The secrets to successful op shopping

Tired of spending a small fortune on cheap trends that fall apart at the seams? Here’s how find op shop gold!

While a quick fashion fix has never been easier to find – or more tempting – you may be starting to realize that cheap fashion isn’t really cheap at all. 

That ‘bargain’ $10 knit has pulled and pilled after a few washes, the straps on that polyester dress break after one wear, and those cheap shoes give you eye-watering blisters that no amount of band-aids will fix.

Then there's the environmental impact.

In Australia alone, 85 percent of clothing ends up in landfill - with pieces made from polyester taking up to 200 years to break down. Fashion is the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry, with 70 per cent of the problem being made at the material production and agricultural phase.

If you’re ready to do your bit for the planet and ditch the fast fashion approach, then it's time to master the art of buying thrift. And the best part? With these tricks up your sleeve, no one will guess those gasp-worthy pieces were bought second hand!

1. Cast your net wide

I haven’t been to the high street in years and the reason is because there are so many gems to be found at garage sales, thrift shops, secondhand consignment stores, car boot sales, vintage shops, city and country markets, clothes swaps, even friends. Scour your local newspaper and community websites to find out what’s happening in your area. Don't be surprised if you're weekends quickly fill up with fashion treasure finding adventures.

2. Pick your location 

The quality and price of what you find in an op shop or car boot sale has a lot to do with the town, suburb or city. I’ve had great luck thrifting in affluent suburbs, in the outer fringes of a city or small towns – these haven’t been endlessly picked through yet and you can usually find true vintage at a bargain price.

You’ll also be able to find a real bargain at a car boot sale – people are always willing to flick off their designer stuff for a smidgen of the price they bought it for.

Sites like eBay and Gumtree are a frugal fashionista’s dream – and since they are catalogued with some kind of order. If you’re looking for something specific, this is definitely the place to start your search.

3. Pick your time

A change of season is when people usually have a clean out of their closets, so this is when you’ll find some great buys. If you want to get the best items at markets, it pays to go early but you’ll also find some real bargains by visiting an hour before everyone starts packing up. Stallholders don’t want to take their clothes home with them, so take advantage of the opportunity and haggle yourself a bargain!

Vendors will be more likely to sell cheap on days that are blustery and rainy, or blistering hot summer days as there will be less people at the markets.

4. Look for quality

Having an eye for quality is paramount - and the key to scoring some great buys. Learn how to spot a well-made garment by inspecting the quality of the stitching, buttons, and zips, the lining and the fabric.

Always aim for silk chiffon, wool or high grade cotton. (Go for at least a 60/40 natural/synthetic ratio – check out the tag.) Buy real leather shoes, bags and belts where possible - these little gems will pass the test of time. 

Having said that, missing buttons, a wayward zip or a small tear are an easy fix with a needle and thread.  If you’re not that way inclined, make the decision to take it to a tailor or put it back – unless you’re in love with it, you’ll probably never get around to fixing it.

5. Be patient

Op-shopping takes a little longer than shopping in a department store where everything is neatly laid ordered in size, colour and style. For some, this is completely overwhelming, but if you’re prepared to go through all those overstuff racks your patience could be rewarded with that designer item at a bargain price.

If you are beleaguered with the endless options and chaos, try this trick that always helps me get through a lot really quick. Scan the rack and look for good quality fabrics, or colours and patterns that suit you.  Then go in for a closer look at the style and the size.

6. Always try it on

Don’t be tempted to buy something just because it’s cheap - I’ve made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit! There’s no use buying something if it doesn’t fit you beautifully, compliment your shape and make you feel great. Sizes vary widely between manufactures so always try it on.

7. Don’t’ forget the jewelry, accessories and nick nacks!

Op shops are great for picking up fabulous broaches, compacts, necklaces, bags, belts and scarves. Make sure you have a good look under the counter, and don’t forget the nick nacks section too. Think outside the square – if you’ve found a gorgeous broach, could you repurpose it as a hair piece?

8. Upcycle it

If you do see something dazzling that you can’t live without, take it to a tailor – it will still be cheaper than buying it new. Or if you’re looking for a new pair of summer cut off shorts or singlet, remember these can easily be repurposed from jeans and t-shirts.

9. Look for vintage

There’s a reason clothes from the 50s, 60s and 70s are still around today – they were impeccably, made. Go for a statement piece that will be a wardrobe staple such as a beautiful jacket or tailored pants and you’ll find with a bit of care it will hold it’s value for years to come. 

10. Don’t be afraid to haggle

Most people at markets just want to see a little money back from their initial investment; this puts you in a great position to haggle. I always find bargaining with a smile yields best results, and don’t start too low.  Most op shops won’t haggle though, usually the price on the tag is what you’ll pay which is fine by me as the proceeds are going to a charity!

For more DIY and craft ideas, visit or follow me on Instagram!

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