STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANNIE ENGLISH
Ever find yourself sighing into your wardrobe, and then sighing even more loudly when you open your wallet? Finding a cheap outfit is difficult in this overpriced age, but the only part that needs to change is the place you’re looking. Instead of shopping online and in big expensive department stores, why not take a step into the world of ‘opportunity shopping’?
Opportunity stores such as The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, and St Vincent’s are all charity-based shops that sell second-hand donated clothing for dirt-cheap prices. Although these stores harbour plenty of strange clothing, they can also hide incredible vintage clothing and rare items.
Reporting straight from the front lines, this how-to guide will reveal what to do, what to definitely not do and how to properly style your vintage outfits – so listen up and prepare for a wardrobe upheaval.
WHAT TO DO WHEN SOURCING A VINTAGE OUTFIT:
After you select your store prepare yourself to rummage through racks, boxes and piles of disturbingly old, odd fabricated clothing before you find anything interesting. But remember, this is the fun of op-shopping: finding something special, unusual, and cheap.
Don’t give up when you don’t find the perfect item you had imagined, there’s no point having high expectations when op-shopping. If you only have a vague idea of an item you’d like to find, you’ll have more of a chance of finding it. If your looking for the perfect dress for Friday night, then go to a store that you know will stock it. Don’t ‘op-shop’ with high expectations, because when you do find something amazing that no on else has ever seen, you’ll be ecstatic.
Featured below are these cheap finds sourced from The Salvation Army and St Vincent’s opportunity stores at Newtown.
Authentic 1970’s cotton shirt – $10
Distressed Levi Jeans – $10
High waisted black shorts – $5
Long black dress, with beaded detailing – $10
Long sleeved, button up black shirt – $4
All of these quality items combined differently can produce many different outfits, revealing that versatile clothing can be found cheaply.
But what do you do if you find something you like, but think you can improve it? Continue reading to find out just how.
HOW TO MAKE A VINTAGE FIND YOUR OWN:
To make your purchases your own, remember alterations are always possible and are sometimes necessary when op-shopping to see the possibility in a piece of clothing and modify it to your liking.
If you’re a skilled sewer then you’re in luck. But if not, then grab a pair of scissors, a tape measure and a stencil pen for the simpler alterations.
For example, full-length dresses can be hemmed into shorter more appropriate day dresses, and long loose denim jeans can be cut into shorts as displayed below.
Alterations have been made to the purchased Levi jeans as well as the printed cotton shirt. To make them more appealing, the jeans have been made into distressed denim shorts, and the shirt has lost its sleeves.
After completing any alterations, the next important task to finalise making a vintage find all yours is the ‘cleansing’ – or basically the removal of the musty smell of second-hand clothing. Washing or soaking your item in scented washing powder then hanging it out to dry in the clean air is important, and will guarantee the removal of any old smells.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN OP-SHOPPING:
Although the saying, you can’t judge somebody until you walk a mile in his or her shoes is wise and true, when it involves the topic of op-shopping, steer clear of any type of shoe purchase. While clothing can be washed, removed of that dusty smell and made into your own, anything more personal including – and this cannot be stressed enough – footwear, intimates and swimwear should never be purchased second-hand. This particular variety of personal apparel that you (and only you) should ever wear, can be bought inexpensively enough at any local Kmart, Target or Big W, so there is never an excuse to purchase intimates.
Just like any other store, opportunity shopping will offer a variety of styles and sizes, but they will never have two of the same item in different sizes. Always try on anything you like and do not impulse buy – if it’s baggier than you expected, just go with it, dresses, shorts, jeans and skirts can always be belted, and shirts can always be cropped, or the sleeves cut off.
But the most important rule of what not to do when op shopping: do not let the overwhelming scent of musty clothing turn you away! The smell is just a result of older clothing being left in wardrobes and bags, and then heaped together. The clothing in opportunity stores doesn’t have moths hiding under the collar, or mold growing in the pocket – so never let the smell turn you away.
THE FINALE: VINTAGE OUTFITS FOR LESS THAN $30
Now that you’ve learned all you need to know about vintage shopping, the next and final step is that of putting together your outfits with your own accessories or ones you’ve purchased through op shopping.
Prepared below are three outfits selected carefully to showcase three different looks which mix vintage clothing and matching accessories.
Look 1, left – Casual Day At TAFE: Cotton shirt paired with black high waisted shorts, a silver Aztec necklace and a vintage YSL shoulder bag. With the accessories this outfit costs $28
Look 2, right – Lunch Date: Black button-up chiffon shirt paired with cut-off Levi shorts, a previously bought vintage brown shoulder bag, and a red scarf used as a belt. Including accessories, this outfit cost $25
Look 3, left – Friday Night Drinks: Black beaded dress paired with silver spike necklace. With the accessory, this outfit cost $20
Red Cross Stores: http://www.redcross.org.au/stores.aspx
The Salvation Army: http://salvosstores.salvos.org.au/
St Vincent De Paul Stores: http://www.vinnies.org.au/vinnies-centres-national?gclid=CNbym7yT8LICFcRfpQoda3YAPA