even as the second-hand shame has morphed into something vintage.
“The other day a colleague said to me, ‘Oh, I love your jacket, it’s amazing!’ And I said, ‘Oh thanks, I bought it from an operations store.’ He looked at me quite surprised. [There can be stigma], which I think is completely unnecessary. “
The trend reaches the top. Although the prime minister decided not to answer questions, Jacinda Ardern is known to revert to wearing her outfits. It has less than a dozen pieces in high rotation.
‘A sport for a long time’
Since Jan Logie, a Green Party MP, was a teenager, op shops have felt like “big boxes of costumes, giving me the chance to live many lives,” she said.
“Now my relationship with the op-shops tends to be more prosaic; a cheap and ecologically legitimate means of satisfying my consumer and creative impulses. “
“In a workplace that feels like the natural home of shoulder pads, wearing an operations tent treasure gives me a subtle subversion thrill and brings me back to myself.”
National Party MP Maureen Pugh first became dependent on op-shops when she lived on an isolated farm on the west coast of the South Island. Her friend, who had an op-shop in Greymouth, traveled regularly to the Pugh family, arms laden with affordable treasures.
“She would bring out old wool sweaters for me to take off and knit into new sweaters for my children,” says Pugh.
“The cost is attractive, but it is also the ultimate in recycling for me.”
For many women at Beehive, operational purchasing allows them to stay connected to their roots and introduce an element of reality and diversity into the sacred hallways of the building.
For the Green Party deputy, Golriz Ghahraman, op-shopping “is a sport for a long time” that makes fashion “affordable, accessible and unique”.
“When I got to parliament, I never wanted to put on a suit and adopt the traditional perspective of power; people should never feel that their representatives seem out of reach, “says Ghahraman.
“As a woman, it also signifies something that we should not conform to in what are normally very male-dominated standards of formal wear. Therefore, I usually use the store finds that make me the happiest at conference engagements, in the community, and in the House; it means that I can feel like ‘me’ while I am a parliamentarian. “
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.