My favourite CBD op shop is a little gem hidden in the basement of Royal Arcade. Right at the heart of fancy central, I regularly rummage through here for treasures.
To find this Brotherhood of St Lawrence shop, just head to the epicentre of Royal Arcade. Walk past the babushka shop and Cocoa Black, ignore the macaron shop (if you can), and you'll notice some wooden railing. If you're coming from Bourke St Mall, you'll see this:
Descend (and seriously, watch your head) and the first thing you'll find is a rack of discount clothing, then the entry to that wonderful smelling place – that unique ops hop bouquet of old people, stale clothes, and out-of-print books. That's my favourite smell.
The best finds in here are women's clothing and books. Their clothing is well priced, with most items between $4 and $10. Books are all $1, and they have a large turnaround of stock, so I like to visit about once a week.
I also come here whenever I need a nice dress, mostly for weddings, because I'm at that age where EVERYONE is getting married and I've run out of dresses (no, I'm not re-wearing something when I could use it as an excuse to find another one!). Today I wasn't lucky in terms of a formal dress, but I did find this little gem, $70 price-tag still on, with a lovely little sticker over it showing $8.
This is why I love op shops – a frock of excellent quality, with not a stain or tear to be seen. Why thank you. And because I don't like the colour, I'm stopping off at Spotlight on the way home for a packet of dye. Purple, I think.
As if you needed more reason to love Royal Arcade, there's another op shop in here, down a side arms of the arcade leading to Elizabeth Street. This one is a Hunter Gatherer shop, which I just realised is the 'vintage' arm of Brotherhood of St Lawrence. So they're actually the same as the shop downstairs, just fancier.
So, don't expect to find the true bargains here. However, it's still fun to root through. They've taken the most interesting and quirky pieces from downstairs (and likely their other shops) and arranged it here to create a vintage boutique atmosphere. It's a good balance to their downstairs shop, where the vibe is classic op shop grunge.
The other op shop offering in Melbourne CBD is the Salvos, which is a few blocks up Bourke St from Royal Arcade and the mall, between Exhibition St and Spring St. This is more what you'd expect from a city op shop, with higher prices and plenty of nice stock, nicely displayed in a classic Bourke St shopfront.
I almost cried at some of the prices on the shoes though. The lowest is about $10, while a gorgeous pair of lace-up suede boots would set me back $40. Still, there is quality here, and if I was really looking for something nice to wear, I'd be able to get it here for less than I'd pay in a shop. The price-tags are just a bit beyond what I'm willing to pay in an op shop on any given Monday, unless I'm on the prowl for something specific.
I work as a Volunteer for an amazing OP shop in the CBD. It is very very new and Fitted for Work who an fabulous not for profit organisation who help disadvantaged women who are out of work with clothes, resumes, interview skills have opened up a recycled shop for women in the Queen Victoria building. It is the Conscious Closet at the back of the old Queen Victoria building on 210 Lonsdale Street, Ground floor, facing the square. Amazing clothes.