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.