Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cheap Thrills

From the bean of Green Bean.

The hangers clicked quietly together, like keys on my grandmother's typewriter. Red, green, blue, black and finally white sifted past. I ignored the film gathered that over my fingers as well as the cries echoing from the next aisle over. Someone else's kid. Suddenly, something flashed. I stopped. Squinted.

White peasant top. New with tags. Anthropologie. I tossed it into my cart, on top of a slimming black tee, a pair of Ralph Lauren capris, and a flirty summer skirt, and continued down the aisle.

I used to shop like the rest of the world. At Nordstrom's. Target. In malls and super stores. After pseudo-compacting for several months, I shifted away from mainstream shopping. I discovered thrift stores, consignment centers, second hand shops. And I never looked back.

You see, those stores - the Macy's and Old Navy's of the world - are clean, brightly lit. There is no graffiti in the fitting rooms and only helpful, fresh faced folks assist you with your purchases. Those stores stock multiples of the same thing, in every size under the sun. If it doesn't fit, you grab another size. One up, one down, from the row of jeans and blouses lined up like horses on a merry go round. And, if you cannot find it there, you can get it online or they'll order it from another store. You can have the same outfit as the model in the photo, the girl helping you or your neighbor.

Those stores offer no adventure. No shiver of discovery. No uber flattering pair of Lucky jeans in just your size for $4.99. You know what you'll find. It's safe, reliable, reassuring.

Not so a thrift store.

It is darker here. The hangers don't match. Sizes are strewn through out the store. Some of the clothes are stained or torn or just plain ugly. Almost none of them are your size and there is no two of anything. If that pretty peasant top doesn't fit, you're out of luck.

But if you'd like to look like just yourself and no one else, if you want options for your kids that extend beyond Power Rangers and Princesses, if you'd rather buy second hand and avoid the first hand guilt of shopping, if you're brave enough to paw through piles of wrong sized clothing made ten years ago, you just might find what you are looking for.

Pay less than you should for it and carry it home in a reused plastic bag from some grocery chain. Enjoy it and all that it says about the individual that you are - but only after washing it in really hot water first.


Professor J said...

My mother was addicted to shopping at thrift stores--your post reminds me of the look of triumph on her face when she'd come home with a bag full of her finds.

JessTrev said...

Yeah, I have to confess, I love a good bargain! Thrill of the HUNT! I mean, cough, saving resources by buying used. ;)

The Pirate Farmer said...

Aw, I never find anything that good, you lucky dog! (and i say that in the most endearing way!)

kathy said...

I love the Hanna Andreson dress for my daughter and the perfect batn coat for my son. My best find ever was a gorgeous leather handbag for $5.00. I love tag sales because if you find one with stuff in the size you need, you will surely find lots of stuff in that size. For housewares, I look for older neighborhoods. I often find great vintage kitchen stuff like glass bowls and tupperware that I wouldn't purchase new but still like to find used.

Donna said...

Has that store been there for a really long time? Because I think I recognize it. :)

I like shopping in thrift stores much more now than I did when I was a kid. I got teased a lot for wearing 2nd hand. Haven't figured out how to manage that with my son, yet. So far, if it looks like something a fireman would wear, he's happy. Who cares if it's new!

Alison said...

I have been flirting with thrift stores for years, but I've come away with maybe 3 purchases. Not sure if it is the way I shop, where I shop, my lack of patience, or just that I am a weird size -- it is nearly as hard to find new clothes that fit me! What I need is a personal shopper, who specializes in second hand! Nonetheless, I aspire to these cheap thrills and commend you for succeeding!

ruchi said...

You should come here. The thrifting in the UK is awesome. Also many of the charity shops are not dirty at all but very upscale feeling! Though maybe that takes away the unhygenic fun of it. ;)

Green Bean said...

ProfessorJ: I think I'd like your mother. :)

Jess: It is better in every way.

Pirate Farmer: I'm so sorry to hear that!! I have to say that I've perfected my thrift shopping over the years. First, I've figured out what places have the best in which category. The one closest to me has great housewares but so-so on the clothes, especially kids clothes. One near my son's school ROCKS on the clothes - grown up and adult - but no luck with housewares or books. The other thing is probably where I live - on the edge of Silicon Valley. It's a dense population and fairly affluent. Which means all those ladies are tossing their Lucky jeans and their Banana Republic sweaters and there is no one else to pick them up but little ole me. That's a long way of saying, "don't give up!! You're bound to find a hot deal at some point."

Kathy: Now we're talking! Love to hear about the leather bag. I used to hit estate sales all the time and find wonderful, one of a kind vintage items. Love those for estate sales. I don't go to tag sales as much as I used to - mostly because I can't seem to escape on the weekend - but they are also usually cheaper.

Donna: Perhaps we'll one day hit an issue with used but so far, so good. Even the teens are now shopping at a place called Plato's Closet - which is essentially second hand clothing. As to the store, it's in downtown Redwood City. The one you were thinking of?

Alison: Now that's a job that would be fun - personal shopping second hand style. I have to admit that the peasant top I mentioned was too small for me but I bought it for a friend. I found a cute pair of Lucy shorts yesterday. Not my size but tried to find out if they fit a friend. Of course, I couldn't reach her but still . . . Now I need to start looking for you. :)

Ruchi: I SO need to go thrifting across Europe. That would be fun! My parents have an upscale (e.g., clean) clothes consignment store near them. I still get a thrill when I find something there so I guess I could live with your UK thrift stores.

Daisy said...

I love second hand and thrift stores! My teen son has poor fine motor skills (he's blind and has Asperger's), so I buy his jeans secondhand. He's more likely to be able to handle the zipper that way. And yes, it's a thrill!

Donna said...

GB: That's not where I was thinking, although it still might be the same place. I was young enough that my mom drove and so I could be mistaken where it is.

I think you're right about that right now 2nd hand seems to be more popular than it used to be. Hope the trend lasts!

kale for sale said...

But you didn't tell us; did the peasant blouse fit?

Green Bean said...

Daisy: Never thought of that advantage! See how many reasons there are to buy used. :)

Donna: There is also the place on the corner of Brittan and El Camino. Not sure how long that's been there. That place is pretty good too - especially for housewares and toys.

Katrina: No!! Too small, dammit. But I couldn't resist and bought it for a friend. :)

Thrift Store Mama said...

We have some amazing, for-profit, thrift stores in my area of close-in suburban Maryland. I have three regular stores that I shop at every couple weeks. Two are as big as a grocery store and one is as big as 2-3 grocery stores. I do some personal shopping for a couple friends kids' and I just love it. I'm not sure which is greater - the thrill when I find something perfect for myself or for someone else!

Michelle said...

A good thing to remember is that you can have clothing tailored for a better fit. Its alot easier for me to stomach paying for the tailoring on thrift store clothes because they are such a good price (usually) to begin with. Since I dont sew myself, I just go to the drycleaner's and have them sew for me.
Have a wonderful day!


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