The day that I found the Gucci belt started out like any other day of bargain hunting. I’d made a beeline to my favourite second-hand store on the hunt for a coat. It was exactly one coat, two dresses and three necklaces later that I found a sleek black leather belt for only $1. I could tell immediately it was a quality belt, but was shocked and delighted to see its Gucci insignia. Okay, I have to admit that it was covered in decades of grime, but was still an absolute work of art. Since that fateful day, I’ve worn my belt (now looking pristine) more than a dozen times. No-one has noticed its brand name, but I know I’m wearing Gucci and that puts an extra spring in my step.
If you are looking for recession-friendly retail outlets, you can’t go past second-hand shops. Personally even if money was no object, I’d still be pawing through the racks at the op shop. Why? You ask. Well, where else can you buy three skirts for $10, find half price tags on $2 items, and purchase t-shirts that cost less than a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Here are the top 5 reasons why I live for op shopping:
- My Alannah Hill cardigan ($1) rescued from a bargain bin.
- My $9 Rock & Republic DVB (David and Victoria Beckham) skinny jeans, a brand once worn by Britney Spears, Cameron Diaz and other A-list celebs. This pair of jeans fit me perfectly – a priceless find.
- A denim Bettina Liano jacket (a splurge at $15).
- My Topshop woollen top (with 17% alpaca wool), a steal at just $4.
- A MNG pure wool skirt. A timeless design for a too-good-to-be-true $6.
Yes, I’ve definitely found some amazing bargains. I shudder when I picture my life before op shops. The thought of paying full-price for clothing actually gives me chills. I converted to op shopping when I was 19 (many, many bargains ago). I entered my first op shop looking for a fancy dress costume, but left with a pair of Country Road pants for $1.50. One look at these little beauties with their original $99 price tags still attached, and I was hooked.
These days, op shopping is still a mild addiction for me. And like all addictions, I’ve had my ups and downs. Last year, I was actually robbed in a changing room whilst trying on a $2 cardigan. I’d placed my handbag right next to my feet, but a brazen thief reached underneath and snatched it when I wasn’t looking. Thankfully the thief just stole a small amount of cash, didn’t take my credit cards, and eventually dumped my bag, purse and mobile phone in the store’s other changing room. Since this unfortunate experience, I watch my handbag like a hawk every time I leave the house.
And of course, my op shop trips aren’t always successful. I’ve had my fair share of disasters, like clothes with missing buttons, broken zippers or bad stains, but I don’t think that anything could ever sour the experience for me.
If you love cheap designer gear, but wouldn’t be caught dead in preloved clothing, don’t immediately dismiss op shops. They generally contain brand-new items as well. There may be products with their original price tags, or sometimes stores or designers donate their excess or sample stock. Once I was lucky enough to find some Armani Exchange samples for under $10 each.
If you have op shopping fever, I recommend:
- Locating your local St Vincent de Paul shop (affectionately known as Vinnies) or Salvation Army stores (a.k.a the Salvos).
- For Melbourne locals or visitors, you may like to book a seat on the Op Shop Tours, recently promoted on TV’s A Current Affair program.
- And for online shopping, everyone knows about eBay, but have you heard of Xuber? This newly-launched Australian site sells second-hand, new and handmade clothing, with a percentage of the profits going to charity.