How To Find A Unique Piece In An Op Shop

19 Jan

I was in the neighbourhood of one of my favourite op-shops in Melbourne yesterday so thought I’d pop in on the off chance I might discover a treasure.

And I did.  This embroidered shirt – for $5.

I spotted it soon after I walked into the store, which is what usually happens when I browse through op-shops.  I’m not one to spend hours going through every single item on the rack,  I can generally spot a beauty instantly.  My eyes go into quick scanning mode.  Here’s what I look for:

  • Stand out fabric – beaded, embroidered, velvet, silk, vintage brocade, sequined or beautifully colored
  • Label – I like to see where and by who it was made and whether it might be vintage.  I’m not looking for a County Road or Sportsgirl t-shirt, I’m looking for something unique.
  • Quality of cut and fabric.  Not interested in anything that looks cheap and artificial.
  • In Fashion – I keep my eye out for styles that I know are currently fashionable (At the moment it’s vintage Levis 501’s which I might be able to customise)
  • Flaws – if I’ve found a beautiful fabric and pulled it off the rack, then I give it a once over to see if there are any noticeable flaws or stains…or whether it smells.
  • Accessories – I look at both the womens and mens belts, bags, scarves, sunglasses and jewelry

You also need to use your imagination when you shop in op-shops, to determine whether something you find has potential.  One-of-a-kind pieces are hard to come by, but a good tailor isn’t.  You don’t want to walk away from a gorgeous 1950’s chiffon dress you saw for $20, just because you didn’t like the length or the neckline.  Grab it and then take it along to your tailor to discuss possibilities.

Of course we do need to remember that op-shopping is like all shopping.  You don’t want to just get caught up with the price, think it’s a bargain and then suddenly you’re filling your wardrobe with unworn junk.  There needs to be something about it that you LOVE.  It’s need to be flattering (or altered to become flattering) and it needs to represent the image you want to portray.  (ie. no point buying a beaded vintage caftan if you’re a strictly Classic dresser – it won’t get worn)

When I think about it, what I love about op-shopping is the thrill of the find.  Discovering something that is unique and interesting.  Finding a piece that I know nobody will have – like this vintage Christian Dior coat. (Found in a charity shop in Sth Melbourne for $40)  *It needs to go to my tailor to be restored to it’s former glory.

*This article was written in 2011.  I have since had the sleeves of this shirt cropped so they sit about my wrists.   You can see me wearing it here.

READ: “What I Search For On Etsy and eBay” here

Details of my personal styling services (Including prices) here

Get to know me and my style on Facebook here

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