Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Opping Obsession

I am an Op Shop tragic. I cannot help myself. I am drawn to Op Shops like a moth to the proverbial.

I started my op shop obsession almost 30 years ago. I was invited to go shopping for a fancy dress party with a friend. We hit the op shops with her mother and I was gobsmacked at what was available and for how little money. I was hooked. My first purchase at the age of 12 was a gentlemans dark grey and black houndstooth jacket that I wore everywhere for years. I simply rolled up the cuffs to reveal the gorgeous grey silk lining. Very Annie Hall. It was 50 cents. I loved it and I cried when it died. The lining may have frayed in the pockets and was forever gobbling my small change despite numerous attempts at sewing it up. The lining on the cuffs then slowly faded and also frayed. It was duly sewn up and the cuff roll lowered to hide the obvious scar to the lining. I got almost 10 years of wear out of that jacket and for an initial purchase price of 50 cents, that represents phenomenal value.

My wardrobe over the years has been spectacular. Very vintage, very stylish, some of it very over the top, but very modestly purchased. At one stage my wardrobe had a dedicated bedroom to house it in all of its second hand glory. Then op shopping took off and the true vintage pieces were very few and far between. One of my last true vintage pieces was secured almost 6 years ago as a true op shop find. A 1960s ladies French Cashmere/Silk/Wool Jacket for the grand price of $10. That is not to say that the vintage pieces are no longer out there, but rumour has it that donations are thoroughly picked clean of the high end labelled and vintage pieces that are then hauled off to vintage clothing stores and flogged off at a premium price for those who cannot be fagged doing the armwork themselves.

Op Shopping is a sport. It takes time and dedication to develop that quick roving terminator eye that can detect a beautiful cut and fabric of an item that is jammed into a clothing rack like sardines in a can. You need to perfect the wrist flick as you quickly and artfully dissect a rack full of clothes down to a process measured in seconds of gracefullness as your fingers skim the wire hangers across the rod with minimum fuss and combine that with a speed readers eye to record potential labels and, of course, the clothing size.

Once a potential target has been found then the real armwork comes into play, that single sweeping motion that enables you to ascertain the condition of the piece. We are talking of the degrees of wearability from immaculate condition down to the reason that piece was donated was that little Laura took to mummy´s favourite skirt with her craft scissors that were only supposed to be capable of cutting paper are now suddenly slicing through french silk like butter. It does not matter how beautiful the piece, unwearable is unwearable. Walk away.

I regret off loading the majority of my vintage wardrobe. Truly regret it.

However, I still love a good day of op-shopping. Whether the practical and useful for the kitchen, the obligatory shirts for work, the pants for the same, a cute skirt for summer, a pair of cheap jodhs to ride into the ground or an entire wardrobe to take on an overseas jaunt. You can´t beat the humble op shop for value, variety, shopping out of season, or picking up some funky piece that you may only wear once but cannot justify spending a fortune on. Even worn once and then donated back to the op shop, it is still a bargain and saves perfectly good items from being reduced to unnecessary landfill.

One persons trash is anothers treasure.

Op on everyone!


  1. Oh Daffodil, my soulmate! I am op shop obsessed. I'd say around 90% of my wardrobe (not my undies!) is second-hand, I adore quirky clothes that others have donated for whatever reason. When both of my boys are at school I'd like to donate some time towards working in an op shop, however I do fear that my reasons are not altogether altruistic :D


  2. Hi Ali! I have thought of doing exactly the same thing. One day a week, get to know the locals, donate some time but I know I have ulterior motives!!!! And I also know that HH would not appreciate having to extend the house by another room just to house the acquisitions!

  3. My name is Sue and I am an Opshopaholice. I managed 3 ops shops trips this week, normally I blog about them but stopped at one post, I daren't post about anymore incase someone gets me sectioned!!

  4. There are 12 step programs for that, Sue....steer clear of them lest you be cured!!!!

    I just got back from my Bowen Session and couldn't help but head out an hour early to squeeze in a little opp-shoppery beforehand.

    ...and I scored three lovely little finds. I simply must photo and share later!!!

  5. I am off for my volunteer day in the local op shop tomorrow...good thing it is rather small.

  6. ooh! Same, I love an op-shop rummage. I'm planning on hitting a few at the weekend...