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The fashion shopping hacks I used to score my designer wardrobe on an entry level salary

Read on to see the shopping hacks that will help you get the pieces you want for less.

I’ve always been an avid shopper. Shopping is my social outlet, my exercise and my relaxation all in one. And it’s not the feeling of spending money that entices me. I like the hunt. I like knowing that I’ve found the perfect piece for my wardrobe, something that fits me wonderfully and something that I got at the best price possible.

When I was 22 I got my first full-time role at a big-name publisher. Every morning I walked into my building alongside the magazine editors and writers that I’d spent my late teens and early twenties idolising. The queue for the elevators was a parade of high heels, silks and designer bags. It took me just a couple of days to realise that my current wardrobe wasn’t going to cut it here.

As most people who start out in media will know, your starting salary is nothing to brag about. A starting package of less than 40k a year is common and being able to shop regularly or afford anything with a designer label is a pipe dream.

But my passion for shopping and my thirst for the hunt for the perfect piece kept me going. And eventually I ended up with a small collection of branded pieces that made me feel fashion-worthy enough to walk beside the glamorous crowd who worked in the same building as me.

I know there are others out there just like me, who are coveting expensive wardrobe pieces that they can’t afford, so I decided to share my tricks and shopping hacks for a designer wardrobe on a budget.

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eBay is your go-to

Most of the fashion pieces I’ve acquired were bought on eBay and nearly all of them were second-hand. If you want high fashion pieces without paying the high price, you have to be okay with second-hand items.

If you’re scouting for a high fashion wardrobe, you need to shop eBay in a specific way.

  1. Search for brands, not products. For example, search “Alexander Wang” not “Black Boots”.
  2. Save searches and set up alerts for all your favourite brands. You’ll get notified anytime something matching the description is listed.
  3. Set the search parameters to international. Other countries often get better prices on designer items and will sell them for less accordingly. The shipping might cost a bit more but you’ll save overall.
  4. Always filter searches by newly listed.
  5. If you find something amazing at a good price be prepared to make the seller an offer to end the listing or someone else will!

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Always hit the warehouse sales

Warehouse sales can be a hassle. They’re far away and some of them start at 7am on a weekend. But most of them are worth it.

The brands I love always have their warehouse sales in Alexandria or around Moore Park in Sydney. Many a time I’ve woken up at 6am, tired, grumpy and hungover and driven for an hour on a Saturday morning just to ensure I’m one of the first in line when the sale starts.

This means you’ll get first pick of all the best and cheapest pieces. Grab everything you even remotely like and hold on to it. Once you’ve tried it all on (these sales never have change rooms so make sure you wear proper underwear), ditch the pieces you’re not keen on or can’t afford.

Also, if you see stack of really cheap singlets or skirts and think to buy a few extra to sell on eBay, don’t bother. Everyone else at the sale has already had the exact same idea as you and you’ll just end up losing money. The only time you should buy something to sell later on is when there’s only one or two of those items available.

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Go op shopping in more upmarket neighbourhoods and avoid gentrified areas

I know there are a tonne of op shops in gentrified areas like Sydney's Redfern and Newtown but I would avoid these. Because vintage and op shopping is so popular in these areas, they’re usually completely depleted of anything fun by avid vintage shoppers and designer consignment store scouts.

Instead, hit up op shops in upmarket areas where shopping second-hand isn’t such a popular practice. All the good pieces are less likely to have been snapped up. Plus, wealthy neighbourhoods are often the ones where you’ll find the highest concentration of designer pieces.

I used to drive to an op shop in Mona Vale, Sydney nearly every weekend because they seemed to have an endless supply of Sass & Bide T-shirts.

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Pull out your needle and thread

When shopping on eBay, at op shops or at warehouse sales for cheaper items, a lot of the pieces at a bargain-basement prices have small faults, rips or tears. You need to look beyond these and assess if the faults are fixable. Busted seams and fallen hems can be fixed in 10 minutes with a needle and thread.

Most people aren’t willing to go to that extra effort, but if it’s going to save you cash, you definitely should. I once paid $20 for a $500 leather jacket on eBay because it had a massive stain on it. All I had to do was clean it off with some metho and it was good as new.

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Get familiar with black dye

Sometimes the reason that designer pieces go on sale is because they’re a weird or unwearable colour. No one really wants to splash out a tonne of cash on something that’s so distinctive that you can only wear a handful of times.

If you’re trawling through The Outnet or YOOX or eBay and you find an affordable piece that is an unfortunate colour, no sweat. Just buy it and dye it. Be sure to check what fabric the item is made of. Synthetics don’t dye as easily as natural fibres so keep that in mind.

You can get block dye and chuck it in a pot on the stove, or you can get dye specifically made for dyeing things in a washing machine. Dye costs less than $10 at Lincraft or Spotlight.

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Sign up to newsletters

If you’re hunting for a particular piece, find every single place that stocks it and sign up for their newsletter. If there’s a fashion piece that you absolutely must have, make sure you’re getting sale alerts from all the stockists. That way you’ll be notified if and when you can get a discount.

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If you’re about to commit to buying something, enter the full name of the product into Google first

You’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve been about to hit “confirm” on an online order, but decided to check Google first and found a cheaper price. It happened recently when I was buying my boyfriend a leather jacket for his birthday. I found a gorgeous one that was down from $600 to $400. I thought that was a pretty decent price and was ready to buy it but decided to check Google first. I found another store selling the exact same jacket for $260.

Mia Steiber

Mia Steiber is the Editor of the Shopping section at finder. She has a serious shopping habit and an addiction to gold jewellery. Her talents include tracking down one-off or almost sold out pieces and knowing the sizing charts for just about every brand.

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