Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thrift or Miss

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.


Songbirdtiff said...

One look at mall prices for not-so-great quality and I'm headed to the thrift store. I worked for years in fabric stores and I know, with one glance or one touch whether the quality is good. That's why I don't shop at the mall. :)

Anonymous said...

I totaly agree with you! I love the character of thrift stores we have one that is like a nice boutique here. I have found so many nice things. I got an antique rolling pin for 1.00 an antique grate and sifter for .95c. I also have gotten brass candle holders and glass candle holders. I love the hunt, it is different allllll the time! I buy my kids the teen brands they love and pay about 1.00-3.00! I am an adict, saddly I am also a sucker for miss match things like china. I could bore you all day...

Thanks for sharing your thrifting with us!


Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Oh yes, I could have written this myself. I have been to two hob-knob movie premier affairs, and both times I wore $5 GW dresses. No one knew (and I surely would have told them had my brother been one of the producers. He would not have been happy with me..heehee :)
Last year I was at a black tie event where I did tell this lady about my find...she kept saying, "well, I just really thought you were rich." ha ha ....that was classic. I did say, "even if I was, I would still have chosen to wear this."

Kerrie Smyres said...

Anthropologie and Sundance are the two that always call to me, too! I love thrifting, but sometimes I want to have something pretty without having to work for it! Even though it seems like work sometimes, thrifting almost always wins.

Saver Queen said...

Absolutely. I love finding great quality items at thrift stores. My favourite was a beautiful embroidered sweater of excellent quality that, to my knowledge, had never been worn.

I don't usually enjoy the typical shopping experience at malls. I find sales people pushy and the shops generally too crowded. They often lack the style and uniqueness of thrift stores, too. I'm often happier to browse in a quaint independent store than head to a mall.

Cheap Like Me said...

I am always thrift shopping, and I buy clothes for my daughter and sometimes my husband there. A couple of months ago, I had a great day and found three pairs of pants for myself. But generally, I look and look and look at the clothes and come up totally empty for myself. It doesn't really feel worth the time to search through the racks for no outcome! So frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I actually got an Isabella Fiora purse Worth over $300 at a garage sale for $10 and for $5.00 an Anthropologie pillow case! I was so happy! I always wanted an item from Anthropologie. I still will buy something from their website in the far future but I will be happy with the pillow case for now. As for the Purse, I never heard of the designer, the lady having the sale (with a lot of high price items she was selling dirt cheap) told me she spent over $300.00 for it, I can only imagine how big my eyes got! Thrift stores, garage sales are the best.

Anonymous said...

Wow...have I ever learned a lot. We have a local resale shop called Designers Again...I remember finding some amazing things...your blog reminded me to go again. If I love the thrill of a retail sale rack, then why not the excitement of a reseller....good blog with good networking. Appreciate it!

grunge-queen said...

I'm with you, Thrifty Chick! I rarely buy new clothes and when I do hit the mall I get depressed quickly. Everything is so generic - and the quality of most stuff is horrific. So back a-thrifting I will go, to unearth fab items like a yellow 1980s Bill Blass swing coat for $12.99 (that's in style this season!). Like you I look for good fabrication and tend to not to buy labels (unless it says "France"!) - I find some thrift shops mark up semi-crappy mid-market label-y stuff because they know it's in demand. I love the madness of my local thrift shop - people teeming all over the place and kids hiding under racks ... it's truly like the markets you describe, a real community hub and a much more human experience!

Cottage Lifestyle said...

Congratulations on making the "inner circle" column in the April Family Circle Magazine.