I love op. shops. Walking through the front door of a Mission shop or Salvo store is like entering Aladdin’s cave of wonders: clothing, shoes, bags, scarves, bric-a-brac and books, CDs, cassettes, furniture... the vast majority of which is pre-loved, ridiculously affordable and full of character. I would guess that around two thirds of my wardrobe is pre-loved... and that the vast majority of this was bought at one op. shop or another. It's safe to say that wearing second-hand clothing isn't for everyone, but who is it for? What kinds of people are compelled to buy mothballed pullovers, lace-up granny boots and high-rise corduroy trousers? If anyone could answer that last one for me, I'd be much obliged…
If you’re the type of person who loves contributing to a good cause – and scoring some unique bits and pieces while you’re at it – op. shops may well be the place for you. Nine and a half times out of ten, opportunity stores are run by not-for-profit organisations or charities, fuelled by donations and volunteer efforts, and are primarily designed to provide low-income earners (that’s us, fellow students!) and people in need with good quality, affordable clothing and home wares. It’s a wonderfully humanitarian initiative. If wearing secondhand clothing and the like isn’t your thing, there’s always the option of donating your no-longer-wanted clothes, shoes, coffee mugs, CDs – whatever – to your local op. shop. Putting your name down to volunteer at a store is also a great way to give back to the community. Whichever way you choose to go about things, it’s a win-win situation!
Op. shops are also a great place to go when you’re feeling thrifty: if you’re like me and have learned the mystical ways of the sewing machine, practically nothing is too long or too big when it comes to the op. shop clothing jungle. Woolen Grandpa jumpers, oversized cardigans, old-school shorts and skirts, adorable dresses and some wonderful shoes can all be found (and more) – but you often have to dig through the bobbled turtlenecks, enormous blouses, floor-length nightgowns and high-rise flared jeans to get there. For the particularly adventurous, there’s also the fancy dress/vintage section: often spilling over with puffy 80s prom dresses, ponchos and various items of clothing covered with glitter. You can usually find lengths of funky fabrics, retro cushions, blankets and quilt covers, too, if you feel like setting your creative gaze on something a bit different.
Of course, if you don’t like the idea of scrounging through racks of secondhand clothing to achieve the “vintage” look you’re after, you can simply jump online and buy new, vintage-inspired dresses and jumpers and boots and whatever else (and spend a whole lot of money in doing so) … but if you’re feeling brave, generous, adventurous or all of the above, take a friend or few and venture into your local op. shop. You never know what treasures you might stumble across!