Those who read this blog somewhat consistently know that I’m not shy when it comes to talking about thrift stores, so this post isn’t going to be any different.
For better or worse, thrift stores have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite stories is that I learned how to read in a thrift store. It was a thrift store my mother frequented in Georgia, and I was reading Cat in the Hat, and apparently the sales associate tried to call my bluff. I was only 3 1/2, and she didn’t believe I was actually reading it. My mom was a little doubtful, too, so she flipped the book to a random page and pointed to a word, and I read it (correctly) out loud. She did this several other times with the same results, so both her and the sales associate were convinced.
I got some of my favorite Strawberry Shortcake (the original, thankyouverymuch) items from the thrift store: a toy refrigerator that I converted into a bookshelf, a sleeping bag, and a couple of pictures.
Growing up, I assumed that the thrift store was just another department store to buy stuff, like Target. A one-stop shop of sorts. I thought nothing of the discounted prices, mostly because at that age I had no concept of what was expensive and what was cheap, and had been to flea markets and used bookstores plenty of times to know that not everything I bought had to be brand-spankin’ new. I was blissfully unaware of the stigma against thrift store finds until fifth grade.
I remember it well: I was jogging around the track for P.E. class, wearing a floral pink t-shirt and jeans, both from the thrift store. I thought I looked pretty cute, if you didn’t pay attention to the sweat pouring down my face from running. One boy, though, decided to take it upon himself to try and make my day a bad one.
“Look at Violet! Her clothes look like they’re from Goodwill! She’s poor! Violet’s poor, Violet’s poor!”
I’m sure there would be kids out there who would completely crumble under these taunts. I, however, was a little sassy firecracker throughout my elementary school years. Right then and there I decided this boy wasn’t worth my time, and I used my ever-present literary skills to quickly come up with an acronym.
“Thank you!” I shouted back to him.
For a moment, he looked confused.
“I AM Pretty, Outstanding, Outrageous, and Radical!” (Hey, ignore the last word. I was born in the 80s. That word was awesome back then.) I flashed him a toothy, confident smile, satisfied that I silenced him.
Even though I wasn’t about to let this boy bully me and let him think in any way that he got to me, I did start to ponder things when I got home. What was so wrong with having clothes that looked like they were from Goodwill? Why did he connect getting clothes from Goodwill with being poor? What was I missing?
It was then that I started to realize that perhaps my mom took me to the thrift store because she might not be able to afford more expensive clothes. Until then, it never occurred to me that I didn’t go the trendier, more upscale stores at the mall like my friends did.
I’m not gonna lie here. After that incident, all the way through junior high, high school and most of college, I started to become embarrassed to admit that I shopped at the thrift store. The one in our town is on a busy street, so when I went to the thrift store, I’d take care to hide my face in case someone I knew happened to be driving by. One of my best friends in junior high’s parents were better off than mine, which didn’t really bother me much until we went to the mall. For fun, we’d go and try on outfits at Macy’s. One day, we both tried an amazing Unionbay shirt that we both fell in love with. I believe it was about $30, which was much too expensive for me. For that price, I could easily by at least six shirts at the thrift store. But oh, how I wanted that shirt! Imagine my jealousy when my friend told her mom about it, and she was able to get it when she got good grades on her report card. Just like that! She also got an adorable jean skirt to go with it. A few months later, when the same friend and I went back-to-school shopping, I fell in love with a chocolate brown velvet t-shirt. I called my mom to tell her about it, and she immediately said it was too expensive. I respected her wishes (and her bank account) and didn’t press the subject, but my mom’s friend saw how upset I was. She graciously offered to pay for it, and I wore it on my first day of eighth grade. I felt guilty every single time I wore it around my mother. I’m sure it made her feel a little inadequate. It got to the point where I’d wear a sweater over it until I got to school so she wouldn’t have to see it anymore.
(Side note: If you’re still reading by this point, THANK YOU. And also, I promise there’s a point and a topic of discussion to come. And pictures. And a Macklemore video. So hang tight. 🙂 )
Then, somewhere about halfway through my college career, thrifting started to become en vogue. People prided themselves on their thrift store finds, even PREFERRED going to the thrift store instead of the mall because they could find something somewhat unique. At the very least, they wouldn’t be going to where there are racks and racks of the same item of clothing in different sizes. I thought immediately of one of my favorite Sweet Valley Twins characters, Mandy Miller, whose personal funky (in a good way) style was comprised of thrift store finds, and it got her into the exclusive Unicorn Club (if you don’t follow me there, don’t worry; it’s just that I was
a little completely obsessed with the series growing up). Shopping from the thrift store became cool and trendy. I could finally come out of hiding and wear the fact that I shop at thrift stores like a badge of honor.
I still absolutely love shopping at thrift stores; possibly more so in the last five years or so than I can ever remember. I find great things there, have identified my favorite ones in my area, and sometimes even get bored with the clothes at the mall because I know I could find something cooler at the thrift store. I do admittedly indulge in classics that I fall in love with at higher-priced stores, but you better believe they get a lot of wear so that I can get the best value of them!
Anyhow, to prove just how much thrift store clothes are a regular part of my rotation, here is the outfit I wore for my latest birthday:
(Sorry about the weird gray fuzzy background; there were some things/people that I didn’t have permission to publish online, so I hurriedly edited them out.)
The gorgeous-colored shirt and adorable skirt were both thrifted, as well as the pearl necklace that I’m wearing as a belt. The necklace was something my husband made (he’s kind of embarrassed by it, but I think it’s adorable). Cute, right? Would you even guess that the outfit was from a thrift store?
Anyhow, the reason I bring this up is because I recently ran across this news story that happened in Utah:
Short version is that Girl A bullied Girl B for “dressing like a sleaze”. Girl A’s stepmom was notified, and so stepmom decided to give Girl A a dose of her own medicine. She took her to the thrift store to pick out the ugliest clothes she could find. The next few days, she made her stepdaughter wear those clothes as punishment. The girl cried and got made fun of and people talked behind her back. In a news interview, she said the lesson was learned. (I doubt it. She probably just said it so she could wear her “cool clothes” again.) As an aside, am I the only one who thinks the blue dress with the red fruit on it was kinda cute?
As for the other clothes, it’s nothing that the Refashionista can’t fix, right? (Still haven’t checked the website out yet, you say? What the heck are you waiting for?!? Do it. You won’t regret it.)
Anyhow, I was a little offended by this punishment. It gave thrift store clothing a bad name again, making it look like something someone should cry over to wear and be made fun of for wearing. This shouldn’t be the case. I felt as if I regressed a couple of decades. And how did Girl B (the girl who was bullied) feel about this, I wonder? If I were here, I would’ve felt mocked. And the fellow classmates learned nothing in this whole mess. If anything, it fostered bully culture by giving them more to make fun of. Perhaps Girl A stopped bullying (again, highly doubtful), but people still bullied her. What will be their punishment? How is this a win? I think an interesting solution would’ve been to have Girl A and Girl B go shopping at a thrift store for cool clothes. Girl A may find that thrift store clothes are cooler than what she stereotypes them to be, and Girl B may feel better that they’re shopping at the same place. Who knows? Maybe together they’d be able to start a trend. But that’s just wishful thinking.
What do you guys think? Do you love thrift store clothes as much as me? Do you think this punishment was appropriate? Were you ever embarrassed to shop at a thrift store?
Personally, I think Macklemore’s got the right idea here. So I’d like to close with his video. (BTW, if you’ve been living under a rock, this song has explicit lyrics in it, so it may not be suitable for work.)