I have bouts of thrift store depression. Surprised? Don’t be. It’s not something that requires medication but it’s still melancholy. I even get resentful, “If I see another fondue pot, I’m going to slap it on my head and walk barefoot into those cragged peaks due west of Denver and make Starbucks out of snow!”
I sometimes fall from thrift shopping grace and want to ride my own rolling dress racks into Anthropologie singing, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” then stack up more Sundance necklaces than Mr. T only only to race over to Nordstrom to grab more shoes than I am capable of confessing.
My husband and I have enough credit to do that. We just don’t have enough money. There’s a big difference between fantasy and reality that can make for a lot of trouble.
In the throes of my retail self-pity, something small happens that forces me pause. Yesterday I purchased a beautiful Yoana Baraschi dress for $9 at Goodwill. I’ll be wearing that dress to their annual Power of Work Luncheon. My husband will be striking in his $9 Kenneth Cole suit with a practically new Hermes wallet purchased for $3 at the Disabled American Veterans thrift store in his pocket. Acquiring those things new would have at least cost $2,000. The people who meet us will never know unless I spill the beans. When complimented, I say, “Why, thank you. I purchased this at [insert thrift store].” Their eyes pop. I never care to guess why.
Some of my friends like to debate with me about designer and name brands. They ask, isn’t it counter to thrift to shop such brands? Aren’t I falling prey to the retail machine, just at the thrift store level? I understand their point. But, at many thrift stores, a sweater is a sweater regardless of origin. So toss out the name brand mark up. If there is a mark up, it’s usually $3 not $300.
It’s not necessarily the brand but the quality. Quality makes sense and thrift stores make quality affordable. Designer doesn’t guarantee quality. I’ve seen designer items I don’t think would make it through one season let alone one wash.
Many people ask me for guidance on names and brands. I really don’t have much to advise. I’m not a label guru. I’ve learned more about quality fabrics and design in my last four years of serious thrift than I have learned in decades. Get in the racks. Learn the feel of quality fabric; get yourself a pair of Snake Eyes.
When I really think about it, this whole notion of shopping in divine elegance is an American device and you don’t always walk away with better merchandise. Consider the markets of the world. They aren’t hung with chandeliers and music to get you in the mood for a little afternoon consumer delight. They’re loud open places with stalls of people selling handmade wares and people shouting, bargaining prices. Yeah, that’s how most of the world shops. Most of the world doesn’t even shop in grocery stores! Okay, many western countries have posh stores. They do. But, they also have more open-air markets than we have malls and I think they’re better for it.
So when I'm feeling sorry for my self because I am not willing to shop out of league with my bank account, something serendipitous always comes my way via the thrift store that reminds me that I'm shopping smart and still find the good stuff.