Op Shopping (for people who don’t)

I was looking for a good Christmas jumper recently and ducked into the Salvation Army shop in town.  I had my good friend, Willow*, with me.  She stood, wide eyed, as I had a quick flick through the racks.  Sadly, there were no Christmas jumpers to be had that day.  As we were leaving, Willow confessed that she’d never been in an Op Shop before.  Whaaaaaat?


There are people who never consider buying second hand items and I just don’t get it. In particular there still exists a weird sort of snobbery about Op shops like the Salvo’s and Vinnie’s. This is obviously not great for the world in a bigger sense (hello? recycling?) but also, how do these people not understand how much fun it is? In Willow’s case, it’s a matter of germs – she’s worried about them. I am apparently not.

I always get brilliant things in Op shops around Christmas time when everyone suddenly decides to clear out room in their houses to make room for more things. Oh my GOD,  I hear the non-believers thinking, please don’t be buying underwear! Of course I’m not buying underwear. I’m buying wonderful things like old crockery and chairs and kiddies books and toys and magazines and bookshelves and wardrobes and hats and bags and baskets.

I’ll admit it’s not what it used to be. Ten years ago the Op shops were full of clothes you could actually wear. Vintage blouses and dresses, cool jackets and beautifully tailored long coats and pants.  It’s hard to get these things now. Now you mostly get funny old coats with the huge daft furry collars that no one wants to wear and most of the clothes are just cheapie modern crap. But every now and then you get something that restores your faith and keeps you going back.

Bucket baskets. And a small spider! Cool.
Bucket baskets. And a small spider! Cool.

The Glenorchy Tip shop is my current favourite. I probably shouldn’t even tell you that in case you go and empty the place. Not for clothes but for books and kitchen wares and general stuff. I can spend a great deal of satisfying time there, in search of potential treasures.

The cutest of storage.
The cutest of storage.

I know a lot of very passionate op shoppers and the ones that are successful are the ones that keep at it. One of the first things I do when I find something wonderful (like my baskets) is to send a photo of it to one of my friends who will be equally excited as well as reassured that there is still good stuff to be found.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the thrill of a fantastic second-hand find. Forget about your Catch-of-the-Day or your Brands Exclusive emails. Try finding a 1960’s octagon dining table in near perfect condition. Or your fourth retro bucket basket. Or a book about trains that will keep you kid quiet in the car the entire way home!

Five great things to look for in Op Shops:

1) Kids clothes. Still plenty of those about. Nice ones. Particularly baby ones which are seldom used for more than a few months at a time. The Baby and Kids Market is especially good for beautiful hand knitted baby clothes.

2) Kitchen stuff : Plates! Glassware. Those old fashioned champagne glasses you can stack and make a champagne fountain with. Jars. Vases. Ramekins.

3) Furniture. Lovely solid stuff that has never been in a flat pack. Unique stuff.  Pieces that will make your home look stylish and different. Things you can sand or slap paint on and be proud of.

4) Storage containers: Vintage suitcases for stashing under beds. Baskets – I am in love with old baskets. In particular I have been getting these fantastic bucket style baskets and I use them to house cleaning products and Barney’s toys. Actually I’ve written this whole post just so that I can show you my bucket baskets.

5) Toys and kids books. G is allowed to select one item per outing. It’s invariably a piece of plastic Toy Story junk (hey at least I’m not buying it new and they’re happily washable) but occasionally he finds something great. Like his futuristic plastic gold bracelet which has been a favourite in the dress up box ever since. Little girls have wailed – because he will not give it up.

So you don’t need to be buying a million new things in the Christmas sales this year. If  you’re not already into it, now is the time. Best of luck.

Best 'gold' bracelet ever.
Best ‘gold’ bracelet ever.


*Willow is not her real name.

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Hang on a mini…

I’m not going to be cliché and say oh I hate all my clothes.  I don’t.  But lately I’m struggling.  I’m 38 and just at the stage where I reach for certain items (like short skirts) with a bit of a ‘hmm’.  Which kind of saddens me.  Mind you I’m only talking about my own gutless self here.  The rest of you should just go ahead and wear whatever you want.  Life would be so dull for me otherwise.  I’m more of a fashion observer than a fashion do-er.  Welcome to my wardrobe.  Favourite colours: grey, black, cream… and if I’m feeling particularly daring… olive green or dark blue.  I even have black sneakers.


So what can I wear?  I feel like I’m in this weird middle zone where I need to make some decisions.  When do I start to look officially a bit silly in skinny jeans and what comes afterwards?  Trousers? They have articles in magazines with titles like: Look fantastic at any age!  I always covertly read the section for my age group and it’s almost always horrible.

I went into a new clothes shop the other day, enticed by a couple of decent looking jackets in the window.  But when I got in there I realised I had entered into a very elderly zone.  The shop assistant called out “Hello! how are you?” and I scuttled out.  I felt like apologising and saying “sorry I’m just not there yet…was just checking. See you next year probably!”.

I recently watched this documentary called ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ which was about six brilliantly stylish women whose average age was about seventy.  One of them had a sort of zany and colourful signature style which she said made it remarkably easy to get dressed in the morning because she simply chose a simple black dress, grabbed one of her crazy arty jackets to put over the top and then a fabulous big arty necklace to go over that.  And red glasses.  And clogs.  It wasn’t an elegant look, in fact she described it as just stopping short of resembling a clown.  But it wasn’t without style and she certainly didn’t fade into the fashion background in a cloud of grey hair and reading glasses.  I find myself remembering her words and feeling really envious as I am trying to put together an outfit in the mornings.  I bet she doesn’t stand in her room before work hissing at her sleepy husband, “Hey, does this look ok?!!  Open your eyes!”

Being confident enough to say “Fuck it…I am wearing the red clogs and I don’t care what people think.”  I want to wake up one day and be exactly like that.  I’d like to be able to throw on a multi-coloured poncho and just look absolutely cute instead of absolutely stupid because of the uncomfortable look on my face.


My best friend and fashionista herself, Rosebud, says that if you wear things you actually really like and fit you well, then you will always look stylish.  This is possibly my favourite fashion advice ever and I do try and follow it.  But if I could go back and retrieve some of the things I have bought over the years that I have that I ‘really liked’ and have fit me ‘really well’ I can assure you there would be belly laughs.  I’m remembering specifically a weird sort of safari jacket that Pip and Glenn refer to as the Bindi Irwin jacket.  Also a pair of aqua green corduroys.  And on one occasion some smurf blue stockings that I could have sworn were grey in the packet.  No it wasn’t the seventies.  And no they weren’t even vintage.  You see now why I don’t wear colour?  I can’t be trusted. Perhaps for now I’ll keep my skinny jeans.  But I’ll stick with my rainbow of greys and blacks so that no one will really notice.

I’ve just realised that next I will write about my braces.

Pink is for girls

The cool change in weather has meant its time to rug up and our littlest resident of  the Two Houses was in need of some itty bitty under garments that had disappeared into the abyss known as ‘storage’. Unable to locate them, off we went shopping to find Baby Boo some singlets. Although they came in white and pink, the size I needed was only available in blue. Blue. It was the nice pale blue that many baby designs comes in and yet my instinct was to not buy them for my baby girl. But why? Now I’m a strong and vocal advocate for providing girls with a variety of colours, stories, toys and experiences. I’m the mother continually explaining that my baby ‘boy’ was indeed a girl in unisex coloured clothing (for the second time round). And still, here I was standing in front of a row of miniature singlets contemplating if blue was acceptable or to keep searching for white or pink.

After standing there for far too long and a few stern words with myself, I bought the blue ones.

But this is not the first time I have felt this inner conflict recently. On another shopping trip to source winter pyjamas for Bubby, my eldest daughter, I found myself surrounded by a sea of various shades of pink and purple in garish designs. Now it’s not that I object to pink and purple as ‘girl’ colours,  I object to only these ‘girl’ colours being readily available. I recalled a graphic quote that I had come across by www.GRRRLcamp.org


I felt this was a fairly simple and important task to providing my daughters with the opportunity to explore and make their own choices, yet there I was holding several pairs of pajamas in colours and designs I simply didn’t want to choose from. And so I headed to the boys section and there I found some awesome patterns. Not a splash of garish pink or purple in sight.

That day I left feeling strong and confident that I would be a positive influence through the choice of my daughters pyjamas. And although Bubby was very happy with her two new pairs of warm flannelette pyjamas in pink with white polka dots (I liked the style of these ones) and a pair with blue, green and grey cars. I think despite the angst I went through in their selection, she still prefers the pink ones. Sigh.


Since writing this blog we’ve added a pair of pyjamas with dragons, castles and knights. These are now currently her favourites.