9 tips for op shopping (for fashion)

How to op shop like a pro, find the best clothes and always get a great buy!

Buying fashion in op shops (thrift or second-hand stores) is easy to do. My mum always did it when we were kids and taught us tips and tricks back then. If you want to spend your time and money wisely, here are a few tips I will suggest to help you find your bargains:

1. Carefully check a garment before buying
Some clothes are unfortunately donated for a reason; because they are damaged (note – please don’t donate damaged clothes!). Small faults can be hard to spot and overlooked by op shop staff, which is why we sometimes find damaged clothes for sale on the shop floor.

Faulty clothing isn’t a problem if you can mend it, remove the stain, or refashion the piece into something else, but can be a waste of money if you can’t.

Check the zippers, seams and look for small holes, tears or stains on the whole garment.

2. Know your labels and style
If you seek out quality fashion labels, it will be worth the investment. Designer pieces are usually made with good quality fabric and made to last. If you know your style, what suits you and what you feel comfortable in you’ll be able to see at a glance if an item is right for you. Just because something is in fashion, doesn’t mean it’s stylish or will look good.
I am partial to Cue, Review and any Rockabilly label both for myself and to sell online for a profit. I know how much these pieces are worth and what to look for with them. They suit my body and any that I decide I don’t like later, I always sell for more than I paid.

3. Invest in a sewing machine
If you don’t own a sewing machine, now is the time to get one. The ability to make a minor adjustment on a second-hand clothing purchase will open up a whole new world of op shopping.

A simple hem modification, length adjustment or taking in a garment is relatively easy to do without training and will mean you no longer have to reject clothing that is not quite your size.

No need to rush out and buy a brand new sewing machine, first ask friends and family members if they own a machine they no longer use or look on eBay, Gumtree and Facebook for second-hand machines. Occasionally (but rarely) you might even be lucky enough to find a second-hand sewing machine in an op shop. I got my first sewing machine from a client who was going to throw it out, back when I was a hairdresser. My second sewing machine came from my parents.

4. Shop midweek
Most people donate their unwanted goods on the weekend yet many stores either close early or do not have enough staff or time to sort through donations.

Mondays and Tuesdays will be the chance when op shop volunteers are able to sort through newly donated goods; therefore mid week will see fresh stock for sale on the op shop floor. Plus, midweek is quieter for op shopping and often the time op shops will have sales. Yes, even second-hand stores go on sale!

5. Dedicate a day to op shopping
Rather than rushing through an op shop during your lunch break, or a quick peek in your local charity shop whilst making a quick dash to the Post Office, dedicate one full day to op shopping instead. You’ll be in the right frame of mind and have time to rummage.


Research the op shops you want to visit. You can use a site like OpShop.Org to find op shops in your area (or anywhere you are visiting). You can check their ratings etc. This way you might find some small, out of the way op shops or hidden gems.

6.) Check out church run op shops
Every ‘little’ op shop I have been to which is attached to a church has been incredible. The ladies are lovely, things are cheap and in higher income areas, it’s often a lot of donated items from the congregation who love brands and good quality.

7.) Learn the discounts
Some op shops have coloured ticketed systems where certain colours will be on sale at different times or they might have 50% off the first Monday of every month etc. Get to know how your op shops operate.

8.) Be friendly
Be friendly to staff, especially if you visit frequently. Get to know them, chat to them and you’ll not only have a nice time, you’ll often get bonuses, discounts or freebies others don’t get.

9.) Ask about window items
This varies from op shop to op shop. Some have one day each week where the window and display items are brought out for sale. You have to be there at this time to buy them. They are usually items deemed to be in fashion.

For example, when I was a teen, certain jeans were in fashion, but way out of our family budget. 5 pairs were up on the wall on display and would come out on the following Monday at 10am. Mum went in, loads of people were there, when they brought the trolley out, one man barged through and grabbed them all. Or at least it seemed he did. The exact pair I wanted were still sitting at the bottom and while everyone was distracted by the man, my mum grabbed them. Kind of a ruthless way to do it, but it means they are guaranteed to have people come in at that time on that day.

Other op shops let you buy them on the spot, just ask.

What tips do you have for op shopping for fashion? 


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