There is been a lot of debate amongst alternative circles as to which is better shopping, op shops or vintage stores. The problem with this argument, however, is that it is like comparing apples to oranges; they are both completely different operations, and so both have their benefits and pitfalls.
The Difference between Vintage and Op Shopping
Opportunity shops or “Op Shops” as they have affectionately been renamed are very much a hunter-gatherer set-up, in which people donate all their old clothes that they no longer wear so that people who are less fortunate may benefit from either directly by purchase or through the sale of the clothes through organizations such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul. This means that choices for size, style, and color are slim to none, but the prices are generally a lot lower than a vintage shop. However, if you exercise patience and persistence, you will more often than not come away with a one of a kind vintage skirt, dress, or pair of pumps from 1972 for next to nothing, and nothing beats that triumphant feeling of finding a perfect piece of vintage clothing in the 99 cent bin at your local Vinnies. They’re also a great place to shop for a Halloween costume.
Vintage stores, on the other hand, are a lot more selective in what they sell; they essentially take out all the leg work of finding the diamonds in the rough, but this goes hand in hand with a higher price tag. These stores are generally a lot more expensive, and they tend to mix in the old clothes with the new collections, so some of the clothes don’t have that sense of history (or the musty smell). They do, however, have gorgeous pieces, and are a lot more effortless way to shop.
Vintage Shopping In Melbourne
Over the years I have shopped at both Vintage Stores and Op Shops, and I cannot choose which ones I like the best. So I’ve put together my five favourite stores in Melbourne that I feel as a group encompasses the benefits of both.
“The best way to save money and avoid fashion pitfalls is to find your own style. It’s not about following the latest trends; it’s about knowing what suits you.” Thread Den
This is an excellent mantra for those who feel lost in a whirlwind of fast-paced, disposable fashion where they just cannot find their own niche. Thread Den is unique in that not only does it showcase a number of high quality vintage garments, shoes, and accessories at reasonable prices, it also encourages you to think about altering and making your own clothes. The store is equipped with its own sewing lounge that is open for public use, as well as classes for adults and children in sewing, altering, and dress making run by designers and industry professionals in a relaxed and sociable environment.
Location: 422 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
This is one of my favorite stores for a number of reasons, one being the large collection of Independent Australian designers that they stock, and two because everything is just so much fun. The collections of jewelry and accessories are my favorite aspect of this store, ranging from pop out wooden earrings to plastic broaches and rings that do away with pretentiousness and are instead all about having fun and indulging in a sense of quirk and color. Although their stock is not strictly classified as classic vintage, a lot of the stocked items are based from vintage pop culture designs from the eighties, nineties etc.
Location: 472 Victoria Street , Fitzroy
Now this is not only a clothing store, but more an emporium of eccentric arts and crafts. From vintage dresses to quirky jewelry and accessories, unique toys and a collection of eclectic knick-knacks that are bound to evoke feelings of nostalgia in even the most hardnosed shoppers, Meet Me at Mike’s feels a lot more like being in your Nanna’s sewing room than a Brunswick street store. Started by crafting superstar Pip Lincoln, this is one of my favorite stores because as soon as I step foot inside I get this feeling of being surrounded by the warmth radiating from each object that has been created with such love and care. They also have two books published on how to make a lot of their creations yourself, which can be bought at the store or online.
Location: 63 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
If Meet Me at Mike’s is your grandmother’s sewing room, then Lost and Found is defiantly her attic!
Lost and Found is set up like an indoor market and sells almost anything that once belonged to someone else: dresses, blouses, coats, scarves, footwear, furniture, bicycles, toys, cameras, jewelry — the list goes on. This eclectic collection of vintage treasures borderlines more on the side of the op shop, but there is a sense of charm that just drips from the walls of the four-story warehouse of Marry Poppins bag like proportions that you don’t get anywhere else; everything is lit in the warm, honey colored hues of nostalgia.
Location: 12 Smith Street, Collingwood
Retrostar is all about the clothing … and the cowboy boots. This is a great place because it has clothes for guys and girls, and in all styles from long 1950s day dresses to tartan mini skirts from the 80s to 90s punk scene, flannel shirts, dress shirts, and rows and rows of cowboy boots in every color you probably didn’t even know cowboy boots came in (my favorite find so far is a bright red vinyl pair). They also have a huge collection of band t-shirts for a wide range of rock, punk, and metal bands, both vintage and recent. The prices can be a little high for some of the older garments, but you can always find something to fall in love with. They also have major warehouse sales every year, so be sure to join their Facebook page to receive the updates.
Location: First Floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street (Cnr Flinders Lane)
If you are new to Melbourne, and a little shy or wary of secretive nature of these stores, don’t fret! I used to be too, but once I plucked up the courage to step foot inside one, I found the people tending them to be incredibly nice, helpful and very interesting. Don’t let the fact that you have to go down an alley way or up a flight of stairs put you off; its a totally different shopping experience than shopping at Myer on Bourke Street, but one I think you will really enjoy.
So before you throw up your hands in despair at not being able to find anything to wear, take the fashion blinkers off your eyes and venture out of your local shopping center and into the streets of inner city Melbourne; you have no idea how many treasures are waiting for you.