Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Week in Review: On the Hunt

When grazing the aisles of your favorite thrift store, your senses sharp, your palms sweating as you stalk your prey, you are suddenly hyper aware of your surroundings. Senior citizens scatter about the bric-a-brac section. Young mothers are toting toddlers around the housewares. Hipsters claim the electronics section, swarming around the stacks of vinyl. Take a deep breath. You are now deep in the heart of the jungle…the land of competitive thrift shopping where only the fittest survive.

Seem exaggerated? You haven’t had the misfortune of hitting the thrift at peek hours, with the aisles clogged with overflowing carts and people bustling around the building like wild animals.

Sure, it helps to know the layout of the store and which colored-tag sale is the day’s special. But it also helps to get a feel for the clientele. Know your thrifty competitors. And yes, it is a competition.

Aside from the frugality of secondhand shopping, there’s something of a sport involved, a friendly competition of who can score the most swag for the smallest amount of money. This reasoning, coupled with the appeal to collectors, junkers and crafters will yield a wildly varied customer demographic. But generally speaking, there are certain group--species if you will--to which people fall in the spectrum of secondhand shoppers. Knowing who they are and what they’re about could give you the competitive edge to get what you want before they get it first.

The Matriarch.
"What!? A sale on ceramic animals at Goodwill? I'll be there in a jiffy!"

Mother, Grandmother. Doting Aunt. These women are the providers and caregivers for all things domestic. They have a keen eye to spot anything potentially useful for the home’s of any member of their family, their friend or their neighbor. You wouldn’t be shocked to overhear one of these women picking up a piece of kitchen decor and saying “Oh Edith, look at this ceramic rooster. You know who could use one of these? Your third cousin, Julie. She collects roosters. I think I’ll get it for her.” The matriarch can be typically seen in pastel pants, a sensible blouse and an animal embellished sweater, regardless of the season or temperature…for those “drafty” areas of the thrift.

Mr. Fix-It.

"Yes, Honey. I'm going to thrift that couch today for the basement....after I eat lunch."

Mr. Fix-It is the average guy’s guy looking to build, paint, caulk, mold, screw or smash anything deemed useful for what ever “big project” is next on his busy agenda. Be wary of overly tanned, mustached 40-somethings with worn denim and flannel. This guy means business and is likely heading straight to the furniture section with measuring tape hanging from his utility belt. These men are especially prevalent in the electronics section, sorting through buckets of miscellaneous plugs and wires. If you’re looking to thrift for home repair, this illusive creature will pose a threat to your domain.

The Hipster.

"We're too cutting edge to pose for pictures."

Ah, the hipster. In fashion choice, in lifestyle, the hipster poses a serious problem for avid thrifters. They’re buying up all the vinyl, they’re calling dibs on all the cool vintage clothes and they have a sixth sense when it comes to kitsch. Beware the skinny jeans and the intentionally mussed hair. And don’t let the thick lenses of the cat eye frames fool you, they have impeccable thrift vision and will be stalking the same territory. They are also known to travel in packs to spread throughout many sections of the store. This means trouble.

The Eccentric.

"Don't ya know that's a first edition ya have there? I have three. Want to hear a funny story?"

This is the wild card of thrift shoppers. It can come in many shapes and sizes and has no definitive age, race or gender. This person is in it for the oddities and in many ways be your most worthy adversary. A lot of the times this person, man or woman, holds some knowledge or familiarity with whatever found object they’ve acquired and will share said information with shoppers nearby. They are good for a brief history lesson. But limit your conversation, lest they spot all the coveted crazy items before you do. If you find someone who can tell you the inventor, make, model and purpose for every kitsch item in your basket…run, don’t walk toward the section you’d most like to scavenge.


Truth be told, there are many types of regular thrifters. These are not mere shoppers or casual purveyors of the secondhand. These are devotees to the thrift lifestyle. And in some cases they can put a damper on your overall thrift experience.

On the whole, I’ve had a very positive social experience while thrifting. Smiling, friendly banter at the checkout, the occasional shared laugh over some outcast item on the shelf. There are times, however, when thrift shopping is not so pleasant…when the competition gets a little ugly.

I have seen shoppers nearly come to blows over an item, arguing over “who saw it first.” I’ve seen aisles deliberately blocked with carts with a refusal to budge. I’ve seen people nearly knock others to the ground in their eager pursuit of something they spotted from across the store.

It ain’t pretty.

"That Pyrex is mine. Back off or I'll bite."
My advice is to be on the constant defense. Be polite. But also be aware that others are not always so cordial. A case in point example: If you are going to the thrift and know you’ll be rifling though the clothing racks and may need to try something on, do that first. Because, sad to say it’s not unheard of to come out to your unattended cart full of treasures to find a few of them missing to the buzzards who swooped in and snatched them while you were in the fitting room. Now, that’s bad thrift karma.

I had my own run-in with a fellow thrifter just the other day. After visiting the Montgomeryville Impact, I decided on the way home I’d follow a slightly scenic route so I can stop into the Hatboro Impact as well. And wouldn’t you know one of the shoppers from Montgomeryville must’ve had the same idea! I saw him immediately and was about to say hello…until I saw his reaction to recognizing me. He quickened his pace from the fiction to the vintage book section and holed himself in there for a solid 15 minutes. I guess he sized me up as a bookish girl and wanted to get to the good ones before I did. Touché, sir. Touché.

What wild thrifters have you spotted while on the hunt?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Odds ‘n’ Ends Thursday: Here’s What Five Bucks Can Get You

The Entire Loot

On Tuesday afternoon I stopped into one of my favorite thrifts, Impact in Montgomeryville, PA. I wanted to make an entire day of suburban thrifting, but had a last minute change of plans.
This loot will satisfy the urge… for now.

Monster Mash: Sounds of Terror album…. 50 cents

Patti Smith Group: Wave album…. 50 cents

Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python… 35 cents

Three vintage Deka cups_Two Care Bears and one Strawberry Shortcake… 90 cents

Vintage Polaroid blue flashgun… One dollar

Dory Previn: Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign cassette…. 35 cents

Matryoshka toothpick holder… One dollar

Thrifty Loot

Now for a few field notes:

The vintage 80's cartoon Deka cups and Monty Python Ripping Yarns will be listed in my Etsy shop in the near future.  Otherwise it’s mine, all mine.

A dollar is more than I would usually pay for a teeny, tiny Matryoshka toothpick holder. But I happen to collect Matryoshka dolls, so I gladly forked over the money.

The Dory Previn cassette was bought on a whim for something silly to listen to on the car ride home. It was a judgment call based solely on the album cover and the names of the songs. Something I like to do from time to time with thrifted music. And let me tell you that listening to a concept album set to the score of a failed Broadway revue in bumper-to-bumper traffic was quite the experience. 

I need to get a bulb for the flashgun, which I am eager to try once I get all my equipment together.

And the Sounds of Terror album?

Sounds of Terror Front

Imagine cheap Halloween atmospheric soud effect CDs…based on horror genre references…with a brief voiceover intro to each track…on all the crackling and popping glory of vinyl. Highly entertaining.

My favorite songs? It’s a three-way tie among “Buried Alive, The Blob" and “Incredible Giant Crab.”  And interestingly enough this album is a minimum $15 on Amazon. Horror! Madness! Terror!

Sounds of Terror Back

I would like to make a semi-regular "Sounds of the Thrift" posting, especially when it comes to whimsical purchases of bands or albums I know little to nothing about. Of course I plan to include mp3 selctions from Sounds of Terror and Dory Previn for your listening enjoyment.

But for now, I'm pleased with my five dollar finds.

What loot have you pulled in for under five bucks? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Thrifted Life: A Passing

My Grandmom, me and my ridiculous face.
The year? 1988. I was four years old and that was my favorite shirt.

After many months of deteriorating health, my grandmother passed away peacefully on Monday July 18th at the age of 91. More than just an extension of the family, my grandmother was also a roommate, and a part of our household for over twenty years. My grandfather passed away the same year this photo was taken. And when my grandmother expressed concern over living alone, my parents opened the door to their home. Less than a year after,  my sister came screaming into the world, as babies often do. And when the smaller bedroom was furnished for a nursery, my grandmother and I moved in together to share the larger bedroom.

She would style my long hair into a single braid, to keep it from knotting when I tossed and turned in my twin sized bed. And when we were settling in for the night, we were sure to leave enough time for a few episodes of The Golden Girls. I didn't get the humor then.

 But I do now. Those sassy ladies...sharing stories over cheesecake and tea!

And speaking of sassy.... Would you just look at that polka dot polyester number?

While we did have our differencces, especially during my teenage years, we also had remarkable similarities. We both enjoyed a good laugh at a bad horror movie. And we were both very put-together people. Like me, my grandmother was always mindful of her appearance before leaving the house. While I'm not quite as fashion-forward to be able to sport a polyester suit, I'm not seen publicly without makeup. Ask anyone.

My grandmother was the exact same way. Her penchant for costume jewelry, a collection thanks in large part to the QVC network, was worn proudly with coordinating outfits. She called blush "rouge" and wore it even to the doctor's office.

This is the grandmom I know. Though in her later years, when in declining health she had a low morale to believe she could still enjoy herself outside of the home, I still like to remember her as she was...with her faux pearls and her rouge.

Nice shoes, Grandma!

But there was another woman I did not know, one long before my time. This was a woman who believed frugality was a virtue and lived it daily. She provided for her four children. She made sure they had food on their plates even if it meant she was going to bed hungry. She scrimped and saved enough money to buy new outfits for them come Easter Sunday. She sacrificed and managed with what she and her husband had.

And yet even then, in a collapsed economy she managed to look fashionably put-together.

On Friday afternoon, there was reverent silence, punctuated with the occasional sniffle in the limousine on the way to my grandmother's burial. And then suddenly, after reflecting on the Pastor's words, my aunt made an astute observation. That my grandmom, though she enjoyed getting dolled-up, in her younger years thought herself "homely looking." And this was undoubtedly due to budgetary restraints. But amazingly enough, in seeing photos of her, you would never know of that perception. She was anything but homely.

In sorting and dividing her collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches, it's easy to see that my Grandmom had a flair for adornment. But she was also incredibly sentimental. She saved so many old photographs, postcards, dried and pressed flowers. We even found remembrances from when her children were in grade school.

Though I did not know her at that time, I have decided to keep a lot of photographs from when she was a young woman, not far from my age now. Any time I look at those photographs...or watch a b-horror movie... or put on a strand of her faux pearls...I'll remember her. And though now I remember her with a tear, I know soon I'll remember her with a smile.

Grandpop and Grandmom.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Week in Review: We're Hitting the Road

In the housebound boredom of being on temporary sick leave, I had the time to evaluate what I own and what I am willing to part with through donations and sales at my Etsy shop. I still have a bit of organizing and de-cluttering to do, though most of the trouble lies in my closet, not my collections. And since I have the rare ability to say that I'm done work at a decent hour tomorrow night, I plan to do two things:
  1. Sort through unworn and ill-fitting clothes for potential Goodwill donations and organize what's left into a sensible grouping of pants, shirts, skirts, gym clothes, casual,  professional and party wear.
  2. Map out an itinerary of my favorite suburban thrift stores.
On Tuesday, following my physical therapy appointment and a quick stop at the local library, I plan to properly celebrate my newly found freedom from temporary immobility by partaking in a solo Thrift Road Trip. I need to gain some fresh blog inspiration. And of course I hope to find some quirky vintage oddities, maybe stock up on some items for my shop. And....drum roll, please... I am also in search for an assemblage of items for my next Blog Follower Giveaway!

And don't think I've forgotten about The Trading Post idea. That is still very much in the works. So bloggers, readers and friends, prepare your wares for the trading. And prepare your minds for the blowing, by way of future thrift fails, weird and wonderful finds and a miscellany of misadventures!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Odds 'n' Ends Thursday: A Thrifty Read

"A high-powered novel about Public Relations experts--smart, brazen and ruthless."

Pocket Book Edition, 1952.

"This is a crackling, high-powered novel about Clint Lorimer, a smart and ruthless operator who had every qualification for success as a public relations expert except for a small, deeply-buried shred of self-respect. And about Anne Tremaine, an advertising agency expert who was successfully Clint's partner, mistress and boss. And about Harvey Holt Ames, an amiable nitwit who inherited a company he didn't know how to run until he got the build-up. And about Peggy Devon, a reporter who couldn't help loving a phony.

The Build-Up Boys is fiction but it has a solid basis in fact. It will tell you how the Public Relations business can operate and what it can do to itself and its clients."


I just love the scintillating pulp cover.  And just maybe I'll learn a thing or two...on how to be brazen and ruthless, or how to not fall in love with a phony.

This is what the PR business is really about, folks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Thrifted Life: Tools of the Thrift

Sometimes your average trip to the thrift is spontaneous, a way to perhaps pleasantly pass the time or just one of many stops on the list of daily errands to run. But when you are planning a trip to the thrift, it's always best to take several issues under consideration. Are you meandering the aisles aimlessly? Are you searching for something specific? Whichever your answer may be, it never hurts to be prepared with the right tools for the job.

  • Measurements, Dimensions and a Sense of Spatial Reality. Knowing what living space you have to work with is key before buying furniture and decor at the thrift. This is especially important when your favorite secondhand stores don't have a return policy. Know the dimensions of the room you are looking to furnish before you hit the thrift. And don't forget to measure any hallways and stairwells leading to that room. It would be a tragedy to score that vintage orange couch only to not fit it down the narrow hallway to your apartment.

  • Miniature Tape Measure. Now that you have the dimensions of your room jotted down, it's time to measure that secondhand sofa, coffee table, dinette or roll-up desk.

  • Paint Swatches or Photos. If you are working around a preconceived motif, it's always helpful to have a visual aid to confirm that the shade or design of a particular area will compliment with whatever thrifted treasure you're admiring.

  • A Basic Knowledge of Textiles. This is, admittedly, a skill I am still striving to learn. But having an annotated understanding of fabric could help you make fashionably sound decisions in the future for both your thrifted home and yourself.

  • A Small Assortment of Batteries. Testing battery-operated electronics can prove impossible when the batteries inside have long-since died. I find the most commonly used battery to be four AA. But it also couldn't hurt to have four AAA and two 9V to test items before you buy.

  • Your Smartphone. Having the combination of a camera and your contact list is an invaluable resource. Snap a quick picture and send it to your husband, best friend or roommate for an immediate second opinion of the item. Or have yourself a laugh by sharing a funny find you would never, EVER want in your home. Want more information on the manufacturer of that camera? Want to know if that Barbie is more valuable than the 99 cent price tag? Open your browser and let Google do the dirty work.

  • A Notepad and Pen. You never know when a bolt of inspiration will strike you. Be it an idea for a blog entry or a craft project, take a hot second and jot down the gist before you forget.

  • An Open Mind. Don't think you have the physique that can pull of a poncho? Not sure if a lime green end table will overwhelm the living room? You'll never know until you try. Take a chance with style and have fun flirting with new ideas that could broaden your appreciation for thrifted fashion, art, decor, furniture and lighting.

  • A Fixed Budget.  Have a budget, either on an item-per-item basis (x amount of dollars for a couch, x amount for a dress) or a along a timeline (x amount of dollars per month). Justifying the purchase of mass amounts of thrifted finds because the low cost is comparative to standard retail is a self-defeating mindset. Regulate your spending by saving receipts and make changes accordingly.

  • A Sense of Clarity. Keeping a fun and frugal home clutter-free means knowing just how much is too much when it comes to the thrift. Don't let cost be the only deciding factor when assessing your secondhand needs and wants, or you will find a way to rationalize every single purchase. Consider living space and utility. Is the item useful? Does it serve a purpose? Will it be used or displayed in manner that doesn't involve staying in storage until you can "make room" for it? Keep your thrifted treasures clean, neat and organized so you and your guests can better appreciate your frugal find.

What tools do you use when scavenging the aisles of your favorite thrift?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Week in Review: My Epic Return to the Thrift

Since late May I’ve been fitted with an orthopedic boot for what was thought to be a stress fracture. While the diagnosis is still a bit fuzzy, the time has come to kick-off the boot and begin physical therapy.

And not a moment too soon, given my reliance upon friends and family to drive me around to run my errands. And since thrifting is not quite a necessary errand (at least not one to friends and family) I was having a severe secondhand shortage.

Today marks my triumphant solo return to the thrift. And while I only made a single purchase, I knew instantly what I had been missing.

Cigar box and contents, $1 from Second Ave Value Store.

Take this cigar box, for example. Square, sturdy, with the sweet image of a biker's sillhoutte. A nice box of Nicaraguan cigars imported by the Acid company. Sounds smooth, doesn't it? But what's in the box, you ask.

Lighters? A deck of cards? Grandpa's corncob pipe collection?


Which one of you kids wants a stogie?

Gather 'round, children. It's time for papa to light up one of his Acid cigars and regale you with stories of cross-country bike trips. Oh wait, we're fresh out of cigars. Here, play with these ABC blocks instead.

...And that's exactly what I've been missing from the thrift.

Be sure to visit the Let's Go Thrifting Facebook Page for our Facebook exclusive Thrift Fail of the Week! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Odds 'n' Ends Thursday: A Weighty Issue

Of course we all remember this creep show of classic literature. In honor of tonight's final competitive Weight Watchers weigh-in, I've decided to resurrect the fine art of body watchin'.

For the past thirteen weeks my dad and I have been competing in the annual Weight Watchers Battle of the Badges, a friendly weigh-off challenge between police and fire fighters and their families. Tonight is the last weigh-in. While I know I didn't win top prize, my now baggy jeans and ill-fitting pajamas are prize enough for now. I've decided to stick with the program beyond Battle of the Badges and hope to lose another 50 pounds in the next six months. But after tonight's weigh-in I'm treating myself to a hefty dose of crab fries with cheese and muscles in red. It will be...glorious.

But come tomorrow morning, I'll be back on track again. I need to be. Because apparently, in accordance with Body Watchin' author and self-proclaimed "Chief Watcher" John L. Shirley, I'm a classic Endomorph. And given this eye-opening illustration, I am also incidentally a bowling enthusiast in drag. Who knew?

"Endomorph: The Fat One" is a chapter dedicated to we fatties who are "awkward in movement and prone to stumble," we who "have a strong aversion to yard work." And word to the wise from The Chief Watcher:

"Never aggravate the endos over their need for food and drink." We might get volatile and chew your arm off for a midday snack.

But don't worry, readers. John L. Shirley loves looking at all body types. This thrifted read is dedicated "to all the bodies I've watched...the knowledge gained has made the writing of this book not only possible, but a lot of fun!"

So keep in mind that next time someone is sizing you up, they may very well be drafting a book on somatotyping... one that will someday end up on the shelves of your local thrift store.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Thrifted Life: A Lovely Surprise

Giveaway Winner

Being involved in the virtual thrift community certainly has its benefits. I’ve learned helpful re-sellers tips, got answers to technical questions and shared mutual thrifted finds with bloggers all over the world. Occasionally I am even rewarded with lovely little surprises like this.

Routinely checking my inbox last week I found an email from Lynda of the innovative blog Something Created Everyday. She had just announced the giveaway winner for her blog’s 300 follower milestone. And as it turns out, I had won her previous milestone giveaway when I was on blog hiatus and never even realized to claim my prize!

Kudos to Lynda for realizing my absence during the previous giveaway and for shipping me this lovely handmade felt tote and vintage buttons. I love the lace detail and adorably crafted felt flower. It is the perfect size for holding craft projects that I hope to begin very soon. Of course I’m not nearly as skilled. And I can’t seem to get my sewing machine functional, a minor setback for the time being.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to crafting, but I’m glad there are ladies like Lynda out there, who regularly shares her thrifted finds and crafty creations for other to appreciate and be inspired by.

Congratulations on the milestone achievement, Lynda!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Week in Review: What We Wear

Since starting a new venture in fashion writing, I’ve come to nurture a heightened awareness of textiles, garments, ensembles, accessories and the overall look of passersby. I mentally note what works and what doesn’t. When reading fashion magazines I clip clothes, shoes and accessories I find interesting for my own Look Book—pages of which I will scan and share with you at a later time. I then use my Look Book to search for thrifty alternatives to high end designers.

While thrifted fashion finds were minimal this week, I’m still hopeful. Planning to fully utilize secondhand means to expand my wardrobe is especially important given the current size situation. I’m still losing weight, slowly but surely. But it’s not the most ideal time to commit to an entirely new wardrobe. I’m cautiously looking for clothes that fit…for now. But I am really searching for a few pieces that will fit even better… a few weeks from now.
In the meantime, I have been hitting the books for fashion inspiration.

Vintage Fashion Book

I found this nostalgic book in New Hope, PA. While it wasn’t thrifted, I did buy it from an independent book store…on sale.

Vintage Fashion Book Pages
Vintage Fashion Book More Pages
Vintage Fashion Book Even More Pages

I enjoy the color and pattern of some of the fabrics, but will be the first to say that 70’s fashion isn’t cut for every body type. Some of the ensembles highlighted are ill-fitting, and judging by some of the hesitant body language in the models’ posing, they weren’t entirely comfortable either.

The women are amateurs at best, likely friends of the author and not models by trade. But that’s okay. Actually I think the real-woman look in outfits that border on costumes lends a little charm to the idea. And while I’m not limiting my fashion focus to just bell bottoms and polyester, there is a guilty pleasure in admiring the craze of past eras.

After all, fashion is a continuum of ideas and past inspiration. Take the shirt dress. We have the 60’s to thank for this current trend. Of course the modern take on the trend means a shorter hem and a skinny belt at the waist, but I love the look all the same.

Now if only I can thrift one in my size.

What thrifted fashion have you found?

Look at This Lovely Giveaway at Northern Nesting!

This amazing birdcage clothe can be all yours with just a few clicks and a little luck.

Northern Nesting is hosting this lovely giveaway now through July 8th. There are three ways to enter, so good luck everyone! I've entered for my chance to win. So click on over there for all of the details.