When I was an English major in college, we learned how to do "close readings" of literature, analyzing the intricacies of language and structure. I am soooooo good at this! Little did I know, till I got to graduate school, that my teachers were rather behind the times; percolating away in literary studies was heavy-duty contextualizing, whereby we are to look at a literary work in its various cultural contexts. This so-called New Historicism is no longer new, but still has something of a death grip on early modern studies.
Anyway, close analysis and contextualizing can apply to anything, another lesson of literary studies: everything is a text. Hey, that would include thrift stores, my favorite recreation.
In thrift stores, context matters. I was reminded of this when I ecstatically bought my authentic Longchamp Le Pliage bag, which retails for almost $100.00. When I got home with my treasures, I glanced at my receipt and noticed that Ms. Peaches, the cashier, had charged me only $0.99 for the bag, rather than the $1.99 most bags cost. Oh, that's because to her, it looked like a "cosmetics case."
A few days ago, a pristine and current Carlisle silk jacket and shell made their appearance. Sadly, a size 2. I know that this set would retail for about $700.00. I toyed with the idea (quickly suppressed) of selling the set on Ebay. When I got home, I checked the prices and indeed I could probably make a bit on this item. Interestingly, one Ebay seller of Carlisle items wrote that she bought the clothing at "trunk sales" in her area. These are invitation only sales, usually at the homes of friends or friends-of-friends. She wrote "The pieces are extremely well made, beautiful and extremely overpriced. I swear they pump some type of 'stupid gas' into the air to make usually sane women think they should pay hundreds for a turtleneck...even if it's a great turtleneck!! My recurrent stupidity is your good fortune! I have found stacks of Carlisle, some Worth, St. John and Double D to sell."
I guess I'm lucky that I do not run in the social circles that would snag me an invitation to one of these shopping events. What is interesting is that the set remains at Goodwill, a week later. Out of its original context, no one is interested.
Even though I did not succumb to the Carlisle, I did succumb to an amazing pair of Max Mara beige leather pants. The leather is so soft that it doesn't feel like leather! These would probably fit me (an 8), but, honestly, I would never wear these. Uhoh. I get some well-deserved scorn from Mr. FS when I bring home such items. But I bought these with a plan. I thought I could probably unload them at Buffalo Exchange, which I discovered--belatedly--a few months ago. I figured I could get some credit for Miss Em to use.
Gee, I wonder how much credit I will get. Max Mara leather pants retail for about $1200.00. On Ebay, there are some listed at $299.00 with no takers. Other pairs have sold for $30.00-$40.00. I would guess that the Buf, as Miss Em and I call it, would sell the pants for about the Ebay price, which means we would get maybe $15.00 in credit. OR about $10.00 in cash if she can't find anything.
So what are they worth? In their first context, $1200.00. On Ebay, a lot less. At Goodwill, $3.49, like all the other pants. They didn't even get plucked for the "Special Price" rack which sports all the higher priced stuff--like Ralph Lauren and various army clothing. If you get something really nice, Ms. Peaches, who is the most chatty cashier, will admire the item with great enthusiasm, often displaying it for the rest of the customers on line. Like my Longchamp bag, the Max Maras merited not a second glance from Ms. Peaches.
So, as I ponder the question of value in relation to context, I also wonder: who would buy a pair of $1200.00 pants, not wear them, and donate them to Goodwill?
Any thoughts, Dear Readers?