Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thrift is truly orginal haute couture

"Do people mind that you give used gifts?"

That's a frequent question. As I have written many times, it's hard to discern the origins of my gifts (unless it's clearly vintage) because I free new products from their horrid packaging. Look, this packaging is not designed to delight the recipient, the intention is to slide that product over home plate (the register scanner) to be added on to a score board (a well stacked credit card statement). [Sigh.]

Besides, my friends and family know that I give thrift. But, whenever I surprise someone they look at me with mouth agape. "Where!" they demand. Upon learning they usually follow up with, "I'm going there tomorrow!"

If you are new to thrift, please scroll down and on the left there is a series of posts on How to Thrift. Since thrift has recently been in the news, many reporters, with no thrift experience, have taken weak stabs at "How to thrift." I find 99% of these articles quite lacking. The thrift couture is an entirely separate game from conventional retail. With the exception of paying the cashier, the rules are completely different. Trying to mix them would be like serving goulash and sushi for dinner. Blech! Wonderful separately. But a disaster when mixed.

Mr. Golightly heard this intriguing piece, Second Hand Christmas in France, from Public Radio International's The World. I recommend you listen and be a little more enlightened about other cultures. So, not only do the French eat lovely buttery, creamy treats with fine wine while still managing a lovely figure; but their haute sense of style is due in part to second hand items. However, I learned from a spot on CBS Sunday Morning that the recent rise in the French obesity rate might just be linked, in part, to the rise in sales of Big Mac's in France. [Double sigh.] American influence is not always a plus, well maybe in dress size.

Unfortunately our country, probably by geological design, has a tendency for monoculture. Consumerism has done an amazing job of furthering and filtering a craving for excessive homogeny through nearly every aspect of American culture from chain restaurants to clothing to furniture to home designs. I believe this merely happened because it's cheaper to produce 20,000,000 pairs of the same blue jean design than it is to produce 20,000,000 originals. Let me be plain, I think that kind of sucks and wonder if most Americans really understand what it means to be an original or how we desperately need originals. The idea of being an "original" has even been mass marketed! Come again?

Esteemed author Michael Pollan points out the perils of farming monoculture species in his best seller, The Botany of Desire. This amazing book was made into a PBS documentary. I recommend the both it and the documentary. The documentary is easily viewed online.

I believe Pollan's argument in favor of promoting plant diversity holds true to human culture. Much that plays out in nature plays out in human culture. The parallels are astounding. We need pioneers. We need diversity. We need originals. Else-wise our culture will weaken and problems will be widely homogeneous, like mass obesity, children with brittle bones, mass home foreclosures, mass credit card debt, mass unemployment, dot com bubbles, real estate bubbles, and overdependent reliance on one particular source of energy...I truly believe a healthy culture has diversity on many levels.

If you're a parent, don't follow trends. My best advice to do is to yank the cable TV and dare your child to develop their personal inner interests. Our children really are truly individuals until commercials take hold of them. Let them decide what they enjoy and they will grow up to be originals, pioneers.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 240 items. This could give you an idea of what could be waiting for you. Also check to the Table of Blog Contents to read on how to incorporate thrift into your life in Thrift Store Conventions.


Carey said...

Thanks for your blog! It is inspiring me to take a closer look at our thrift shops, can't wait until I can go again. I love when you said to yank the cable TV-I did just this in June and my friends and my kids' friends look at me like I have 2 heads... I am a freak I guess. Since pulling the plug my kids have DONE something with their time--read, created massive "art" projects, put together puzzles, played outside for hours, etc. So I know I did the right thing, but I do feel "weird" for doing it. Can't wait to read through the archives of your blog. Happy 2010--here's to many wonderful treasures waiting to be discovered!

Shopping Golightly said...


Many of my friends in my neighborhood have forgone cable. It's wonderful. We do things like camp together. And, my twelve year old doesn't have a bobble head like the actress' on TV shows that target her age group. On Saturday mornings my eight year old watches PBS sewing shows. I think she's a budding artist/designer. She loves to knit. I love that she is acting out her interests, not what the TV tells her to want.

Good for you on pulling the cable! It will save your more than "just" the cable bill and it will add a tremendous value to your life.

Catherine said...

How wonderful that you are not only an advocate for thrift, but for independent thinking. How often are we inundated with terms like "must have" or "on trend," even during such bad economic times. I don't aspire to be a carbon copy.

Thrifted gifts are great. Why does our society often equate the most expensive with being "the best"? I don't covet high priced items - I see them as wasteful. No matter what my income, I will always be a thrifter.

Your daughters are fortunate to have such a great role model.

Shopping Golightly said...

Vegan Good Life,

Thank you for your kind words. My daughters are the source of my inspiration. I try to be all the things I wish them to be as women. Independent, attuned thinkers and smart consumers are certainly near the top of the list. Compassion is up there too. I have to work a little harder on that one, but not as hard as those who are damn certain they're full of it.

I often wonder if it is my daughters who are the role models because as very young children they often spoke with much insight. Little Pie told me just the other day, "The world is a school we all go to every day."

Kelly said...

My adult son loved his turn of the century book on constructing electrical tools for amatuers . My friends also liked their hand blown glass blue birds ( that I gave them for" happiness) .
But , I shop sales , thrift and auctions . I have spent a lot and a little . For me, it is about finding the right gift for each person .
As with food , presentation is as important as the gift itself.
I admit to owning and enjoying a large tv ...........but, if I were to parent a young child again ........less would indeed be more .

Red Ranger said...

It was great to hear the PRI audio link you gave say that 4 out of 5 French would gladly accept a used item as a gift. We "enlightened" Americans can barely get 4 out of 5 doctors to recommend sugarless gum ;-!

Dead on that some of the best gifts are those on their 2nd or 3rd time around - it's what fits that counts, not the casual tossing of a certain amount of money (which one probably doesn't have anyway - and if they do, it could likely go to much better use).

My best holiday gift (other than my family, which I'm blessed with as a gift every day) was a secondhand item, probably every bit of 20 years old, maybe more. I have zero doubt that it will go on to my kids when they grow up.

Great job Ms. Golightly, keep spreadin' the word. I found myself recalling your article to a friend as "we import the homogeneous, and export the humongous."

Harper said...

I think that you're absolutely right that commercialism and consumerism have done serious harm to American individuality. However, I would not lay the blame at the door of capitalism itself, but rather at an American weakness of values that are incapable of balancing corporate America's influence.

I currently live in a European-style socialist country, despite being an American, and I have to say that America is a heterogenous utopia by comparison. Because the government regulates personal decisions so heavily, disagreeing with the government mandated norm is seen as immoral here. Likewise, while different people dress and live very differently from each other here, they are VERY homogenous within their group, to the point of seeming cult-like to the American eye.

America needs to rediscover self-sufficiency and personal values if it is to combat the urge to go in the same direction successfully.

Keep up the great thrifting!!!!!!!

Thrift Monster said...

When asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told everyone to get me something from a thrift store or garage sale. I didn't want anyone to spend a bunch of money on me and I love all things thrift. I posted something about how rookie thrifters might be able to find a thrift gift. Hopefully, at least one person took the challenge. As for the cable, we tried that for about 4 months and it was wonderful! My hubby had to watch football though, so it was turned back on... sigh. We seemed to get so much more done when it was turned off. Perhaps when the season is over I can convince him to turn it off again!

Shopping Golightly said...

Miss Penny,

Ah, the football problem. This I know quite well for Mr. Golighlty had the same protests.

Tell Mr. Penny THAT is what the neighborhood corner bar is for. He can walk to it, watch games among other football fans and have a draft or a tonic. Our's is The Spot and Mr. Golightly finds he is among a crowd of others who can really talk game and players where I stare at him blankly when he tries that with me. And when he has uncontrolled verbal shouts, he is not alone. That, that is what the corner bar is for. And, he'll meet new neighbors.

Good luck.

Shopping Golightly said...


You raise good points. America does need a retail revolution. We do need to rediscover self-sufficiency and strengthen our individual qualities for diversity is what truly strengthens a nation.

Thanks for your insight.

This Thrifted Life said...


I'm actually in the middle of "The Botany of Desire" right now. Like every other one of Pollan's books I've read, it's fabulous. His observations constantly cause me to rethink so many of my assumptions and viewpoints, usually without me realizing I had ever even made an assumption in the first place.

bongomama said...

I feel like I just stumbled on sisters separated at birth... your blog is a treasure! I started thrifting because I was tired of paying 100$ for frocks at Banana that looked exactly like everyone elses' frocks and discovered that my vintage 5$ cashmere sweaters fit better, held up better and invariably got more positive comments. Those cashmere sweaters were like gateway drugs that lead to thrifty Prada sandals, Burberry PJs,LeCrueset cookware, a fab/fun collection of vintage Pyrex bowls and table linens. Thrifting lets me nuture my inner rock-star - just this month I found a kick-a$$ pair of Frey boots and a vintage black motorcyle jacket. But mostly its made me realize that life is full of little blessings, both material and immaterial, and you simply have to open your eyes and your imagination.

beccy said...

First off, I just want to say that I love your blog, I just wish you posted every day - too few people have something intelligent to say!

I live in England, and sadly, we have the same problem over here. I never buy new clothes (with the exception of underwear), I only wear thrifted or things I have made and really a lot of people think I am mad, or poverty stricken. I bought a lot of my christmas presents from charity shops, or made them, and the reception was mixed. Ma, who loves thrifting, saw the beauty and/or usefullness of everything I gave her, as did my best friend, but I got polite (yet blank) smiles from a few people too.

Even though people know of my thriftiness, only ma got me second-hand goods - most people seemed to be chucking money at gift shops. And while I appreciate all the presents I was given, I know how much effort ma went to to find the 'right' thing, rather than any reasonable thing with a monetary value of £X.

By the way, it always makes me laugh that among some folk points are gained for how much they spent on something, among thrifters it's how little.

It's not just the American way.

Andria Crowjoy said...

Yay!! Found this blog and it was like coming home. I've been thrifting the good life since I was about 12 (my mother said, if you want high fashion you better create it yourself!) and I love already all the inspiration and great ideas I'll get reading this.

On the other hand, I continue to mourn the crappy lack of good thrifting in my new town, missing the abundance in my old. But! I am adjusting to craigslist and seasonal yard sales, which are prevalent here.

recycle mobile said...

I say I'm thrify but others would call me tight! I guess there's a fine line but I find it pretty easy to go without a lot of the things other people say they can't live without. Horses for courses. I guess here in the UK we're not quite as consumerist as you guys over the Pond (yet!).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, yank the worked so well for Madonna's parents. Give me a break.

Shopping Golightly said...


I wrote yank the CABLE not yank the TV. Without the aid of cable, we pick up all the major networks plus two well-watched and much appreciated PBS stations.

The tone of your comment indicates you don't like Madonna. With one exception, that she is an American original, I reserve judgment on Madonna.

beccy said...

Recycle mobile - I don't know what it's like in your part of the UK, but in my part, Yorkshire, people can be very proud and a thrifted or made gift is often received in bad grace. Consumerism is rampant if you look for it - I know people that will happily pay £10 at Primark for something that looks like it cost £2 but would never pay that same £10 in a charity shop for something that looks (and is) worth £50. I'll bet you do too.