Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shop Doc...I'm back!

A funny thing happened to me about a year ago. I was at one of my favorite malls looking at the new fall merchandise, something that I've always looked forward to doing since I was twelve. Instead of being inspired I found myself confused and frustrated. Not too many of the new clothes spoke to me, in fact I had the feeling that I'd seen many of them before. For the first time in years I found many items overpriced, a major concern for many in the economic environment. As I looked at several garments I wasn't impressed with the workmanship or fabrics. Where were the design details that had been an important part of some better lines of mass produced clothing?

Bored I returned home. I 'd always joked that shopping was my favorite activity and something in that I'd always excelled . If I was getting frustrated shopping, I had the feeling that many other women were as well. I decided that I was going to rethink my shopping habits and expand my options. You see I wanted to maintain my current style (that I've always described as modern American Classic), and reduce my clothing budget. I was going to make sure that I shopped my closet on a regular basis, and no longer looked to the major retailers as my only source for fashion. I've started to revisit stores from my past, which has provided for some very nice surprises. I've now added vintage boutiques and yes, even thrift stores to my regular shopping rounds. The added bonus here is that recycling is good for the environment.

The result of my past year of rethinking fashion, shopping, and my own personal style has been a revelation. I'm dressing much better for less and enjoying the process more than I have in years. I guess that shaking things up from time to time can be a very good thing.

This fall in Shop Doc I'll be exploring some of the things I've learned over the past several months. Keep an open mind, and please use what you can.

Thrifting: The One I Never, Ever Thought I'd Write.

Shopping at thrift and charity stores is a good...no, great way to supplement your wardrobe. There. I said it, and I'm still in partial disbelief, but I'm standing by that statement, even while many pros in the fashion industry would bitterly disagree with me.

I know that many of you have been enjoying the joys of thrifting for years while I personally never saw the appeal. For me, thrifting is a brand new wonderful thing. Part of me wants to yell, "Why didn't anybody tell me about this?" Today I'll proudly admit that thrift and charity stores have become a regular part of my shopping routine.

Thrifting is fun, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt. You never know what treasures you'll find. In addition, in this economy, just that fact that your dollars will go so much further in these stores makes the entire thrifting concept especially appealing.

So why am I only now jumping onto the thrifting bandwagon? I'd tried it a few times, years ago, and never had any luck. In high school, my sister would make frequent trips to an area thrift store and come out with vintage cashmere sweaters and great costume jewelry. Totally jealous I'd go in hopeful and come out sneezing from the dusty store with nothing to show for it. I found that the stores I visited were cluttered, disorganized, musty, and frankly depressing. I adopted the school of thinking that these stores were for people who couldn't afford anything better and saw no need to visit these stores myself.

Recently two friends urged me to try thrifting again. I refused them initially but finally agreed that I had nothing to lose and promised that I'd keep an open mind. At the least, we'd have a good lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. A week before this thrifting trip, NBC's Today Show aired a piece on thrifting's new popularity and ended the piece with a fashion show of items found in thrift stores. I remember that one model was wearing a pair of 7 For All Mankind Jeans. Was the media spinning thrifting to make their story more positive? I was still skeptical. Fine, I'd go but honestly, I never expected to find anything wearable.

Thrift and charity stores have changed for the better. I had expected to see piles of disorganized clothing. Instead, found a pleasant well-lit shopping environment. Items were hung on racks and organized by type and color. Most of these stores have dressing rooms and play upbeat music like any mall store. The stores I frequent are anything but depressing.

The merchandise itself runs the gamut from well worn to new and unused. (Surprise!) Every once in awhile you'll find a great vintage piece. I've learned that many organizations will sort out the good vintage pieces to sell to vintage dealers, but every once in awhile something slips through. Most stores have a glass case in the front where you'll find smaller and sometimes pricier items (I saw a pair of beautiful Valentino sling backs on a recent trip).

Is it possible to find bargains that might only be described as ridiculous and or amazing while thrifting? Yes! A year ago, I wouldn't have believed this myself, but I've found some great pieces. I've found some beautiful blazers and coats on some of my recent thrifting trips. I couldn't believe my luck when I found a brand new black leather messenger's bag from Bloomingdale's at a Goodwill for $7.99. I found a pair of long black Italian kid gloves at a charity shop for $3.00. The possibilities are endless. I've had some fantastic luck, and am no longer disappointed when I leave a store empty handed. There's always next time.

A new feature to the Shop Doc Blog will be my Thrifter's Diary where I'll highlight great finds, simply to prove that it is possible to find real bargains and sometimes unexpected treasures. Bragging rights are a benefit of thrifting should you chose to exercise them.

For those of you who are new to thrifting, here are a few things to keep in mind.

To thrift effectively give yourself plenty of time. Be patient and go through everything carefully.

Upon entering the store grab a cart or a basket (when available). Once you find an item that interest you, put it in your cart. There is so much. You don't want to lose, or worse have somebody pick something up that may have been perfect for you.

Once you find an item that you like, examine it carefully. Look for flaws. While a button or a rip on a seam can be an easy fix, a tear across the front of the garment cannot. Look for stains, discolorations, insect holes, and don't forget to check for odors. Smoke, for example, lingers forever.

Wear things that are easy to slip on and off as you would for any shopping trip. If you plan to shop for shoes, bring footies.

Once you've purchased an item, have it cleaned immediately. This can mean dry cleaning, or hand and machine washing. While many places will clean their merchandise before it goes on the selling floor, you don't know how long it has been there or how many people have tried items on before you. You'll also want to do this to avoid any insect problems.

The world's best bargain is worthless if you're not going to use it. Know when to just say no.

Make that that an item fits. Really fits. Sorry. There is no way that your size 8 foot is going to fit into the size 6 Valentino sling backs. Leave them be.

See the possibilities. A trip to the tailor could make a so-so piece spectacular. Minor alterations like shoulder pad removal, hemming, moving buttons or nipping in at the waist can make all the difference in the world. However, don't let a huge tailoring job offset the bargain. In this case it's better to leave the item there.

Sometimes you'll leave empty handed. Accept this possibility.

Have Fun!

Am I suggesting doing all of your shopping at thrift stores? No. Nevertheless, don't be afraid to supplement your clothing and accessories wardrobes here. A good discriminating eye can reveal hidden treasures, and certainly stretch your wardrobe dollars. Good Luck!

Thrifter's Diary

Can you really find bargains, deals, and steals at a thrift store? Yes. Remember that patience, persistence and a good eye are necessary to sift through the large amount of merchandise. I've done well in the short time I've been doing this. Here are some of my recent finds.

Cashmere Overcoat
(Vintage 1960's/early1970's)
Goodwill, Los Feliz CA
Condition: Excellent
It's evident that this coat's previous owner took excellent care of this beautiful coat. Every button is intact and the lining is immaculate.

This coat's classic A-Line styling and neutral camel color will insure years of wear to come. frankly I can't wait for winter.

Silk Batik Print Scarf
Discovery Shop
(Benefits the American Cancer Society)
Toluca Lake, CA
Condition: Very Good

7 For All Mankind Boot Cut Jeans
Out of the Closet Thrift Store
Hollywood , CA
Condition: Very Good

Sure I love the look and feel of premium denim, but I can't justify the premium price. So when I found this great pair of 7's, in my size, I had to try them on. They were a perfect fit though they seemed rather short. Upon closer inspection I saw that a four inch hem had been put into these jeans, something that I easily removed. The original manufacture’s hem was still in place. After a quick cold water wash and ironing, I wore them out that night with strappy sandals. (My husband loved the fit asking me if they were new. He actually noticed!) $16.99 + minimal effort=a great look and a great score!

Shop Doc: Coming soon...

Things I'm Really Liking Now, and the Thrifter's Diaries continue.

No comments: