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Monday, March 19, 2012

The Joy of Thrift Stores

I just got back from a week-long trip to Lake Texoma, and all I got was this vintage Coach bag.

Hmmm. Let me explain.

I started thrifting when I was a teenager, out of necessity. My family did not have a lot of extra cash, and I discovered that I could spend half as much money and get twice as much stuff if I purchased items at thrift stores. When my family lived in Houston, I shopped at MAM's, which received donations from wealthy older people. Through my shopping at MAM's, I learned about designer clothing, shoes, and handbags. I became a junior high expert on vintage fashion. And I wore handmade Ferragamo loafers as I dined upon ramen noodles.

Over time, thrifting became less of a need, and more of a joy. I love thrift stores! I go thrifting on a weekly basis, and when we travel, I make a point of seeking out thrift stores in every town we hit. I love the treasure hunt feel of thrifting. You never know what you'll find. Sure—it's easier to go to Target or Wal-Mart and just grab what you need, but when I go thrifting, I have the excitement of the chase. Plus, every dollar I spend goes to a good cause.

So when we went to Lake Texoma, it was a given that we would spend at least part of our time checking out the thrift stores in the area. This is what I came home with:



--a vintage Couroc chaparral tray, valued at about $15, purchased for 50 cents;
--a vintage wool coat, probably valued at $20, purchased for 30 cents
--a vintage Coach watermelon tote designed by Bonnie Cashin, valued at $200, purchased for 30 cents
--a vintage Lou Taylor handbag with swivel mirror, valued at $25, purchased for $1
--a Laundry by Design silk sheath dress, which can be had on eBay for $50, but purchased for 30 cents

This was a particularly good thrift store haul, most of which was purchased at the Grayson County Shelter thrift store in Denison. (If you go there, say hi to Tom-Tom the cat for me—and leave some of the good stuff on the shelves, will ya?)

But this is by no means an unusual thrift store haul. Over the years, I have purchased an Hermes scarf, many Vera Bradley scarves, countless designer dresses and coats, Ferragamo and Coach shoes and handbags, a delightfully tacky velvet painting, bits of china and antique furniture. My husband and daughter have caught the thrifting bug too, and now we all go to second hand stores together as a family, scouting our own version of the perfect purchase—for me, more vintage goods; for my husband, camping gear; and for my daughter, Barbies and stuffed animals. Last week we scored two pairs of Tod's loafers in mint condition for our daughter—they'll match perfectly with her school uniform next year.

As a family, we seek out thrift stores, garage sales, and other second hand means to supply our needs, wants, and even our desire for entertainment. What about you? What are your thoughts on thrift stores? Have you found any treasures?

18 comments:

  1. Lily,

    I'm jealous of your finds. I don't hit the thrift stores very often, but my friend told me about this great vintage store in a neighboring town. My daughter and I made a stop there this weekend, and it is awesome. I can't wait to go back!

    I especially love all the hats and cool boots, but I was in the market for a poodle skirt and flapper dress. Scored on both, although neither were vintage. Now if I could only be a size two, I might be able to get into this really cool coat they have. Yeah, not going to happen. :D

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    1. You know, Samantha, the thrift stores all having amazing clothes in the size 2-4 range. It's really a motivating factor for me to stay on a diet--though I doubt I will ever reach that size again! Vintage stores are the best--if you are ever in Austin, you should check out Amelia's Retrovogue. I sold most of my vintage dress collection there when I was a starving student. :)

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  2. Congrats on a great haul! Truthfully, I'm not a shopper. I know lots of people who find such joy browsing for treasure, but I missed that gene completely. I just want to get what I need and go back to the long list waiting of stuff waiting for me.

    The only time I really enjoy it is if I'm out shopping with girlfriends. Then it's more of a function of company rather than activity!

    It's a huge disappointment to my mom. Maybe once my kids are grown and life slows down a bit I'll find shopping relaxing?

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    1. Hi Deb--great to see you again! Thrifting is definitely an acquired taste, and not for everyone. My sister is not a huge fan, and calls it s**t digging. Why? "Because you have to go through a lot of s**t to find a treasure." LOL

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  3. What an amazing find! I do go to thrift stores occasionally, but sadly it is usually only when I'm looking to put together a costume for something. I really ought to go more often.

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    1. Hi Catherine, thanks for stopping by! A lot of people get their start in thrifting by looking for costume pieces. I put together a his and her steampunk costume set for my husband and I to wear to his mother's wedding. They looked surprisingly good! I also thrifted a princess gown for my daughter to wear. She always dresses as a princess and was completely nonplussed by steampunk gear.

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  4. I've tried thrifting a time or two, but didn't have any luck. My one and only reuse center center find was a glorious bathtub that was so big and wonderful, hubby and I bought it a full year before we even had a place to put it! It was a cringe worthy $200, but we took a breath and bit the bullet. Later, when we went to install it, I needed a part for the jet pump and call the manufacturer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they still sold that exact model...for$5,000!!!
    Greatest find EVA!

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    1. Erin, what an amazing find! We find great stuff for home remodeling projects at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. I found a 1950s oven and range set for my mother in law in bright Mary Kay pink--her favorite colors! The set worked fine and went for $160 all together. On eBay, the same sets go for $500 per piece!

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  5. How fun- I love finding steals like that! I'm not so much a thrift store person, but I love to hit the antique shops. I could spent hours wandering the aisles. Unfortunately, I don't get to do it much, because I can't take the kids with me. But, when I do, I enjoy it so much. You never know what you'll find. I like things with history and stories.

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    1. Hi Olivia--I love antique stores too. Like you, though, I find them harder to enjoy now that I have a little one. And unfortunately, a lot of the best ones in our area have closed due to the recession. I still like to pop in to antique stores when I have a few moments to myself--but those moments are few and far between.

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  6. Lily, it sounds like you had an amazing time! Congrats on your treasure! I, too, shopped at Thrift stores out of necessity, growing up. But I'm not a thrift or antique store shopper these days. In fact, I don't like shopping at all. I have friends who loooooove to shop. Not me. I want to get in and get out as quickly as possible,no dawdling, no looking for a better deal & preferably with no lines. I actually shop more online than I do in actual stores (you know...no lines + free shipping = heaven to me.)

    But I'm glad you enjoy it. :)

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    1. Hi Ava, thanks for stopping by! I prefer online shopping when I know I need to get one particular thing. No fuss, no muss. The thrifting, I suppose, is more of a hobby. :)

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    2. Lily ~ You are absolutely right. It is a hobby (and for some a talent to find that treasure in the middle of nothing) that a lot of people enjoy and they get rewarded with amazing rewards. I just don't think I'm patient enough. :)

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  7. Aren't you a lucky girl!!! This sounds like fun. I need to learn how to do that...

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  8. Hey Lily- that is so cool on your haul. I use to go thrift store shopping when I was younger. As I go older I haven't really been to one. I really should, but I just don't have the time right now. Plus I'm in a purge mode. I have a friend who goes to thrift store and finds stuff that she can transform into something she uses. Dang crafty people. Maybe after I move I might go to the thrift stores to see what I can find.

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  9. What finds, Lily!!!Like you, my mother-in-law is the Queen of Great finds at thrifts stores.

    As for me, I swear I can't find anything that can't already be bought at Belk or Penny's. However, I love shopping at places like Once Upon a Child and the Children's Orchard. Polo shirt that's barely been worn for $2 or crazy expensive smocked holiday dress for $5--yes please!

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  10. Lily -

    "Trift Shop" is my friend! I first "met" Ms. Thrift after I went thru cancer and heart surgury with only 2 years in between. I had gained then lost and then gained (a lot) once more. No worry, my new best friend Thrift saved the day! Trift kept me in style for work without breaking the bank as I went up (more than down) and then slowly back down again.

    Trift saved me from crowded closets because I could give away what was too big or too small (depending on the direction I was going) without guilt and I gave them to good causes like the Women's Shelter and Big Sisters.

    I'm finally going in looking once more for the "smaller" sizes but I also made the discovery after pulling some old clothes from High School (1960's)and Colleege (60's & 70's) out of the attic and finding out a size 12 then is a size 8 now! Guess I shouldn't mention that if you've been feeling good about fitting back into a "smaller size"!

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  11. I could have written this!! I too LOVE thrifting, and I began for all the same reasons as you. Raised in a single income home, the oldest of 8 kids, I learned to appreciate garage sales and thrift shops. The thrill of the hunt is wonderful. I've already cleaned out all the good stuff in SouthEast MI LOL.

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