Saturday, February 21, 2009

American Thrift needs a strong, hefty lift!

About four months ago, in a thrift-obsessed mania, I launched a Facebook petition calling for a commemorative month of American Thrift. It didn’t take long to realize this was a monumental project, naively approached with the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality. Like most super-sized deals it’s easy to order, hard to swallow and sticks to the gut for a long, long time.

Overwhelmed by its scale, I put it on the side bar. Some encouraged me to try at the state level first and then work up. No! This needs to be national! Now! So, I’m back at it, spittin’ and a swingin’.

Retailers have done a bang-up job leading Americans away from thrift and making us think “If it’s not new its EWWW!” All kinds of bizarre myths are in play. The strangest I’ve heard is that one needs a voucher, like food stamps, to thrift. Consumers are lost and it’s time to call them home.

American Thrift deserves at least one month in the annual spotlight to educate and recruit people to the cause. Remember folks this is poetic shopping. Buy a repurposed item and the profits go to repurposing a life!

Retailers have been receiving commemorative months for years by self-promotion. Who would sign a petition for Return the Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month, Noodle Month, Frozen Foods Month, Hamburger Month, or Umbrella Month?* How these months became a reality is a real head-scratcher. I provided links to these promotions because I'm betting you don't believe me. The link to Return the Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month provides instruction on how to observe that month. Phew! I was a bit uncertain as to how to honor that month, its title is so vague. For a list of our national commemorative months click here.

If you’re a Facebook member, click here or on the button to the right and join and then invite your friends to join too. If you’re not on Facebook, we'll be developing an alternate option. As I wrote, this project was kicked off in a thrift-loving manic state. But, I believe it can be successfully orchestrated.

A few days back I put out a call to other blogs and heard back from Black and into Green, Songbirdtiff, Frugal Babe, Green Girls Global, Atomic Tea Party, Dime Store Thrift, No Pattern Required, Repurposeful, My Daily Round and the Goodwill Blog of Northern New England, Karla's Bonanza, and Green & Crunchy before I even blinked. They have all written posts and are encouraging their readers to join. There are links to these blogs on the petition page. The Queen of Fifty Cents is in the mix too. I do not stand alone on this cause.

If you're on Facebook, I urge to to link to this post and run like mad with it! Send it to your friends and tell them that they must join or you'll, you'll... well you'll do something and it won't be pleasant.

Oh, and this is no shameless promotion of Facebook. I just happened to be on it during my psychotic thrifting break of genius and naivete. This "I can change the world attitude" makes me feel like I'm in college again! Why, I'm as light as a feather!

We can do this! Please join and then comment as to what month you think it should be. And, if you have experience in this field and want to help, email me right away at Shopping [dot] Golightly [at] gmail [dot] com. *Sources: & Wikipedia

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Mens Suits

When I think of shopping for mens suits, I’m taken back to “French Fur Trappers”a skit with David Foley and Kevin McDonald from The Kids in the Hall. This show was an addiction of mine in the early 90’s. In some ways it was good that it came to a close. If it hadn’t, I’d probably be laying, dark circles under my eyes, on a ratty couch in some hovel watching re-runs and waiting for a new show to air. Double click on the image to view this masterpiece:

I feel it my duty to announce that we are smack in the middle of suit season. Men, or their wives, have dumped suits at thrift stores like mad and the suits have now been processed, tagged and are rolling out on the racks as I write. Perhaps it’s standard seasonal turnover or perhaps it’s those extra-added inches from the holidays. But, the suits are in. I believe we are presently at its peak and it’s about to dive so act now.

Since it started in early January, I’ve picked up five designer suits for Mr. Golightly and one Givenchy tuxedo. The total cost for all was just under $50. A few needed minor alterations. The suits are Jos. A. Bank, Evan Picone, Kenneth Cole, Nino Cerruti, and Bill Blass (in the right).

I’m not just grasping for suits. I’m very picky and leave many hanging on the rack. I check the quality of fabric, lining and cuffs for wear and ensure the lapel width is classic. It’s hard to determine a suit’s size because the numbers usually aren’t marked on the tag. This can put you in a pickle if the person you are buying for is not present. I take the pants over to the size 33 section of pants and compare waist size to the suit pants. I gauge the jacket based upon years of hugging Mr. Golightly. Finish it off with a once over with Snake Eyes and all's good. Of all the suits, I only had to return one and that one was a tough call. (Yes, thrift stores have return policies, just ask.) It was a French suit and Mr. Golightly has an odd attachment to things French, like Catherine Deneuve.

All of Mr. Golightly’s suits are quality. I mentioned that perhaps he shall wear his classic tux at Poe and Litte Pie’s weddings. He didn’t like it when I said that and gave me the shut-your-trap glare. As much as I don’t presently embrace that thought, time will march on so best to be prepared.

Be assured that no corporate executives were harmed in the acquisition of the suits purchased from a thrift store. No one will wait lurking behind cars to spray paint your thrifted suit in protest.

Mr. Golightly is a lucky man. The reason I had to scout suits was because he didn't take care and guard his suits from the summer moths. If we'd have replaced those suits with new suits, we'd be taking out a second mortgage and a third to a little to build a dog house.

Now is also a good time to stock up for those impromptu '70's and '80's parties too. Or maybe a bolo tie in case you'll be crashing a Dallas party as JR. Like fine wine, it's wise to have a theme party ensemble reserve.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's Your Flinch Point?

Are you familiar with the thrift effect? No? Spend about two to three months in a regular thrifting routine, visiting two to three stores for a quick 15 minute recon mission a piece, and you’ll understand the thrift effect and the incredible value it adds to your life. It stems from a rich and seasoned knowledge of what one can find in the store and for about how much money.

After years of shopping thrift, I have a $5 flinch point. That’s the thrift effect. Setting reasonable limits. Anything over $5 requires my thoughtful consideration. I don’t care if it’s a bed frame or a dresser. If I can purchase a Limoges porcelain covered dish, a Wedgwood cake stand, 100 year-old rare books, a new sweater from Sundance, a Jos. A. Bank suit, sterling rings, vintage Emile Henry bake ware, bamboo chairs, and much more for under $5 - I better give serious thought to anything over. Sometimes it’s an easy choice like the Flexible Flyer sled for $6. Other times it requires more thought like the J.Crew tweed jacket with the cute grosgrain ribbon tie for $7 or the heavy copper oval au gratin that’s never been under for $9. Many of my $5 thrifted items would retail at the mall for hundreds of dollars more.

What is fascinating about this economic phenomenon is that it doesn’t happen in the new goods market. My $5 flinch point won’t buy me much, maybe some mascara or lip-gloss. It’s really weird to think about a new Banana Republic Jacket with its $99 tag still dangling purchased for $5 at Goodwill versus a tube of mascara purchased for more. Clearly, America’s retail priorities are whacked.

I do set a percentage limit on sales in the new product market; it has to be at least 50% off. But even with that, I end up spending way more than my $5 flinch point.

Last week I went to Anthropologie to check out the heavy sales. I stood in line holding my treasured box of perfume, 70% original retail. I paid $15 for it. The woman in front of me purchased a pair of jeans and white cotton (looked like poplin) blouse for $278! Wow. She clearly doesn’t have a flinch pont on items. There was absolutely nothing unique about the shirt or the jeans, which is weird because one has too look pretty hard at Anthropologie to find something that's not unique.

Now comes the blessed irony, after visiting Anthropologie, I went to The ARC Thrift Store and bought a darling Anthropolgie brand cardigan sweater for $4. It is like new or new. Poe, my oldest daughter, and I will have to flip a coin to see who wins it.

I pass up cashmere sweaters for $3-$5 almost every week because I don’t like the color or style. One could probably tailor the ugliest cashmere sweater in the world, stamp a sale price of $8 on it, hang it on the racks at a department store, and there would be a brawl over it – that Bargain Rage I’ve written about. Perhaps the pianist that sometimes plays Nordstrom could launch into some western bar fighting music! And, customers could throw pies!

Do you have a flinch point on items in the thrift market? In the new goods market? Or do you just spend with no inhibition? If so, the retail market flings an invisible pie in your face every time you make a purchase and you aren’t even aware enough to see what flavor it is. I prefer Banana, but not in my face.