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February 02, 2009



This post reminds me of me. Things, items of clothing especially, are so much more interesting and "cool" or whatever if I find them accidentally and they aren't expensive. There is nothing appealing about a pair of shoes if they cost $500 and up. Where's the fun, the creativity, in that?? Shopping is no fun. Discovering something unexpected, amusing, and unique and paying 20 bucks for it is always more satisfying. I bet you get the most compliments on "finds" (like your hat, for example)---at least that's the case in my orbit.


Don't worry Bronwyn, there are far more interesting ways to express your personality then through a handbag!


did you get the hat from those guys who lurked by dojo? i loves me my hat from them. i don't blame the lady.


In college I was a thrift shop hound, and I used to wear things like marching band uniforms, or priests shirts (I just put a strip of stiff white paper into the collar), or the ubiquitous (for the 70s and 80s) bowling and Hawaiian shirts. In the 90s I even did the 70s polyester for a while, but you sweat too damn much in that stuff.

The problem with thrifting now is that the clothes are from the 90s or the early Aughts -- Old Navy, Sears, Macy's or TJMaxx stuff. I haven't seen ANYTHING at the Salvay I'd want to wear today, and the prices are bordering on new discounted merchandise anyway. I never see those great long wool car coats we all wore every winter, or those wollen suitcoats with flecks of pink or turquoise in the weave. Funky old ties have all but disappeared. Today you have to look in odd dollar stores for fun stuff. My wife bought some nice 'Love Is..." sweatbands and Buffalo Bills panties for Christmas gifts at one of those places. Interesting is still out there, just a lot harder to find.


Ha ha! I just have to second Libby's comment. When I was reading this, I thought, "Wait, did I write this?" I've turned down jobs because I knew I couldn't hack the wardrobe requirements.

Jennifer Steffey

Thank you for writing this. I have always felt stifled in fancy shmancy department stores. I even worked in one as a teenager and could not make myself call customers by name after handing back their credit cards. It felt so insincere and wrong.

This winter I finally had to throw out some black jeans after many years of wear because of holes in inappropriate places. I looked for a replacement and even had a panic attach at Uniqlo in the process. Lucky for me there is a great thrift store called Aquarius in East Williamsburg where I found authentic, navy pants with loads of buttons across the front. I felt like I won a prize when I bought them. Shopping should always be a treasure hunt.


I have to add my comments, because I went shopping yesterday after I finished work ;-) and because I used to work in thrift stores, or charity shops as they're called here in England. The staff were instructed to look out for famous labels and anything in good condition from large stores were given pride of place. I saw a small number of interesting clothes, some of them hand made. My coworkers threw out hand knitted sweaters, saying they didn't sell, which broke my heart, as the work that went into them was often impressive. Some of them had no idea what retro meant and wanted to throw out dresses and blouses that were too old fashioned.

I cringe at high price tags and I hate malls. Most of my clothes used to come from charity shops. I've gone off them now because the stock on sale is too bland, and because there are several stores in England now that offer very low priced and fairly well made items. Primark is my favorite: my last purchase there was a pair of black jeans for £10 (about $20). I've bought cashmere mix sweaters and cotton smocks for work from Primark, and also wonderful leopard coats, fedoras, sequinned shrugs, and funky frilled underwear. The prices are low enough to buy things that make me smile without having to worry about where I'm going to wear them. The British fashion magazines encourage their readers to indulge their fancy for trends at Primark and the other discount shops. Many other major stores too have started offering low priced lines to compete.

However, the stores are suffering - the Christmas period saw record lows for sales. Even though it's Feburary many stores are advertising sales of 70% off. I bought two pairs of shoes yesterday. First I went to TK Maxx (a store that offers major labels at discount prices) but didn't see anything I liked. I ended up at a major shoe store, Clark's, which had multiple racks of shoes that had their prices cut three or four times. The salesgirl couldn't believe that a pair I selected was originally £45 and were now marked £13.50.

More and more of my sweaters, shrugs, and bags are home made. My husband taught me how to knit three years ago. We belong to a knitting circle which gets together every two weeks to chat and work on projects. The members have made some stunning shawls, scarves, tops, and sweaters that people would pay a fortune for in Lord and Taylors. The wonderful thing is that even with very basic knitting skills I was able to take beautiful yarns and create gorgeous items.

One of my best results was a handbag I copied from a picture I saw of the Chanel winter collection: I made it in fun fur yarn and added a chain to it. It looks great and it gives me far more pleasure than sporting a purse which costs a fortume.

I also get a lot of pleasure buying wool and yarn: the big companies and small producers offer so many luxurious fibers- cashmere, angora, pure silk- some of them hand dyed. Even with the more expensive wools people can create garments or accessories that cost a fraction of the price of designer items. It always delights me when I see a person wearing something that's handknitted or crocheted: the uniqueness often stands out a mile.


The last couple of years I've had a job that forced me finally stop chosing my clothes on the basis of their comic value. I'm looking forward to retirement (only 36 years or so to go!)


Want to feel sad? The local Goodwill used to have a 40 foot open dumpster in back that they filled up every 2-5 days. Anything weird that came in the front door went right out the back and into the dumpster. I used to find all sorts of great stuff- clothing, a 1920's accordion, dress maker's dummies, books, 78s.

They caught me in the dumpster one time, and told me to leave. I actually went in, talked to the manager, and offered to buy things they were throwing away. She looked at me nervously, and said "we don't throw anything away" and turned and walked off.

A couple weeks later, they had a trash compactor, so no more dumpster diving.


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