Label Whoring at Thrift Town

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Hi, my name is Beatrice and I’m a label whore. (Hi, Beatrice.) Now, I’m not going to go all “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on you, even though I have owned Louis Vuitton handbags, both real and fake. One of which I actually found in a dumpster. (That was one of the fake ones.) These days, as I am rapidly approaching my sixth year of not having a full time, permanent job, my whoring is done mainly at one place: Thrift Town.

Thrift Town is a thrift store chain with stores in northern California, New Mexico and Texas. In Sacramento, I am lucky enough to have a Thrift Town within walking distance, with two more within a thirty-minute trip on public transportation. Thrift Town sends out e-mail coupons and has fifty percent off clothes on major holidays. What’s not to love?

Now I adore getting clothes cheaply, but I don’t like cheap clothes. That is why I am a label whore. While other people look at every item in their size on the rack, I look at the labels first, the style second. I look for upscale and designer clothes. Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I have to wear jeans from K-Mart. I love Kut from the Kloth jeans, which sell for $40 at Nordstrom Rack, but I recently found two pairs in my size at Thrift Town, for $4.99 each. Thanks to label whoring, I can be the best-dressed person at the welfare office, and that is including the employees.

I wish I had the money and patience to be a picker. Pickers buy things at thrift stores for the sole purpose of reselling the items on eBay or at a resale shop. I’ve tried it a few times, but usually it backfires on me and I am stuck with stuff that I can’t use. Most designer clothes found at thrift stores are in smaller sizes, which do not fit me. Since I know labels, but not seasons, I don’t want to be stuck with a size three Diesel jacket that no one will buy because it came out three years ago. So I stick to things that I love and can actually wear, especially handbags and shoes.

At Thrift Town, they think that Chico’s is a designer label. They price Chico’s jackets higher than they would sell for at a Chico’s outlet. I wish I could tell them this. I applied for a job at my local Thrift Town last year, but even though I had an interview, I wasn’t hired. I guess that the fact that my last full time job in 2008 paid 4K made them think that I “wouldn’t be happy there.” (Applied for a job at Chico’s too.) Personally, I would be happy not to have to buy food with an EBT card, but employers can’t seem to get past my salary history.

So Chico’s is a designer label, but Longchamp is not. Even though I can pick up old issues of Vogue there for sixty-nine cents, not all Thrift Town pricers are familiar with the magazine. Last year, I picked up a Longchamp tote, with the Longchamp tag still on it, for $4.99. I used the tote when I was in Beverly Hills last year and then sold it for $25 when I needed some money last winter. When I was homeless in Berkeley in 2011, money from the sale of my Betsey Johnson top, Dansko clogs, and Eddie Bauer briefcase provided me with several hot meals on Telegraph Avenue. But it breaks my heart to sell my finds. Finding a bargain gives me an adrenaline rush, like hitting the thrifting jackpot.

Like any good whore, I remember my best experiences. I have a Pelle Studio knee-length black leather swing coat that cost $2.50. I switched out the oversized shoulder pads and now I have a beautiful coat of soft, heavy leather that is too dressy to wear anywhere that I can afford to go. But that’s not the point. I have Doc Martens leather sandals that cost me a whopping $5.59 and Born boots that cost $2.99. My $7.99 Timbuk 2 messenger bag came with a shoulder strap that was still in its original plastic. On their website, the strap alone costs $15. I have Banana Republic dress pants, Ann Taylor blouses, and Talbots blazers for those promising interviews that lead nowhere.

Sometimes finds are just happy accidents. When I went to the Independence Day sale, I got an Ibex felt and recycled wool handbag for $2.00. The material reminded me of the blanket that I used when I spent six weeks sleeping at a Los Angeles emergency shelter. It would serve as a stylish reminder to never sink that low again. I had never heard of the brand, but when I checked the Ibex website, I found out that the same bag sold for $90 when new. Score!

Besides my usual label whore wardrobe, I have several tee shirt collections. I used to collect Hard Rock Café shirts, but after I noticed that no one but fat old guys ever wore them, I stopped buying them. My latest collection is Harley Davidson tee shirts, which can also fetch a good price at Thrift Town, but not as much as Chico’s jackets. On a few occasions I have found Harley jeans and jackets at a Thrift Town, but I refuse to pay $30 for anything in a thrift store unless it was a Louis Vuitton handbag. I have never been on a Harley Davidson, and I know that a lot of fat, old guys wear them too, but I like buying Harley shirts and buying into that “bad boy/girl” persona. There is a Harley Davidson dealership a few blocks from where I live and sometimes in the summer they have free barbeque. I am not too proud to don a Harley shirt and walk down there for some ribs and potato salad.

In the Harley store, the only thing I can actually afford is a keychain, but thanks to Thrift Town, I can represent the Las Vegas H-D store in a beautiful ladies tee shirt with roses emblazoned on my chest. Last week, it crossed my mind to count my Harley shirts. Even though my only two-wheeled motorized experience was two short rides on a Kawasaki twenty years ago, I am the proud owner of seventeen Harley Davidson shirts. Rock shirts are harder to find at thrift store, but once in a while, I find one that I must add to my collection. In 2012, I found a Dave Meneketti tee shirt for ninety-nine cents, which I wore a few months later to a Y&T concert. I got my picture taken with Mr. Meneketti, the lead guitarist of Y&T, who was duly impressed with the shirt. I sent the photo to Thrift Town, where it was featured on their blog. It was the best ninety-nine cents that I have ever spent in a thrift store.

Someday, I hope to get on my feet again and be able to purchase designer duds and upscale outfits that did not originate in someone else’s closet. But for now, I’ll continue to whore around, cruising the racks and bins of Thrift Town for that next brand name score that will rock my world for less than $10.

 

Beatrice M. Hogg is a coal-miner’s daughter and freelance writer who was raised in Western Pennsylvania and has lived in Northern California for twenty-five years, where she wrote her novel, Three Chords One Song, and continues to write about music, long-term unemployment and life in general.

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25 Comments / Post A Comment

Marge (#4,715)

Aw Beatrice YOU GO GIRL!

Beatrice, you are awesome.

Right?? She’s writing more for us, don’t worry.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@Ester Bloom Good! A+++ essay, would (will) read again!

sheistolerable (#2,382)

I’m excited about seeing more from Beatrice!
The good labels that the staff didn’t know were good labels are world-rocking finds . . . as are great women’s clothes misfiled in the men’s (it happens!)

liznieve (#37)

@sheistolerable I know, right?!?! I once found (at a Housing Works in NYC, no less!) a tuxedo-weight silk YVES F-ING SAINT LAURENT skirt with pockets (!) for $40. I think the staff thought it was a knock off because the label just says SAINT LAURENT but that’s how it was in the 80s. This was almost 10 years ago and now that skirt is just on the other side of not fitting, but I will be damned if I ever get rid of it. It is my thrifting unicorn.

NoName (#3,509)

“…I can be the best-dressed person at the welfare office, and that is including the employees.”

I sincerely believe you can’t ask for much more in life. Beatrice, please teach us your secrets!

tw0lle (#4,354)

The key is to find those thrift stores with buyers that don’t recognize luxury brands. Prior to getting a new buyer, the Housing Works thrift store in Gramercy was a gold mine…like, YSL wool pencil skirt for $3 gold mine. Unfortunately now they price things with the full retail in mind, which is why a 4-year-old ugly-as-sin Rachel Comey dress will go for $145 when 3 years ago it wasn’t uncommon to find a pair of 80s-era Gucci pumps for $10. Oh well.

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@tw0lle There’s a thrift store near me that I kind of hate because the employees (mostly elderly volunteers) are obnoxious and most of what they sell is outdated crap. But I still go there because the employees are so out of touch with trends/brands and often too lazy to price even nicer common brands appropriately that I get crazy deals. I got a wool and silk Sonia Rykiel dress for $15, a heavy J.Crew fisherman’s sweater for $3, a wool Lux swing jacket for $3, and found my mom a Vince sweater for $4. I also got a crazy vintage mohair/cashmere Lord & Taylor cardigan with faux-pearl buttons for $5. Last time I was there, they had a silk 3.1 Phillip Lim slip/dress for $8 (because it was consigned). Meanwhile, faded Tommy Hilfiger shirts from the 90s are priced at $13.

There’s a nicer thrift store a little farther away that does recognize good brands but prices things pretty homogenously. Last time I was there, they had whole rack of beautiful vintage French/Italian couture at really reasonable prices. But everything was at least a size too small. It was a very sad thrifting day.

franklina (#3,924)

Love this article so much.

My personal best thrift experience was making an instant $5 on a pair of pants – bought them for $5 and, upon wearing for the first time, discovered a $10 in the pocket. I think they were Theory, too, but the Value World* employees didn’t know that brand :)

*Ohio’s Thrift Town equivalent

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

I love thrifting and I never pay attention to the brands. But this is AWESOME.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

“I have Banana Republic dress pants, Ann Taylor blouses, and Talbots blazers for those promising interviews that lead nowhere.”

Right?! I remember buying this beautiful and way marked down Calvin Klein dress at a TJ Maxx after grad school. It was going to be my interview dress. For a long time, it was worn to interviews that went nowhere. My luck eventually changed, and I hope yours does too, Beatrice!

AliahMoldovan (#3,960)

Beatrice–you are awesome! I do the same things, but here in the MidWest we have a lack of “nice” things; BR, Ann Taylor, Chanel, LV,etc are not found in my smallish city. Every so often, I will find something great!

appleaday (#6,367)

I love love thrifting and often start out hunting by feel – you can tell what’s cotton/silk/nice wool and quickly pass by all the polyester without wasting time on it. Particularly good for the by-the-pound-type places. I once I got a a nice calvin klein shift I used to interview for my current job. :)

NoName (#3,509)

@appleaday A friend took me to the Goodwill outlet (pay-by-pound) in Sacramento and I got so much “better” swag it was unbelievable. Coach clogs, LV bags, Jones of New York jackets – all at $2.00 per pound.

Oh, and this is a great post by one of my favorite bloggers about how to judge the quality of garments:

http://into-mind.com/2014/05/01/how-to-assess-the-quality-of-garments-a-beginners-guide-part-i/

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

I had to go into my closet and see what my thrift-store brands actually were. Most of my thrifted clothes are from H&M, which suggests I have no concept of value or clothing that will last. My favorite thrifted outfit is actually Mossimo, which is a Target brand, right? THE CLASSIEST. I also have Gap, Xhilaration, BCBG, and one Charlotte Russe item.

the second I saw Thrift Town I yelped with so much happiness.

gyip (#4,192)

I am MAD jealous about the Longchamp bag.

clo (#4,196)

this woman needs to be a personal shopper or something. that’s amazing.

Tatiana (#194)

I <3 thrifting and this article was terrific. Looking forward to hearing more from Beatrice!

Clara (#3,450)

Awesome essay. Love the slightly sardonic but sincere tone. Hope your luck turns around. Ever tried to get a state job? From a former Sacramentan

aetataureate (#1,310)

AHHH. Beatrice. I love your style and your name (which is my middle name).

My best thrift find ever was not because of the label . . . It was a mint condition pair of my favorite style of shoe ever, from TEN YEARS AGO, in my enormous size. Just. Amazing. I would have paid retail for them.

I laughed so much reading this, and you made me miss living somewhere with good thrifting. Growing up in Chicago, I was spoiled by the crazy stuff people gave to thrift stores- my lunch money bought so many dresses I could never have afforded new, sometimes still with tags! In my little southern town now, it’s all three wolf moon shirts and poly blend suits, all the time.

I hope you’re going to be a regular contributor.

Developing a good sense of touch for textiles is incredibly useful when you’re out shopping with folks that doesn’t have that honed. It slayed my sister the time we were walking down a rack of cardigans and blazers and I pulled a Coldwater Creek drape-front cardigan off the rack without seeing the label because I recognized the color.

DEB (#7,217)

Great article, B! Look forward to more!

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