Jan 11 2012

2011: The Year of the Thrifter.




(above–entire outfit: coat, dress, cardigan and shoes are all second hand)

Well, ladies and (er, gentlemen?) I have finally gotten around to writing some thoughts about the last year. And it’s only 11 days after New Years! I’m doing well. Heh.

This post is something I’ve been mulling over and planning for a while now.

This post is about thrifting.

You see, last year at this time I made a resolution of sorts. (I’ve never been one to make resolutions really, but it just so happened that I made this choice at the beginning of the year.)
I decided that I was going to buy all that I possibly could–second hand. If we were in need of a blender (which we were), we looked in the thrift store first (which we did–and we found a great one). If I needed fabric for a project (you can bet that happened more than once) I looked in the thrift store first. If I was in the mood for a new dress–you guessed it–thrift store. Now, I’ve never really been weirded out by thrift stores (RABBIT TRAIL: Often times I see people shopping for costumes at the thrift store. Presumably they would never set foot in one otherwise. Then they see something they like and exclaim “Oh! That’s really cute! …er…for being in the thrift store” and then they throw it back on the rack like it’s someone’s dirty laundry.) When I was a teen I frequented thrift stores and found many of my (still favourite) items there (*ahem* a beautiful red, fur trimmed swing coat from the 50′s for $7) However, it never occurred to me that I could look there *first*–and find what I was looking for. Thrifting was more of a hobby thing…like “Hey, let’s go to the thrift store and see if we can find something interesting”

But it turned into a lifestyle thing.

Let me tell you the top 5 reasons I go to the thrift stores for anything/everything:

1. COST.
Well duh. We’re on a tight budget. Thrift stores are cheap. Pure and simple.

2. ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.
When we were working down in South America, there was a market every week called the “American Market”. Locals would buy giant bales of clothing (that no one in America presumably wanted) for cheap, set up tents alongside the road and sell the items. When I heard about this, I wondered “What kind of clothes could these possibly be?” Well, the obvious…you know…last seasons Abercrombie or American Eagle hoodies, jeans that looked like they had been worn once or twice…”out of style” stuff. Um…yeah.
It really got me thinking about how disposable our clothing has become. It’s completely normal for someone to buy a number of items, wear them a couple times during the season, and then send them off to the thrift shop. It’s so easy to be drawn in by the giant window displays we see at the mall and think “I want to look just like that mannequin. But I can’t with what I already have. Must. Acquire. More. Stuff.”
Then when you think about all that, you think “Holy cow–every year we make more and more clothes…we harvest more and more cotton…concoct more and more polyester…” Pow. All that energy and waste going towards cheap disposable clothing items that we buy for $39.95, wear once and throw away. Yuck. I think I’d rather buy recycled clothes, thanks.

3. THRIFT STORES + CHARITY.
My favourite thrift shop in town is 100% volunteers, and all their profits go towards numerous places in the world helping people in need. I like that. If I can buy that blender and have the money go towards someone who needs food…hey, it’s a win win.

4. INTEREST.
Do you realize that crazy interesting/exciting things I’ve found at thrift stores? My Melitta Coffee set, for one. Or my incredible mid-century modern solid walnut bedroom set (for $290) Most of the time I will go to the thrift store with a list in my mind of things we are currently in need of. (It can be easy to get carried away at the thrift store if you don’t have a list)
But sometimes, random things just catch my eye. I’ve got a really sweet impressionist style oil painting by a Vancouver artist for $6. The frame alone was worth more than that. Thrifting is most definitely interesting.

5. CREATIVE.
I put a lot of thought into what I wear (surprise!) I’ve always been a vintage/retro lover for as long as I can remember…unfortunately that’s not always what’s trendy for mainstream shops. I can remember being so frustrated sometimes, because I wanted to be classy and unique…but that can be difficult (*ahem* impossible) if you shop in mainstream stores.
I’ve noticed that since buying my clothes at thrift stores, I have become infinitely more happy with my wardrobe. It feels a lot more age appropriate, as well as unique to me. Dressing retro has never been easier. (Hah..because most of it comes from the 50′s-80′s anyway!) And because I’m not influenced by mannequin displays (thrift store mannequins are put together by 80 year old ladies. Um, no thanks, sweater sets and power suits) I can browse the product and grab things simply by a gut reacting of “I like!” rather than “Uh, I want to look like the mannequin.” I try not to think about fitting in to a current trend. I just wear what I like.
My home decor has also benefited enormously from the thrift shops. I feel like my own artwork – paintings, or photographs – don’t look so out of place with non-ikea furniture/decor.

So there you have it folks. Thrift stores are cool. Go support your local shop and fall in love with buying someone else’s old “garbage”.

PS: I also buy Vintage for more special items like a dress for an occasion, or my lovely fur-trimmed coat in the picture above. If you are interested in Vintage but don’t know where to start–I’m your gal. Give me a shout and I’ll direct you to–or heck, I’ll even take you to some of my favourite shops around.
PPS: No, I don’t buy socks and underwear from the thrift store.
PPPS: I do, however still buy the same cut of jeans from the Gap that I have for the last 100 years. If I ever see them in the thrift store though, you can bet they’d come home with me.

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