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Friday, September 10, 2010

Thrift Stores and the Lure of Perfectionism: Escada Edition

Yesterday, I whiled away a bit of time at Goodwill. My lackadaisical stroll was arrested by a beautiful sweater. White. Cardigan. Neat cut: long with a self tie in front. Checked the label: Escada! Wowzer: exquisite, timeless, seldom if ever worn. My size too.

Then I spied a small hole (moth?). "Oh," I thought, "my mother can fix that for me." Then I spotted a few more holes, and sadly bade farewell to a sweater I probably would have worn hundreds of times.

This happens a lot. I am filled with empathy (perhaps misplaced) for the person who bought it, thinking it a super-expensive but perfect sweater, then spotted the holes, and, in horror, donated it, hoping never to see it again.

If I were to buy something as expensive as that sweater, I would look and look, in search of the perfect item. Like most quests for perfection (the Holy Grail comes to mind), this one would be filled with self-doubt.

Even if a perfect sweater revealed itself, some moth or splash of coffee would no doubt be drawn to it as well.

Sometimes evil people appear to ruin your perfect WHATEVER. I remember walking in downtown Bloomington on a slushy day. A car of screaming (frat?) boys swerved toward me, sending up a huge splash from a puddle onto the sidewalk where I stood. They cheered as I was covered in greasy slush. All my clothes were ruined; no amount of cleaning would get out the grease. Of course, since I was a graduate student, I continued to wear the items, since I didn't have the money to replace them right away.

Like many people, I have a self-destructive attraction to perfection. I remember reading 20 articles on Antigone, searching for the perfect combination of perspectives to share with my beginner students: a handful would have sufficed.

At least I don't have to worry about perfectionism in attire. At thrift stores, you find what you find. There's more than enough that is almost perfect.

So in addition to saving money, thrift stores save you from perfectionism in at least one little pocket of life.

Do you suffer from shopping perfectionism? What do you do?


Deja Pseu said...

I actually need to develop *more* of a perfectionistic streak. If I'm gaga over something, I often don't check the seams or construction carefully until I've brought it home and am getting ready to wear it, and then have to make another trip to return. At least I've learned to leave the tags in.

Someone said...

Just a note that those were probably not moth holes. Most holes in wool items are actually due to carpet beetles. I hate those little suckers so much.

The only thing with bringing home something like a beetle-bitten sweater is, it could still be infested. There are ways to treat things like that but it may not be worth it.

As to your question, I don't usually care if something is truly perfect, but one thing is, I no longer buy anything that doesn't look as close to GREAT on me as I can get. Life is too short to put anything unflattering in my closet again, no matter what its price/value.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I am not a perfectionist...but a sweater full of moth holes would not appeal to me...once I left my Banana Republic cashmere scarf in a basket over the summer and when I picked it up on a chilly fall day I was aghast to see it was completely moth looked like loose lace!
So I launder all my cashmere and store them in plastic bins with tissue between each piece...maybe I am a bit perfectionistic after all...I don't like to waste money.

Shelley said...

I've heard of people who insist on having linen napkins even if said napkins are mended. That said, I don't think the brand name could ever overcome the drawback of moth -- or any other critter-caused -- holes. You did well to leave it, I think. I definitely have room to become more of a perfectionist when it comes to be clothes.

Duchesse said...

At thrift stores or discount stores, it's the opposite for me: I fall for "good enough" as in, "This isn't really my colour but it's such a good buy."

"Good enough" results in stuff I carry home, then don't wear.

However, perfectionism, whether in shopping, work or choosing a mate, is a mug's game. One will never achieve it, nor feel content for long.

And is there true evil? Yes, the clothes moth. The only use for a mothy sweater is to crafters, who cut it up for projects.

metscan said...

When I buy good stuff, I rely that it is worth the money. Were I to discover imperfections at home, I´d deliver the stuff back. Oh those moths, now that you mentioned them, I´ll never be able to enter a second-hand shop. The storage places of those shops- there is so much material for the moths to bite their holes in. Ouch!!

Duchesse said...

You've so inspired me I'm going to link & expand the topic @ my blog.

When you buy consignment or thrift, place anything suspicious in a trash bag in a deep freezer for 72 hours, which kills any eggs or larvae. Moths can infest even the most chi-chi boutique, carried in by a staff or customer.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Deja--Sad but true. Quality control is very poor these days. That's why I'm sticking with "refunds for any reason" shops for my (limited) forays into the retail world.

@Someone--Totally agree! I am just as picky in thrift stores as in regular retail!

@Hostess--Nothing more depressing than when the moths get to your favorite items! How do they know?

@Shelley--That's so true about antique linens! Hmmmm..why the different response?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--I am trying to be just as picky no matter where I am--or how cheap or much the item is. The real problem: the owner should not have donated the sweater to begin with. It just made more work for the employees and will eventually be thrown out or sold in bulk to be "ragged."

@metscan--Sorry to say, but I think the sweater was moth-eaten at the original owner's house.There's no storage at thrift stores--everything is processed pretty rapidly: to be sold, tossed, or made into rags.

@Duchesse--Glad to be of service. Freezing is good for grains too--I've brought home infested grains from Whole Foods and elsewhere.

I am the working poor. said...

I once worked in a thrift store and people will donate the oddest things. Unfortunately more than 50%of the donations go into a dumpster. The example that comes to mind was the person who donated two entire garbage bags of mens dress pants with the crotch cut out of them.