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.