We asked op-shop professionals for their vintage shopping tips

18 July 2017
By Fashion Quarterly


Whether you call it vintage, secondhand, thrift or op-shopping – it is an essential pursuit for any fashionista on a budget.

Yet, a cursory glance through the racks doesn’t tend to yield the find of the century. Op-shopping is an art – and an art that you can be good or bad at. You can come away with a vintage treasure or you can find yourself leaving with retro rubbish.

That in mind, we hit our local op-shops and picked the brains of the thrifting experts who work there to help you get the most of a good trawl through the racks – because who knows more about op-shops than those who run them?

Angela Winter Means

Angela @ Greatest Friend
Downstairs, 143 Ocean View Rd, Oneroa Village

“Know what you’re looking for and what you wear and stay focused on that. We tend to turn into magpies when we see something shiny. What I’ve really noticed coming back [to New Zealand] is how obsessed people are by labels. I don’t give two sh*ts about labels in an op shop.”

Angela’s tips: 
– Unless it fits you really well and it’s your colour, don’t pick it up. Don’t get blindsided by the label and don’t go by price.
– Spend more, less often – and go to vintage shops rather than op shops. Though op shops are great if you’re buying homeware.

Kellen, Tatty's Ponsonby

Kellen @ Tatty’s Ponsonby
163 Ponsonby Road

“What I love about vintage shopping is you can get such individual pieces that you wouldn’t get at just a regular store. When someone asks you “Oh, where’d you get that thing?” and you can say “It’s the only one and you can’t have it. It’s mine!”


Kellen’s tips:
– Think outside the box – could you transform this into something really cool with a bit of DIY?
– Find out which days are the best days to come into op-shops and when they put out their new stuff.
– Put it on hold and leave the store. If you forget about it, you didn’t really want it. If you really still want it, it’s probably worth it.
– Don’t op-shop when you’re tired or annoyed at everything. You won’t be up for exploring!

Lucy @ Thriftway
153 Karangahape Road

“Check what you’re buying. Google what label it is and if it’s a good brand, you can get things that you know are good quality and are going to last you. Invest wisely.”

Lucy’s tips:
– Hunt continuously through everything so you find all the hidden gems.
– Make sure what you are buying is a reasonably good brand so it lasts longer.
– Go for good quality fabrics. They last and they will always look good.


191 -193 Karangahape Road

“Personally, I look for something of value that I think will last… I do have a lot of clothes! I’m at the point where you can only have so many t-shirts, so now I’m thinking more about classic items in men’s fashion.”

Simon’s tips:
– Look for men’s shoes first. Great men’s shoes are often hard to find in vintage shops.
– Don’t be stuck to an idea of what you want to find – that’s just going to stop you seeing other amazing things.
– Guys, you don’t have to wear your purchase every day. A lot of people think to themselves when purchasing: “Can I wear this every day for the next 25 years?” You don’t need to think like that when you’re op-shopping!


@The Bread and Butter Letter
225 Karangahape Road

“I’m not opposed to walking away with duds because to me that’s the point of op-shopping. You can walk away with as much as you want – I like to give my purchases time to work with my current wardrobe and if it doesn’t work out I can just take them back to another op-shop.”

Nina’s tips:
– Focus on really good fabrics and cool prints. You will always love those pieces.
– Go for wardrobe staples. The things you get the most wear out of will be the most valuable to you.
– Don’t get too picky. You end up missing out on things that could have worked really well if only you’d given it a go.
– The boy’s section has great denim that hasn’t been worn much… Meanwhile, the designer section has usually been picked over.


@Paper Bag Princess
145 Karangahape Road

“I love finding things that are really funky. I don’t buy anything that you could just buy from wherever. And under $20? Hell yeah.”

Willa’s tips:
– Envisage yourself wearing your potential purchase to see if it works for you and your look.
– Look through every single thing and resign yourself to the fact you might have to be there for a long time to find the best items.
– Chat with the people that work in your op-shop. They know where the good stuff is.

Watch the video to see what each pro chose as their favourite piece in store:

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Words and video: Alex Blackwood
Photos: What Goes Around Comes Around/Instagram/Supplied

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