Rural Living

Second-Hand Testimony

True Confessions of a Thrift Shop-Aholic


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I’m pretty much “shopped out” after the holidays.

But there is one shop I cannot resist.

Call it what you will — upscale resale, consignment, or thrift shop — I am lured by the promise of something fabulous for next to nothing.

For me, it all started some 30 years ago at Aardvark’s Odd Ark, on Clement Street in San Francisco. I was a tourist from Key West. I went in because the shop name intrigued me. Inside, I encountered Wonderland. I came out with a reversible pink and lavender satin jacket with a big flamingo embroidered on the back. Sound garish to you? To me, it was the fashion find of the decade. For $7.50.

After that, I was hooked. Today, I am still hopelessly addicted.

Last week at our local animal-welfare thrift shop, I spotted a brand-new pale-pink boiled wool jacket with a high-end label. It was marked $5. I could not believe my good fortune. When I raced to the counter, I found it was on sale for half price.

What? Two dollars and fifty cents? Is it any wonder I love this thrift shop, where Brownie is also welcome to browse and munch on doggie treats?

Here are some tips for thrift shopping. First, do not be embarrassed to be seen going in the place. Every smart woman does it, no matter what is, or isn’t, in her purse. Shops run by charitable organizations and staffed by volunteers are some of the best. Plus, you’re helping darling dogs, cats or even human beings. Consider shopping there your good deed for the day.

If you’re going the Goodwill route — and you really should give it a try — find one close to an upscale neighborhood. I stumbled upon one near a ritzy section of Roanoke recently. I found an ivory cashmere Ralph Lauren sweater — tag still on it — for $3.50. In fact, that day I hauled home an armful of designer labels, all attached to delightful, new things. The whole shebang cost me $17.50.

Another place I love to frequent is the Discovery Shop in Roanoke, where all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. It is chockablock with not only good clothes, but cases of attractive jewelry, and even home furnishings. I picked up a royal purple chenille throw for $10 a few weeks ago.

And then, there’s the consignment shop. Ladies, this is a double doozy: You can consign those wonderful things in your closet that you never wear (or, face it, can no longer fit into) and, while you’re there, pick up someone else’s wonderful thing. Often, before you know it, you get a check in the mail because your wonderful thing sold to yet another happy shopper. Then, you can go back and buy something else. It’s almost like shopping for free!

Some of the most remarkable and unusual items in my closets came from consignment shops. There’s the very fine pale lavender cashmere coat with what I hope is a faux, rather than fox, fur collar. And the ivory brocade evening gown with matching cloak, hand-tailored in Hong Kong, that I wear when I channel Ethel Merman on stage. Neither cost more than $20. I envision Nora Charles swathed in the lavender coat, meeting Nick for cocktails at “21” in New York. I envision a spinster — perhaps a Vanderbilt — commissioning the ivory wedding ensemble for the social event of the season in 1940.

Amazing how one’s imagination can wander while roaming the aisles of a consignment shop. That’s all part of the fun.

Here’s a consignment story I shouldn’t tell, but will. I took my trash to the dumpster one day, and spied, hanging on the wire fence, an unusual green and purple jacket. I glanced around, then snatched the hanger and jacket. Back home, I showed mom my find.

“You can’t be going to wear that?” she said, aghast. “Whoever hung it there will spot it immediately!”

She was right. I took it to a consignment shop in Lewisburg. A couple weeks later, I got a check for $24.

Just before I got sick last year, I cleaned out my closets. I faced facts: I would never fit into those fabulous pants and dresses again. I took them to Goodwill.

Five months later and 40 pounds lighter, I truly had “nothing to wear.” So, I scrounged around at Goodwill, and darned if I didn’t buy back some of my great old clothes. I call that serendipity!  


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