Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fashion, Frugality, and Fun

I was talking on the phone with my friend Astrid this morning, and I mentioned that most of my clothes come from the Salvation Army. Astrid hasn't seen me in over 50 years, and when we hung up I thought, she probably thinks I look like a bag lady.

Astrid (hope you're reading this), I don't. At least I think I don't. I don't pick out just anything from the Salvation Army. Although I'm definitely not a fashionista—my idea of high style can be found in an L.L. Bean catalog—I admit to a certain snobbishness about labels. This side of me comes out in thrift shops, where I ferret out the best pre-owned clothes a store has to offer (in my size). I love the hunt.

Now, I don't live in an affluent area, so I'm not going to find anything you might see in Vogue. But that's okay, because I probably wouldn't recognize those labels anyway. My idea of great scores are Columbia outerwear, Ralph Lauren jeans, Caribbean Joe capris, or anything from Chico's. I did find a Nicole Miller dress once, and I attended an upscale wedding in my royal blue Liz Claiborne number, but sadly I've "outgrown" both of these.

At this point in my life I'm grateful for my frugal nature, and grateful, too, that buying used clothing is more of an entertainment than a hardship for me. Even when I had more money than I do now, I was never comfortable spending a lot of it on clothes. My mother-in-law (who wore only Belgian shoes—that should tell you something) tried to train this out of me, but never really succeeded. Once her son and I moved to the country, far from Bergdorf Goodman and Saks, she gave up.

I've found when it comes to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, there's no middle ground; people either love the hunt or are repulsed by it. In my family we have both factions. I discuss my thrift shop triumphs with one, and remain silent with the other. I wonder if the latter group ever questions how I can afford the designer silk scarves I've been sporting lately. Little do they know I paid $1 each.

11 comments:

crystal said...

Hee :) You aren't alone - my sister and I buy clothes at the thrift shops too. I think we started when we were teenagers and just kept doing so - you can find really nice and almost new things, as you know. In Portland they had some neat vintage second-hand clothes stores too - clothes from the 40s, etc.

Susan said...

Yeah, "vintage" can get expensive! We don't have those here. I think people are still wearing their own vintage. :-)

Sometimes I find new items, with tags. Like the corduroy Orvis jacket I found this fall. It was a suit, but for some reason the pants were enormous. I just handed the pants back to the clerk and took the jacket, which fits perfectly.

The Cookbook Junkie said...

I have no shame that most of what I own comes from thrift stores and, even better, yard sales. I am not a brand snob which is why I like shopping this way - I can evaluate the style, fit and construction of each item with an open mind. Of course I'm familiar with some brands but a brand name isn't going to make me look good on it's own. T

hrift stores aren't filled with worn out, outdated clothing. In fact, in this area, if you were searching for an outfit for a theme party such as the 70s or 80s, you'd be unlikely to find that in a thrift shop. They try to stock clothing that will sell quickly.

Susan said...

I know that some brands--like Gloria Vanderbilt jeans or Chaps jeans, or Eddie Bauer or Columbia anything--are likely to fit me well. I don't even bother to try some things on if I'm tired. Of course, I screw up sometimes, in which case the item gets donated back to the store.

I was leaning in the direction of brand snobbishness the other day when I had a scarf in my hand and realized the only reason I liked it was because it was a Bill Blass. Back on the rack it went.

Indigo Bunting said...

I am loving all the recent posts on frugality that I'm reading. I think the holidays have made us all think about this more! (Did you know my husband works for Orvis?)

Susan said...

IB, no, I didn't! No wonder you like fly fishing. I hope Orvis as an employer is as good as it's product line.

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

You're not only thrifty, you're being good to the earth! Growing cotton and dyeing it is terrible for the environment. And I won't even mention the workers who make the stuff into garments.

Susan said...

I hadn't thought about that, Lali. In fact, I didn't even know about cotton and the environment--and cotton is what I wear the most. Thank you!

Helen said...

I hate shopping for clothes, and that hatred intensifies when I'm in previously enjoyed clothing places, often because they're poorly laid out. Maybe I need to think of it more as a treasure hunt...

Is organically grown cotton better Lali--if the clothing is made in North America?

Susan said...

Helen, poor layouts drive me nuts too. I think the worst example of this is our local Macy's. The makeup and perfume sections look great, but if you're looking for clothes bargains, forget it! Everything is all jumbled together. Exhausting to wade through it. My favorite Salvation Army is just the opposite. Turtlenecks have their own rack, for instance, organized by color. Easy to find everything.

Astrid called me this morning. Glad to hear she never thought of me as a bag lady. :-)

evanward007 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.