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.