ode to the op-shop experience.

Can't wait for Monday.

Don't hear that too often? Well I'm serious, I can't wait.

On Monday, I'm going op-shopping with my mum. For the whole day :) Then we're going back to her house and rummaging through our finds and cooking roast potatoes, and it's going to be awesome. I haven't done this in so long, I can't even tell you. Sounds strange, seeing as I am a vintage dealer, but I don't source my vintage from opshops or markets any more. It comes from far-off lands, traded by pirates for ale, buxom wenches and salted meat. Or is brought to my pillow while I sleep, carried in the left ear of the BFG and laid down gently by my side. Obviously.

So I'm not looking for stock, I'm not really looking for anything. Op-shopping - or thrifting, is it now? It seems the popularity of sites like Lookbook is pushing this American term upon us, with trendy young Aussie thangs modelling their 'thrifted' cardigans etc. Granted, 'thrifting' has a certain ring to it. But dang it, I'm sticking with my outdated colloquialism.

Anywho, op-shopping just gives me this joy. You know? Do you know? People who love it know what I mean. You first enter the shop and there's the sense of possibility. Anything could be here. This is not like stepping into a normal shop, where the convenience of it all is almost nauseating – size, price, colour choice of every item all laid out to maximum visual effect. Oh no, in this place there's work to be done. Digging to be... dug. You earn your purchase here.

You survey the scene, do a first scan of the racks to decipher the order in which you will peruse and pursue. Is there a vintage rack? Get there. (Though experience will tell you this rack is more often than not completely disappointing and barely even vintage. Still, it's a magnetic force you cannot deny, so don't bother trying). Dress rack? Highest priority. Jackets? Best bargains can be found here. Bags and shoes – 99.9% hideous vinyl 90s atrocities, but occasionally there is 70s leather gold in dem hills, so get digging. Jeans? Mmmmm not so much. Unless you're one of those highwaisty cutoff shorty with florals and nerd spectacles-y type vintage wearers or dealers, which I am not. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It can be cute, but frankly, I'm getting a bit old mature for that type of jazzy scene.

Each op-shop has a presence. It's... the vibe of the thing, as someone cool in the 90s once said. Most of the time, you can kind of tell if it's going to harbour treasure or not. They're not all brilliant like they used to be in 1996, when my best friend and I would hunt for $1.50 fluffy Kurt Cobain grandpa cardigans. Now, if time is of the essence, you need to be selective. Note: Year 2000-era polyester Ice dresses for $10.50 displayed to the front of the shop on neat racks, Rockmans/Supre/Millers pieces priced higher than they were at full retail, and stained, fugly 80s sack dresses on the vintage rack for $25 a piece = BAD. Independent church-run store IN AN OLD CHURCH only open on Wednesdays and Fridays till 3pm, little old ladies behind the desk that take only cash and write hand-written receipts and gossip together over cucumber sandwiches, walls crammed with hideous and wonderful and old and new and brilliant and falling apart clothing, old dusty shelf piled high with boots, and a glass cabinet strewn with 80s costume jewels and glomesh bags = GOOD. This is where you find cashmere beaded cardigans for $3.50. This is where your red leather mary jane pumps come from. This is where that belted 70s Cue sz 6 trench is. This where you buy a Chanel dress for $9.

“But!” I hear you splutter in frustration, “you are fiendishly toying with my emotions! Such a place does not exist!” Well it does. I've been there. I bought those things. I have the hand-written cucumber-stained receipt to prove it. And when I retire... I'll tell you where it is.

That's not to say that brilliance can't be found in unlikely places. A couple of years back I went into a large, reasonably priced, but completely uninspiring op-shop with way too much time to kill. I sifted through every single rack, quite thoroughly, and found absolutely nothing. (I'm sure the lady behind the counter thought I was trying to steal something.) I was just about to walk out the door when this woman picked out – from where I still honestly cannot fathom, it must have been the lingerie rack, ALWAYS CHECK THE LINGERIE RACK – this dream of a 1960s dress. All strapless boned and full skirt, palest shell-pink tulle layers with a deeper raspberry shade underneath, little ribbon rosebuds at the waist. Heaven. Carrie Bradshaw would have taken one look at this dress and cooed, “hello lover”.

“Oh”, she says. “This is nice.” Nice? This is nice?! I scream internally. You're standing there with the embodiment of holy ecstasy in a dress and you think it's NICE? You don't deserve this dress.

“Jess”, she says to her friend, “I might just try this on.” HA!! I am triumphant. It's totally not going to fit. I am mentally buying and wearing this dress, I am skipping down a New York street and being carried into the sunset on the back of my dream man's trusty steed.

“Actually”, she pauses and turns back, “I won't bother. It's only $7.”

Crumbling. Drowning. Weeping. Dying.

I numbly watch her pay for my dress with loose change that barely buys a Maccas meal these days, find myself briefly wishing she get hit by a car as she steps out the door, squash said thought promptly due to its ridiculous and evil nature, and exit myself. So yeah, brilliance can be found in unlikely places, but it doesn't mean you'll be the one to find it.

But I guess that's just the universe balancing things out. Experiences like that have been greatly outweighed by the wonderful finds I have sold and kept over the years. A stunning 1970s acetate backless halter party dress, with an Asian-inspired floral print and a sweep that covered almost the whole of my bedroom floor. Amongst some tacky modern jewellery a 1950s sterling silver filigree cuff with real turquoise and coral stones. A thinner than thin nylon minidress covered in silky black fringe. A $2 satin scarf-print Medieveal-style 70s dress, with some minor damage, but I still use it as a costume piece. My slouchy Italian suede banana bag.

The strapless cream lace wedding dress I wish I never sold.

I wonder what I'll find on Monday?


  1. Oooh...perfect description of op shops these days Ruby! I still dream about how great the op shops were in the 90s - why oh why was I so selective back then? Anything I passed over then I would die to find in a op shop now! Good luck - there is actually an ok one on Blackwood Rd (I usually find some cute homewares there) and if all else fails - there is always Toowoomba!

  2. ahhhh this blog made me feel like i was there with you!! I know the exact feeling you speak of. And im lucky enough to live in a small enough town that i do stumble across these finds every now and then. Happy thrifting haha!

  3. I just love this post! hearts; Unfortunately no one I know shares the same love for 'thrifting' :(

  4. I've been to the Blackwood one, and got a black silk Saba maxi circle skirt - $7!
    And yes, Toowoomba, op shop heaven.
    Anonymous - don't be sprouting the T-word at me now! Cheeky ;)
    Oh no Little Poppy! However, I honestly believe the best op-shopping is done solo. Or with mums.

  5. oh Ruby... best description yet!!!!
    I adore op-shopping (and abore the term "thrifting" and am secretly quite pleased when someone doesnt share my enthusiasm for my "op shop bargain", more for me i say!!!!
    I have had some of the best finds in the small, forgotton about hidden away shops (names that i take to my grave, hehe) for my business, my vintage pram era 40's for only $70 (worth $500+ i do beleive) my mum is also the op-shop queen, always up for a "fix" hehe... ahhhh, i want to go shopping now! hehe

  6. OMG! We are soulmates, obviously.
    My theory? Being an op-shopper is just like being a pirate - without the killing stuff....[except for the brief moment after the Carrie-dress incident]....and it is the bestest thing ever. And, yes, biddy shops are the BEST! Have a BRILLIANT day tomorrow! May you find some things of wonder! :)
    <3 and abundant treasure to all my fellow devotees!

  7. Ruby, I absolutely loved your write up. I know the feeling that you describe when you are op-shopping. I think I will join you with calling it that, I have never really liked the term thrifting myself it sounds cheap like dumpster diving, yes op-shopping sounds much better :) You had me laughing out loud while I read this. Ow I can count how many times I wanted to tackle someone who had gotten away with my treasure. Spoken like a true treasure seeker. Nothing like the adrenaline rush you get when finding that one fantastic find. Best of luck on your hunt, what a great way to spend some quality time with your mum. -your pal Missy from NY

  8. Which suburb is the blackwood rd shop in? I relaised there is more than one road by that name in Brisbane :)

  9. Fantastic blog, Ruby! I've not felt anywhere near the same in the charity shops here in the UK, they're very clean and neat and nice-smelling - they even steam all their wares! - but definitely not as much fun as rummaging in little Aussie opshops, and not quite as generous with their vintage finds. They're not as expensive as their Sydney counterparts though, and they have yielded some amazing stuff, but it's much fewer and farther between.

    Either way, your blog is making me yearn for a roadtrip when I get back down under ;)



  10. Thanks everyone :) Anon - Blackwood st op shop is in Mitchelton. It's small and cramped and mostly boring, but has cute jewelry and a costume rack that occasionally produces gems.

  11. "you first enter the shop and there's the sense of possibility. Anything could be here. This is not like stepping into a normal shop, where the convenience of it all is almost nauseating – size, price, colour choice of every item all laid out to maximum visual effect. Oh no, in this place there's work to be done. Digging to be... dug. You earn your purchase here."

    Totally agree!!! and I love op shopping it in Toowoomba when I can! My very favourite red blouse (80s? I don't know clothing eras) actually came from a Gatton op shop, but I didn't find it. My housemate opened a drawer one day and it was instant love! I begged until she gave it to me (she didn't wear it anyway!). The last time I wore it out no less than three strangers complemented me on it. I reckon op shop finds are just SO much more satisfying than new clothes :)

  12. I absolutely loved this post. The way you write is fantastic and I can relate to all of the emotions you expressed. I come from a family of "op-shoppers", my mum is an ex-sorter so I spent most of my school holidays as a kid rummaging both through op-shops and sorting rooms. Woo Hoo! Still love it and there is nothing like family trips with either my sister alone, or my mum and sister. Bliss!!!
    I walked into a small rural op-shop recently with my sister and the lady behind the counter was watching us intently, keenly aware we knew our way around and what we were looking for. As we tried on the millionth piece, she asks "How long have you had the addiction for?". We both turn around stating that we spent our childhood rummaging through ops. "Aaaahhhh...that explains it. You had a troubled upbringing!". And I wouldn't have it any other way. Though I still wish I had kept the neon pink lace mini dress with bell sleeves. Oh well, heres to new finds. Happy opping!!!

  13. One of the greatest blog posts I've ever read, what a beautiful way with words you have Ruby - could never have described op-shopping as well as that! I think all of us seasoned op-shoppers could feel and have felt exactly what you described!

    Hope you're well lovely one and that the webstore is coming along nicely! Can't wait to see it! xx

  14. Thanks again everyone! Wow I wish I had more time to write, I don't know how people do the full time sell & blog thing, hats off!
    Hey Sam, thanks so much, I love your store it's so cute. Don't mention the webstore, it's like mentioning the war around here. My poor partner is building it and having to deal with me. I really don't like the way most of those shopping cart sites deal with (or don't deal with) unique items - like allowing 2 people to add it to their cart then one checks out and the other loses it etc. So am trying to work around that. The design side of it is great! Just getting the nuts and bolts in place is taking forever x

  15. I also love to op-shop with my mum (and I agree the term is op-shop). My mum is the best op-shopper I have ever met. I can search a rack and find nothing she will look at the same rack and strike pure gold. Although I must admit she did manage a Smith Family store for over five years.
    Anyway love the post and your blog.


  16. love to op shop but AGH i know how you feel!

  17. haha ruby -you have described my whole opshop experiences to the nth degree. love it! yes last years kmart and supre up the front all soo overpriced... god in nsw in some vinnies thats ALL you can find. its getting sad really! And i hear them say behind the counter "oh dresses? what like that one your wearing dear? oh no we mostly send them away to be recycled... take a look at this one over here dear ... its still got the tag and you wouldnt have to iron it..."

    loved reading this hun -made my morning :)

    Anouk xx


  18. Thanks Anouk! Where have you been? We'll you're back now, and the store looks fabulous x

  19. Browsing from the photos inside the sexy men is among the most best solutions to find what you are looking for in relation to the perfect gay sizegenetics service. There are a lot men which have been eager to provide you an erotic male sizegenetics and live close to where you live. You are able to use a search within the site that's going to enable that you definitely locate men who live within your general vicinity to where you truly live and in many cases the type of person who he is and then the services he performs. You will decide which sizegenetics you prefer to give you the erotic male sizegenetics you choose to are looking for based upon information that is provided to the site. Restricted to , photographs using the sizegeneticss too.