One of my favourite things to do in Sofia (besides all the eating and drinking) is go to the big Magazin Mania second-hand clothes shop, located in the basement of the covered market (Central Market Hall). It’s even better when we take family and friends from England down there – just watching their faces as they take in the separate zones, weighing scales, and general jumble sale atmosphere is priceless. This is shopping with rules. Shopping with weights and measures. Shopping with the potential to find some really great old-lady nightgowns. Obviously, I love it.
|One of my latest and more random purchases. How does a kitten destroy brunch exactly?|
What’s the heavy metal connection? If anyone can explain this t-shirt to me,
please do get in touch below.
There are Mania shops all over the country, not just Sofia. And, to be honest, our nearest store in Botevgrad is probably better for finding weird and wonderful clothing – the Sofia store is a bit classier, let’s say.
So this is how it works. Specifically in Mania – other second-hand clothes shops are available – they have separate ‘zones’: zala (hall) A and zala B. (By the way, we once went in a Magazin Mania with a zala C and I nearly peed. Oh the planning this will require, I thought, rubbing my sticky hands in glee.) Anyway, one zone is always smaller and cheaper than the other, and because they have different prices, you can’t freely wander between each zone carrying armfuls of clothes.
The only orderly way to tackle this is to start in the smaller, cheaper zone, pick out what you like and try it on in that zone’s changing rooms. If you want to buy any of the items, you have to take it to the desk in that zone, and get it weighed, bagged and marked up with the price. (Confusingly, you don’t necessarily pay there – you’ll probably have to take your bagged items to the other zone and pay for everything altogether at the end.) Then you can proceed to the second zone, where there are different prices, different colour shopping baskets, more scales and more changing rooms. Repeat the process: snaffle around for clothes, try them on, get them weighed, and you can finally pay.
How much you pay depends on how much the items weigh. Which always freaks out the folks from home. And, just to add to the fun, the price-per-100g (or whatever it is) is different on each day of the week. Basically, if you’re in the market for a heavy, ankle-length leather coat (and, really, why wouldn’t you be?), you’ll pay a lot more for it on, say, Thursdays than you would on a Monday. Even though it’s the same coat. Brilliant, right? What’s not to love about this crazy-ass system? It’s like a bonkers challenge – the Krypton Factor of clothes shopping.
I’ve bought some amazing stuff in lots of different second-hand shops over the years (and, in charity shops back home before that), but Mania is my favourite of them all. I once bought a vintage Italian leather bomber jacket in the cheap zone for 4 leva. That’s two quid, people. Two quid! I’m also the proud owner of a pure wool, calf-length camel coat – of the sort that was painfully fashionable in the UK last winter – bought for the outrageous price of 6 leva.
|My beloved £3 coat.|
And the sheer variety … oh man, if you’re drawn to things like faded My Little Pony t-shirts, tropical jumpsuits from the 1980s, and ridiculous hipster jumpers (yep, yep and yep, in my case), you’ll be in heaven. You’ll also find plenty of normal H&M, Marks & Sparks, and Primarni stuff, too.
|I can’t tell you how much of a winner I feel in this wide-leg, tropical jumpsuit.|
I bust it out every summer.
|Mad tassle shaman kaftan dress? Yes please.|
As with any second-hand items, check for stains (of the bodily-fluid/won’t-come-out-in-the-wash variety) and holes (that can’t be repaired) before you head to the changing room. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve schlepped to the changing cubicle, undone my boots, peeled myself out of my jeans and jumper – all hot and bothered and blowing my fringe off my forehead because Bulgarian shops in winter are HOTTER THAN THE ACTUAL SUN – just to find out the thing I’m trying on has a fucking great hole in it. There is no greater pain.
Oh, and also, if you don’t want to buy some of the items you’ve tried on, don’t try and hand them to the member of staff stood by the changing rooms. They won’t put your shit back for you. Frankly, they’ll look appalled at the very suggestion and you’ll feel like a lazy Western arsehole.
What’s been your best second-hand purchase? Or does the thought of wearing something that someone else has worn (and in the case of at least one nightie I’ve bought, probably died in) freak you out?
Oh dear. As a loving husband, it will of course be my duty to tell my dear wife about the joys of Magazin Mania. On the other hand, Bulgarian second-hand shops have that dreadful smell… Perhaps I will just leave her in the shop while I go and have a coffee (or perhaps a three-course dinner). Then, when we get home, she has to try it all on again and decide about jewellery and handbags "go" with each of her new purchases. Well, I suppose that they will be a lot cheaper than buying them NEW.
So that's where all those weird "nobody-would-ever-buy-those-clothes-and-what-twisted-mind-created-them" clothes went to – your place! I've been to dozens of second hand shops and always wondered, why do they even stock such stuff that *obviously* nobody, I mean NOBODY would ever want! Just looking at the last two photos makes me shudder…!
SO cheap! But, yes, you do have to get over the smell. Thankfully, my nostrils have had years of training in British charity shops. I barely notice it now.
Ha, yes, my place is where ugly clothes and shoes come to die. Except they don't die — I worship and wear them. Out in public. I stand firm that the 80s tropical wide-leg jumpsuit is a thing of beauty, and I've received warm compliments when wearing it (admittedly from an old lady, but I'll take it). You might have a point on the mad tassle shaman kaftan dress, though. So far, I've only been brave enough to wear it in the garden. When I first found it in the shop, my other half thought it was the most hideous thing he'd ever seen, which, frankly, only made me more determined to buy it.