Finding that hidden vintage gem in an op-shop full of everyone’s throwaways is no mean feat, but it’s something Sydney op-shop fashionista Brittany Lee Waller has mastered – and she’s making a pretty penny out of it too.
Brittany’s the stylist behind Instagram’s Pretty Vintage Drifters (@prettyvintagedrifters). Her almost 2,500 followers bid for the op-shop finds she shares on her feed – which range from brightly coloured silk mini skirts and dresses, retro cable knit jumpers, Levi’s cut off short shorts, vintage swimsuits and blazers in just about every cut and style imaginable. She charges up to $70 for her finds, with prices dependant on the amount of work she puts in to make them sellable.
What makes Brittany such an expert op-shopper though, is that she doesn’t simply pull her finds off the hanger and post them on Instagram for sale – she has vision enough to know how many of the items most of us overlook can be altered to be more wearable. Whether that means cutting off sleeves, changing hemlines or playing with the shape of a garment – you know you’re getting something original and very special when you buy a Pretty Vintage Drifters piece.
I spoke to Brittany about where her sense of style originated and in the hope she’d be willing to share some of her favourite op-shops with aspiring vintage treasure hunters. Here’s what she had to say:
Where does your sense of style come from?
I’ve been raiding my Mum and my Grandma’s closets since I was about 11 or 12, so I guess I’ve always had a thing for nostalgia.
Somehow pieces from the past that speak of rarity, seem to speak the loudest to me. I also love to mix and match eras, be it a 70’s tapered silk blouse with a high-waisted, acid wash mini or a cute little 50’s sundress with some 80’s leather ankle boots.
I mostly like to have fun and change it up, a lot of my inspiration comes from old photographs or fashion spreads from vintage magazines found at op-shops. My mum’s old photo albums are my favourite.
When did you first start op-shopping?
Probably about the time I’d exhausted all the options from my Mum’s closet!! So I would have been about 13. I started sewing and making my own clothes at the same time, so it mostly came from a desire for new fun items paired with a lack of finances – only natural for a teenager!
Who are some of your style icons?
Brigitte Bardot is my ultimate style icon. Mostly because she was both culturally and socially defiant with what she wore. She could go from red velvet flares and an oversized knit to hot pants and a midriff striped button up in one day and be a mega babe in both. She coined the 70’s St Tropez look perfectly.
Lauren Hutton also had a showcase style for her time. For now I love Jess Hart and Rumi Neely. I love their use of fabric/pattern clashing like denim and leather or lace and plaid.
Describe the best piece you’ve ever found in an op-shop. Where did it come from?
I found a pair of 1970’s Helena Rubenstien sunglasses in a small Red Cross op shop on the South Coast. They’re light tortoise shell, a feminine aviator style, with gold detailing. They are pretty much the bees knees and probably worth about $500 now. I think I bought them for about $4.
Which do you think are the best op-shops in Sydney?
If I told you I’d have to kill you!! Naturally, better items are found in suburbs that harbour less of a socially perceived price tag. People assume places like Mosman, Double Bay or Woollahra would have great vintage because they’re expensive places, but it’s totally the opposite. Suburbs that are quieter or more industrial will be the places you find the golden items.
Coastal towns are also goldmines! Of course Newtown and Surry Hills will always have great finds, but they are a bit more expensive and more so vintage boutiques rather than Op Shops, so I’d say look just outside those suburbs to places like Redfern or Stanmore.
I’ve got regulars on the Northern Beaches but I couldn’t tell you where they are.
What’s the trick to finding a great piece among all the “noise” in an op-shop?
It’s that old chestnut of ‘look outside the square’. Most of my favourite pieces are things I’ve found and altered, either just taking up the hem, cutting the sleeves or going as far to make it backless.
If you find a dress with a great print but it’s slightly too big, don’t deny it the privilege of hanging around with your fab self. Buy it and if you can’t sew, find someone (friend, family or local dressmaker) that can fit it to you. It’s part of the fun! Then that piece becomes one of a kind.
What’s the secret to making a vintage piece your own?
Make sure you buy it because you love it and absolutely couldn’t imagine another moment without it in your arms. If you buy it because it’s similar to something you’ve seen in a magazine or on your favourite model, then that’s just fashion lust. If you buy it because it looks perfect on your figure, makes you feel careless and flirty, and you’ve never seen anything like it before, then that’s true fashion love!
You should also make sure you will wear it more than once and have other things in your wardrobe that will make it shine.
What would you say to those people who might feel a bit intimidated about wearing vintage pieces?
I’d say get over yourself. When it comes down to it they’re just clothes. They’re meant to be fun and an expression of your mood or character.
Vintage lets you paint a picture of who you want to be that day – whether it’s a powerful career woman or a travelling gypsy. And, you’re not going to walk into a bar and find someone else in the same get-up as you. That’s the best bit!
I think it’s about time Brittany started a blog chronicling her op-shopping adventures – don’t you? That’s one that would sit firmly on my must-read list.
Currently, she’s working to get a pop-up shop in Manly off the ground. So keep your eyes peeled, treasure hunters!