Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where I Explain Why I Thrift.

I have always admired a vintage aesthetic. That is a lovely way of saying “I like old shit.” Ever since I was young, in fact. My possemate suggested that we can trace it back to the programs we watched and characters we admired as children. Hers was the mother in Parent Trap. Mine? Wizard of Oz and Annie. Dust bowl, Depression. But my tastes change so often that I can’t nail down any one influence. I can say that I don’t stray all too far from the 1940’s – it’s a look I often return to. It’s not always been easy to find a volume of authentic pieces in thrift stores, however, so I would buy pretty dresses and skirts and shoes and things in stores.

I have always been thrifty. Sometimes a cheapass for cheapness sake, but most often because I didn’t have a lot of money. Thrift stores made shopping a bit more within my grasp. I’ve always had a lot of clothing. A. LOT. I really enjoy shopping. Well, enjoy is the wrong word. I get a little obsessed. For me, there is nothing quite like the thrill of the hunt. I’m not your typical woman that way: I do my shopping alone. I like to focus. But I would also shop at discount stores like Gabriel Brothers, Schottensteins and TJ Maxx.

What finally made me commit to buying secondhand whenever possible was an irreverent little film called What Would Jesus Buy. The tone of this film is quite lighthearted, but it made me think seriously about where our goods come from and who is screwed over in the process. Around the same time I was shopping in an Ann Taylor store and took a wrong turn looking for the dressing rooms. I stepped into a room full of one suit in mid-steam and massive boxes full of beautiful suits wadded up into balls in plastic bags. It was like pulling the curtain back and seeing the Wizard. I, like most people, had been operating with some sort of delusion wherein I thought some sort of Pretty Clothes Fairy had waved her wand and deposited all these things into little boxes in little malls.

What can I do? If I can guarantee that no one was screwed in the making of my stuff, I will happily spend the money. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. I decided to do the next best thing: I recycle. Buying second-hand means there is one less person creating a demand for new crap.

Thrifting for me is not about snagging some vintage treasure. It is a human rights issue. With an added benefit of pretty dresses.

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