Secondhand doesn’t have to mean second best. But with more than 100 op shops in Sydney alone, how do you know where to bag the best bargains? Here’s our pick of the best pre-loved shopping Sydney has to offer, whether it be in the fashion department or if you're seeking out a living room's worth of furniture and knick knacks.
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The best op shops in Sydney
It can be hard for a new kid on the op shop block to shine, but that definitely isn’t a problem for the new Red Cross joint on Broadway. As with many slick city op shops, colour coded racks of clothes lead the proceedings, with everything from a cute Dotti crop for $7 to a dedicated shelf of near-new jungle print kaftans for $45 apiece, and a massive rack of $20-$40 cut-off denims. Beyond the wardrobe winners, you’ll also find carefully organised shelves of candles and crockery, sandals for days, and a very thoroughly thought-out book section with paperbacks for a fiver. As you have a squiz at their small section of $5 Minecraft and Doctor Who collectible toys, you’ll want to boogie along to their soundtrack of Bob Marley and David Bowie hits, before prancing in front of the Hollywood-style mirror on the red carpet.
When you enter this little blue shop you're transported, Narnia wardrobe-style, into an expansive, magical land of pre-loved bargains. We found a treasure trove of snazzy fashion items like a $12 pair of jungle-print capris and a black denim Country Road skirt we’ve been waiting our whole life for, and under $14. There are big-hitters in the jacket department – a sleek Sass and Bide coat will set you back $140 – and slightly pricier outfits on the retro rack. You’ll also find a room dedicated to well-organised glassware, ceramics and wacky mantlepiece-making figurines. You could nab a Viking-style set of four heavy-bottomed beer mugs for only $8. Then, head down a few stairs past the men’s clothing section – where you’ll find a healthy selection of T-shirts around the $10 mark and business button-ups for $15 – and check out very chic armchairs for $140 next to a small library of paperbacks starting at $2. Or, go up another set of stairs and rummage through a hoarder’s dream collection of miss-matched side tables, lamps, baskets, clocks and travel gear.
This unassuming op shop is easy to miss. However, shoppers who make the effort to visit the RESTORE are unlikely to leave disappointed. The exposed brick walls, wooden pallet shelving and vintage furnishings give the store an industrial-chic vibe more common in Newtown than Seven Hills and its stock is as stylish as its decor. We’re talking high street brands like Witchery, Tokito, Bardot, Trenery, Cue. You can find treasures like a Third Millennium crimson slip dress (rrp $399) for a very reasonable $90, or other keepers without tags for less than a tenner. It’s noticeably tailored towards women’s fashions, though there’s a selection of men’s clothes and shoes, plus kids' duds. You’ll find most (non-designer) stock ranges from $5-$15.
The Wayside Chapel is a Sydney institution, providing services and support to Sydney’s homeless population for more than 50 years. They run an Wayside Op Shop located in a period building adjacent to the Chapel. If you’re in the market for a winter coat, Wayside has options starting from as low as $12, with a fur-trimmed leather jacket setting you back only $25. You can also purchase Wayside Chapel merchandise from the store, or drop next door for a post-shopping pick me up from the Wayside Cafe. Our favourite pieces include a $10 Bardot blue sequined vest and $12 Tony Bianco heels.
With more than 50 St Vincent de Paul Society retail stores in Sydney alone, it takes something special to make any one store stand out, but you can always find something special at Vinnies Glebe Centre. The small store is packed with clothing, yet it’s organised in a way that it doesn’t feel stuffy. On our visit, we’re greeted by a mannequin wearing a fox-fur stole, which makes the store feel in-sync with its fashion-forward neighbourhood. Shoppers can find bargains like a $12 Princess Highway dress or dainty $15 Alannah Hill cardigans. Vinnies Glebe has a good range of men’s business and casual wear, too, ranging between $10-$30. If you’re looking for a statement piece we came across a hot pink flower-print shirt for $16. Searching for a bargain fancy frock? The designer rack has pieces like a slinky Elizabeth and James strapless number going for $80 – with the $425 price tag still on, you can be assured you've played the game well.
Walking into Newtown’s Red Cross Op Shop is more like entering somebody’s lovingly designed living room than a retail venue. Sure, they’ve got a killer, colour-coded window display of very chic mannequins and racks of meticulously organised outfits, but everything in between – the cute fake flowers, the nanna’s cabinet display of crockery, the somehow discrete chandeliers and the cosy book corner – really makes you feel at home. When you do start trawling through the colourful waterfall of clothes, you’ll find plenty of near-new, flowy boho numbers, like a Mombasa Rose dress for a semi-steep $28, slightly exxier pieces like the satisfyingly heavy suede skirt we stumbled upon for $50, and then more accessible items on the long rack of sturdy denim duds that go for $10-$20.
Off the Great Western Freeway, this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Salvos is the place to go if you’re moving house. The huge, warehouse-style store has at least two-thirds of the floor space dedicated to furniture. You name it: couches, dining settings, bed frames, mattresses, dressers, desks and even a family-size refrigerator ($350) are up for sale. Designs range from classic to wacky, and all for far cheaper than brand new. The furniture selection is rivalled for size by the massive range of clothing available. Bargain-hunters will find beanies, stationery, and school uniform basics in abundance. Fashionistas are also likely to nab an unusual find, with out-there factory seconds like navy corsets and tie-dyed hotpants available on our visit. The massive store has a small Street Boutique section, too (the Salvos’ curated fashion stores).
If you’re into classic cuts and styles that never go out of fashion, Lifeline Balgowlah is well worth crossing the bridge for. The old, whitewashed brick store is predominantly filled with ‘smart-casual’ selections, ideal for office workwear. A DKNY black dress will set you back $28, a Diana Ferrari wrap dress is only $18. If you’re after something a bit edgier, a gold lamé shirt with ’80s era shoulder pads can be yours for just $10. The shop has an extra selling point: costume hire. Rather than buying an outfit for your next fancy dress party (and never wearing it again), you can rent one. There’s options for men and women in a range of sizes, from Roman emperors to hippies and flamenco dancers. Clothing at Lifeline Balgowlah is around $20 on average. While it’s a little more expensive than a Salvos, the selection and quality of stock make it worthwhile.