Thrift Cities: Durham, NC

Though several of my peers are desperate to put their hometown in the rearview mirror, Durham and I have a pretty good relationship. I don’t necessarily want to live here forever (I don’t necessarily want to live anywhere forever), but the thrift stores would certainly support me if I chose to do so. I’ve visited many lovely thrift and vintage shops in the area, but in this post I’ll start simply with the new TROSA thrift store and a brief mention of the Goodwill on Garrett RD.

Something that I’ve been ruminating on for the last week or so has been how and why some people consider your usual, department store/mall shopping excursion to be a social experience. In the past, when I’ve gone non-thrift store shopping, I’ve always been on a mission, looking for something very specific that’s going to look a certain way. And there always seems to be great pressure to find that particular item or concept, at least in my own mind. I can’t imagine who would want to accompany me while I try on six different styles and sizes of generic skinny jeans and then agonize over whether they make me look wide(r).

Thrift shopping, though, seems to alleviate some of that pressure, perhaps just because I can accept the fact that it’s nearly impossible to go in and expect to find exactly what you’re looking for. It promotes a calmer, more zen-like attitude, in which you just have to let go of assumptions and allow yourself to be open-minded. I realize this all sounds very quaint, but I have noticed that I am much more likely to enjoy the company of others while thrift shopping. Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

Anyways, here’s what I found (comments welcome!):

It's nice to find a sweater with a suitably wide neck, so that your hair remains intact when pulling it off. Rarer than you may think and $5.99 at TROSA.

It’s nice to find a sweater with a suitably wide neck, so that your hair remains intact when pulling it off. Rarer than you may think and $5.99 at TROSA.

This dress, though somewhat charming, is a size too big for me and though workable in everyday life, it may be better suited as a bathing suit cover-up. I made the mistake of spending $19 on it, but am not entirely filled with remorse.

This dress, though somewhat charming, is a size too big for me and though workable in everyday life, it may be better suited as a bathing suit cover-up. I made the mistake of spending $19 on it, but am not entirely filled with remorse.

Add a sweater and it almost works for autumn.

Add a sweater and it almost works for autumn.

I like the split side in this skirt and the warm colors. My love affair with maxi-shirts in general continues unabated.

I like the split side in this skirt and the warm colors. My love affair with maxi-shirts in general continues unabated.

This golf themed skirt is the perfect example of the kind of thing you'd balk at in a regular store but would take a risk on when thrifting. I like the vintage flare and the ridiculous pattern is just a bonus.

This golf themed skirt is the perfect example of the kind of thing you’d balk at in a regular store but would take a risk on when thrifting. I like the vintage flare and the ridiculous pattern is just a bonus.

This is the reason no one watches golf on TV.

This is the reason no one watches golf on TV.

This shirt is a Goodwill find from some years ago and though it is, quite literally,  just someone's ragged t-shirt I love how it hangs.

This shirt is a Goodwill find from some years ago and though it is, quite literally, just someone’s ragged t-shirt I love how it hangs.

This jacket was also found at Goodwill and I couldn't resist the print. It also adds a unique edge to casual outfit.

This jacket was also found at Goodwill and I couldn’t resist the print. It also adds a unique edge to casual outfit.

Close up of the detailing. Exquisite.

Close up of the detailing. Exquisite.

Though perhaps not on the scale of larger metropolitan areas, I can’t find much to complain about it when it comes to Durham thrift.

(cover photo from http://law.nccu.edu/about/durham/)

Thanksgiving

So, it’s rapidly approaching the time of year when people are meant to reflect on what is most important in their lives and what is worth being grateful for. Usually I say something along the lines of Daniel Craig’s thighs or Dan Auerbach’s beard. In all honesty, though, the real answer is clear: friends and family.

And since I am shamelessly (or so it would appear) self-absorbed teenager I will go on to say, specifically, the clothes of friends and family.

This is, of course, the season for giving, and the whole concept of thrift is based wholeheartedly around this: we give to thrift stores as much as we get in order to continue the cycle. It’s the circle of life. But there is another resource for those who are willing to accept it – and I assume anyone who has siblings will probably have a pretty good grasp of the idea of the direct hand-me-down.

Thrift, in essence, is really just getting hand-me-downs from strangers. But in the quest for looking fucking fabulous and not emptying your wallet at the same time it cannot be ignored that there are lovely people out there who want to get rid of stuff that they no longer fancy or that no longer fits and that you, as a friend or relative of these people, would be remiss to say no to if you get the offer.

This is the kind of generosity that someone as self-absorbed as myself could learn from. Not to mention I’ve gotten some great pieces from those looking to pare down their closet.

My point is happy almost-Thanksgiving and remember to thank your friends and family not only for being alive and well but also for giving you stuff. Because that’s what the holiday season’s all about. Or something.

Some of the greatest hand-me-downs there have ever been (comments welcome!):

This shirt is remarkable for a number of reasons. First is that it's fit me for six years now. Second, it was passed to me from the daughter of friends in Paris, as she had grown out of it some years before. So it had already been worn well when I got it, and yet it shows few signs of any wear and tear. It's been a key part of my wardrobe and I haven't the faintest idea what I'd do without it. Here I've got it with a skirt from the Urban Outfitters sale rack ($10).

This shirt is remarkable for a number of reasons. First is that it’s fit me for six years now. Second, it was passed to me from the daughter of friends in Paris, as she had grown out of it some years before. So it had already been worn well when I got it, and yet it shows few signs of any wear and tear. It’s been a key part of my wardrobe and I haven’t the faintest idea what I’d do without it. Here I’ve got it with a skirt from the Urban Outfitters sale rack ($10).

This sweater is a relatively new hand-me-down from my mom, who historically has been one of my great sources of clothes in general. My favorite part of this top, besides the boat neck, is how it lines up so well with this skirt, also $10 from Urban Outfitters.

This sweater is a relatively new hand-me-down from my mom, who historically has been one of my great sources of clothes in general. My favorite part of this top, besides the boat neck, is how it lines up so well with this skirt, also $10 from Urban Outfitters.

Another sweater from my mom, and I'm in love with the plum color. Goes moderately well with a maxi-skirt (Forever 21, $13 on sale).

Another sweater from my mom, and I’m in love with the plum color. Goes moderately well with a maxi-skirt (Forever 21, $13 on sale).

These tasteful earrings used to be my piano teacher's, who has been especially magnanimous in giving me excess food and make-up brushes as well. Not to mention teaching me piano.

These tasteful earrings used to be my piano teacher’s, who has been especially magnanimous in giving me excess food and make-up brushes as well. Not to mention teaching me piano.

These earrings were left at my uncle's house by some girl he used to date. He passed them to my mom, who eventually gave them to me. The earrings seem to go with every outfit I throw at them.

These earrings were left at my uncle’s house by some girl he used to date. He passed them to my mom, who eventually gave them to me. The earrings seem to go with every outfit I throw at them.

These earrings are from my late grandmother's collection - a woman who clearly had elegant taste.

These earrings are from my late grandmother’s collection – a woman who clearly had elegant taste.

Thrift Cities: Seattle, WA

Now I know exactly none of you will be surprised when I tell you that Seattle has bitchin’ thrift stores, however you may be surprised (and slightly horrified) by the fact I managed to fit all the clothes I bought (see below) into my carry-on luggage for the the flight home. It was one of my greater triumphs.

Seattle, of course, is the hometown of Macklemore, who shoved thrift shopping even more into the mainstream than it already was (for the record, I was thrift shopping before the song solidified its coolness). So, naturally, the main thrift store we flocked to in Seattle was the largest Goodwill in the country, and apparently the one Macklemore frequented. I have still not recovered from how overwhelmingly gorgeous it was. I imagine it will haunt my memories as one of those halcyon experiences of youth.

Some of the many highlights (comments welcome!):

First, I got some excellent deals on shoes. These are Clark boots that are usually upwards of a $100. I got them for $15. They have since become a major staple in my wardrobe.

First, I got some excellent deals on shoes. These are Clark boots that are usually upwards of a $100. I got them for $15. They have since become a major staple in my wardrobe.

These Oxfords were only $6 and I have a deep appreciation for what they do to my ankles.

These Oxfords were only $6 and I have a deep appreciation for what they do to my ankles.

It should first be noted that I am a huge proponent of the unconventional maxi-dress (as opposed to the conventional floral muumuu idea of a long dress) and so I fell in love with this pretty quick. The fabric is delightfully thin but not see-through.

It should first be noted that I am a huge proponent of the unconventional maxi-dress (as opposed to the conventional floral muumuu idea of a long dress) and so I fell in love with this pretty quick. The fabric is delightfully thin but not see-through.

And if like me you believe the mantra that black leather makes everything better, than it's a good time to be alive.

And if, like me, you believe the mantra that black leather (Forever 21, $30) makes everything better, than it’s a good time to be alive.

This dress is comfortable enough to be pajamas but can sharpened up with black stockings (or fishnets) and Oxfords. The sweater is a cast-off of my mom's and adds to the vaguely autumn color scheme.

This dress is comfortable enough to be pajamas but can sharpened up with black stockings ($6 on Forever 21 or fishnets from elsewhere) and Oxfords. The sweater is a cast-off of my mom’s and adds to the vaguely autumnal color scheme.

This one I'm a bit proud of, mostly because I like the red tights (Forever 21, $6) with the black and tan of the hat ($4 at a beach store in Chincoteague) and dress. The dress was approximately $5 and was recommended by the illustrious Margaret Kramer, who is the most masterful thrift shopper there has ever been.

This one I’m a bit proud of, mostly because I like the red tights (Forever 21, $6) with the black and tan of the hat ($4 at a beach store in Chincoteague) and dress. The dress was approximately $5 and was recommended by the illustrious Margaret Kramer, who is the most masterful thrift shopper there has ever been.

The crowning jewel of this visit is this dress, which has no tags and would appear to be handmade. It seems to be a minor miracle that it happened to fit me.

The crowning jewel of this visit is this dress, which has no tags and would appear to be handmade. It seems to be a minor miracle that it happened to fit me. Lately I’ve been combining it with your average black heels. I feel as though it would be a good Christmas party dress, or maybe better suited for a melancholic summer evening. Or perhaps just an unusual prom dress, depending on who you are. Hard to say.

A closer look at the pattern and how the neckline perfectly frames a pendant.

A closer look at the pattern and how the neckline perfectly frames a pendant.

Seattle has set a whole new standard for thrift and thoroughly blown my mind in the process. Next time I go out there I’m bringing an extra suitcase.

(cover photo from http://mccormickbarstow.com/seattle-washington)

Thrift Cities: Providence, RI

Providence, in the last thirty years or so, has improved in myriad ways and accordingly the thrift scene has improved also. This is likely because it’s pretty thoroughly a college town and if there’s one thing I imagine college students are into it’s cheap stuff. I have relatives in this lovely city and so whenever we visit we’ve made a habit of making the pilgrimage to the chain thrift store Savers, which is the size of a suburban Wal-Mart and far less evil. The thrift is high quality too, which I assume is because there are enough rich people in and around the city who need some place to get rid of their cast-offs. Savers also often has 50% off sales that send the masses swarming in to buy unhealthy amounts of clothes and shoes. It’s basically heaven.

Some notable pieces that I’ve encountered there (comments welcome!):

Usually, I'm not one to endorse sparkles but I'm undeniably captivated by the neckline of this dress.

Usually, I’m not one to endorse sparkles but I’m undeniably captivated by the neckline of this dress.

Add a coat (Forever 21, $40) and you've got a pretty nice outfit to go out in for winter.

Add a coat (Forever 21, $40) and you’ve got a pretty nice outfit to go out in for winter.

My mom bought these shoes at Savers on a solo trip a while back. They were too big, so she passed them on to me. It's been about a year since then and I've worn them literally everywhere. They've survived two music festivals and a trek through Reykjavík. I fear for the day when they finally fall apart.

My mom bought these shoes at Savers on a solo trip a while back. They were too big, so she passed them on to me. It’s been about a year since then and I’ve worn them literally everywhere. They’ve survived two music festivals and a trek through Reykjavík. I fear for the day when they finally fall apart completely.

This shirt has stuck with me through the years because though it's mostly your conventional crop top, the lace on the bottom has always kept me interested. Paired with high-rise leggings (Forever 21, $6), it's served me well in casual circumstances.

This shirt has stuck with me through the years because though it’s mostly your conventional crop top, the lace on the bottom has always kept me interested. Paired with high-rise leggings (Forever 21, $6), it’s served me well in casual circumstances.

You may say that this is simply a Gap t-shirt, and you may be right, but there's nothing wrong with simplicity. It's flattering, it's versatile, and it's easy.

You may say that this is simply a Gap t-shirt, and you may be right, but there’s nothing wrong with simplicity. It’s flattering, it’s versatile, and it’s easy.

Adorn it with a scarf and you've got a nice little fall ensemble.

Adorn it with a scarf and you’ve got a nice little fall ensemble.

This vaguely vintage number was picked up by aunt at Savers, then passed to me when she decided it didn't suit her. The skirt is silky and light and champagne color is tasteful with a little edge to it.

This vaguely vintage number was picked up by my aunt at Savers, then passed to me when she decided it didn’t suit her. The skirt is silky and light and champagne color is tasteful with a little edge to it.

My favorite part, however, is the back, which has the same lovely "v" shape as the front.

My favorite part, however, is the back, which has the same lovely “v” shape as the front.

Then of course we have some delicate $2 earrings.

Then of course we have some delicate $2 earrings.

These have got a spring feeling to them and could be paired with a floral skirt of some sort.

These have got a spring feeling to them and could be paired with a floral skirt of some sort.

The verdict, of course, is that Providence thrift is killer. It’s been a while since I’ve done a real shopping binge in that area but this just reminds me I need to return for another orgy of cheapness. I highly recommend it.

(cover photo from http://community-wealth.org/content/providence-rhode-island)

About

About the blog: This is a blog about clothes. Specifically, cheap clothes. Because thrift shopping is not only a way of life but also a state of mind. It’s an admonition to the cyclical nature of fashion, but also a statement about the timelessness of certain ways in which we adorn our own bodies. Thrift can both enunciate the ridiculousness of the human obsession with fashion while also acknowledging the substantial role fashion plays in our psyche and in our interactions with the world around us. And, thrift is fun. The goal of this blog, in the long run, is to catalog thrift shop and other cheap clothes outlet experiences across the United States and (eventually) the world. It’s also a place to enjoy pretty shit. The exact future for this blog and my life is unclear, but as David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.”

About me: Marguerite Alley, age 16. Enjoys reading, writing, playing music, sleeping. Wouldn’t mind being a surgeon, a rockstar, a novelist, a nuclear engineer, or a fashion authority. Doesn’t hold out much hope for achieving any of these.

Instagram: @margueritealley