Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventures in Thrifting

One of the great things about blogging is that I've met a huge number of people who, like me, completely get the addictive, hypnotic allure of rummaging through other people's old junk.

I am a thrifter. I came to it fairly late in life. At the age of 29, when I was pregnant with Firstborn and knew we'd soon be losing a good $50,000 a year in income, I decided it might be a good idea to try to figure out why the parking lots at all those consignment and thrift stores were always so chock-full. One trip to Value Village was all it took. And when we moved to Montreal, and the Village des Valeurs looked more like a really good day at Winners (at about an eighth of the price), there was no turning back.

These days, I'm not picky. Garage sales, thrift stores and ebay are all great thrifting sources. I love hitting the big city for a good thrift. But my tiny town has its own little second-hand store, and when I have the time and freedom (ie. when Rosemary's Baby is home with his father, and not tearing through the place like a little hurricane) to really search through the clutter, there is always a gem or two to be found, and at the absolute lowest prices. For example:

This military-inspired jacket was hanging on the plus-size rack. It claimed to be an XL and I'm usually a medium, but when I tried it on, though roomy, it wasn't huge, and the length was just right. This is a good example of a situation where you can't let vanity get in the way of a good bargain. I took it home, nipped it in just slightly at the waist with my sewing machine, removed the epaulettes (with my huge shoulders, I looked like a quarterback going off to basic training), and voila! A cute jacket for spring! Cost: $2.

Thrifting is also a good way to get labels you can't afford to buy new. I follow a lot of style blogs, and I've noticed that many people get their designer stuff this way. I certainly won't turn my nose up at couture if I can find it (though here in Manitoba, I can't), but things are a little more down-home in my world. When I talk about getting labels I can't afford in real life, I'm talking about labels that came from anywhere but Wal-Mart.

These shirts were $8 apiece, all at Value Village.

This one is from Cleo. In my 20's when I still frequented the mall, I wrote off Cleo--conservative and too expensive for my liking--as a place for a greying middle-aged woman. Apparently, I am now that middle-aged woman, because I suddenly love everything they sell. I'm estimating its original retail value in the $50 range.

This one is from Talbots (estimating about $60 originally), and required a little taking-in at the waist as well.

This is my favourite, and is from Banana Republic (originally in the $75 range).

All these shirts were barely worn when I bought them, are really comfortable and have a good amount of stretch to them, which is key for me, since I suffer from Chris Farley's fat guy in a little coat syndrome--big arms, big boobs. Combine that with a stiff shirt, and you have the recipe for feeling like you're in a straight jacket.

As fun as it is to know that the shirt I'm wearing is a good brand that I couldn't normally afford, I actually don't care much about labels. I'm not really one for wearing a brand across my chest, and I'm hardly going to walk around town pointing to my clothes and announcing "Banana Republic!" unless I'm specifically looking for a punch in the face. So, more often than not, it's actually not the label that grabs me.

This cardigan (please ignore the bunching shirt. My attention to detail is appalling) first caught my attention because it was grey, and I happened to be in the market for a grey cardigan (I'm wild like that). It also looked good and thick, which is a bonus in the prairies in February. When I touched it, my thrifty radar went into overdrive. A quick peek at the label didn't tell me anything about who made it--it was a brand I'd never heard of--but it did explain that gorgeous softness. It was 80% silk, and cost $8. Score! I took it home and removed the pockets (because I have a frame that seriously cannot handle any extra bulk from the hips up), and now I have a cardigan that is an absolute workhorse in my wardrobe.

I could go on about this all day. I wish there was a job called "Professional Thrift Artist" because I'd apply for that position in a heartbeat! I actually have another awesome thrift find to share but I'm not finished DIY-ing it, so I'll save that for another post.

One quick note: if you're interested in getting out there and searching for great second-hand stuff of the fashionable variety, do always tie off your plastic shopping bag as soon as you get in the car, and either put your stuff first through a hot dry cycle for 30 minutes, or a hot wash to kill anything nasty that might be lurking in the fibres. Apparently freezing your stuff overnight works too. Sorry to be such a killjoy, but you know what's even more of a killjoy? Bedbugs. Yuck!

Happy thrifting, fellow thrifters!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I bow to you, Queen of the Thrifters! And good tip about the bedbugs. That menace is everywhere now.

Dimple said...

Good scores! I like the cardigan best, because I like almost anything with silk, and the price couldn't be beat!


Great finds...they all look great on you so you do know fashion! You make me want to shop these stores. Our town has a couple of these stores and the one I visited most recently left me wheezing. I must remember to take a mask so I can breathe!

Linda said...

Very nice finds, and you are so handy with your "taking it in at the waist"! I like that cardigan too- pretty and practical. said...

I haven't bought anything from a thrift shop but I do love TJ Maxx...I don't think you have that in Montreal, right? I think your equivalent is Winners? Anyway, I am addicted to that store which is why I had to stop going in. Just cause it's cheap doesn't mean I can buy double!!

I love your thrift store finds - you look great in every single one.

Melanie said...

Hey there, a friend told me about thought I would pass it along to you -- I love the fashion!

Michelle said...

I know! About the bedbugs, right!?! Here in OH, there are 3 cities that are in the top 15(?) worst in the US right now. It's frightful! Yuck! Love all of your finds, especially the cardigan. I really need to start using my sewing machine again soon. Seeing everyone's posts is making me "itchy" to sew. Hope your dad heals well from his knee replacement!

Rebecca Flys said...

I love you. Yeah. I said Love. I can't help it. You are my Canadian Counterpart. While you are picking through your thrift shop, I'm picking through mine, and 500 miles apart we're both saying out loud "a few strategic stitches and some spray starch....YES!" and commencing with crazy laughs "hah hee he hah." I swear I could be a millionaire and I'll still be digging around in thrift shops.

...Right at this moment I'm wearing a dead old lady's Ugg boots and they look great. Yard sale, still in the box, $5.

laterg8r said...

i love a good bargain too - i hardly ever shop for myself though, too caught up in getting things for the kiddo's at swapmeets and things.

love those shirts - fantastic looking on you :D

BODECI body said...

Quite by accident I clicked your name from a comment at 'Un femme d'un certain age' and am delighted by your simple, yet informative style. Such a fun post to read. I am looking forward to more!

WhisperingWriter said...

You found some great stuff. I love thrift stores.

Janine said...

Hey Wendy!! You won the Papertrey Ink set for being the first to say Jamaica!!
We had an amazing time!!!
Love all your shirts and sweaters!!
Fabulous finds!!