First part of title is about me and my beloved Miss Em, for whom I am providing an education in thrift shopping, which, since it's full of feeling, is sentimental. Second part is the self-explanatory title of a book.
One side advantage of being a teacher who has to stand before over 100 20-somethings three days a week is that it keeps me from lapsing into total slob-hood. Those who teach at prestigious research institutions dress in very upscale clothing. Elaine Showalter of Princeton used to write about her high-end shopping for Vogue and I saw a spread a few years ago on the fashion sense of the McGill English Department. But those of us not lucky enough to teach in the higher echelons can tend toward the dowdy.
Recently, one of my students said, "You dress a lot better than most teachers." That doesn't sound so great, but it's high praise. If I look OK at all, it is because I seldom buy anything without the permission of Miss Em, who has unerring style sense.
But when we brought our stuff to Buffalo Exchange, the tables were turned. Miss Em noticed that a much greater percentage of my stuff was taken. Most of hers was rejected. She also noticed that the uber fashionable and often pierced managers of Buffalo enjoyed yakking with me, even though I am about thirty years older than they are. One manager and I even discussed the possiblity of my being their first middle-aged employee! (No, I like my current job. But I would be good.)
So Miss Em and I discussed my history--how in the depths of graduate student poverty I found vintage clothing to sell at the Eye of Osiris, a vintage shop in Bloomington Indiana. Even though I have very few talents--I am an excellent reader and a good cook and that's about it--I was instantly successful in the vintage biz. For some reason, I immediately figured out that you find vintage and designer clothing by quality fabric. You don't look at the clothing; you first run your hands along the rack. Indeed, if you see anyone doing this at a thrift store, you will know that you are in the presence of a picker.
I promised Miss Em that I would teach her the secrets of tactile shopping. She is kind of a beginner, having refused to set foot in a thrift store for much of her childhood. (She would walk into Goodwill and ostentatiously hold her nose!) But, trust me, she is a fast learner and a person of great visual discrimination.
But what if you don't have a mom like me to help you undergo your rite of passage into tactile shopping? There is a book that tells you very clearly how to evaluate clothing for fine fabric and fine construction.
I mentioned this book, which I had borrowed from a former friend many years ago and whose title I had forgotten, in a post a while back. I googled "consignment shopping guide," and amazingly the book came up: Second-Hand Chic by Christa Weil. Even more amazing, there was a copy in my library system and I am reading the book with great pleasure. This is a 10 year old book! It is a testament to its timeless information on fabric quality and clothing construction that it is still in print. The sections on how to shop second-hand are dated, of course, because the book has nary a mention of on-line shopping. But the rest of the book is excellent.
Check it out, if you have a chance.