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5 reasons I buy all my clothes in op shops

Amy wearing a leather coat and boots, both purchased from op shops.
Amy wearing a leather coat and boots, both purchased from op shops. The coat was $20 and the boots $30.

Supplied: Amy Grace

Would you be able to give up buying new clothes and shoes and only purchase second hand or donated things? Australia Plus' Amy Grace decided to try and here's what happened.

Each year Australia holds a 'National Op Shop Week’ to raise the profile of op shops around the country.

'Op shops’ (short for ‘opportunity shop’) are retail stores run by charities in order to raise money. It goes like this: people donate second hand clothing, shoes and other household items which are then sorted, priced and sold at the charity's shop which is usually run by volunteers.

Seasoned op shopper Amy Grace doesn’t need any encouragement to go op shopping, but she made a commitment to buy all her clothes and shoes only in op shops this year. So has she been cured of her op shopping habit?

She says that while her main motivation was to save money, nine months in, she’s now so accustomed to op shopping that she’s unlikely to go back to ordinary retail. Here’s why:

1. Initially, it was to save money

Op shopping
Amy looking through the $2.50 rack at an op shop in Fitzroy, Melbourne.

Supplied: Amy Grace

I got married late last year, and thought an easy way to save money would be to refrain from buying new clothes and shoes.

As a back up, I decided I’d be allowed to purchase second-hand gear from op shops…and this has turned out to be a real joy in itself.

Prior to this, my op-shop visits have been somewhat of a novelty, occurring infrequently between purchases at mainstream stores.

Now that I’m only op-shopping, I feel like there's really no need to buy brand new clothing again. I even browsed around for a wedding dress, as some op shops have bridal sections.

2. To break free from fast fashion consumer culture

A rack of brand-new clothing.
A rack of brand-new clothing.

Flickr CC: Hervé Platteaux

I find consumer culture really draining, especially when it comes to clothes. Often I would disappear into shops, spend too long deciding what to try on, become completely confused about which item was on sale and then suffer endless indecision about whether I should make the purchase.

I’d eventually buy an item, take it home feeling frazzled and then wonder where on earth the last few hours went. The entire process was all about trying to satisfy a so-called ‘need’ that really never left any satisfaction at all.

And what’s worse, I was so caught up in my own desires that I would rarely consider the environmental consequences of my consumerism and importantly, the way the clothes were sourced and who made them.

3. Because op-shopping is guilt-free: it’s about recycling, giving to charity and ethical fashion

A rack of clothes at an op shop.
"Foraging is part of the fun, you can find hidden gems from all eras and all seasons in one single rack."

Supplied: Amy Grace

I can’t say I’ve ever had any regrets following a good op-shopping session. If I happen to choose something that turns out to be the wrong size, or just downright hideous, it really doesn’t matter, as I can recycle it back into the op-shop.

Donating clothes to an op shop can be just as rewarding as buying clothes from the store – as it supports a good cause and means items can be loved and used all over again rather than becoming landfill.

Plus, op-shopping cuts out the concern about buying items made by poorly treated workers. In this way, it’s not just about saving money. I’d rather spend $30 on a pair of well-made, good quality boots from an op-shop than spend the same amount on on a brand new cheaply produced pair made by an underpaid worker.

4. You can take anyone into an op-shop

A look inside the window of an op shop with a typical display of second-hand kitchenware.
"A typical op shop window, with something for everyone."

Supplied: Amy Grace

I love that I can take anyone into an op-shop with me. It doesn't matter whether I'm out and about with my grandma, siblings, fiancé, father, my infant niece or even a friend with different taste to me.

You can guarantee that everyone will find something to keep them entertained; while I might be there trying on clothes, my Mum is surveying sewing patterns, my sister is sussing out shoes, my father has disappeared into a corner to read a book while my brother is finding new dinner plates.

Often the real fun begins when we all get together afterwards to show and tell our respective purchases, all feeling extremely chuffed with ourselves.

5. Op shops are calm, quaint and cute

Exterior of a second-hand clothing shop with clothing and homewares in the window
"If you're after an unpretentious retail experience, then try an op shop!"

Supplied: Amy Grace

If you're after an unpretentious retail experience, then try an op shop!

I feel really relaxed when wandering around op shops, as they do not have the bright lights, jarring loud music or pretentious environment that mainstream shops often do.

There’s always some really daggy 80s music to tap your feet to and bizarre clothing combinations to be amused by. No one has ever tried to up-sell me or encourage me to buy yet another item in order to qualify for a free pair of socks.

Op shops are run by really friendly volunteers who leave you to explore the floor in your own time and are happy to help when asked.

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