When you get used to spending $1-$2 for dresses, blouses, skirts and entire designer suits, “splurging” means dishing out anything over $5. I generally don’t consider spending more than a few bucks on an item unless it’s really quite extraordinary: something unique and gorgeous that makes my heart go a-flutter.
I saw such an item today, after spending 45 minutes coming up empty handed at my charity shop. My thrifting was also pleasantly interrupted by Greg, one of the regulars who’s been addicted to thrift for many years. He was showing off some incredible pieces of Waterford Crystal he had just found for $2.50. He would resell them easily for $75-$100 each. And – for reasons unknown, Greg had decided that today would be the day he would finally ask me out, after chit chatting over blazers and collectibles for the past few months.
In any case, as the clock wound down to closing time, I politely excused myself from conversing with Greg and scurried over to the “boutique” section of the thrift store. The “boutique” is the tiny corner where the staff stock high end labels, formal wear, evening gowns – even wedding dresses After a few minutes of flipping through the hangers, I came upon an item that was covered in a dry-cleaning plastic bag. I could tell it was a top. There were interesting sequins involved (something I adore). It was handmade, brand new and from a good designer, or so I was told by Greg and the ladies on the staff: Adrianna Papell Boutique. The tags were still on: $95 retail. The shop was selling it for $10 – an incredible deal but still an enormous sum by my thrifty standards.
I had five minutes to try it on. Someone was in the changing room. I glanced at the clock. One of the women shopping nearby admired my find. “Girl, I love this so much that if it fits, I’m going to cry. And if it doesn’t fit, I’m going to cry anyway,” I told her. With seconds to spare, it was finally my turn to try on the lovely sequined top. “It fits!” I exclaimed to no one in particular. A lady across the curtain shouted with glee on my behalf.
Greg wanted to know what I would wear it with. I thought black skinny pants or leggings with black open-toed heels or silver sandals would do. Another lady suggested gray slacks. What do you all think? How would you rock this sequined top?
I remember those days, so far gone now, when I would spend $25 on a single item and think that I was getting a good deal. I cringe now recalling my years as a struggling graduate student when I would, near-empty-bank-account-notwithstanding, spend several hundred dollars a few times a year on clothes. Sometimes I would go to a store, spend $200 and only have a few items to show for it. I also recall, quite vividly, the tightness in my chest and general feeling of dread as I would watch the cash register ca-ching its way onward and upward. Shopping was a stressful affair and any feelings of euphoria I thought I felt were fleeting and certainly not worth the trouble.
Talk about night and day. Thrifting has put the joy, playfulness and sexy back into shopping for me. Whereas in times past, I would feel overwhelmed by the prices or the limited prospects of finding something flattering in my size, now I feel transported through the 7 heavens as I walk through the garden of abundance that is my thrift store knowing full well that I can and will find every thing my heart desires . . . and pay almost nothing for it.
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Brief intermission while I get on my knees to praise God for bringing me to THE store: Thank you, Jesus . . .
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Alright. Now what can $25 get you at my store? 15 items. FIFTEEN. That’s an average of $1.67 per item. Estimated value: $300+ Let us slowly and soberly examine the contents of a recent haul:
Perhaps the most unusual and interesting find was the red, vintage Gunn Trigère dress I snagged for a dollar.
I am not the kind of thrifty fashionista who tracks down all of the thrift stores in an area and goes from town to town hunting for bargains. When necessary, I have gone to a few different thrift shops when looking for a particular item. This happened, for example, when I had to furnish my apartment.
But, the reason I do not generally hunt for bargains at multiple places is quite simple:
I have found heaven on earth.
I have been to the mountain top.
I have seen El Dorado.
I have unlocked the secrets of the universe.
“Where?” “How?”, you might ask?
In the warm embrace of “my” thrift shop.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve fallen in love with thrifting, slowly, but surely, over the last few months. It began as a brief affair and flowered into something that none of us could have ever anticipated . .
I cannot fully convey just how special “my” particular shop is in this solitary post, but here are a few brief glimpses into the unfathomable joy generated by this special place:
The shop is really a vintage boutique masquerading as a thrift store
The staff is incredible
I regularly buy suits worth $100-$200 for $1. Yeah, I said it: $1. As in “one dolla”.
It is a non-profit organization that has raised millions of dollars for charity
There is a changing room, so you can actually determine if the clothes look good on you
The shop almost always sells everything half off and hundreds of items are always $2 or $1, every single day . . which is to say that I thrift shop AT the thrift shop.
99% of the clothes are in impeccable shape – barely worn, sometimes never worn, with the tags still on, often freshly dry cleaned with the pleats still crisply ironed
In addition to clothes, they also have housewares and an amazing bookstore
It abuts a spiritual center. A SPIRITUAL CENTER! Lawd have mercy!
When I get compliments on my clothes, I love telling people that I paid an unimaginably low price for the item. I proselytize thrifting whenever possible for several reasons. First: I love blowing people’s minds with the notion that you do not have to spend a lot of money to dress fabulously. Secondly: these are tough economic times and being thrifty is smart for everyone. People who make donations get tax write-offs (yay!), clients get gorgeous clothes and save money that can be spent on more important things and charities get much needed funding . . . Yes, technically thrift shopping isn’t exactly a boon for the economy – but there are better ways to improve our economic woes than rampant consumerism.
I also love bringing attention to the good that can be done by thrifting for fashion instead of buying overpriced, cookie-cutter clothes that everyone else is buying at the same department stores you frequent. Not only do thrift stores carry vintage pieces and unique items that you are unlikely to stumble across at your next cocktail party, but you also have an opportunity to directly help agencies and charitable organizations that are often affiliated with non-profit thrift stores.
In addition to thrifting, I also regularly donate clothes to the store and delight in seeing my old things on the racks (they don’t stay there for long!). The combination of (1) paying 1% -10% for the price of beautiful designer clothes (2) saving a huge amount of money as a result (3) knowing you’re directly contributing to charities (4) getting to know the fantastic staff (5) amassing a gorgeous wardrobe for PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR (6) undermining our materialistic culture and (7) helping the environment by recycling clothes is a heady, intoxicating elixir that quickly leads to untold levels of joy and inevitable addiction.
And as if it could not get better, I have also grown spiritually from my conversations and exchanges with people I have met there, including the friend whose mantra inspired the name of this blog. Spiritual growth, gorgeous clothes, giving back to the community and saving money. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
Some examples of my recent thrift finds:
A pristine Etienne Aigner handbag: $3
Royal purple Kasper suit (skirt and blazer): $1
Liz Claiborne leather handbag: $2
Black leather open-toed kitten heels: $1
Ann Taylor blouse: $2
Handwoven Moroccan tunic: $3
New York & Company jeans: $2
Once you have been spoiled by a good thrift shop, you’re never the same again. You cannot fathom paying full price, half price or even a quarter price for your haberdashery – except certain items which you’re better off getting at a regular store. Your whole understanding of what is a reasonable price to pay for clothing gets so thrown off that paying more than $2 or $3 for something – even something quite beautifully made, never worn and with the tags still on- makes you think twice. At this point, I only go to the mall to pick up things I cannot get at the thrift store – like a custom blend of Ayurvedic chai from Teavana. Occasionally, I may wander into a store I used to frequent, like Caché, to mourn the thousands of dollars wasted on retail clothing in times past and to gather fashion ideas for items and outfits that I plot to assemble at “my” thrift store.
In any case, that is the long and the short of why I thrift and the reason fashion will make an occasional appearance on this otherwise ethereal blog.