Once I ordered lots of clothing from mail-order catalogues or from on-line stores; now I purchase almost all of my clothing second-hand at thrift stores. My clothing obsession could have ruined me financially. My discovery of the fun of second-hand stores, though, has given me a challenge that gives me much enjoyment and saves me money.
Years ago,as a young mother, I loved looking through catalogues that arrived by the gross in the mailbox. In free moments, I would turn down the corner of every page where I saw some item that I really liked. I liked looking at colors and textures of different clothing in the beautiful photographs. I tried to picture what the clothing would look like on me, but that was difficult. I usually just imagined that I would look as thin and glamorous as the model pictured in the item. Of course that was exactly what market analysts wanted me to do. I fell in line with their expectations by hoping that I would purchase the item and be miraculously twenty pounds lighter just by owning it, let alone wearing it. My mind knew that this was wrong, but still I used my credit card to order boxes and boxes of items for each new season. I would make lists of the items I wanted to buy, adding up costs and changing items occasionally. Boxes arrived, delivered by FedEx or UPS or regular US postal service. Some items didn’t fit -- or didn’t make me look thin and glamorous -- so I made regular trips to the post office for returns. I justified my purchases because I worked as a teacher. My position gave me a salary to afford them, and required me to appear in public daily with an up-to-date wardrobe.
Then one summer I learned, by reading a slim book about budgeting and credit, that I was letting money slip away from me like water. As a newly divorced person, I knew I couldn’t continue that way. At first, I simply bought less clothing. Then I recalled that I had seen a dear friend wearing some wonderful pieces. She had told me they were from the Salvation Army. I recalled that that was the store that hung items of similar colors in the windows visible from Upper Court Street where I drove so often to go into town. I loved the display and the creative approach it suggested.
By the time I actually visited the Family Store, as they called it, the store had moved to another building, so the display was no longer visible on the street. Inside, though, I found clothing massed by type and color. I could wander the aisles filling my eyes with the vibrant colors grouped together. It was a wonderful sensory experience,as I also enjoyed feeling the cloth of each piece, feeling the weave, noting the details of its construction. Now I can identify silk from several feet away. I look especially for silk, linen, 100% cotton, and cashmere items.
My second husband and I made a weekly excursion of it, as he enjoyed saving money, too. I no longer visited retail clothing stores. I now experience sticker shock when I research clothing items on-line. E-bay is the only place I will consider purchasing, and that mainly for shoes. Almost every piece of clothing I own, except for undergarments and shoes, is from a thrift store. I visit them in whatever city I go to. When I visited my son in Brooklyn recently, I made a stop at the Goodwill in the downtown area. I’ve been to several Goodwill stores in Pittsburgh, where my older son lives. I’ve discovered wonderful items at the Salvation Army in San Antonio, Texas. I look forward to investigating the thrift stores of the Emerald Coast of Florida when I visit my niece near Fort Walton Beach this winter.
Sometimes I wish I had discovered thrifting sooner.