Of late, I have been quite vigilant not spending unless I need to…which going by wardrobe size…is never.
However, I have still been indulging in my love for op-shopping, thrift shopping, vintage shopping…whatever you want to call it. I am not sure why or what it is but I love it. The thrill of the chase, that hunt for a bargain, finding that rare gem…I love it. I get a little thrill, every time, just before I enter a 2nd hand store. I instantly think about what little treasure or goodie is waiting for me to uncover.
So in light of this, I have decided to post some of the tips I have learned over the years to help turn your thrift shopping experience into a success.
Have some ideas in mind of what you are looking for. For novice thrifters, until you develop an eye for it, going into a 2nd hand store can be quite overwhelming due to the sheer volume and unfamiliarity.
So to avoid this, if you are looking at working on a DIY project, think about the specifics of your project before you head off, to give you have an idea of what type of item you may need. For example, have a think about what fabric will work best for your project. If you are looking at DIY tie dye, cotton is best for this project. So when searching for possible garments to work with, avoid polyester or synthetic fabrics.
The next key aspect is overall quality. Unless you find an absolute rare find you’d be willing to invest in, avoid items that require considerable prep and mending.
Look at pockets, seams, colour, stains, does the zip work? You’re buying a pre-loved item that is several years old, don’t let it age even more before you decide to fix it and wear it.
I’ve learned that if I haven’t gotten to fixing that broken item by the 2nd month…donate it back to lifeline as you’ll never wear it.
Again, you bought a $10 top…do you want to spend 10 hours or $30 altering it? Unless it is an absolute rare find, you may need to weigh up the time and cost to repair; and if it’s worth it.
Simple hemming and button repair is easy. Weigh up the cost and be prepared to spend if you can’t sew or haven’t the time.
Watch for Sizes
Another thing I learned is that sizes vary considerably when shopping second hand and vintage. Some local stores I frequent categorise their clothing in standard Australian women’s sizing. However, the accepted women’s standard size has reduced dramatically over the years. I am an AU10 however have a size 14 fitted skirt from a vintage Australian label. So don’t take sizing for face value, especially if it is pre 1990.
Get to know a bargain buy
Back in the day before second hand thrift shopping was ”in”, you could snap up a pair of jeans of blouse for next to nothing. Now, some good quality items range from $5-$15. So get to know a good bargain. If you find a Best n Less top for $5, it may not be such a great buy since you could probably get it brand new for that price. However, if you find a pre-loved pair of sass and bide jeans…well that’s another story.
I used to get so excited when I found a clean, non moth ridden item of clothing, I would buy it. I ended up with so many clothes that I just didn’t need. Contrary to majority belief, second hand stores are quite selective on their donations and will only accept moderately good items, so in saying that, most of the items you find ‘will’ be good quality generally speaking, so try to find another selection criteria other than ‘in good nic’. It may be a charity however there are still levels of quality that even a charity will strive for.
Remember, when you’re going to second hand stores, they may be located within cheap rent spaces most of the time. This doesn’t mean unclean however it may mean limited fitting rooms and ‘space’ in general. So be prepared to wait long periods of time if you want to try on your bargain finds within a fitting room. My solution I learned long ago was to dress prepared. I tend to wear leggings and a long, slightly relaxed tank dress, with easy to remove, slip on shoes.
Trying on most clothing items should be an ease whilst wearing my outfit and removed the need to head into a change room. All I needed was a mirror.
I’ve always been a little weary with shoes. Mainly because I am a little bit of a germaphobe and have trouble getting my head around putting my feet into someone else’s pre loved, worn, sweaty shoes. In saying that, I have found some great 2nd shoes that required minimal restoration.
Look at the insides of the shoes and see if it is easy to clean and disinfect. Is the inner shoe peeling or gaping?
Check the sole and ensure there is still some good traction and also that it’s still relatively attached to the main part of the shoe? Re-heeling or re-soleling is very expensive. Unless you’ve hunted down a pair of vintage YSL sandals…I wouldn’t be investing in shoes you need to take to a cobbler.
Try it on? Just a little tip, I always have a couple spare pairs of sockets in my car glove compartment, just in case I drive past an enticing op-shop and find some shoes I want to try on. Of course if you’re not a germ freak like me, try on at free will.
When trying in, walk around a little and see if it still wears well and fits well.
Again if you are after a particular item think of the location and demographics of the second hand store you are visiting. This will have an impact on the type of clothes available. It’s not just about the nicer the location the better the quality…think about the general lifestyle and culture.
For example, if I am looking for more modern clothes, I head to my preferred store in the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise. For more vintage items, I visit a store that is within very close distance of local retirement and elderly leisure homes. And for a general variety of options I visit my local, head distribution centers.
Research your surrounding areas and this brings us back to the first point…if you have an idea of what you are looking for, it may guide which location you visit.
Like I said, I have a love for second hand shopping. With this, I have patience to spend time in these stores to locate a lost treasure.
There are times when I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot of vintage clothes and then there are times when I feel like every, single fashionista in town has caught on to my love of op-shopping and stolen all the clothes.
It’s hit and miss. So I view this as a hobby at times. If I desperately need an outfit for an event and I have limited time, I may skip the 2nd hand shops and head to an actual department store.
Plan, plan, plan and don’t leave things to the last minute and don’t get frustrated when you don’t find anything.
And that is all of my helpful (I hope) tips and hints on how to successfully rummage, bargain find, peruse your local vintage stores.
Have fun and keep an eye out for my next post covering all my latest finds! Very exciting!
- Melbourne Op Shop Directory (groovebook.wordpress.com)
- Op Shopping …. (blogs.abc.net.au)