How I op shopped my way to being a frugal fashionista


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It's 1992 and I'm sitting in the car, sulking like the moody teenager I am hoping no one will see me parked outside the op shop.

Meanwhile my mum is happily sorting through the racks and finding bargain Rip Curl t-shirts and on trend denim overalls to add to my wardrobe.

Fast forward to today and I am excited to tell anyone who will listen about my latest op shop discovery. Thankfully I grew out of my awkward teens and into a frugal, second-hand designer clothes hunter.

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Having to dress for an office job or special occasion can be expensive.

According to ASIC in 2016 an Australian couple in their 30s spent on average $2800 a year on clothes and shoes. I'd rather spend that money on a holiday!

Most of my work wardrobe consists of brands like Portmans, Cue or Witchery and over the past 12 months my (many) purchases have been cost neutral thanks to some savvy recycling.

On the racks of your local Vinnies it's not uncommon to find a Cue work dress for less than $20 and it's also not uncommon for that same dress to sell for $50-$70 on eBay.

I will often wear an outfit for a season then resell the items so I can go out and op shop some more.

This works really well with special occasion dresses so you'll never be caught wearing the same dress twice.

Besides underwear I don't remember the last item I bought new.

Not only does buying clothes second-hand save me money but it feels good to help the planet out and give clothes another life. By spending your money wisely you are giving back to both big and small charities which in turn use your money to give back to those in need.

Of all my purchases the one I get the most comments on is a simple wool check jacket from Country Road.

It was a bit over my usual op shop budget at $30 but at more than $300 retail it was worth the splurge.

If I haven't convinced you to start op shopping already I can tell you it feels extra nice to get a compliment on your outfit when it cost you next to nothing.

Here are my best tips to save money while building your own second-hand wardrobe:

1. Church and community op shops are often the cheapest - you might just need to do a bit of extra sorting.

2. Salvos has $1 or $2 racks on Mondays and each week a particular coloured price tag is 50% off.

3. Check for holes, tears and working zippers before you buy and only purchase things that really fit well.

4. Download the eBay app to check resale prices on the go. Use the "sold listing" filter to see if your item is likely to resell and don't forget about fees (9.99% of item + postage for ebay and 2.9% + .30c for PayPal).

5. Don't just limit yourself to op shops, garage sales can be a bargain hunter's paradise, especially in pricey suburbs. Or organise a clothes swap party with friends.

6. Don't forget about the rest of the op shop. You can find lots of gorgeous home decor and plenty of books to save yourself even more.

7. To find an op shop near you see

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Brenda James dreams of exploring the world on her dividends and loves talking money.
April 27, 2018 12.32pm

Yay, someone else flying the flag for op shopping. Thanks for helping break the stigma that op shoppers are all cat ladies making skirts out of curtains. You can be frugal AND fabulous in how you dress.

April 27, 2018 11.25pm

As the world's second most environmentally damaging industry (not to mention its appalling labour practices) , buying secondhand is definitely one way to stop contributing to the fast fashion industry. However, I have a massive problem with this idea that you can only be seen in an outfit once - we're not royalty for goodness sake. Even Princess Kate has refused to buy into this ridiculous idea.
Perhaps take a look at the Fashion Revolution for making better clothing choices.

May 1, 2018 7.36pm

Ha ha I love this comment! Opshops are such a treasure trove of gorgeous things these days, you'd be crazy not to shop there!

May 1, 2018 7.41pm

You are right, we shouldn't worry about wearing the same thing more than once. A little black dress is always a recyclers friend as it can be dressed up with scarfs, different jewellery & jackets. Swapping with friends is a great way to try a new look too!

May 1, 2018 9.26pm

I must admit I head straight to the cake tin section of the op-shop, but after that is completed, trawling the racks for a good bargain is a fabulous way to spend some time. My favourite dress came from a church op-shop (paid $5, retailed for $125), and each season I managed to outfit all three of my children in brand-name bathers and rashies for next to nothing.
Many a pleasant hour has been spent on the op-shop trail!

May 2, 2018 12.56am

I love the focus on the environment too! We can feel good about reducing the manufacturing cost for these treasures!