Dear Friend,

I am a Thrift Shop Queen…not a Princess…a Queen.

I have the knack for finding great mid-century pieces at very good prices. Some of my finds include a ready supply of 1960’s stockings from one store for $1 a pair, several 1950’s and 60’s skirts for $5 and clip on earrings for 50c to $2.

You too can become a thrifty Queen, it’s not hard, you just need to know where to look. Not all thrift stores are created equal and finding a bargain requires a bit of skill and tact.

make do and mend 2

I can sniff out a good thrift bargain at 100 paces and manage to find the best of the best thrifty bargains in Melbourne by following these simple rules.

1. Identify the right suburbs. The best suburbs to investigate are generally one that have an older, middle class, middle-income demographic (not so tricky to identify). These suburbs are filled with people who bought quality clothing and household items in days of old and have looked after them. Many of these people are at an age where their children have left home, they have retired and they have begun downsizing their homes and possessions….donating them to their favourite charity.

2. Visit shops from a variety of different charities. I find that some people prefer to donate to certain charities…St. Vincent de Paul, Red Cross, City Mission, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, RSPCA etc. So some stores will receive better donations than others because of these preferences or the location of their charity bins. After a few visits you will work out which stores have the better stock and the most variety.

3. Find the hidden shops. Many of my best thrifty finds have been bought from shops that are tucked away in hard to find locations. In my experience the bigger shops with the more prominent locations yield fewer treasures. Whilst shops on main streets receive lots of donations they also have lots of customers. I have googled charities to find all their smaller shops, many of which are in side streets, small local shops and quiet suburban areas. I guarantee you will find at least two or three in your area that you didn’t even know existed, and chances are other people won’t either…hence the more likelihood of finding better things.

4. Visit regularly. Once you have identified which shops are the better ones visit them regularly. I call on some stores on a weekly basis, others fortnightly and some monthly.  The more often you visit the more likely you are to see things before they are snapped up by others.

5. Be friendly to the staff– this is ultra important! I always say a minimum of ‘hello’ upon arrival and ‘have a good day’ to the shop attendants….even if I don’t buy anything that day. Many of these people are volunteers who are quite passionate about their charity and their shop. Show them and the shop respect and you will often be rewarded with lower prices. A smile and friendly disposition will help you when you want to haggle on pricier items.

6. Chat, chat, chat. Once you’ve become a regular (and you will become a regular if you want to find treasures) you should build a rapport with the assistants. I chat about what I like to wear, or what I’ve recently bought from another shop or about my blog. Now, I am often greeted by a smile and a “This came in the other day and I thought of you…” or “I popped this under the counter for you to look at” or “Did you see this hat/coat/brooch/blouse”. Sometimes these pieces have been appalling (like a white vinyl raincoat)! Other times they have been wonderful…like a wine coloured velvet opera coat (tragically, not in my size). Even if you don’t like the item or it’s not your thing, thank them for their kindness and gently decline… one day they may have something that you love.

7. Find Dedicated Vintage Thrift Shops. Here, in Melbourne, some of the charities sort out their true vintage from the rest of their donations and send it to dedicated Vintage stores. I’m giving away a good source here… the Brotherhood of St.Laurence has one located in city’s The Royal Arcade and Red Cross have one in Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy. You pay a little more than standard thrift prices, but less than you would at a Vintage Fair, and all the sorting has been done for you, it’s all vintage.

8. Take the road less travelled. When you’re on holidays or on a road trip take the scenic route. Get off the highway/interstate and stop off in little country towns. On my last visit to Bendigo (Grace Kelly exhibition) I discovered many beautiful treasures in small country town thrift shops…and the prices were very reasonable.

These rules are by no mean all encompassing or definative, they are what has worked for me.

If you follow these simple rules and spend a bit of time doing your research you too can be a Thrift Shop Queen.


Princess Pin Curls