Monday, February 18, 2013

Betcha Wish You Could Op Shop Like Me - Part 2

Welcome back! So last time I had a good long talk about the Why of op shopping (or thrifting). Now I'm going to share with you my golden rules of How To Op Shop Effectively, and build an awesome wardrobe for a surprisingly small amount of money. 

1. Know What You Want
Unfortunately, if what you want is the latest fashions for bargain prices, I have no advice for you. I don’t tend to follow fashion, and have instead developed a wardrobe of things that look good on me, and will always look good on me. In order to get this stable of staples, I did a lot of trying things on, and made a lot of mistakes. But now, I can pick up any article of clothing and be able to more or less visualise how it will look on me. Figure out what looks good on you, so you can spot it in a crowded rack bursting with beaded Christmas sweaters. The sequins can be very distracting! And that’s before we get to the pushy little old ladies.

For all your Doris Day At Mardi Gras needs

The other part of this step is knowing your brands. As I said, I don’t really follow fashion on a seasonal basis. But certain brands have a reputation for being well made and well fitting – something that is extra important if you’re looking for decent plus size clothing because the pool of options is always going to be smaller. Find out what the decent brands are in your area, and how their sizes run. Don’t be afraid to go into stores you could never afford to shop in, and spend as much time as you like trying things on. I mean, don’t be a jerk about it and hog a change room for hours at a time. But trying on a few things and putting it back neatly hurts no one and gives you a MUCH better chance of scoring big when thrifting. For example, I know that City Chic is a plus sized brand carried by a quite swanky chain of department stores in Australia. I know that despite their outrageous prices, I really like the way their clothes are cut. I know their sizes run pleasantly large, because I’ve gone into said swanky store and tried stuff on with no intention of buying it. Because I put the research time in, if I spot a pair of City Chic pants on the shelf in a Size 16 of some thrift store somewhere, I can swoop in and nab them with no hesitation. As well as finding out the brands cut well, make sure you know which brands are cut oddly – I know Target tend to cut their plus size ladies wear for apparent Amazons with enormous shoulders, so I know if I buy something of that brand I will need to alter it, and will take that into consideration when I decide whether it’s worth it or not. 

I see stuff with labels still on ALL the time in op shops
To give you an example of what I mean when I advise you to work out what looks good on you, I got my boy to very kindly take some photos of me being ridiculous in a dress I picked up from an op shop without even having to try it on because I knew I could work it as soon as I saw it.

I had to do a Fashion Blogger (tm) pose. I couldn't help myself
The reason I knew this dress would suit me is that I know I have great tits, and
this dress draws ALL the attention upstairs. The clinginess of it around the bits I like less doesn't matter because everyone is looking at the contrasting buttons and the low cut neckline,

It's even got a peek-a-boo hole at the back to distract from the way it clings to my ass!
I gotta tell you, this Fashion Blogger (tm) pose is much harder to hold without falling
over sideways than you would think
Learn to Sew 
Now, I’m not talking about learning how to put together an entire 50’s style summer frock from scratch. Just basic things – how to take up pants, how to take in/let out waists, how to shorten dresses and adjust straps. If you can afford a sewing machine, I highly recommend it. I got mine for about $150, and it’s given me countless fantastic outfits that would have been unwearable without it. If you can’t however, don’t fret. A needle, thread, and a butt load of patience is almost as good. A good place to look for sewing guides is thrift stores themselves. 


There are a TON of 70’s era sewing guides around from when it was apparently quite groovy to crochet yourself a vest, and the techniques don’t date (unlike crochet vests). If you can’t get your hands on a book, I can strongly recommend ( – it’s a veritable treasure trove of advice and how-to’s. Being able to alter things even a little opens up your options when op shopping SO much. Often things are in op shops to start with because they were cut strangely to start with - maybe they're pants that are too long for anyone, or a shirt with not quite enough room for breasts of a certain size. Maybe it's just got some horrible decoration sewn to the front of it. Other people have cast it aside, but you can save it!
I kind of wish I'd taken pictures of this dress before I messed with it so you could see how much better it looks now, but you're going to have to live with after shots. I saw this dress on the rack, and pulled it out because I'm a sucker for anything cotton - I find polyester so irritating it's almost unbearable, but it seems to be in EVERYTHING these days. This dress though was lovely cool cotton, so I yanked it out for a look. When I got it, it was full length (why?), badly faded, and had several very poorly done fabric roses sewn randomly down the front of it (lord WHY?), but I knew I could work with it. I redyed it with a packet dye from the chemist, yanked those damn roses right off, and took the hem up so it was a much more flattering length. And now, I love it.

I probably should have ironed this in hindsight, but I'm sure you get the idea
Not the most flattering picture of my chins, but it does give you a good sense of
how this dress flows when I walk.

The boy said he wanted me to come closer so he could show the detail on the front of
the dress. Looking at the pictures now, I think he probably wasn't looking at the dress,  but down it.
     The dress cost me maybe seven dollars, and the dye was another five. Now consider how much a dress like this in full cotton, in my size, would cost me new. Absolutely worth every minute I spent taking it up and sticking myself full of pins.  

3.  The Hard Yards
     People always express amazement at my second hand finds, but don’t seem to believe me when I tell them they could find stuff just as good, if they just put in the time. I think perhaps they just don’t actually want to put in the time. And man, have I put in the time. There are six second hand stores in a straight line by bus from my house – I know all their opening hours, and what order I should hit them in order to maximise results. I know these things because I visit them SO OFTEN. I’m not talking every day – well, not since I got a full time job anyway. But I drop in once a fortnight, at the outside. I feel like I’m missing out if I don’t hit them more often than that, that there are bargains just lurking there in the dust crying for my cash.
     When I hit each of these stores, I don’t just walk in and walk out either. You have to make it a whole day excursion. Give yourself the time to properly look through every rack, and have the patience to actually do it. Thrift stores are NEVER organised in any meaningful way. Even if they start that way, people take stuff and put it back wherever they feel like all the time. So you have to comb through carefully, patiently, and thoroughly to find the good stuff. It is just the most frustrating thing for me when I take people thrifting with me and they run a hand lazily across the rack once and sniff that there’s nothing there. There might be, there might not be. But you have to look. You have to hunt for it. You have to dig between the taffeta and the 80’s power shoulders and reach for the treasure. Or maybe the taffeta and the 80’s power shoulders ARE the treasure you’re looking for – I’ve seen ladies rock that look. Regardless, the point remains that if you don’t put in the time, you’re not going to get anything decent, because if the great things were easy to find, someone would have found them already and bought them. 

      Stay tuned tomorrow for the last of what I hope has been an enlightening series! At the very least, you got to see pictures of me attempting to be a model, which HAS to be amusing. 

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