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!