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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Men! Get thee to a Thrift Store; OR, the Agony and the Ecstasy

Everyone who knows me—perhaps including the readers of my little corner of the blogosphere—knows that I love thrift stores. Although many cities have thrifts filled with bedraggled clothing, cracked plastic furniture, and yellowing romance novels circa 1976—all at ridiculously high prices, I have been lucky to live mostly in places that have excellent and reasonably priced thrifts.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. Because of my outstanding abilities at thrift shopping, I find too much. Everyone who knows me also knows I have a clutter problem. These fabulous bargains are too hard to resist, which is why I have a Geoffrey Beene jacket, a Karl Lagerfeld blazer, John Fluevog shoes (new, but a bit too small), just to name a few. I know I will never wear these. So I have to impose rules on myself.

Here are my rules:
Sweaters: cashmere only, no holes, or nice ones from Banana Republic or the like only if from the last two years (Banana, Gap, and Old Navy clothes are dated under the tags!).

Blazers: very expensive brands only; MUST FIT ME!

Shoes: FLATS only, must be new or close to it, must FIT. I have smallish feet and so find a lot of great shoes, including my best find of all time, new Chanel loafers.

As for the rest, pants (too lazy to try on, plus I wear only jeans now), don’t wear skirts or dresses, shirts/tanks cost the same as sweaters, so are too expensive in my thrift universe.

What about men’s stuff? I’m only allowed to buy cashmere sweaters, Hermes ties (not that anyone wears them in my house), and that’s about it.

Really, I should stay away from thrift stores. But today I needed milk and salt, and it just so happens that a thrift store is RIGHT NEXT to the grocery. So I ventured in, for a quick spin. Honestly, I get out fast and look in the most desultory fashion. I hope NOT to find things, truly.

Women’s Department: Lots of nice things, but only two cashmere sweaters jumped into my hands. One was a new with tags George brand, from Walmart. That disqualified it. I did buy a Prive brand ivory cashmere cardigan. Prive can be found at Dillards, and a similar sweater is available on sale for about $35.00, marked down from $115.00. The Ecstasy!

Men’s Department: This about killed me. I saw several Zegna shirts (newly drycleaned), a Robert Talbott shirt (ditto), and other pricy brands. All in Dr. Mr. FS’s very size. Then I checked out the ties, which are all 99 cents: a Ferragamo, a Zegna, several high-level Polo numbers, several Robert Talbotts, other Italian silk ties from makers I didn’t recognize. I had to tear myself away. These were new looking ties, sufficiently au courant. But Mr. DFS has enough and will be very sharp with me if I buy these. The Agony!

Total purchases: sweater plus 5 books, including Austerlitz , which I’ve been meaning to read. Total spent $4.00 minus my 15% senior discount.

All I have to say is:
Men, get thee to a thrift store! Not too many men go to thrift shops, so the field will be yours!

And, to remind myself that I need not buy everything nice that I see, here is a picture of a Hermes tie that I found a while ago.

Dear Readers, do tell. Are thrift stores agony or ecstasy? And, of course, share your best finds.


Jason Burns said...

I say ecstasy! I found a cashmere sweater for 5 dollars last month. It's perfect for work – infact, I'm wearing it right now! You have to hold out for "the find" though. Otherwise money gets dumped on second best.

The Fabric Bolt said...

Ecstasy, generally speaking, however in the area of Southern California where I live....AGONY. Most local church shops and variety thrifts have pure junk. When I have gone to the local Goodwill, the only things that really draw me are the things which I have donated and find hanging on the racks! If that isn't irony for you....

Frugal Scholar said...

@Jason--Cashmere is always ecstasy! Thanks for coming by.

@Fabric--My dh is from southern CA and, I agree, the thrift stores are agony--expensive and picked over. The best in my experience are in the midwest. And, yes, I've seen my own things in thrift stores--I always am upset to see that no one wanted my stuff (????).

Duchesse said...

Thrift stores here in Toronto get picked by the pros. One of my peeves is finding something I KNOW I donated to a thrift store hanging in a funky boutique, sold as "vintage" with a price tag above what I paid. Yes, anyhone can shop there but it's not what I hoped for when I donated.

I buy at a shop where the owner gets boxes of high end clothes (used and not) from Europe, Japan and the film industry. Not thrift but amazing quality and prices.

Chance said...

Ecstasy, mostly. BTW, that Zenga is gorgeous. In Boston, where I work a few times a month, the best thrift store (called Boomerangs) is a charity for the AIDS Action Committee, and donations come in from the gay community, the trendy cool community, and artists. My best finds have been there for clothing, amazing and intelligent book selection, and upscale house stuff (New glass Bodum French Press 3 bucks). Small appliances have been best at Goodwill, because of the sheer volumn of stuff they move through, just keep checking back and you'll find what yr looking for. Not so good: the ladies auxilliary type thrift stores, overpriced. Salvation Army, unsorted, dirty crap.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Ohhhhh Reggie Girl loves a bargain and is a total "Thrift Store Groupie". We have one here in town that all the proceeds go to the battered womens shelter. That is something dear to my heart if you didn't already know that. I found a pair of Liz Claiborne Flex black leather loafersat this place for $4.00. By the way, they still had the $97.00 price tag on the bottom of the never worn shoes ;)

Happy Valentine's Day Frugal Scholor and.........

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Mary said...

I did not know about the dates under the tags. Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there are not thrift stores in my town but I do like to hit them when I go to the "big city"!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Would you tell me the name of the shop if I ever visit Toronto? It sounds incredible. Many if not most shoppers at thrifts are "pickers" for resale. I know because I used to do this in my direst grad school poverty. So you can either figure you're helping these people or bring your item direct to the vintage store! It is a testament to your splendid taste.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Chance--I'll be in Boston this summer and I've already looked up that shop. Sounds great.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Reggie--Sounds like our little towns have in common a great thrift store experience.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Mary--Really, you might be lucky. It is hard to buy the right amount. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting money and time. But now I can tell myself that I'm doing "research" for this blog.