Laurie: Trending: budget-savvy tips for a stylish wardrobe

USQ student blogger, LaurieLaurie lives on-college at USQ and is from a lavender farm in South East Queensland. She is studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in visual art. She loves art, fashion, her dog Mac and is trying to cut back from five alarms in the morning to one.

I find it sad to think that the ‘old people’ smell is generally what’s on everyone’s minds when the words ‘op shop’ are mentioned; along with the faint whiff of musty clothing, broken plates, old furniture and assorted moth-eaten odds and ends that aren’t of much use to anyone anymore. But what most people don’t know, is that there is so much more to get out of a trip to the op shop.

I was extremely surprised to find out a few weeks ago that there is actually a week to celebrate op shopping in Australia. National Op Shop Week is a chance for us to exchange our hard-earned dollars for funky, preloved clothing and knick-knacks. Not only will we be helping ourselves to some new threads, we will also be actively contributing to organisations dedicated to solving the environmental and social issues that are impacting our communities. These include, but are not limited to, homelessness, domestic violence and even greenhouse gas emissions. Personally, I love the idea that op shopping is a sustainable and economical way to shop and recycle products without harming the environment, while of course getting a good bargain!

Once or twice a fortnight I find myself at an op shop sorting through stacks and stacks of preloved clothing, shoes and titbits. I find all this awesome stuff and often wonder how on earth anyone hasn’t snapped it up before me, and how someone could have thrown it out in the first place! I’m now proud to say that more than 80% of my wardrobe has come from an op shop of some description.

When I go on these expeditions, I generally look for one-off items that I would never be able to find in a normal retail clothing shop. I love eccentric colours, denim, sets and interestingly textured clothing that is multifunctional, wearable in all seasons, trendy and comfortable.

It is extremely helpful to know what good quality materials and brands look like so you can buy pieces that are not only a bargain but will last. This skill comes with experimentation and experience, so the more practice you get, the better you will be. Recognising quality also lets you know when you’re paying too much, which is possible in op shops where there is a vintage or designer section. These days, charity organisations are pricing items based on an actual researched value, so it’s good to know when you’re getting a bargain and when the price is too high.

Becoming a successful op shopper means you have to make the time and find the patience to sort through lots of clothing to find those few awesome pieces each time you go. It’s also important not to stick to your gender, age or size. I always find cool shirts, jackets and even shoes in the men’s section at the op shop; sometimes I have more luck there than in the women’s section!

Through my experiences, I’ve discovered that the oversized look can be stylish with items like shirts and jackets. Even a skirt that is a size or two too big can look good with a belt. What you can do with your finds depends on your personal style and what you feel comfortable wearing. Sometimes you may even have a lucky find of designer wear, 100% wool knits, authentic vintage pieces, items with the tags still attached or leather shoes.

The most successful trips I’ve had are the ones where I have set aside a good couple of hours specifically for op shopping. Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to find anything if you walk in and have a half-hearted look through the first few racks and walk out again. You have to pick out the things that catch your eye and think about how you could alter them to suit you and what you could wear them with. Most op shops even have change rooms nowadays, so if you’re tempted but not sure of the fit, you can always try it on.

Before I even go to an op shop I look in my wardrobe and see what I have and haven’t got to make sure I don’t buy things I already have or things that I can’t pair with other items in my wardrobe. It’s also economical to take the clothes, shoes and accessories you no longer wear and donate them while you’re there instead of letting them sit and get dusty in your wardrobe. This means that someone else might find what they’re looking for and you’ll have room for more cool stuff!

Thinking ahead in fashion trends and seasons is a good idea too; at the end of each season, most people clean out their clothing collections ready for the new one, so Vinnies and Lifeline get a big influx of new stock. Even if you see something you like but is out of season, just store it away for next year!

It’s easy to find stylish items on a budget at an op shop if you follow my 7 ultimate tips for op shopping:

1. Make sure you set aside a good length of time to sort through all the racks.
2. It is okay to try on items you aren’t sure about.
3. When looking, think ahead trend-wise and within seasons; look for things you can wear in the coming season.
4. Don’t feel limited by clothing size.
5. Don’t just stick to your gender.
6. Avoid underwear, perished clothing, sweat-stained shoes, deteriorated jewellery (especially earrings), plastic watches and cosmetics.
7. Wash your purchases before wear and wipe down jewellery, shoes and even hats with disinfectant or soapy water.

So, what are you waiting for? With tips like these, you’ll find it easy to find stylish items on a budget and there is no way you can go wrong. Make the most of your next op shopping trip by following these tips and see what treasures you can find!

For more tips on perfecting the art of op shopping and increasing your uni wardrobe, find out how to get clothing reincarnation right.


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