My Top Tips for Op Shopping

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rather than shopping on the high street and looking like retail clone, op shopping (thrifting, charity shopping) gives us the chance to pick one off pieces, creating our own unique look.

Nothing beats finding a unique item of clothing or accessory, which fits perfectly, and costs next to nothing. Why buy new, when there is an abundance of wearable fashion already in circulation?

My blog readers will know, op shopping is one of my favourite past-times. So here it is, my. ...

Top Tips for Op Shopping (for fashion)

1. Seek out your local op shops.

You might find op shops you never knew existed. For example, I type in 'Malvern Op Shop' into google, and click on 'maps', and this is what I find:

Try it out with your own town and see what you get.

2. Try to find your local church op shop.

Such shops often stock labels and vintage clothes at a fraction of the cost you'll find them for in other second hand shops. A friend of mine found an Alannah Hill dress in her local church op shop for just $3!

3. Keep up to date with current fashion

Look online, in magazines and see what people are wearing on the streets, then replicate them by buying similar fashion second hand. Fashion trends run in cycles, clothes seen on the streets today have probably been 'in fashion' many years ago, but in a different way.  Shop for fashion dated back a few years, a decade, or older. Why? If you choose clothes that were on the high street last year, you will 'look' last season. We all know fashion trends run in cycles, so you may well find a current trend which is actually a vintage piece.

4. Buy scarves.

Scarves are a great way to spice up an old outfit without spending too much. Brighten up a dark outfit with a colourful scarf worn around the neck, across the shoulders, the waist, or tied to a bag:

50c de Marco Fabrics Inc scarf from All Souls Op Shop in Sandringham

5. Get to know the op shop staff.

If you're on the look out for something, speak to op shop staff and let them know, they might set aside something you are looking for. (One of my local op shop's sets aside ripped or damaged children's books, so that I can make origami boats out of them for my son to play with on the beach, irrelevant to fashion, but recycling and fun!)

6. Have a rummage amongst the children's clothing.

Sometimes op shop staff mistake kids clothes for adults. I found a fabulous All About Eve T-shirt for 50c in amongst a tub of children's tops in my local op shop. Alternatively, some children's clothing might be large enough to fit an adult. 

This GAP Jacket fit perfectly on my body, but too short on the sleeve. A simple sleeve adjustment, gave me a new short-sleeved denim jacket:

7. Go op shopping on a Tuesday (if possible).

Why? Most people do not get chance to donate their unwanted goods to op shop until the weekend, when many stores either close early, or do not have enough staff to sort through donations. Mondays will be the chance when staff are able to sort through newly donated goods, therefore Tuesdays see new fresh stock for sale on the shop floor.

Photo c/o we heart it

8. Don't reject clothing that is too big

If you see a clothing item you love, but it is too big, do not reject it. If you are unable to adjust a piece yourself, see if you can find a local seamstress/friend to do it for you. Getting a second hand clothing garment fitted to your shape is more than likely a cheaper alternative to a nice tailored piece.

This second-hand skirt from Hunter Gatherer in St Kilda, took very little time to adjust to my size:

9. Be picky.

It is all too easy to be pulled into the bargain. You see something you think you like, and buy it because 'its only $5', only to get it home and realise it is nothing you would ever wear. Same goes with using tip # 8, if you buy something with the intention of getting it altered to fit, but realistically never have the time to do so, don't buy it. If you think twice about it, don't buy it.

10. Do not go with the intention of looking for something specific

When op shopping, it is probably not a good idea to go looking for a certain item of clothing, as the likelihood is, you won't find it. There are exceptions to this rule however, if you go to second hand superstores such as Savers, where clothes are placed according to size and garment type, making things easier to find. Most of the time though, you'll find things you least expect.

Roller Derby's! as spotted on Melbourne Op Shop's Inner North Tour

11. Dedicate a day to go op shopping

Rather than quickly nipping into an op shop whilst on a lunch break, going to the bank etc, dedicate one full day to op shopping. You'll be in the right frame of mind, and have the time to rummage. Join an op shop tour, that way you won't need to worry about finding new op shops, just tag along for a shopping ride.

12. Know your labels.

Seeking out designer labels will be worth an investment. Designer pieces are usually made with good quality fabric, and are made to last.  Even if you decide, after wearing your thrifted designer garment, that it is not for you, you could well get your money back, plus more, should you decide to sell it.

13. Carefully check a garment before buying.

Many, many times, I have bought something only to get it home and find stains, tears or holes. Some clothes are donated for a reason - because they are damaged. Not a problem if you can mend it, remove the stain, or refashion it into something else, but a waste of money if you can't.

14. Half price Salvos

Did you know there are half price bargains to be found in Salvo’s Retail Op Shops every day? Each week items labelled with a certain colour; blue, yellow, purple, orange, are half price. More details about that in one of my previous posts

15. Take a big tote bag with you.

Many op shops do not have shopping bags to give you, and quite rightly so.  Take a foldaway bag, or a nice big tote shopper with you, of which you can fill up along the way. If you do forget to bring a bag, you may find very cheap second hand reusable grocery bags for sale such as these ones in Savers
Savers second hand reusable grocery bags are around 50c each

16. Shop for clothes at antique shops

OK so technically not an op-shop hint, but you may find great fashion in antique retail venues at very reasonable prices. Aimee from JeTaime Vintage bought these Chanel boots for just $10 from an antique dealer in Byron Bay:

Real Chanel boots for just $10!

17. Op shop in the suburbs and out of town.

Suburban town op shops are much more likely to stock great clothes at a more reasonable price than CBD (City) stores.  Why?

* CBD stores overhead's (rent, wages, rates, bills) are often higher than similar costs in suburbia, and they must therefore price their goods accordingly.
* City op shops usually know their brand names, and will price their donated labels accordingly.
* Good clothes will be snapped up much more quickly than those in suburban shops.

Some of the best buys are in small towns op shops in remote locations, where good brands go unnoticed.

Out of town oppy

18. Take cash

Many op shops do not have EFTPOS / Card payment facilities, particularly the smaller stores, so take cash with you. I always give myself a budget, take that out in cash, and stick to it.

Photograph c/o we heart it

19. Don't buy shoes that are too small.

Oh how I have fallen into this trap! You fall in love with a pair of shoes in an op shop, and of course they are the only ones on the shelf.. but they are not in your size. 'Oh well' you say to yourself 'they don't seem too small, I'm sure the previous owner has stretched them, they'll be OK to wear a few times' ... no, they won't, they will hurt your feet and remain unworn in your wardrobe, and probably end up back in the op shop.

Jessica Simpson Small Shoe Bad-Fashion!

20. Be open minded

Do not buy unnecessarily, but do push the boundaries a little. Try on things you would never think of trying before, you might be surprised at colours and shapes that suit you. The beauty of op shopping, along with being environmentally friendly, is value for money. You can experiment a little more with fashion as it doesn't cost the earth. Go op shopping with your friend/s, make a day of it, don't take it too seriously, have a bit of fun with your recycled fashion.

Photograph c/o we heart it


Paper Tree Design said...

Thanks for sharing your tips. I totally agree with the scarf one. As you are an experienced op-shopper I have a question about the tags - is it true that when you see a tag that has been cut out it is because it is designer? Or is it the opposite? Hope your having a great weekend. Michelle

Erica Louise said...

Thanks for reading Michelle. Good question about the tags, I actually didn't know about this, but now it makes sense. So many times I've seen great clothes, but unsure of the brand because the label has been cut. How interesting!

Jac said...

Great post!

Re the tags: it may not even be that at all... I know one of my sisters cuts her tags out as she finds they itch her neck... could just be that?

Vicky said...

Great post - Have found some great retro tops in the kids sections that are big enough for ladies 6-10.

Stitchybritt said...

I only just saw this post & it is great! As a person who sews, I recommend scanning the racks for patterns that catch your eye. If there is enough fabric you can turn the item into something new, just like the great jumper refashion above.

Erica Louise said...

Thanks Stitchybritt! You're quite right, I am always on the look out for cool patterns on any type of clothing, pillowcase, sheet, curtain!..

Violet Annie said...

Great post. I op-shop all the time and get some great stuff. I think the best reason to buy op-shop clothes (besides being eco-friendly) is that you're not being dictated to by fashion. You can find all kinds of styles and trends, not just what is in fashion at the time. I always get (favourable) comments about my clothes and feel good that I can look stylish without spending a fortune. Plus it is great fun! said...

Good tips. I live in California, USA and I recently heard about a chain of thrift stores called Thrift Town which arrange clothing by size, which most shops here don't do.

Rachel said...

Personally, I don't agree with buying op shop clothes 'for profit', especially if it is a really pricey item and the staff have clearly not picked it up.
Op shops are there to support charity, not my bank balance; that is part of why I love them!

Of course it is different if you get home and it does not fit or you later decide to de-clutter.

Rena said...

I've fallen into the shoe trap too. . .
When I find an item of clothing, I usually ask myself,
1. Does it fit
2. Is it in my colour and does it suit my shape
3. If I saw it brand new in a shop for a greater price, would I still want it?

Anonymous said...

also remember if the colour is wrong (clothing and shoes) you may be able to dye it, depending on the material the item is made from.

Kelly Wayne said...

All absolutely fabulous, and still highly relevant tips lady! Thank you for reposting! I love the one particularly about not rejecting clothes because they are too big. I had never thought of that! xx

Anonymous said...

I've noticed a few op shops are organising their clothing by colour. Very, very annoying. I refuse to go through all the blue tops in the hope I find one in my size!
Bad idea!!

Anonymous said...

love op shops clothes or just whatever and no to Rachel depends some do get resold at markets
but people go to them some need to some love op shop worked in a few at the end all money goes to charity anyway and the things that come amazing normally the clothes tags are cut of because they are design clothes here in Australia some are worn once by models

Enviro bags said...

Great tips of shopping spree.

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