How to ‘Op Shop’ – where to start and what to look for.


People often ask me where I shop for myself. And you know what -- I always say, ‘I love a good Op Shop’! Op Shopping is a totally different way to shop. You can have an article in mind but there are no guarantees you will get it. It is a hit or miss experience and that’s what makes it fun!

So, where do I start when I go into an op shop?

There always seems to be so much ‘stuff’, and often not a lot of order to it all – though some op shops are amazing in their presentation. I love to walk in with an open mind, to rummage and try to find that unique piece in amongst it all.

There are several things I’m drawn to and keep an eye out for. These include anything vintage, from 1960s and older. And I get very excited when I find a designer garment, at a bargain price in excellent condition, sometimes with the tag still on it.Vintage dresses

 The same rules apply when Op Shopping as when purchasing garments from your favourite store –

  • Try them on to make sure they fit well and suit you
  • Make sure they work with your existing wardrobe
  • Ask yourself if you are actually going to wear it and
  • Ask yourself how many ways you can style it

I usually look at the fabric first, as you can find some fantastic wool, silk, brocade or a unique prints. Note that the sizing will definitely vary, as garments are from all around the world and not standardised like newer pieces, With vintage garments I definitely go up a size.

Blue and white vintage dress

When you find a piece that you love, make sure you check the seams and hems, and that the zippers are working as they can be costly to replace. Look for stains and small tears and remember to check the buttons and buttonholes. If the label says ‘priced as is’ or some variation on that, look extra carefully for flaws – they are giving you a hint!

Op shopping is a one-stop-shop for anything and everything, not just for clothing.

Op shop jewelleryI have found some very pretty and unique pieces of jewellery, leather bags, and a brand-new pair of designer boots in my rummaging,

Vintage crockery and very good quality crystal bowls are just some of the articles I have purchased over time. Check carefully for cracks or chips and think about what you are going to use them for. If you love them and think outside the box they are often a great buy. I use them to display my jewellery.

If you're considering purchasing a pair of shoes, look at the heels and soles to make sure that they are not going to come apart and are not worn down more on one side or the other. Try to avoid faux leather as it has a tendency to start peeling over time – and some of its life may have already been lived.

patterned boots

Good quality leather bags and shoes can be revived with a bit of leather conditioner, and I use antibacterial wipes on the insides before wearing.

Green leather bag from op shop

Op Shops vary in price – some are a bit pricier than others. When it comes to price it's really how much you are prepared to pay for a second-hand article and how much you love it.

So where do I find the Op Shops I go to, you ask? If you have time, you can actually spend all day going from one Op shop to another.

In the Macarthur area I visit a number of good local shops, and when I am down the south coast I always pop into the Anglicare shop in Nowra.

If I'm heading towards the city, Newtown is one of my favourite spots to spend a full day discovering Op and vintage shops. My starting point there is the Red Cross Newtown.

Another favourite Sydney Op Shop trail of mine is as follows. Make sure you have comfy shoes on for this day out!

  1. to go into Sydney get off at Museum station
  2. head up Oxford Street.
  3. I start at Vinnies and Red Cross 
  4. staying on Oxford Street, go all the way into Paddington.
  5. I stop off for coffee along the way.
  6. If you are feeling energetic you can stay on Oxford Street and walk all the way into Bondi Junction, popping into the different Op shops along the way

When visiting Coolangatta I found a few op shops all in one street, which was very easy to find.  Every time I have visited the Red Cross on the Gold Coast I have found well-priced designer dresses.

Melbourne is a playground of vintage and Op shops. There are so many, from the CBD to the suburbs. My tip is to sit and map out where you want to go, and remember to include time to stop for lunch and a coffee.

Have fun Op Shopping but remember, it's not a bargain if you don’t really need it or you have no use for it.