Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ukay-Ukay Finds, Pre-Loved Items, VIntage Clothes Turned Ultimate Fashion GEMS in an Instant

Ukay-ukay shops have been sprouting literally everywhere – from the hole in the wall store at the street corner to prolific online shops selling thrifted or so-called vintage clothes.

Why is ukay-ukay popular?

Ukay-ukay is the Filipino version of a “flea market”. The ukay-ukay phenomenon started about five to seven years ago and at that time, ukay stores selling cheap and fashionable items could only be found in Baguio. Bargain hunting is popular because going through racks of clothes to find the dress gets your adrenaline pumping, especially when you have to compete with fellow fashionistas who can’t pass up that perfect white summer dress, those lovely boots or that one-of-a-kind edgy graphic-printed skirt.

Ukay ukay may be considered a sport in some ways. Sometimes you score, sometimes you don’t. Some people even swear by their ‘ukay fairies' which help them find wonderful clothes at dirt-cheap prices.

Another reason why people frequent ukay-ukay stores is because everyone wants to have a little designer piece here and there without having to pay designer prices. Lucky shoppers sometimes discover a designer dress for only P200.00, which would normally set them back a couple of thousands, if not more. Yes, ukay-ukay can be a heaven for the avid shopper.

On a more eco-friendly note, thrift shops also pave the way for lessening one’s carbon footprint. Via reduced unnecessary spending and involving the reuse, recycle or re-style of a product, it saves the product from its terminal trip to the landfill.

What is the difference between a thrifted item and a vintage one? Most of the time ukay shops (both physical stores and online stores) interchange these two words which may prove to be confusing.

Defining Thrifting

When the word thrifted is used to describe clothes, it means the item was previously used by an individual and then later donated to a thrift store. Depending on the store, sometimes the money earned from selling these clothes is donated to charity, with a certain portion of it going to the store owner. Wikipedia defines thrifting as “the act of shopping at a thrift store, flea market, garage sale usually with the intent of finding interesting items at a cheap price.” A thrifted item simply means it was purchased from a secondhand dealer, regardless of how old the actual item is.

Defining Vintage

Not just because an item is considered old, you can automatically call it “vintage”. Vintage clothing is a generic term for new or secondhand garments originating from a previous era. Just like fine wine, vintage clothes are aged. The more they age, the greater their value becomes.

Generally, clothing made before the 1920s are considered as antique, while clothing made during the 1920s to 1980s may be considered vintage. However, a vintage purist may tell you that anything made within the past 15 years is not vintage, but considered as contemporary. That said, one not only has to check the dates, but also the craftsmanship that goes along with vintage clothing to determine its authenticity.

Vintage clothing was designed to be worn for years, therefore they were made of robust quality and were meant to be passed down from one family member to the next. Garments usually have unusual buttons, hand finishing, hand embroidery, handmade lace, appliqué, beading and other techniques.

Some Tips on How to Identify Vintage Clothing

* Identify the fabric. Read garment labels, compare the fabric to identified fabrics in your closet, at the fabric store or conduct a burn test. If the fabric is synthetic, most likely the garment was produced after World War II. Nylon, the first synthetic fabric, was available to the public in 1940 in the form of hosiery. General garments made of nylon were not widely available until the 1950s.

* Examine the zipper as its location has changed throughout the decades. A zipper in the center of the back of the dress indicates the garment dates to the late 1950s or later. A zipper starting under the sleeve and ending at the waist or hem indicates the dress was created anywhere from the 1930s to the 1960s. Before the late 1930s, women wore dresses that were fastened or closed with buttons, ties or clasps.

* Observe the cut. Hemlines and sleeves have changed throughout the decades. Hems did not rise above the knee until the 1960s and armholes were very narrow in the 1950s throughout the 1970s. In ladies' wear, waist measurements of dresses were much smaller in proportion to hip and bust measurements in the 1940s and 1950s as compared to the succeeding and directly preceding decades.

Know Your Vintage Clothing Condition
Understandably, because vintage clothing is not new, it is important to determine its condition before purchasing. This is especially useful when buying clothes online as it will help you determine if the garment is worth investing in or not.

* Mint – the item is in pristine condition, as when it was originally made, showing no signs of wear
* Near Mint – showing the slightest signs of wear
* Excellent – showing typical signs of wear due to occasional use
* Very Good – the item is considered wearable but has some surface flaws (staining or soiling)
* Good – an item is wearable but cannot be returned to excellent condition even if repairs are made

Surprisingly, at the ukay-ukay shop there are also affluent-looking individuals and even fashionistas who also sweat their butts out looking for that perfect fashion find. But when you go shopping, look casual and discreet—most ukays are in dodgy locations so it’s best to blend with the crowd.


Looking for that PERFECT clothing in an ukay-ukay is a test of one’s patience. Some people might feel weird about the idea of wearing secondhand clothing, but there’s something timeless and ethereal about ukay-ukay. If you live in a style-conscious city, this guarantees that you won’t look like everybody else. Pretty much items found in ukay-ukay stores are one-of-a-kind pieces. Here is a list of the ukay-ukay stores I’ve visited:

• Baguio (there are a lot around the city, it is locally known as WAGWAGAN)
-Baguio City Market
-Session Road

• Bambang, Sta. Cruz, Manila

• Cubao, QC (near Ali Mall)

• Makati Cinema Square

• Ortigas (across Robinson’s Galleria)

• Grand Central, Monumento LRT Station Exit

• Meycauayan City, Bulacan

• Marilao, Bulacan

• Balagtas, Bulacan

Yes, there is fun in ukay-ukay - such a journey that should be enjoyed in bits and pieces.

Ukay-ukay Philippines - my ultimate gems, fashion treasures in an instant. Love to visit this ukay-ukay stores in Manila, Bulacan, Baguio, Quezon City and all.

Okay sa ukay-ukay! Happy shopping!


Rothco Military said...

nice article on vintage clothing

james35 said...

ukay-ukay is similar to a thrift store. Some of the items are used and some are surplus from overseas. Everything is pretty cheap. It is a really popular way to shop here in the Philippines.

buy and sell philippines

Cza said...

I wonder where one might be able to find actual vintage-dated pieces in the Philippines. Anyone who's had experience buying one?

All Things i Love said...

hi, nice article. I need a gown and boots. Could you recommend a best place or shop? Thanks so much

Mommy Mai said...

thanks for dropping by, everyone. i suggest the ukay finds in manila especially those situated in carriedo, avenida, recto and quiapo. such stretch has lots of pre-loved, surplus and vintage great finds. see you soon again! thanks! :)