Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beware of the looming Gifting Anxiety

This post ran last year and resonated with many. I think we could all use a little reminder...

I’m no fan of staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap gifts only to have my daughters wake me up pre-dawn. I really appreciate sleep. I’m nearly finished, just a few more to wrap.

One would think completion of such a large task as wrapping would usher in a feeling of relief or satisfaction.

It never does.

After everything is neatly wrapped with personal tags dangling, I step back and look at the whole of my year-round efforts of thoughtfully hunting treasure for my family and friends. Instead of thinking,” Wow! It’s beautiful!” I think, “Wow! It’s such a small pile.” How crazy is that? I need to remind myself we've a home with a holiday tree we chopped down ourselves in the forest and a real fireplace. We have heat and food in the pantry. Warm beds. Coats. Each other.

We’re trained to think that our children will feel completely dejected if there's still standing room in our living room on Christmas morning. We believe our home should look something like the home of Herr and Frau Silberhaus in the Nutcracker mixed with an FAO Schwarz two-story display that assaults the senses.

It really gets under my skin. I fall for the illusion every year. I begin to feel like I’m a bad mommy because I didn’t scout out enough gifts. I didn’t give enough. Enough of what? I'm not even certain.

This tempts me to race out at the last minute and fill that void with more gifts.

Attention, shopping never feels psychological voids. Nope. Na-uh. No way.

The reality? I really don’t have enough time to think about what else could be truly meaningful. I’ve spent the entire year searching and thrown a lot of thought into the gifts that sit before me. To think I’m going to find the great and profound missing pieces in the last hour is a bit foolish.

If I did race out to buy more, it’ll likely be gift filler, meaningless stuff thrown in to aid in the illusion that quantity trumps thoughtfulness. A cheap acrylic sweater isn't going to tip the scales.

Why this feeling always overtakes me every year is a real stumper. It is far out of line from my standard shopping mentality.

Perhaps I need some sort of therapy. Or perhaps, we’ve been conditioned to think we will never give enough presents to our children. The latter is a horrible thought. It would be cruel if I had succumbed to this as a deliberate marketing tactic. The only thing we can give more of to our children is love.

I need a distraction. I think hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles, a fire in the hearth and a family game of dominoes under the tree might do the trick.

I think that’d make more sense than racing out now to buy stuff that’s going to be massively discounted in a few days. Besides, I'm not even certain I want the items when they're 80% off so why would I pay full price?

I KNOW others deal with this psychological issue every year too. How do you manage?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Unconventional Harvest


The autumnal equinox was last Friday, the 23rd. Fall is my favorite season. Not only am I a person who loves sweaters and hats, but also I love a good harvest, an unconventional one of course. We’ve been harvesting vegetables and berries from the garden for some time. I’m writing about the stuff that falls from trees and I’m not talking apples (though apples are appreciated).

Last week the call came in from Modern Mommie. “They’re falling! Bring some bags and meet me on the north end of Marion Parkway now.”  She didn’t need to say what, I knew. Acorns. We scavenged the grass and gutters for acorns with the endearing help of Modern Mommie’s three-year-old daughter who simply refers to them as “corns.” She was completely enchanted and very serious about collecting.

Why? Because acorns are beautiful! A mass produced holiday anything made in China doesn’t stand a chance when placed next to an acorn. Yeah, not even a plastic acorn can beat the real deal, but they manufacture them anyway and people buy them when they could just pick them up for free. Go figure. Once you bring them home, roast them in the oven at about 180 degrees to be rid of any little natural critters (worms) that like to burrow into the nut. If you pick up an acorn with holes in the nut, best to leave that one on the ground. You'll note the caps will fall off after the nut dries and shrinks, a little wood glue will take care of that. 

An aside: I've always wondered what the people in China think as they paint decorations for Christian and Jewish holidays. I'm certain its a very different experience from when their ancestors made items that pertained to their culture. Funny how for thousands of years imports from far away lands had high value and often represented fine craftsmanship, something friends came to admire. Now it could be a plastic Easter egg or a plastic carnival whistle.
 

The horse chestnuts will be falling soon. Here’s a garland I made several years back. I’ve about 30 feet of horse chestnut garlands, maybe more. Readers will ask so I’ll explain now. To make this garland, take freshly fallen horse chestnuts (which are NOT edible) and grab that drill. Drill holes completely through the chestnut while fresh (try to drill after they’ve hardened and be prepared for a trip to the ER). Roast the chestnuts in the oven on a low setting, say 180 degrees, until they dry out and harden up. String them up and hang them in a place to completely dry. If there is ANY moisture left in the nut, it will mold from the inside. Best to ensure it’s really good and dry. That’s it. You have an organic, homemade garland that will decorate your home for years and cost you nothing but some fond memories collecting and string.

Here’s something to think about. Young children love collecting acorns and chestnuts. It’s something they can do without help. Bring some cider and gingersnaps along when you go. When the holidays arrive the acorns and the chestnuts hang on the tree and the children feel a nice satisfaction of seeing they truly contributed to the magic of the holiday tree.


Modern Mommy’s little one had a terrific idea. She told us we need to place our “corns” in a “nature bowl.” She was right!

So, out came the wooden bowls from the thrift. I prefer to purchase bowls carved from one piece. Bowls at thrift stores may come home a little scratched but sandpaper will take care of that. I often sand off any finish and prepare the freshly exposed wood with mineral oil. They’re simple and eloquent and cost something crazy in convention retail. But, you don’t need to pay that price when you thrift.

 
This beautiful bowl was purchased at a half-off sale for $1.50. This is art.




Found for $6, this myrtle wood bowl somehow magically ripens pears to a mouth-watering perfection.
Our bread bowl for $3. Now's the time to prepare citrus and clove pomanders to dry in time for the holidays. Young children enjoy this most when the fruit is pre-punctured in patterns, cloves slide in the peel without struggle.
Before racing out to buy holiday decorations, which have probably already arrived in local shopping malls, take a look in your back yard or a walk in the woods. Nice memories at little cost that build up to something magical and meaningful for the holidays. 

There's one more reason I take note of the autumnal equinox, it's Mr. Golighty's birthday.

Among a few things, we made a hand stitched book of poems about his favorite things.
Please list in the comment, other handmade holiday decorations your family enjoys. Ah, if only bittersweet grew wild in Colorado. Wait, roses do. Hmm, something with rosehips would be nice.

Least I not forget the Ponderosa Pinecones. They're a bit sharp but beautiful. A small eye hook drilled into the base with a ribbon slipped through make for something beautiful to hang.

Post Script: On a recent reconnaissance mission I saw that Pottery Barn is selling wooden balls with acorn tops glued to them, made in China. $14.50 buys you 56 fake acorns. I don't have 56 acorns, I've a couple hundred. They're also selling wine corks. I doubt they're recycled corks. Rats! A missed opportunity to compare the cost of wooden bowls.


Monday, September 19, 2011

New Position: Blue Jean Distresser

Officially announcing availability as a Blue Jean Distresser for the fashion market. Now Hollywood starlights can wear and feel the truly and honestly distressed jean from hard, backbreaking work. No more fake wear from machine scrubbing or acid washing. The Real Wear market is open!

I’ll even offer a line of Double Distressed starting with a pair from the thrift store. That's twice the honest wear!

They’ll be green too! These jeans will be engaged only in healthy work. Hike mountains, garden, bike, build… honest actions to establish the true and telling signs of honest work.

Special orders can be taken too. Say you want that horseback look. I’ll ride horses. Or, perhaps you’re more of a construction type, I’ll remodel my home and accent with a few paint splatters from the roller.

Be assured, the extra $200 - $900 you will be paying for that distressed look will be genuine wear. Take these above for example. They’ve held up over ten years and now I only use them as “work” clothes. I’ve planted countless gardens, hiked mountains, painted rooms, refinished furniture and many other life activities in this pair.

See! Here’s me and Petite Poe at 12,000’ on Mount Emmons in this very pair in 2004. Yup, these jeans have truly made the circuit.


Such masterpieces take about ten years to create so order now! I’m certain there are plenty of prospective Blue Jean Distressers just waiting to be called to action. Please list your name in the comments and we’ll start our list of professional Blue Jean Distressers.

Call me crazy but, I think the machine market is quite passé.


Leave your comment to become a professional Blue Jean Distresser. Only honest workers apply. Women who work family farms, I beleive you will now have a second job.

We shall be the John Henry of Blue Jean Distressers! Except we shall not die in the end! Our hard efforts will put our children through college. Just in ways we hadn't quite imagined.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How much are you going to pay? To who?


Above is a project I'm happy to complete, refinishing this vintage sewing box. Little Pie and I spied it at Goodwill three weeks ago for $9. Hand-crafted in Poland, each component still has penciled numbers on the undersides. It was a tedious process and it was well worth it. I used products we had left over from restoring our 100 year old casement windows in our bedroom. The only new items purchased for this project were brass screws and washers from the mom and pop hardware. I've deep appreciation for the amazing craftsmanship and care that went into constructing this piece so many decades ago. I think it's a work of art.


Now my thrift store sewing and craft supplies have better organization. Everything below is from thrift. Particularly interesting are the early plastic, possibly Bakelite, scuttles.


I cannot remember how much embroidery floss below cost, but am pretty certain I bought a wide color spectrum of 30 spools for less than $5 flinch point.


Embroidery floss is easy to pick up at thrift stores and it's a bargain too. I purchased this set for $1 this weekend. Modern Mommie and I took our girls to the high country of the Rockies for a two night camping trip. We sat about the fire making friendship bracelets. Little Pie makes them lickety split. I can't keep up.


Thrift stores are many things. One thing for certain they are an excellent resource for sewing, knitting, art projects and crafts in general. Whether you are purchasing something never used like a skeen of yarn, reusing yarn by unraveling a scarf or finding a new use for a moth-eaten cashmere sweater, thrift is common sense and resourceful.

Let's get honest. Shopping for craft items is really a question of who do you want to give your money to and how much are you willing to pay. Please consider that before racing off to the chain stores that largely sell products imported from overseas and likely send their profits out of your state. For example, I paid $4 total for all the black grosgrain ribbon below. It was 50% off during Labor Day weekend at the ARC. It'll take me awhile, but I will use all this ribbon. Imagine how much this would have cost at a chain retailer.

Fortunately, this ribbon was manufactured in the USA. I understand that some purchases at thrift stores are mass manufactured items from China. I'm not particularly thrilled that jobs went overseas to bring such items into our market, but once in circulation we might as well make certain items are used in a resourceful manner - if that can happen. Better to use the item than toss it unused into a landfill. Hard to imagine that unused items are tossed in landfills every day in this country.

In essence, how about we better manage the stuff we already have via reuse, repurposing or recycling before we race out into the new market and fetch stuff from across the Pacific Pond?


As I've written many times, I cease to be amazed by the stuff Americans toss. Like all this quality origami paper pictured below. I use this in making cards and invitations. Little Pie folds it. I give some to the classrooms at Little Pie's school. It does not go to waste. 


This week I picked up two Strathmore drawing pads. The first to pages had been used, that's all. There are loads of art supplies awaiting purchase in thrift stores. Drawing pads are not uncommon on school supply lists.


Every now and the a little gem comes along. Modern Mommie and I've yet to determine what to do with these crocheted flowers and snowflakes. All 25 handmade pieces cost me $6.


Follows is a random brain dump of items commonly found in thrift stores that had their original start in chain craft stores. Many of these items will never have been used. Shopping thrift is smart on the pocket book, saves items from landfills and supports a wide spectrum of charities.

Rubber stamps and stamp pads
Cutting boards, die-cutters, scalloped scissors
Picture frames and mats
Crochet hooks and tatting needles
String, yarn and ribbon
Silk flowers, dried flowers, garlands
Stickers
New scrapbooks, paper and stickers
Glue guns and refills
Oasis and Styrofoam forms
Glass vases, chimeras
Baskets
Polished stones, glass balls, seashells, cedar wood balls
Sewing patterns
Embroidery and quilting hoops
New and vintage fabrics
Cut quilting squares
Paper card stock, poster board, foam-core and construction paper
Bottles of glitter and confetti
Sewing machines and bobbins
Volumes of instructional manuals from making paper to recipes
Cookie presses, piping tips and bags, assorted cake pans
Buttons
Boxes of new mason jars, vintage mason jars too

Along with great deals and green shopping there is another benefit to thrift. One learns a new resourcefulness when participating in the reuse market. For example, my old sewing box was not one purchased at a chain retailer, it was an old over night piece of luggage.

I'm thankful for what I find. Currently I'm knitting a holiday gift that requires eight skeens of yarn. I found eight beautiful skeens of quality yarn for $7 thrift. Conventional retail would have easily pushed this project over $100 for product.

Please share items you have found or items you have found new life or new purpose for. If you thrift, you know what's available.

Post Script: A smartly outfitted sewing hamper would be a lovely gift for the person who's about to leave the nest and strike out on their own. Do it thrift and make it personal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It ends and begins on Septemeber 2nd

On September 2nd, a group of about 300 American consumers will hit a personal milestone. With the exception of a few items like undergarments, they will not have purchased any new clothing for a full calendar year. The will have completed their pledge to The Great American Apparel Diet. The first annual diet was launched in 2009.

Often times when people remove something from their lives for a set period of time they race out and indulge once they’ve met their goal. Like, if I gave up baked sweets for a year? I’d have a huge sheet cake waiting for me to jump upon and roll around in so that every pore of my body could soak up that butter, cream, vanilla, sugar…

I don’t have the impression these consumers are going to be renting U-Hauls to hold all the goods from some wild shopping frenzy after September 2nd.

I imagine they’ll simply sign up for another year of not buying new. I imagine they’ll recruit friends to join.

Radically changing your shopping behavior in America is a personal and spiritual journey. We’re blasted practically everywhere we go to purchase items, many items that serve no real personal purpose.

It’s time to consider if you’re ready to join this group for the coming year. Should you take this challenge and hold to it, I promise other parts of your life will change too, all for the better. I’ll sponsor you. Email me when you’re fighting the urge.

Yes, many people treat me like I’m “cute” because I shop reuse. This is not fluff. This is how we choose to spend our money, our personal resources.

Me? I'm now in need to go out an buy a batch of cupcakes.

If you know of other retail diets, please list them in the comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pushing the re-set button on American retail

My mental back-burner's been simmering since the former post, “A Plea to Anthropologie.”

I fell short on a few critical points about this business proposal. Keep in mind, the mission of this blog is "dedicated to a robust reuse market." We do this by offering tips, testimonials, photos and stories from our readers. Sometimes we must pull back our sleeves and climb out on the fragile limb of brainstorming alternatives to the current retail system. Strange how this can be such a touchy subject.

Our American retail system has effectively constructed many mental obstacles on our consumer highway. New product retailers cling fast to their current MO - which is slowly (and not so slowly in some cases) destroying their customers' purchasing power. Even the most simple business model shows we can't buy much if we have no money. Who wins then? Example, do we wait until we’ve tapped all the global oil wells before we are forced by a monumental crisis to significantly make change?There is such a thing as change that can benefit both retailer and consumer. It's time.

It messes with my brain to witness how short-sighted the American cultural ecosystem has become. We’re short-sighted on energy, education, economics, health care. Even our eating habits are short- sighted. Short attention spans, anyone?

Obviously businesses are in business to first make a profit, or they can't do anything else, but that doesn't mean that's all they can ever do. Sadly, whenever someone hints that businesses consider having a social conscience, the market stops smiling and wags that nasty finger, declaring such a gesture would be one from a"socialist" or "anti-capitalist." Tell you what. Businesses better start caring about their American customers. Guess what guys, the majority of us? We've just about maxed out on credit and have little assets left. If you don't think it necessary to care about the health of your customers, I recommend you move your retail centers overseas to the countries were you've outsourced our income. However, you will need to adjust your price point to a third world economy.

I can't believe how much unsolicited credit lenders at throw at us. Should I jack the Golightly spending up to its credit limit, I can't fathom how the debt would ever be paid off, even with our modest but very smart mortgage. I’ll bet there are consumers out in Credit Land who could have bought two homes with all the (non-mortgage) interest they’ve shelled out. Someone please explain how this is good or right.
I once stood in line behind a woman at a major retailer who had two credit cards denied on her purchase. The clerk then gave her a 10% discount by opening a new credit account sponsored by the retailer. The clerk was thrilled because she received a commission for adding a new credit customer and the customer was thrilled because she now had more credit to mismanage. So there you have it. Spend money you don’t have. It’s okay. Really. Just live in the moment with your spending, it's the USA!

Here’s a few of what I perceive as mental/cultural obstacles that get in the way of people coming to understand the former post. If you don’t like Anthropologie - great - substitute a store you do like and believe sells a lasting, quality product.

Secondhand is not a market strictly open to poor people. I believe major discount big-box retailers have done a bang up job pushing the economically poor through their racks and double-wide register lines to purchase cheaply made crap. Unfortunately, this population has been, for some time, targeted as a growth industry. I cannot imagine how any architect can now design a structurally sound bridge to connect the gap between the haves and have-nots that "sustain" current conventional shopping. How about the corporate retail moguls be the first to test out that bridge? It might be wise to think about the purchasing patterns of such a large (and growing) segment of our society. Don’t ya think? Instead of thinking about methods to milk the poor, how about methods to give the poor milk so they can have strong economic bones to run that economic mile?

Secondhand is a market - plain and simple. There seems to be a misconception that profit cannot be pulled in this market. Au contraire! Goodwill has been widely recognized as a terrific business model. Okay, yeah, they are run off donations. But! Stores like Buffalo Exchange are thriving. We don't need to be victims of the usual demographic pigeonholes. We can dare to brainstorm alternatives.

Consumers don’t balk on buying a used house or car. Why the drama and disgust on other used items (unless they're considered antique or vintage)?  Most readers of this blog have no hang ups with secondhand goods. But, step outside your community and examine mainstream America. They have serious problems with it, almost a borderline phobia. I know, I know! I run into my friends at the neighborhood thrift and no one is embarrassed. It’s like meeting for coffee. I’ve friends who have significant income who shop thrift and feel not an ounce of shame. But there are people who would rather indiscriminately abuse $40K in credit card power by purchasing $178 blue jeans (yes, at stores I cite on this blog) rather than even considering a similar (or even identical) pair for $4.99. This may be true even if the original price tags for $178 were still dangling from the thrift store pair!  My fellow thrifters, these people don't need our pity, they need our help! Maybe conversion to second hand can be an act of civic responsibility. Don't think twice about it

There are more points to be scored in mass reuse than recycling. We mostly recycle down in product quality. The business world likes recycling because it doesn't really offer much competition. Recycling is a worthy practice. There is a now a huge industry that supports recycling. Note recycling requires a respectable use of energy to transform the product. Recycling = Good. What's wrong with Reuse = Good?

Reuse fundamentally requires a simple exchange via transaction. Purchasing a gently-used wardrobe? That's competition for new product. How strange that most Americans like the word competition, but not if it's from reuse. Fine for department stores to sell a "lot" of unsold merchandise to close-out retailers. But reuse? Forget it. I guess the American businesses want us to just chuck our reusable items in landfills to clear out our homes so we can purchase more new stuff. This is actually happening with some large retailers. They destroy unsold merchandise before placing in it the dumpster. Remember this January post in 2010?

It is entirely possible to build a reuse economy that caters to different economic tiers. There is a relatively small system of a tiered reuse market in place but, it’s in desperate need of growth both in product and customer quantity. There’s enough inventory in American homes to sustain a sweet secondhand market. Think of all the stuff that’s been acquired via decades of conspicuous consumption. Wow. And it’s just sitting there in closets, attics, and basements. We’ve even had an entire storage economy housing this stuff! Double wow.

Our market system was once globally admired because it encouraged ingenuity, not just greed. Used house and car market aside, its an irony that we lack the collective creativity to succeed in a statistically significant way through a more open and prevalent resale reality.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A plea to Anthropolgie

Dear friends at Anthropologie,

Anthroplogie stores are more than a shopping environment, they are a refuge; at least for me they are. The classic and vintage-inspired clothing is a relief against the keystone cop approach to trendy fashion hooking most Americans and dressing them like lost children in a deep and desperate identity crisis, one that will never find peace.

Antropologie, your stores have provided many Americans with fashion/style rehabilitation.

The problem is many Americans cannot afford your current prices.

Given this, I ask you to stand behind your product, it’s quality and test of time by opening an Anthropolgie resale market. Do not develop a lower grade product to broaden your market like so many other retailers before you in the form of false outlets. Do not compromise your quality or design. Take your current customers and offer them the opportunity to sell back items they no longer need. Offer them store credit towards new purchases to strengthen that initial market and open a new market of second hand Anthropolgie. Toss in authentic vintage if you like. Go beyond selling and teach. Yes, teach your customers about quality. Teach us how to own something wonderful and wear it for 20 years. Be good to your customer, consider what will keep them healthy and they will return the good will by remaining loyal and marketing your efforts over coffee with friends. What better marketing effort is there than personal testimony?

The current store theme evokes the feeling of a French flea market. Designers decorate stores with simple, everyday items and make them beautiful if not enchanting. Why not broaden that to wholly embrace the French flea market style economy?

Please lead American consumers in a market that is not addicted to trends, but integrity, dignity and poise. Be more a kin to the original flea markets of France. Help us appreciate re-use for your profits, consumer pocket books and the Earth’s general well being. Promoting reuse would make a bigger difference than selling reusable shopping bags.

Please help pioneer this new market and smart business model. I’m not certain that many companies would buy back their products from consumers when their product is cheaply made or is so trendy, it’s obsolete a month after purchase. You, on the other hand, have the goods to go the distance.

Smart, economically sound customers are good customers. When all the other customers have maxed out their credit, your stable customers will go the distance.

I have hope,
Ms. Shopping Golightly

Posted in the Comments but thought it should be elevated as a Post Script:
I can only hope that retailers go back to the old ways of business. Reciprocity has become passé in so many segments of our current culture, especially in the retail world.

I hope that someday retailers learn they cannot bleed consumers of their assets to meet Wall Street projections. How short-sighted can a buisness be? The monetary bloodletting of a customer base is either extremely selfish or stupid. Most American consumers are out of cash, maxed out on credit, unemployed or underemployed.

Competition must not always boil down to money. There are plenty of other ways to operate a smart, sound and lasting business model. I've no doubt that many will view these words with disdain. Too bad, we've reached the point of a retail revolution.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What are Snake Eyes?

Many people struggle finding quality clothing at thrift stores. Five 10-foot racks packed with dresses can be a bit overwhelming. I witness at least one person painfully thumbing these racks item by item upon every visit. This is not necessary.

Develop a keen sense of Snake Eyes and those racks aren’t intimidating or time consuming. Stroll along them and items worth considering practically fly off the rack, like a pie in the face. It’s that obvious.

Confession
I thought this post would be an easy, quick write. But, it wasn’t. Thrift store Snake Eyes is a state of being. Like the unspoken rules of a family, it’s hard to document with an accompanying manual.

No, Snake Eyes isn't a cult. However, the hold American conventional retail culture has on many of us is rather cult-like. Snake Eyes is more of a meditation.

Snake Eyes quickly directs a person to their style preferences, quality and condition. Ah ha! Maybe poetry is more appropriate for explaining Snake Eyes because hitting the mark with prose is difficult.

Only in the thrift store
Snakes Eyes is NOT possible in the conventional retail world. All the items, (i.e. skirts, pants, etc.) must be on one rack for direct comparison. Think about the department store. It’s organized by brand and within that brand prefabricated ensembles are the key to section organization. All this might be great to boost the average sale, but it intentionally messes with a shopper’s concentration. That’s not nice.

Personal Style
Before you begin, consider style preferences. You have them, right?
  • What color families flatter your hair, eyes, skin? Note this is not, “What is your favorite color.” Big difference.
  • What styles do you like that don’t like you? We all face that annoyance, round hole with square peg.
  • What types of fabric do you prefer? I tend to stick with organic fibers avoiding rayon, acrylic, polyester, nylons, etc. Sometimes there is a compromise with a blend.
  • Solids or prints? If prints, what styles? Paisley? Floral?
  • What types of tops do you prefer? Most thrift stores sort by tanks, short sleeve t-shirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, short sleeve blouses, long sleeve blouses, athletic tops, etc. This directs you to the right racks to avoid the department store maze featuring tanks in twenty different sections.
  • Long, mid-length or short skirts? Fitted or elastic waist?
Knowing your style is important. It’s a giant metaphor. Think about it.

There are more considerations when determining style. One thing is certain; style is in the eye of the beholder. Please don't fall prey to those nasty trends. Trends are, by nature, designed to fail. Why buy in to something like that? When tempted, I want you to remember a recent event that nearly gave us Fashion PTSD: the attempted comeback of the stirrup pant. [Shivers.]

Modern Mommy did a post on the basic foundations of a wardrobe. Have them.

It is critical to know your current clothing inventory. Instead of a closet, I have a wardrobe. The clothes hanging in the wardrobe fit the season. I’ve no doubt my wardrobe is significantly smaller than the average American's. However, knowing inventory helps bolster your diversity of clothing. How many Americans have huge closets and end up wearing the same three ensembles ad nasuem? Makes no sense and loses cents. Plus, if you’re buying to your tastes and not trends, the odds increase you’ll wear what you purchase.

Once there is familiarity with style begin with an initial fly over the racks. When something striking your style comes into view, quickly look at the fabric to gauge its quality. If it is quality, pull the item for the next step, inspecting condition.

Quality
The thrift store often offers consumers an unusual choice. Quality and crap can be the same price. Oddly enough, when offered something of high quality for the same price as crap, some people buy the crap. Sorry to write so cheeky but this is testimony to the dumbing down of the American consumer. Follows are some off the cuff thoughts on quality.
  • T-shirt fabric: How is the color holding in the material? Is it the fabric pilled or soft? What is the weight of the fabric? Take Hannah Andersson children’s clothing. Excellent fabric. Items can be washed hundreds of times with little fading or compromise to fabric integrity.
  • Cotton and blends: Again, how is the color holding and what is the fabric weight? I prefer fabric with a high thread count. It’s soft, durable and has a nice sheen. Today I pulled a beautiful dress by Garnet Hill from the girl’s section based on its sheen. Unfortunately, it was the wrong size.
  • Sweaters: To me, knitted items are cake. Hundreds of sweaters can be eliminated just because so many manufacturers use a cheap yarn. This is a no-brainer. It’s also wise to learn to recognize hand knit items, pronto. 

Condition
Most thrift stores inspect and sort clothing before wheeling it out on the racks. To learn more about this, I spent a day volunteering at the sorting tables at Goodwill. The sorters inspect clothing for stains, rips and stuff that is just not going to sell. Items that don’t make the sales floor cut are sold in huge lots at low prices to buyers often purchasing for charities in third world nations. (I’ll have to write some day about that experience. I pulled a strand of pearls out of a huge bin among other eye-popping items, in just a few hours of volunteering. It was quite an operation.)

When inspecting condition, the construction this is a telling sign of quality. How is the stitching? Is it lined? Turn the item inside out, learn it.

Also look at signs of wear. Some quality thrift store garments might need extra attention (i.e. missing a sash, easily replaced with a scarf or ribbon, a button, etc.). If wool, look for moth eaten holes. Simple things like this. The reality? Shoppers should do the same for conventional retail purchases. I’ve bought many a new item only to discover it has serious defects.

If the item passes inspection, in the cart it goes and on to the dressing room.

Making the decision to purchase
Once fit is determined, a few more questions need to be asked. Is the item dry clean? Want to keep a dry clean item? You have two options: 1) Pony up for the cost, 2) Test the item at home to see if it is hand washable, many “dry-clean” items are. But when you pay $250 for something labeled as such, who wants to risk a hand wash test? When the cost is $3.49 and you love the item, eh maybe a hand wash test is not such a bad option. A funny sidenote on hand washing: When my hand washing experiments fail, Little Pie scores because the item is now her size.

Another very cool thing about shopping thrift, you know how the item washes. Ever bought a new sweater, followed the instructions on washing and have it pill after the first wash? Oh is that annoying and just plain wrong.

The final question is, “Will I really wear this?” On the fence? Consider passing it up. A thrift store guru passes on steals upon every visit. Experience over time teaches you that possibilities in thrift stores never cease. You don’t have to buy that cashmere sweater for $4.99 with the retail tags of $250 still dangling from it. Why? Another will come around. Really.

Reviewing the steps
Let’s trim this down. The basic steps are:
  1. Know your personal style, what you like and what is flattering.
  2. Look for quality as you walk aside the racks. When spotted and it matches your personal taste, pull that item before someone else does!
  3. Inspect the item’s construction and wear.
  4. Try it on.
  5. Consider price and potential dry cleaning fees.
  6. Ask yourself the final question, “Will I really wear this?” If the answer is “Heck yeah!” then you’ve just scored big at the thrift store.
I realize this might be more of a living document in an attempt to explain this thrift store phenomenon. Thoughts on this will continue to pop up now that this is percolating on the backburner. Best to stop now before this becomes a tome.

If you have Snake Eyes, please help by adding notes in the comments. Or if you prefer, write some Snake Eyes poetry in the comments. Haiku is always fast; remember the formula, five-seven-five.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In a moment or in the moment, what’s it going to be?

In today’s terms “a moment” confirms an associated task is in our work queue and will soon receive attention, blah, blah, blah. How unfortunate.

The notion of a moment being the present is passé. Our multi-tasking, future-oriented culture makes the present an afterthought, if it considered at all.

We all do this. We’re practically forced to. If we don’t, we’re left behind. Write, “Lives in the moment,” as a skill set on a resume? Don’t expect that phone to ring.

Let’s face it, the abandonment of the moment is self-inflicted Time Abuse. It's truly wearing down our somatic and mental health. It is becoming a social disease.

Given this, I’ve been reflecting. When do I truly experience the moment? When are my mind and body at peace? This is critical to learn and teach my daughters.

Yoga classes put me there – but I’ve been neglecting attendance. The Rocky Mountain high country puts me in the moment – but I’m only there about two weeks out of the year. Gardening sometimes gets me there. No doubt; I need more paths to the present. We all do.

I realized thrift shopping puts me in the moment. Really. After paying bills (in this economy) with paper bag in hand to prevent hyperventilation, I often rush to the neighborhood thrift, a few blocks from our home. As of late, these visits are bordering on daily. Odd thing to do, go to a store when you’re worried about money.

I hadn’t really thought about the recent increase in trips to the thrift. Slowly strolling along side the long racks of dresses, skirts, blouses, or shorts with Snake Eyes fosters the moment. I am focused, attuned to one task, the environment, my emotions and body. The store staff is scratching their heads in wonderment as to why I want to be there so often. I understand their questioning my sanity. Occasionally volunteering there has taught me it’s rough work. I lost two toenails because I wore the wrong shoes when volunteering. Really, I did.

My hands might be empty upon leaving the store, but I walk in peace and there is no price tag for that.

Possibilities are exposed and hard to ignore in the thrift store. Walk in with no prediction, Psychic Shopping, and a vital curiosity of what could be? I promise things will happen. Maybe it’s new-agey stuff. Perhaps James Redfield should have included “Shop Thrift” as one of his insights in The Celestine Prophecy.

If I take something home, it rivals the cost of a cup of coffee, not a monthly cell phone bill so no Retail Remorse.

Yesterday I was in need of escape. How completely WRONG is it to write that I needed to escape to the moment?

Not only was my mind set at peace, but I walked out with beautiful quality clothing for my growing daughter that will ensure she enters high school in style and I won’t need to cash out her college savings to pay for it. I also was rewarded with a 1940’s 16mm film projector in mint condition that is worth about at least 10 times what I paid for it (two times my Flinch Point). As a result, we’re preparing to host weekly summer vintage film fests in the backyard for friends to attend. Sure, we could use as laptop projector and watch DVD’s but there’s something about the ticking of the projector that makes for an unforgettable ambiance.

Maybe our vintage film fest will help our community live in the moment at least one night a week. When in search of something life changing, we all begin with baby steps.

Please, help us all. What puts you in the moment?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shop with Shopping

Promoting the reuse market via personal journey seems to be my passion. It’d be a dream to run into a municipal or state Office of Economic Development and fire up programs to grow the American reuse market. Most politicians shy away from this because – we can assume - of corporate campaign funding. I know for certain, at least one of my pleas has landed on the desk of one significant elected official.

For years many friends, relations and readers have hinted an online resale shop is in my future, but managing a retail operation doesn’t make me want to fist pump and scream, “Yes!” That’s why I admire and respect friend Apron Thrift Girl’s sage teachings of resale on her blog. We’d make a good team, Apron Thrift Girl in the field, and me on the policies. We talk. We dream.

As with many Americans, the Golightlys have serious economic woes. For some time, I searched for Mr. Golightly’s Father’s Day gift. Just in the nick of time, I found an expanding magazine file rack for his office. He loved it. He Googled it to learn its history. He saw how much it’s selling for online. Though he loves the item, he’d rather have the $ for our family (Mr. Golightly has been a proponent of an online resale shop for a while). I started to give this some serious thought because it was Father's Day.

To learn more about the resale market, it would be wise to know it from more sides. Soon, The Thrifty Chicks will be opening an online store [Exhale]. I have anxieties. When friends tell me to be an interior designer, I morph into Gertrude Stein and note “My taste, is my taste, is my taste“. Plus, I don’t know a damn thing about color theory, another excuse for feeling intimidated. When our house was to be painted and I was handed the paint color options (over a thousand variations on a giant wheel) and gave it directly to Modern Mommie (a trained artist). I knew the colors: green house, plum trim with a café au lait accent. Modern Mommie’s fingers flew over those colors had the perfect palate in five minutes. This would have taken me 72 hours to come close to anything satisfying. I don’t mind sharing my taste, but feel a bit weird feeling about selling it. We all fear rejection.

Unlike the conventional retail market, shoppers of resale have direct, easy access to the main product suppliers of reuse: thrift stores, yard and estate sales – the places for the lowest price point. The online resale markets like EBay and Etsy determine the highest.

My dilemma? I don’t wish to price gouge. Yet, I need to earn enough to justify my time, it’d be foolish of me to invest my time into something that hardly clears minimum wage.

Basically, I need to determine a good finder’s fee strategy.

Most items I will sell will be finds that come around maybe once a year. That’s a lot of time in thrift stores. And, my inventory will start with items I value. Let’s just say I’d make a terrible snake oil salesman – how people do that is beyond my scope of understanding.

The store will start with several years of inventory I’m willing to part with because the Golightly's are purging. However, when out shopping for items we do need (like clothing for my growing daughters) and I see a beautiful antique Graniteware muffin tin for a few dollars and while I do bake muffins, this tin is very rare find, and it would be profitable to sell (I looked it up). This would be like passing up on an extravagant meal for pennies when you haven’t yet had dinner. [Sigh.] Having a kitchen wholly outfitted with fine antique French cookware sounds wonderful. The reality? We need money and I could use some experience in selling reuse. And, when you thrift, you learn that what goes around comes around. It’s just is a matter of timing and luck.

I’d like public input on what reasonable finder’s fees might be. I want to entice people into my market, but I don’t want to either drive potential customers away with the price, or shortchange my family. Any thoughts?

While you think about this, here are a few photos of items found this week. Some will go up for sale online.

Petite Poe fell for this antique French crystal atomizer...


and these vintage Norman Kaplan designer shoes that must of come from the closet of Imelda Marcos for I cannot understand how a shoe could be so old and in such pristine condition. Who buys shoes and then doesn't wear them? Why?


Then she found this Anthropologie skirt...


to which I found this full skirt with tags still dangling from an import store.



It's critical to note that, as an advocate of shopping thrift, it's important I send my daughters out into the world with an enviable style so that when asked where this skirt or those shoes were purchased and say they declare, "thrift" they are honored, not humiliated.

This is the antique Graniteware muffin tin I wrote about in the above.


The expanding magazine/file rack and...


a few office supplies.


Now off to inventory; photograph; design and set up a little online store. This is no small project and I need to get over it and myself. Sheesh!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thrifting with teens

Need to convince a teen that thrift shopping's smart in price, quality and style? Show them this post. All items bought this week!


This Cache dress still has it's $278 store tags hanging. $4.99 off the Goodwill racks.


The same day we scored this darling dress in pristine, if not new, condition from Anthropologie for $4.99.


Followed by this Dress from Free People for $6.99.


It continued with this tank by Betsy Johnson for $8.99. (Don't understand the price difference between dresses and tops but no complaining.)


This top for $4.99.


The final score being these new Victorian inspired, tags still affixed, pair of shoes by Everybody that likely retailed around $200. The photo doesn't show the darling black leather buttons on the reverse side. (We were going to save these for a back to school, but couldn't wait.)

It really didn't end there. I also picked up vintage luggage, new Commercial aluminum pots, new Chinese Laundry sandals... Crazy, no?

In the madness to shoot these photos we forgot the 50's inspired hat from Urban Outfitters with tags still dangling.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recent Finds - Letting the cat out of the bag


It's been awhile since I let the cat out of the bag on some of my recent thrift store finds. This afternoon Petite Poe took a few photos.


The above was a serious score. This three-drawer letter press box now holds my jewelry. When I found it in the thrift store it was stocked with vintage buttons, still on their paper from the store. 


Little Pie in a darling sweater from Anthropologie, $5.


My favorite hand knit sweater from Nordstrom, $5. Necklace from Sundance, $1.50. Jeans and blouse, $8. The sweater initially retailed a couple hundred bucks.


Little Hippie Pie. The skirt is thrift and the blouse and riding boots are hand-me-downs.


Vintage curios. But what's really cool is the table.


This antique drafting table takes prominence in our living room. It was $3.


Summer blouse and skirt, $5, with my favorite old Rocket Dog boots - they give me serious attitude.


Handmade Italian shoes for Little Pie, $4. I was worse than Cinderella's red-eye mean step sister trying to make them fit me. The little black dress was $3 from Divided at H&M.


Enjoying some three buck chuck in my great grandmother's Baccarat tumblers. Life is rather sweet when your smart and cheap. Note the copper ring, $4. I wear it to remind me that pennies count.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Am I a grumpy old lady before her time?

I cracked yesterday.

I went to the price club and loathe going. At the end of the shop, I’ve a cart hauling about 500 lbs of merchandise; so heavy this cart needs to be hit dead on with a 50-yard sprint just to get the darn thing moving. Strategic parking is mandatory, a straight line from the exit. Maneuvering a cart that heavy would be like parallel parking an eighteen-wheeler with no power steering. I don’t have the upper arm strength to manage that nor do I want it.

The irony is I go to the price club because it lessens trips to the grocery store. I don’t like grocery stores either. The bright lights, white walls and white linoleum makes me think of other places that we really don’t want to associate with food. An ER? A surgery room? Let your mind wander and it won’t go to a happy place. I actually heard “I want to be sedated” by The Ramones once in a grocery store. How apropos.

I pine for the open markets shown on travel shows on PBS. I imagine the aromas, the bartering and the colors. I think, “Now that is living.” And, how cool is it to meet the person who baked the bread or sun dried the peppers? Imagine the knowledge they impart to their customers and the pride they take in their product.

Regardless, I’m still trying to reconcile what happened yesterday.

Television has never been front stage in the Golightly home. It is only on when we watch it. We don’t have cable and probably watch about five shows a week. To me, television is not an experience. It doesn’t need to be high definition or huge. I don’t need a home theater. I get more from a good read. Really, I do.

Again, yesterday I cracked.

I pushed my behemoth cart into the first section of le price club, electronics. Down the canyon of televisions I drove and in less than three minutes picked up a 19” flat screen LED television/DVD player and casually tossed it in my cart. It was $200 (40 times my Flinch Point) and weighed less than the box laundry detergent on my list. Just about a year ago it would have probably cost three times more.

In a trance I came home and hauled our 10, possibly 15-year-old television and DVD player to the thrift store. My oldest daughter was thrilled to have a new television but showed a deep concern in witnessing this from her mother. Karma did catch up with me for in my state, I forgot to remove the DVD in the old player and had to go back to the thrift. It’s fine to donate my items, but I don’t think it’s right to donate things that don’t belong to me like a DVD from the Denver Public Library.

Mr. Golightly saw the new television and told me it wasn’t big enough. So off he went to the canyon lands of electronics. Now we have a 36” giant. To me, that’s huge! I don’t like it. I am so sorry to have ever acted so impulsively for I know there is no turning back without family dissent. Guess I got what was coming. Now when in the room with the electronic beast, it’s all I see.

It's in a small, cozy little room in our 111 year home. With the old furniture and lamps mixed with funky curios it screams, "I don't belong here!"

Then there is this other part of me that struggles with what my daughter’s feel when they go over to the homes of their friends. Do they notice the hu-gantic televisions? Do they like them? The Wii? The Xbox? Does my frugality and want of a simple life embarrass them?

It’s frustrating. I know my daughter would hands down want to ride a real horse over a virtual. Given we live in downtown Denver and don’t have a stable out back, a virtual horse would be more convenient. But what would a virtual horse give her? Skills? Just some hollow un-experience?

I struggle almost daily with expanding technology and how the products on the market indicate our cultural priorities. What will my great grandchildren be doing or eating? Just how far can we push the limits of technology before we lose the things that once brought us satisfaction, pride and worthwhile skill?

Oh, I can’t wait to get my girls off to summer camp in the Adirondacks! For four weeks they will genuinely live in an honest moment and they won’t need a phone, text, television, computer, Ipod, GPS system or radio to do so. They want action? They play real games. Music? They sing. Navigate? Orienteering with a compass. Write? Use a pencil. Converse? Talk face to face.

In the meanwhile, we’ll watch movies on the electronic beast that now resides in our home.

I’m certain many people think I’m over reacting. I’ve been in homes where the television truly takes up half the room and the people on the TV are larger than life and they think it wonderful.

Have you ever cracked and then regretted it because there’s no going back? What do you think about the expanding technologies and what it’s doing to our children, our pocketbooks and our landfills? Yes, there are pros and cons. But are they in balance? I fear not. Does that make me sound like “grumpy old lady”?

Post Script:
I believe that 36" monster is the root of my new found craving for over-processed empty calories. Now hand over the Twizzlers and Dots. Supersize them please.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The items we value

I’ve lived in many places in this country and never experienced anything like Denver weather. It’s sunny over 300 days a year. Rain is in short supply in much of Colorado. This is perhaps the only city where if there is a 10% chance of rain, The Denver Post whips out a storm cloud icon to mark the day, never mind the 90% chance of sun. When it does rain (rarely as predicted), I swear the news anchors act like they’re on mass suicide watch, like we’ve all fallen into a major depression because the sun is not visible.

Somewhere in Denver, there is a weather switch. Today an anonymous person flipped that switch from winter to summer. Perhaps it was in honor of Mothers Day, the first day of the year when gardeners can be confident their plants won’t be nipped by a frost.

It’s time for The Big Summer Clean Up at the Golightly house. Denver’s a dusty place by nature and the urban pollution from that infamous Brown Cloud that covers the entire Front Range makes for more dust. We’ve a turn of the century cellar (not basement) complete with cobwebs. We fly through filters in the constant battle for our furnace to exhale warm, clean air into the house. Toss in three cats (one is a huge, very hairy Maine Coon) and that adds cat hair and furballs. A person with a lot of allergies would need an iron lung to live amongst this family of four. Oh, did I mention we have an old fireplace and love our wood fires on cold nights? Our little Mount St. Helens. Despite all this dust, I’ve made peace with the bunnies. Dust mites don’t live at 5,280’. Our warren of bunnies is hypoallergenic.

It’s time to wipe down the walls, clean behind appliances and give the house a good shake so we can lather, rinse, and repeat next year. Deep cleaning our home gets me to thinking deep.

There’s an irony in my household. Items I purchased for $5 often have more value to me than something purchased for an easy 50x, sometimes up to 100x the amount on the new retail market. I’ll bet most people who largely shop secondhand are nodding their heads right now knowing that the honest value of an item has little relationship to the cost. We're taught to believe otherwise.

Most people believe that thrifting is the thrill of the hunt or that we are pirates out for treasure or that we’re really just veiled conspicuous consumers. Why else would someone shop second hand in America? Discount retailers now give thrift stores a good run for the money opening up piles of new merchandise at costs no-one would have thought possible a generation ago.

Okay, I’ll admit there’s a little high one gets when they find a something completely extraordinary for two dollars. I don't think it's all that different from the high that happens in conventional retail when something comes along that truly is "so you." But, I do think that if you're a an honest Bargain Junkie, you're going to catch quadruple the fixes in thrift. Please note there is a difference between a Sales Junkie and a Bargain Junkie. I know this first hand. My name is Shopping Golightly and I am a recovering Sales Junkie. Sale used to be one of my favorite words. But one day, I realized that I wasn't buying sales items out of necessity. It was because I thought little me was out smarting big retailers. Is there any sense in spending money to proudly announce you saved it? I stopped cold turkey and have never looked back.

I place more value on my secondhand items because I’m thankful to have them for a cost I wouldn’t ever agree to pay new, or at a cost that I simply couldn’t afford. There is a deep gratitude if an item is both of use to me, and the cost of it allowed me to save more money - or spend it on something more important like a mortgage, or our daughters’ college savings.

Most of my pots and pans are thrift store enamel bought for a few dollars apiece. Enameled cookware does not do well in a dishwasher; many of these pieces were made long before dishwashers became mainstream. This has often irritated my daughter when she’s in a rush to load the dishwasher and tries to slip a pot in for a just-this-time wash. When caught she says, “But this is thrift!” My retort is always, “All the more reason to take good care of it." Besides, if my daughter someday wishes to live in Manhattan, she needs to know how to hand-wash dishes because chances are she’ll be lucky to have one foot of counter space and a low pressure faucet, let alone a Maytag.

It used to be that we paid extra for quality. Now we pay extra for name brands, forget about the quality. It’s nice there’s a market that can offer that old quality for a few dollars.

Not too long ago I was at a meeting and a person was boasting about their new French cookware purchased for a small fortune. I leaned forward, put my elbow on the tabletop with my chin landing in my hand and said, “Really.” I thought of my well-loved haunted French cookware that cost so little.

Valuing something by touting how much more it cost or because it makes you feel self-important because of that spending is one of the saddest ways to treat money and yourself.

Most Americans verbally shun materialism. It's down right stupid to think that purchasing a certain car is going to turn you into an irresistible sex machine. Deep inside we all know this. The truth? Most Americans lack a healthy degree of self awareness.

Next time you shun materialism, think about the items you own. Challenge yourself to really reflect. Do you value the item? Do you need it? Or, do you like that it makes you feel like you've arrived. To what you're arriving is a big question and hopefully the answer is not bankruptcy. There is no pride in going broke.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just what are they selling and what are we buying?

A recent trip to the grocery store overwhelmed me with the volume of cheap trinkets celebrating Easter up for purchase.

Staring down the rows of cellophane-wrapped plastic baskets brimming with packaged Pez dispensers, bubbles, packaged candies, I had to wonder if the petroleum that went into manufacturing that display was enough to scoot a car across the entire state of Kansas, east to west, and back. I’d wager there is more packaging in those baskets than product. Yep, all that plastic, ink, paper and cardboard to hold a few jelly beans, a small plush toy, marshmallow Peeps and chocolate crème eggs.

What does a purple plush Pez dispenser have to do with rebirth or resurrection? What exactly are they selling?

I thought about this for some time and believe the only real thing being sold is a stock share or two. Really.

Just few decades ago, Easter was a simple wooden basket containing carefully dyed hard-boiled eggs. It was an organic holiday with a family meal, hot-crossed buns and a spring bouquet or corsage.

We don’t formally celebrate Easter but I did go to the local confectioners and bought handmade dark chocolate bunnies and a few other seasonal items. I spent $11 total. Better quality product with minimal packaging compared to the stuff in grocery stores.

Check that, we don’t formally celebrate Easter but I felt compelled to buy something. Anyone else out there feel that way?

Maybe next year, I’ll give the girls seeds for Easter. Seeds are certainly more symbolic. Sugar snap peas straight off the vine are pretty darn sweet. The pea’s we planted are just breaking ground as I write.

So before you go for that impulse buy or a purchase out of compulsion, it might be wise to ask yourself, “Just what is really being sold here?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No new clothes for a year? It's not that hard!

I joined The Great American Apparel Diet over six months ago.

What is it?

“We are a group of women and two men who have decided to go on a diet of sorts. A fast really. We are completely eliminating ‘new apparel’ from our diets for one year. Yes, the next time you see us sporting new tags it will be Sept. 2, 2010.”

New bra’s and panties are excluded from the diet. No need to get anything in a wad.

I don’t remember the last new item of clothing purchased for myself. Really. About three years ago, possibly four, I snagged a copper-colored, faux Persian lamb, swing jacket from the Anthropologie sales rack for $78 – a steal. It could have been that jacket. Not really certain. It was a tough call but if I didn’t purchase it, I would regret it like the jacket on sale in the window of a shop in Martha’s Vineyard in 1992. Hey, I may be cheap, but it does mean I don’t have feelings or sense of style. Had I bought that jacket, it’d still be in my wardrobe. It was timeless. And, it was an honest, good deal.

A friend and I were having coffee and talking priorities. She mentioned the cost of airfare for routine family visits and how it’s important in her life. I laughed and noted that her airfare is the cost of some people’s blue jeans. It’s hard to believe, that statement holds truth, even in a recession. But it does.

It’s been interesting reading the posts on this site. The agony some people are truly fighting. Along with the revelations of the newly-found economic freedom and the “was I a fool most my life syndrome” I’ll call retail remorse.

The Thrifty Chicks support this effort and I will meet the goal without challenge. But I will save the celebration for those who truly changed their lives. And maybe someday I’ll figure out how to post on the site. I’ve access. For now, sitting back and reading is enough.

Aside from foundations, what was the last new item of clothing you purchased? How much? Was it truly worth the cost?

If you thrift, what was the last thrift item of clothing you purchased? How much? Was is truly worth the cost?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is it really about nothing?

A comment on the post below has spent me to sit on my soapbox.

Sure our culture have seen a few generations of celebrity rebels who fight against standard protocol because they are wealthy or bored enough to do so. These are the people that ride the waves of shock culture.

I’m not talking about celebrities who use their influence to invest in humanitarian or political causes.

What I’m thinking about is no revelation and perhaps I need to clarity a few points.

There are new elements in American culture that - in the hands of a selfish adolescent, which they are by nature - are abused and out of control. Social media and the Net are marketers’ dreams. They can make tailored, direct deposits into the minds of innocent middle and high school kids. Often, because there is little life experience, these children fall for it, hard.

Parents are forced into a corner when they must provide the Net for school research. Some schools work in Google Docs. And, not allowing your child to text, have an email or Facebook account literally isolates them from their friends. A parent might refrain from one or two. Be assured, parents must heavily monitor all social media with time and scrutiny. There’s too much exposure and too much Snake Oil.

In the '40s my great grandfather worked for the Pulitzer newspapers promoting advertising. After working around the country, he finally settled at The Saint Louis Post Dispatch. I once read the script to one of his talks to a retail group. It was remarkable and clear my grandfather had to sell the notion of advertising as a worthwhile expense. Based on what he penned, it was most evident that he was battling the argument, “Why advertise? I already have enough customers and am fine.” This Zen-like state is rarely found in today’s American business climate. We’ve grown from the desire to meet our needs to just want more.

That was some 70 years ago that advertising venues where still needing to convince businesses there was a benefit in advertising.

Now? We have PR/marketing/advertising campaigns on steroids and very few of these groups have a social conscious. Mostly, it’s about money. If it wasn’t, how else does one explain push-up bikini tops for eight-year-olds, hair extensions for middle school girls, ten-year-olds in thong underwear, and gratuitous cleavage in 7th grade? Yes, children wearing bras that blatantly claim to enlarge the appearance of their budding little chests by three times.

These days? There are more Americans bucking trends because they are following a marketed campaign with no point but to make money. So I ask, are they really bucking a trend or are just falling in with the masses? Do they even know what they’re attempting to buck?

I don’t think it’s anything about individual expression. The people I see in thrift stores, generally have more taste and sense of style than those I see in the mall.

Lady Gaga? She will be replaced by something more shocking than herself. And that person/thing will urge kids to show more skin and drive them further away from the basics of cultural conventions and context.

It’s sad to think that common courtesy and context is losing out to money.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maybe there’s hope for our girls

A friend of a friend of a friend told me the BP section of Nordstrom is a good place to take a teen.

As written in last November's From gluteal cleavage to breat cleavage. Oh joy!, I’ve been at odds with the fashion industry’s approach to dressing young girls. Word up to all teen girls in America: we know you have boobs and butts – you don’t need to prove it by showing them off! Cleavage in middle school? Come on!

Petit Poe knows the value in thrift and is not embarrassed to say she wears it. Yet, there is this part of her, mostly influenced by friends, that thinks she’s supposed to go to the mall and buy new clothes. Problem is, the stores that cater to these girls are just plain tacky and are teaching our girls to show the junk in the trunk whenever they wish. These stores preach nothing but buy little tiny t-shirts for a lot of money.

The American youth is becoming more and more ignorant of context and few in the fashion industry are considering it. I’ve seen kids in sagging shorts and flip flops going to interviews in November. Wow. That’s a great way to make a first impression.

Standing on my soapbox I announce that many Americans are losing the notion of context. Let’s take Lady Gaga. If she wants to kick off her concert being carried on stage in a plastic pod, so be it. But, when she attends the Grammy’s there appears to be a complete lack of understand the evening is NOT about her. Making a spectacle out of one’s self at a night that honors many, is selfish, ignorant and rude. It’s kind of like showing up to your friend’s wedding in your own wedding gown. Now, I’m stepping down from my soapbox.

I grabbed Poe’s hand, told her we are going to Nordstrom and Nordstrom only. Initially, she rolled her eyes but once in the BP section things changed. Compared to thrift the prices are crazy but compared to other chain retailers, Nordstrom BP is not out of line and delivers a higher quality product. For the first time in two years Poe bought a dress that we both approved! Here’s the real kicker – the entire event took about a half hour! If you’re a mother to a teen, you’re probably thinking I’m in denial. What I wrote really happened! Really!

Now we visit BP. There are a few items that push my limits, but the larger teaches girls respectable style.

How does this relate to thrift? Easy, Poe buys one item she likes at BP. Then when at the thrift, she has some understanding of current fashion that has taste and finds comparable items.

If you have a teen daughter, take her to Nordstrom BP. It’s tasteful and not overwhelming. I loathe Forever 21. That store is like walking into someone’s dirty closet. I’ve seen young girls buying dresses made for a night at the club. Problem is they’re about seven years away from being able to step foot in a club. What’s the rush?

The club scene? I stuck with the black ballet top, men's Levi's 501, silver-hooped earrings and black boots. Been there, done that. Probably paid out enough in cover charges and cab fares to put as down payment for a house. I'm not naive and would hate to see how women are dressing on the club scene. Shiver.

Oh, I heard the news day oh boy...Abercrombie & Fitch attempted to market push-up bikini tops to eight year olds for this season. Thank you Saver Queen for highlighting this. Wow, and I thought nothing could top the nine-year-old I know of who stuffs her half camisole top with tissue paper!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I saved $1,000 in two purchases

Petite Poe and Little Pie’s birthdays makes for our March Madness. What to get Little Pie? I’ve been looking for months. I’ve already scouted out her party favors.

The answer finally arrived in the window of the Archer Goodwill this Friday. A blue Electra 24” Townie kids step through bicycle. Pie is too big for her old bicycle (we reclaimed it from the alley as did my Schwinn red cruiser). This Electra is specifically designed to grow with the rider so we need not purchase a transitional bike.

Electra is the current crème de la crème of new cruisers, which have been popular in Denver for years. So popular, citizens can rent shiny red cruisers at sites all over town. Just slip a few dollars into the machine and voila, a cruiser complete with basket is yours for the time paid for.

Given it’s a holiday weekend, Mr. Golightly and I have not had the opportunity to photograph the bike for there are little eyes about the house that would discover us. It’s going to be a tough month of not spilling the beans.

When I find something like this, I cannot wait to give it. I think this might require the use of duct tape over my mouth, or as Pie used to say, “duck tape”. Pie loves duct tape and she gets it honest from her great grandfather, The Big Messer we call him. He, like so many WWII veterans, has a life long love of the invention that could fix nearly anything, or at least hold it together until it could be fixed properly. One super-hero day at school Pie went as Duct Tape Girl.

But I ramble. We purchased this bike in excellent condition; the rubber on the kickstand shows little sign of use at all. Not a spot of rust. This bike has over $100 of added components including a removable basket.

It retails $480 at our local REI (without components). We paid $170 for it. Family members are chipping in and Little Pie will be so delighted to ride a slick bicycle that fits her. Petite Po has Electra envy though she has no reason to complain for she has a beauty of a Trek cruiser with white wall tires and blue fenders with two over-the back tire baskets acquired from Craig’s List for $140.

I was on the cell phone with Mr. Golightly, discussing the possible purchase of the bicycle when the guys from the stock room placed another treasure just two feet away. A beige microfiber swivel rocker from Room & Board, the fabric hardly worn, not a rip, stain or imperfection now sat in the window for $40. How long do you think the sale sticker remained on that chair? Generally, I’m very polite in thrift stores, but when it comes to high-end items for pennies on the dollar, I am a Tasmanian Devil, I’ll either beat you to it or scare you away from it.

Everything in this photograph is either estate sale or thrift. The lamp for $6, pillows $6 total, rug for $30 and round mirror for $8 were purchased thrift. The antique knitting cabinet and dresser from an estate sale for a total of $120. I refinished both. [We're working on a better photo but this small version will do for now.]

This chair was EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for our sitting room. When we came home, Mr. Golightly looked up the chair that is currently listed on The Room & Board site for $700. Wow.

Like many Americans, we are economically stressed and are compelled to discuss any large purchase, generally anything over $75. But, even in better times we discussed large purchases.

The biggest purchase made without mutual consult was our 100-year-old, quarter-sawn oak, up right grand piano for $600 at a neighbor’s estate sale. I couldn’t call Mr. Golightly because, after I heard the price, I involuntarily exhaled, “I’ll take it!” and fainted. Okay, I didn’t really faint but I did need to grasp hold of the piano to steady myself. I figured the price at least five grand and just asked out of curiosity. At first, Mr. Golightly was a bit miffed but after walking a block down to see it, he exclaimed, “Honey, you told me you purchased a piano! You didn’t tell me you purchased an institution!” We’d been wanting a piano for about a year.

We named our piano Sarah, after it's previous owner. We know it's entire history. One hundred years ago, the grandparents of Sarah's husband boarded a train to The Packard Piano Company in Fort Wayne, IN to select this piano which was one of five on the show room floor. They brought the piano back to Denver and Sarah's husband grew up playing it. During it's 100 years of life, it's been moved twice. It has a rich, robust sound that has come to be a blessing and a curse. When someone sits down to play, the entire house hears a concert ready or not.

Does your family mutually make decisions on high-end purchases? What price point? Have you always done this or have current times made for dialog?