Many moons ago, I wrote this post about how to successfully shop for secondhand clothes (which you can now find on the nifty Thrifting page!). This was really all about knowledge and mindset - knowing your fit and style and whether or not you would dryclean something. Today, it’s all about the down and dirty practicalities.
Think about your body
Protein and carbs, you guys. The goal with all our op shop prep is to be able to concentrate on what we’re doing, so make sure you have a full enough tum before setting out. Don’t overeat though, because you want to be able to try clothes on without a tummy that’s fully bloated from a macaroni and cheese feast.
Op shops come in many shapes and forms but they all have one thing in common - they are dusty. If you’re planning a day of op shopping about, or if you (like me) get v sneezy in the dust, then I strongly recommend prepping up with an antihistamine. Nobody needs to come home with a stuffy head and itchy skin - it kinda takes the fun out of all those great buys!
There is an ideal outfit for this
The perfect outfit for op-shopping contains the following essential elements:
Flat shoes that you can slide on and off easily, to make trying on shoes really easy
Socks, because you might have a fitting room with a concrete floor and it is honestly so cold you will end up standing on your jacket (not great)
Comfy pants, or a skirt - separates, basically. That way if you only find tops, you have something to try on with them (and vice versa). Keep this really basic in style
Similarly, a really basic top. You want it to be a blank slate for trying-on purposes
A jacket or similar that you can tie around your waist, or stand on, without any issues. The temperature in op shops can vary from very cold (large warehouses) to super hot (little shops run by cute old ladies). Be prepared
A cross body bag so that your hands are free for lugging around hangers
No jewellery or any other unnecessary accoutrements. Even your bag should be as empty as possible. Clothes are surprisingly heavy, so no need to lug a book around with you (for example). You really don’t want to have rings and bangles tangling in the hooks of coathangers either. Streamline your life for a day.
As you can see, the fashion show is after the outing.
Be prepared to be grossed out a little bit
Not everyone who donates clothing checks the pockets before they donate it, okay? You will, at some point, put your hand in a pocket and encounter someone else’s tissue. Some things might smell like they’ve been in a wardrobe for 30 years, or have a weird mark (that’s not a stain, that’s some kind of surface…smudge). Even clean clothes, when they’re stored in bulk, will leave you feeling like your hands are a touch grubby after a long fossick .
I’m ruthless and will try on old shoes and cast tissues aside with abandon, but if you feel like this will make you sad or uncomfortable, just bring some wipes or hand sanitizer and apply liberally. You can carry it in your bag that is otherwise basically empty! Success!
Be a good customer
Many op shops are staffed by volunteers and even those that aren’t, are a tough gig. Imagine working in retail (which I did for several years) but without the additional level of respect that customers unconsciously ascribe to a fancy shop with fancy new things in it. Grueling. I can assure you that customers are not always right.
There are two key ways to be an A+ customer: hang things up properly and put them on the returns rack AND show appreciation. People who stroll away from a shambolic pile of stuff they discarded, are dickheads. Also, and oh man am I being triggered now, people who go to the trouble to hang something up inside out or back to front - what the actual hell. Just hang it up properly, it takes two seconds, and then return it to the rail. Next up, at the till, it’s time to be a total delight. Be polite! Smile! If it’s a small shop or a particularly adorable older lady, start up a chat about some of the pieces you are buying (or not buying). On the weekend I had a great yarn with a woman who told me that the silk dress I tried on had been hers in the 70s - yes, this is amazing, please tell me about that summer in your life and the styles of that time. Keep in mind that lots of retail is just hard work, and try to be the easiest and most pleasant part of their day.
Once you get home…
You have to wash it all before you wear it. I’m sorry. When I know I’m going to hit up an op shop I always leave my laundry until after the shopping, so that I don’t have to do a special load. Some clothes - like knitwear - should be frozen to kill any moth eggs. Better safe than sorry!
If it’s only drycleanable, guess what, you have to dryclean it. All shoes (even the seemingly new ones) should be wiped out with disinfectant, and I’d gently wipe the handles and locks/flaps on bags too.
If you bought something that needs tailoring, then guess where it’s going as soon as it’s clean? Correct. Nothing can go into the wardrobe unless it’s ready to be worn, and pants that are a bit big in the waistband are not ready to be worn. The good news is that after you finish this last little bit of work you’ll have new things that are clean and well-fitting, without stress on the bank balance or on the planet.
If you combo together my previous post on the things you need to be pondering, and this post on how to get organised, you’re pretty well underway. Get out there and fossick! And if you’d like to fossick with me, check out the Events tab at the top of the website for more info on an op shop outing coming up later in May!
Outfit details: pants, belt, shirt and earrings all secondhand. Boots from Ultra two winters ago. Power thighs courtesy of regular gym attendance ;)