Canberra's best kept secret high-end Op Shop

By Nina Gbor – 28 January 2018, from: The RiotACT

The Riot ACT

Riot photo

As an op shop aficionado, people sometimes ask me how to know if an op shop is a good one. My answer usually comes as a bit of a shock. It's first the warmth of the staff and then good quality stock. Pandoras at O'Connor has an abundance of both factors. Stocked with high-quality pieces, this shop also has a sweet old-fashioned, good-mannered atmosphere with a positive social community that welcomes you as you walk through the door. Rarely found in retail these days, it's nice to have a place to visit whether you're just browsing, shopping or want to chat with some friendly people.


Susan Johnson, staff member at Pandoras. Photo: Nina Gbor.

Dubbed 'the best little boutique in O'Connor', Pandoras is notorious for its designer, vintage and unusual pieces. The staff and volunteers have a strict sorting regiment, which has earned Pandoras the reputation as an op shop with a difference. A genuine Ferragamo handbag, a Nicola Waite coat, a Missoni piece and an Alana Hill limited edition are examples of some of the lucky finds at Pandoras. Some people go there for the 1940s — 1980s vintage & retro pieces, formal wear, costumes, clothes for international travel and performance pieces.


Original 1940s/1950s vintage fur stole and black Ferragamo handbag from Pandoras. Photo: Nina Gbor.


Alana Hill limited edition dress from Pandoras. Photo: Nina Gbor.


Missoni tunic dress from Pandoras. Photo: Nina Gbor.

Pandoras sets itself apart from shops of its kind by hosting fashion events like their annual Spring Fling, Christmas in July and a fashion parade. Models they use are ordinary people from the community, both men and women of all ages.

Pandoras Fashion Parade. Photo: Supplied.

The shop tries to cater to everyone with colour coded and size dedicated sections ranging in small, medium and cuddly (sizes 18+). People come in every week to check out the new stock. The volunteers and staff are happy to give friendly advice on what suits you. Long-term volunteer, Valerie Kirk gave some useful advice for curating a wardrobe that makes you happy:

"Try on lots and buy little … only things that work for your lifestyle and make you look and feel great… Things that look ordinary on the racks can look amazing when worn with style.”

Valerie goes on to suggest using a decluttering and tidying technique by Marie Kondo, to organise your wardrobe. Keep items that still spark joy and then donate items you no longer love.

Valerie says it's thrilling to see someone find outfits that are just perfect for them. Valerie recalls a lady who bought her entire outfit for a wedding — peach satin dress, matching shoes, pearl accessories, clutch bag — all for $25. The same outfit in a department store would cost at least $500.


Photos: Nina Gbor.

Although op shopping is an affordable way to get quality pieces, be creative and play dress up, it's also a way of reducing fashion waste in the world. It's a means for rejecting fast fashion and the rapid turnover of clothing in mainstream shops. Donated items that don't make it to Pandoras shop floor are given to the homeless, people in need and other charities. Pandora's proceeds support Karinya House for Mothers and Babies, The Tuckerbox Food Programme, Malkara Special School, Uplift Project for Pacific Island Women, and Remote Youth Engagement Programme just to name a few charities.

If you're in O'Connor then stop by, browse and have a chat. Take in your quality donations if you're keen for them to go to a good home. Pandoras is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm at St Philips Anglican Church, Macpherson Street, O'Connor. The Facebook page is where to find info and upcoming special events.

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