Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thrifty genes

I’ve inherited many traits from my mother. My eye and hair colors. My body type. My extreme nearsightedness (we’re talking blind as a bat, people). My tendency to talk with my hands. And, last but not least, my love of thrift store shopping.

I can’t pinpoint my first thrift store experience, but since my mother and her mother thrifted before I can remember (and probably long before I was born), it was with undoubtedly by the side of one or the other (if not both).

I do have distinct grade-school memories of visiting my grandmother’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area and walking to nearby thrift stores, and taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to others. I was always thrilled with my clothing finds, because even at that age, I liked that I had something that no other kid in my class would have.

(Come to think of it, my grandfather was a thrifter, too. About five years ago, my grandmother gave me a partial set of Mikasa china. I finally asked her about its provenance last fall. It turns out my grandfather [who died when I as a child] had pieced together that incomplete collection from thrift stores! Of course, at the time my grandmother was all, “Why do we need more china?”)

Through the years, I continued to thrift store shop with Mom and Grandmother, then with friends in high school and college. One of my first jobs out of college, as a poorly paid reporter at a weekly newspaper in a small western Oregon town, was luckily within two blocks of a decent Goodwill. My editor (a friend who graduated a year ahead of me) and I knew exactly when new shipments came in, and made sure to take a break to hit the racks, unless news was breaking (ha!). One of my best finds was an Anne Klein double breasted suit jacket, which I wore for years.

Then I moved to the Midwest, followed by two years in New Jersey, and I abandoned thrifting altogether (and I was an hour from NYC…what was I thinking?!).

When I took up bellydance with a vengeance four years ago, I started making occasional forays into a Goodwill here, a Value Village there, to look for velvet tops and long, full skirts suitable for class or costuming.

My official return to thrifting was the day after Thanksgiving last year. J had to work; I did not. I was able to go to Goodwill by myself (we use our car very little and tend to group our errands, so he was always with me on previous trips) with the time and space to roam the racks and sift the wheat from the chaff. You know how you can not see a good friend for what feels like forever, and then take up exactly where you left off. Yep, me and thrifting.

My friend Goodwill was especially good to me on my one appointed January thrifting trip (in accordance with my Wardrobe Refashion pledge). For $80 and change (including tax) I got 22 items of clothing:

  • Three cute cardigans (pink cotton, red cotton, charcoal merino wool)
  • Three hoodies (red velour, olive velour, charcoal knit)
  • Two pink striped shirts (Eddie Bauer and American Eagle)
  • Green washable suede jacket
  • Green Gap zip-front short raincoat
  • Summery hip-length, ¾-sleeve jacket in shades of blue and green
  • Cozy nubby fleece jacket
  • Black ribbed merino wool turtleneck
  • Deep red nubby wool Eddie Bauer sweater set
  • Striped I.N.C sweater
  • Olive green rib-knit V-neck sweater
  • Blue cropped sweater perfect for bellydance class
  • Crazy striped sweater with bell sleeves
  • Burgundy long-sleeved Ann Taylor crew-neck T
  • Lime green ribbed boat-neck T
  • White button-down shirt with stripes of black stitching
  • Red/black brocade button-front vest

Items in italics were a mere 99 cents each (red tags). The others were 30 percent off of their tagged price (blue and green tags). Bold items need some refashioning (just new buttons in one case). I have my February trip planned for the big President's Day sale, when Goodwill has the same 99 cent/30 percent off arrangement going. Good times!

Pix of a few items are on my Flickr page. I'll include one or two in this post later...

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