Need a wardrobe makeover on a budget? Are you craving a whiff of that specific, musty, secondhand smell? Have your bootstraps gotten worn out from all that pulling-up you’ve been doing? A solution is never far away. Critic Te Arohi visited seven secondhand clothing stores north of the Octagon to conduct a thorough vibe check.
Take note: it’s well known(citation needed) that op shop smell is a potent aphrodisiac, and bargain hunting makes for a perfect first date. Much like penguins arranging a pile of pebbles, or trash birds making piles of trash, foraging for shiny objects together is crucial when selecting a mate(citation needed). This method appropriately lowers the bar for any future encounters, and if it all goes to shit you can simply commando crawl under the cluttered clothing racks and make a run for it(no citation needed). Not all op shops are created equal, but whether you’re a “racks organised by size and colour” thrifter or a “choking on dust mites in a grotty bargain bin” creature, Dunedin has something for you.
Op Shop on St Andrews/Presbyterian Support Op Shop
61 St Andrew Street
Vibe: Being in there is like being inside the mind of someone named Carol or Debbie. The garments are carefully organised by season and colour (good) and the displays feature assorted items of questionable value and taste (very good). They consistently give discounts, and they’re very liberal with free bags.
Best item: 1980’s Homemade Halloween Costume Handbook for $2.00. Pre-LookSharp you had to DIY everything, and apparently some people fucking hated their kids. Beautiful.
Worst item: Evil, evil, evil handmade monkey, carefully crafted and yet bestowed with a truly satanic face. $6.00 and somehow scarier than any of the Halloween costumes.
Best bargain: $1.00 rack out front!!! Bruh.
Hot date spot? Unlike many other op shops, this is too well-organised to be a spot you bring someone when you want to signal to them that you’re fully McFucking Unhinged. It’s a great precursor to another shop, or you could duck into the art gallery nearby. Y’know, cause you’re just so cultured, aren’t you? Best suited for actually shopping or for when your mum comes to visit.
Overall Sexiness: 8/10 hand-knitted teapot cosies.
Paper Bag Princess
26 Hanover Street
Vibe: The vibe depends entirely on which pleasant but strung out employee has control of the aux. Expect a lot of jeans with the hems cut off. The walls are a delightful egg yolk yellow, and the maze of oddly placed full-length mirrors is good for fit checks but also super disorientating. Where am I? Where am I going? Am I where I want to be in this stage of my life?
Best item: ASSLESS FUCKIN’ CHAPS for just $24.99. Genuine leather and clearly cut shorter at the hem, hinting that the owner was a fellow short king with excellent taste.
Worst item: It’s a tie between the graphic tee commemorating the 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes (Beached As!) for $6.00 and a University of Auckland lab coat for $5.00. It’s funny because we don’t like jafas or nerds, get it?
Best bargain: There’s a $2.00 clothing rack almost exclusively filled with denim booty shorts. Everything is quite reasonably priced for a for-profit op shop, and despite being a chain the prices here are way better than the other locations across the country.
Hot date spot? If you’re a fresher who’s into “thrifting”, you and your mates are going to start camping out here. Plus, you’ll likely get a mild high from the clout of “introducing” your date to this spot. On that note, the aura of burgeoning adolescence may be a turn off to anyone over the age of seventeen. Still though, it’s a decent dig if you have the patience and there’s always tons of treasures.
Overall sexiness: 6/10 good Nirvana tribute bands.
350 George Street
Vibe: Much like a closing-down adult toy store, Recycle Boutique is completely devoid of vibes. It’s a shop. With clothes. Nice ones, even, since they’re carefully selected and displayed. It’s tidy, it’s recycled, and it’s a boutique, I guess. You might find something you like, or you might find your way to the exit instead. It’s certainly an op shop.
Best item: Dark-wash Levi’s denim vest with hand-painted flowers. We got sentimental ruminating about its previous owner: Who painted you? Did they love you? Who will love you next? Not me, ‘cos you were $48.30, but it’s nice to think about.
Worst item: Strappy fur heels with HAIRY SOLES for $18.40. Why?! Who enjoys that? What benefits could that possibly have? Borderline surrealist art, like Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup. Repugnant yet intriguing.
Best bargain: They always have a discount rack where they mark down items that they’re about to either throw away or "donate" to another store.
Hot date spot? Look, if you’re being pestered for a date by a guy who put his number in your phone at a club, be my guest. He might finally catch on that you’re as dry as the fashion here.
Overall sexiness: 1/10 breathas who give toothy head.
St Vincent De Paul’s
452 George Street
Vibe: Vinnie’s has an almost small-town op shop sorta feel in the best way possible: kinda dusty, kinda nostalgic, and a nice escape from the rest of George Street. Inside, you’re likely to experience oldies rock and the dry leer of elderly ladies making sure you don’t steal. Stock is super varied and can be kinda hit or miss, but that’s part of its charm. It’s also ridiculously cheap which helps a lot, and it’s got lots of bins to rummage through like a junkyard cat if you really wanna feel feral.
Best item: Mint condition panda onesie for $2.00.
Worst item: The pewter mug I bought as my new drinking chalice, which may or may not contain lead. It was only $4.00 so I'm still gonna use it. If I die, I die. God’s plan.
Best bargain: Generally, all unpriced items are $2, and everything else is extremely reasonable.
Hot date spot? It can take a large amount of artful foraging to find worthy spoils here, which can have the advantage of weeding out unworthy contenders for your heart. If you can’t love me at my “rabidly flailing around in a pile of dirty kid’s clothing”, you don’t deserve me at my “rabidly flailing around in a pile of dirty adult clothing”.
Overall sexiness: 7/10 sneakily-placed religious pamphlets.
SPCA Op Shop
17 North Road
Vibe: Being in here felt wrong, like taking dibs on a dying relative’s possessions before they properly kick the bucket. It’s hard to make sense of the overall layout, and garments are placed with little organisation which can make browsing tricky. The racks seem to move around like Hogwarts staircases while your back is turned. There are hidden treasures for sure, but they might be pricier than expected, and some may actually be cursed. Best item: Buff-chested apron produced by a Thai chilli sauce company for some reason, for $5.00. I don’t understand it but I can’t fault it, especially since the nipples aligned with mine.
Worst item: A NZ Woman’s Weekly magazine with Christopher Luxon as the covergirl, only selling for 50 cents. Worth noting is the fact that the heading describing Chris as ‘National’s new hope’ is in the exact same style as the subheading for ‘Real life horror: I had a flesh-eating disease’. Maybe they got their section titles mixed up.
Best bargain: Free crap outside, and $5.00 handknit legwarmers. I don’t know who’s knitting funky leg-warmers that cheap, but it’s more than worth it if you like the SPCA.
Hot date spot? It’s best to take a partner with you for moral support, or at least so you can trip them as a distraction if a threat were to approach.
Overall sexiness: 5/10 watchful ceramic figurines.
Orphans’ Aid Op Shop
21 North Road
Vibe: Like slowly lowering yourself into a tepid bath, but on a day where a tepid bath is the perfect temperature, and in a world where you could afford to run a full bath. It’s spacious and well-maintained, with garments organised by type, size AND colour. Prices vary a lot between items but are mostly fair, and the staff are so nice that I would let them adopt me.
Best item: An exceptionally delightful ceramic pig for just $4.00. I mean, look. You can’t hate it, and you can’t help but want to BE it. What I wouldn’t give to swap my mortal coil for his porcelain perfection.
Worst item: A ziplock bag full of hair for $5.00. On close inspection it appeared to be several uncannily realistic dolls’ wigs, so I guess that would be a steal if you had a bunch of bald dolls lying around.
Best bargain: Free stuff outside! A lot of it.
Hot date spot? This is where you take someone who you want to impregnate, be impregnated by, or lovingly adopt a baby/cat/plant with, and it will honestly improve your chances tenfold. Like, you’re gonna need to have a steady income, plenty of space, and the emotional capacity to be responsible for another lifeform that’s fully dependent on you for survival. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya.
Overall sexiness: 9/10 child support cheques, sopping wet.
Cat Rescue Charity Shop
33 North Road
Vibe: The radio was dead quiet, which I didn’t realise until after I had spent the whole trip rambling loudly to myself. I don’t think the attendant liked me, but she was polite nonetheless. Very cat-like vibes, honestly. The shop’s small but has a good assortment of items with tons of character, like the wallpaper, but that isn’t for sale. Probably.
Best item: ‘Pineapple Prince’ vintage pineapple slicer for just $3.00, cheaper than the pineapple itself. Just think how much money you could save on the New World machine each week! It included long winded instructions on hollowing out pineapples to use as cocktail glasses for your patio picnics, and as someone who can totally afford to buy fruit – what a fucking lifesaver!
Worst item: LIFE Education polo shirt for $4.00, featuring the twisted, loathsome grimace of Harold the Giraffe. God, I hate Harold. I hope my sins make him cry. I’m an atheist, except for when it comes to Harold the LIFE Education Giraffe – he’s going to hell.
Best bargain: Unlabelled clothes are $4.00, which you absolutely can’t hate since there’s some great quality stuff mixed in.
Hot date spot? Assuming you’re shopping your way north, Cat Rescue is a fitting climax to any sensual op shopping saga. It’s got a tantalising amount of clutter but is kept super tidy, perfect for letting your date know that you’re in it for the long haul. And if you’re not? Fuck it. “Op shop” is short for opportunity shop, not open communication shop.
Overall sexiness: 8/10 dead birds on your doorstep. Meow.