some wise eco-fashion tips #2

It might seem a little contradictory that I’m about to share tips on how to buy vintage clothes after posting about how to declutter your wardrobe... bare with me for a tic. Here’s my thing: You’ll probably still need to buy clothes at some stage. I mean, clothes don’t last forever. Additionally, you might decide that you would really very much like a camel coloured mohair coat for winter... ahem. And so it’s nice to have some options, some ideas for how to shop more ethically and eco-friendly-ish.

To offer said advice I enlisted the help of the Queen of Vintage Leeyong Soo. Leeyong has shared a few of her eco-fashion tips before, here.

She blogs over at Style Wilderness, go check her out. A former editor at Vogue Japan, she now lives in Melbourne and contributes to Peppermint magazine. She’s a total gun at dressing herself entirely with op shop finds and still looking amazeballs. Which is why we should hang off her every word. Over to you Leeyong:

Leeyong in her op shop finds. Photo by Jesse Maricic at Raww.

I'd never consider myself an expert on anything, but people do often ask me how I find such great things at op shops. Most of what I wear originated at flea markets or op shops and as my wardrobe is shamefully under-curated (read - I have many, many, clothes, shoes and accessories) that amounts to a lot of bargain buys.

These haven't just fallen into my lap though. Thanks to the glut of poorly made fast fashion, much of what ends up on op shop racks now is, quite frankly, crap, and often considerable effort is required to dig up second-hand treasure. So why would you even bother?

Well, there are several reasons. If you're reading this blog, you're obviously interested in sustainability and possibly philanthropy too, which are both motivating factors when op shopping. By buying something that someone else doesn't want, you're keeping that item out of landfill, chipping in to help a charity and not contributing to the carbon or social footprint that would be created making a similar new item.

For instance, a new pair of jeans requires cotton to be grown, harvested, possibly combined with other fibres such as Lycra, woven into material, dyed, cut and sewn - with parts such as zips and buttons that also require energy and resources - and this is all before they are packed for shipping, transported to their point of sale, tagged and displayed. Many of those jeans will have been made in developing countries in less-than-ideal labour conditions which are directly supported when the jeans are purchased new. Buying them at an op shop means the buck stops with the charity rather than lining the pockets of labels which support sweatshops.

As self-righteous as all that sounds, my personal reasons for op shopping are much more selfish. Here are some reasons and tips on how to make op shopping a success:

Things are usually cheaper at op shops so it's easier to experiment with personal style.
I'm much more likely to find something unique than in the chain stores and I love the thrill of the hunt in chasing down those one-off pieces.

You find the real gold in old-school op shops
Independent and church op shops are great for a low-cost rummage, as are most of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Uniting Care, MS and Sacred Heart Mission stores. Vinnies, Savers and the Salvos are getting a bit pricier but still definitely worth a look, and if you happen to be near a flea market, don't hesitate to drop in (the Sunday Rotary market at Camberwell in Victoria is well known, but Oakleigh (again in Vic) has a good one too and there's bound to be something similar near you).

Cape, earrings and stockings from op shop. Dress made from shawl found at op shop.

You can justify a creative but risky refashioning project on a cheap op shop garment than on something that cost a lot
It's rare for me to wear an op shop find as-is - I often need to attack a garment quite ruthlessly to make it wearable or put my own personal stamp on it. With some simple alterations, many garments can be transformed - take a hideous collar off a shirt and it's a blouse; add a ruffle to a skirt hem to lengthen it or chop off excess fabric to turn a maxi dress into a mini; add buttons or patches to cover stains, holes or ugly brand names - the sky's the limit when it comes to remaking clothes. If you don't know how to sew, sign up to a course near you or scout the internet for no-sewing-required projects (I'm constantly impressed by some of the ideas on ).

Of course sometimes it's better to leave things alone
If a garment is too large or too long, it can often be altered to fit, but the opposite is not always true. Similarly, badly fitting or unflattering sleeves are often best avoided as shoulder seams are tricky to alter, as are garments with tailored waistbands (elastic waists may have a bad style rep, but they're relatively easy to fix). Clothes made from thick fabrics, such as coats, may be too much of a challenge to bother with if they don't fit, and discolouring is also hard - white clothing that has yellowed through age is tricky to bring back to its original state, although may be suitable candidates for dyeing a darker colour, depending on the material. Some stains (and smells!) can be shifted - check out this post for excellent advice on washing and repairing op shop and vintage fashion.

It helps to have an idea of what constitutes quality
Learn to identify wool over synthetics and leather over vinyl, for instance, as ultimately these materials are usually sturdier and last a long time if cared for properly. Some great vintage pieces can still be unearthed, although they may need repairs: I found a beautiful, if slightly yellowed vintage beaded cardigan with ripped silk lining - nothing a few discreet stitches couldn't fix. If you're lucky you can still find well made leather shoes at op shops, although they might need re-heeling or other professional attention. (Just remember, shoe repairs aren't cheap - only buy a pair of $5 shoes with worn-down heels if you're fine with forking out up to $30 to have them replaced.)

Tip from Maria As materialistic as this sounds... I stick to expensive brand labels unless it’s a proper vintage find. I tend to avoid items labelled with Kmart or Dotti for instance – they’re not likely to last very much longer...

If all this sounds overwhelming, start small - look for bangles, scarves, necklaces and other accessories.
There's less likelihood of damage or potential problems with fit, and they're a great way to get into what will hopefully be a long and rewarding relationship with op shopping. Happy hunting!


  1. Great post about second hand shops. Definitely a great way to find some incredible vintage stuff and save money at the same time. While second hand shops are a great way to "recycle" clothing, they're not the only way.

    Brands like lur apparel offer affordable and eco-friendly clothing. All of our clothing is made from 100% recycled materials, including thousands of plastic water bottles.

  2. Somebody can tell me the perfect Retro clothes style, it's just not like a mix-up of new and old trend....I am just searching a perfect combination of 1950's or 1960's retro style clothes store. Here are some beautiful trendy sharing so thanks for it.


    has big collections of designer clothing for men, women and kids.It

    offers all the things at the most reasonable price. Innumerable

    units enable the buyer to grab the finest stuff.

  4. Just love these ideas! My friends are always looking for ways to help the environment and are always looking for excuses to wear their favorite club dresses more often

  5. Sounds like a great trip and you got some much needed items! I often find a lot of great stuff when thrifting for myself. Keep on updating so that we can buy online apparels from your site.

    1. Hi Renu, if you need to buy a good quality secondhand shoes, you may visit this website because they have a great shoe store that are still in good conditions even they are secondhand products.

  6. Thanks for sharing.

    All beautiful models with ultimate fashion, I dont need to tell any one why it is ultimate fashion.



Flickr Photostream

Twitter Updates

Meet The Author