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Op Shop Fashions Better Than Ever

by Nichole Smith

It’s something of a shopping revolution, treasure-hunting re-invented: the lure of unearthing a Chanel jacket for less than $50; swapping an outfit you haven’t worn in two years for something that is more you now; saving a fortune with a wardrobe of the pre-loved and rejuvenated.

Op shops and thrift boutiques, once thought to be the domain of those at the tail-end of the socio-economic spectrum are proving increasingly alluring with savvy shoppers. It’s actively seeking ways to reduce, reuse and recycle while still cutting the finest of figures, say those in the know.  They also suggest that this style of shopping can be great fun as well as encouraging fashion creativity.

According to one local aficionado, businesswoman Alex de Nicola, with a bit of imagination and much less than what you would spend in a department store, new life can be breathed into any wardrobe.

“Op shopping and the thrill of scoring a designer item is a throw back to uni days, where many of us bought for the brag factor, and of course the low cost. Now my reasons for visiting op shops have changed: still the thrill of a treasure and adding a few touches to it, but also for recycling, knowing that the dollars are helping raise funds for charity.”

De Nicola imports handmade leather shoes and other items from Argentina and says “I still love op shop hunting for those one-offs that can be combined with a great pair of shoes. I have a friend who spent weeks travelling through all the op shops in NSW looking for her wedding dress!”

The thrill of the chase

Stories of amazing  finds range from new wedding dresses to hidden artworks (last year in the US there were three reports of art masterpieces from the likes of Salvador Dali worth thousands picked up for only a few dollars).

From Braidwood to Canberra regional opportunities to buy affordably fashions abound. Monaro Street in Queanbeyan offers two well known charity names, St Vinnie’s and Anglicare’s Bargain Hunter, prized by those in the know. Queanbeyan has four charity op shops in total, making it a must for those bargain-hunting fashions and homewares.

“Queanbeyan Bargain Hunter still has gems, and it’s easy to find items for the whole family. My mother-in law was visiting from Queensland last year, and managed to find both a beautiful Japanese silk quilt cover and a Laura Ashley quilt cover!” said De Nicola.

Evolving op shops

Lonsdale Street in Braddon is showing the new trend to upmarket vintage and designer clothes outlets. The Lifeline-run Hipsley Lane and the private enterprise Designer Op Shop which also offers vintage glass and homewares, are well worth a look for the occasional party dress or smart work outfit.

Other newer concepts also include online The Clothing Exchange allowing participants to exchange one outfit of clothes for another of similar quality.

Lindsay Rae, Director of Centres at St Vincent De Paul Canberra/Goulburn says that often the stories behind the donations and the people that purchase them are some of the most interesting aspects.

“One that really stands out is the story of one of our customers who had won tickets to go to the Oscars in L.A. This customer purchased a dress from our Dickson centre to wear on the night as she walked down the red carpet … amongst the most glamorous people in the world, dressed in a dress purchased at Vinnies!”

So for all those who have just made New Year’s resolutions to pare down and cut back, perhaps this is the trendsetting challenge of 2013? All it can take is $50 and an afternoon to creatively and sustainably reinvent your wardrobe – and potentially your lifestyle.

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