10 Ways to Tighten Your Op-Shopping Game

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Eco-stylist Faye de Lanty lights the way.

Perhaps you’ve “Kondo-ed” your wardrobe and have a garbage bag of clothes sitting in the boot of your car that no longer ‘spark joy’ and you’re wondering what to do with them. Or you’re on a budget but still have a shopping tickle that needs a little scratch every now and then.

Ladies and gentleman, op shopping is the answer!

Not only do op shops like The Salvos and Red Cross stores offer affordable clothing – some in impeccable condition – but the money you spend in store goes to help people in need. This is true ethical fashion.

Faye de Lanty is the thrift store stylist proving that you can find beautiful, stylish clothes second hand. As ambassador for Salvos Stores, she’s spreading the message that buying second hand doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your style.

Teaming up with fashion journalist and sustainable fashion guru, Clare Press, the ladies hosted an op shopping weekend for National Op Shop Week. They wanted to bring op shopping to the consciousness of those who might not traditionally step into a musty smelling store to seek out treasures.

With items donated by designers like Dion Lee and Alice McCall, a series of workshops and a great selection of second-hand clothing, the event garnered proceeds that went back into the work of the Salvos.

“In 2016, Salvos diverted 30,000 tonnes of donated items from landfill,” explained Neville Barrett, Salvos Stores general manager, to an audience of eager thrift shoppers on opening night. “All the money spent in Salvos Stores will go towards helping someone in need.”

We throw out a heck of a lot of clothes in Australia, an estimated 500,000 tonnes of textile waste each year (ABS 2009/10), so it’s great to see just a small portion of that being put to good use. (Just remember, your op shop isn’t the place to dump grubby clothes and old junk you don’t want.)

Op shopping can seem a daunting experience for the uninitiated. Piles of musty clothes, necklaces with beads missing and once perfectly white pants now a garish off-yellow. But once you learn a few basics, it can be a little like adventure shopping; you’re never quite sure what you’ll walk away with or the bargain you’ll find yourself, but if you’re patient enough, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I once paid $2 for a Marc Jacobs bag. Granted, one of the buckles was broken, but that was easy enough to fix. That’s why you have to walk in with an open mind and be prepared to get a little creative.

Faye recommends shopping the entire store when you go op shopping. “Don’t just look in your section. Half my wardrobe is from the men’s section. Try it on, you never know.”

“Also, be prepared,” says Faye, who fell in love with op shopping when she lived overseas and started thrifting in order to save money. “Go shopping with an idea in mind to avoid that overwhelming feeling.”

Another recommendation of Faye’s is to not be afraid to customise or mend. “You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for ripped jeans or a bejewelled clutch when you can make it yourself. Surf the world wide web for inspiration.”

During the two days of op shopping, Faye and Clare organised a series of workshops to discover new ways to form a relationship with our clothes.

On Thursday evening, Rachel Rutt gave her tips on mending clothes, a great skill to complement your op shop buys and important for caring for your clothes. Mending can seem daunting at first, but Rachel believes anyone can learn how to do it.

“Just start,” recommends Rachel. “Even if you try and fail, at least you’ve given it a go. You don’t have to be creative and technically minded to achieve it. It’s not that hard.”

There are plenty of tutorials online for those wanting to learn how to distress jeans, hem a skirt or create cut-off shorts.

With the rise of fast fashion, we’re buying more and more clothes at cheaper prices and it’s unsustainable. The relationship we have with our clothes has been shelved and we’re driven by a bargain. But when you slow down, think about what you’re buying and learn to take care of it, you really reconnect with your clothing and fall in love with it again.

In many op shops, you can find well-made clothes that have stood the test of time. Quality fabrics, expert craftsmanship and a style that doesn’t easily date.

So next time you walk past a charity shop without another thought, why not pop in and take a look around. Keep an open mind and you never know what you might come across.

So seek out your local op shop and make a point of popping in regularly.

Faye’s tips for op shopping

1. Educate yourself – read fashion magazines, look at style websites, research brands, check out the trends, understand cut, colour, fabric and form. The more you know, the better you can op shop.

2. Be prepared – go shopping with an idea in mind to avoid that overwhelming feeling.

3. Follow the fashion fundamentals – seek out and stick to the classics. Timeless pieces like a great pair of jeans, a white tee, a little black dress, a trench coat. Op shops are filled with great versions of these and once you have them you can build and play with the trends from there.

4. DIY and customise – you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for ripped jeans or a bejewelled clutch when you can make it yourself.

5. Dress for it – wear something that’s really easy to change in and out of, or try fitted clothing that you can try things on top of.

6. Shop the Store – don’t just look in your section. Half my wardrobe is from the men’s section. Try it on, you never know.

7. Know your body and know your style. Don’t be a slave to the trends, only buy what feels great and flatters you, do it your way.

8. Become friends with your regular op shops, get to know when they receive new donations.

9. Set a good tailor on speed dial. Maybe the Chanel jacket you found has boxy shoulder pads, but if you have it altered, it will still be so much cheaper than the original pricetag.

10. Take a tool kit – snacks, water, a tape measure, inspiration pics, a wish list. It will make things much more efficient and enjoyable.

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