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Bargain Prices Spoil Columnist
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
Yesterday, I had an urge to check out a thrift store. I usually don't ignore this urge, because it seems like when I've gone, I've scored some pretty great stuff. The haul this time was two pairs of jeans, one pair of khakis, a rugby shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, a small basket, a kit to make your own bouncing balls, a pair of foot warmers, a coffee cup, a dual cassette deck (dad's isn't working anymore, for some reason) and a Magic Eight Ball for $34 and change. The eight ball, ball making kit, foot warmers, basket, and coffee cup will go for a friend's Christmas present. The rest I'm going to keep.
As a child and teenager, I was ashamed whenever my mother hauled me to the thrift stores. I don't know why, but I was. However, in my college years, I discovered that thrift stores were a great way to experiment with new looks without sinking $50 into a skirt that doesn't work. Or, if I had a hankering for a velvet jacket, I could get one cheap. Probably one of my favorite finds this year was a Ralph Lauren rugby shirt and a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans. I've been wearing that quite a bit lately with my Doc Martens ($3.50 at a local thrift.) The shirt only cost me 45 cents, because I bought it when it was still warm, and it was half off whatever color ticket it was that day. The jeans were maybe $6.50. I can't remember. For me, it's the thrill of the hunt. What will I find? I wanted those corn on the cob things; those yellow (or green) plastic trays with the ends curved into a half circle to accommodate the corn on the cob holders. You think I could find them in a regular store? No. But wandering around a south side thrift one night, there was a set of four, for less than 50 cents. It's getting so thrift stores have spoiled me. Either that, or I'm turning into one hell of a cheapskate.
That night after I came home, I browsed through a copy of Lucky magazine. I didn't buy it; I've got a secret magazine connection who gifted me with several pounds of rags a few months ago and I still hadn't gotten through them all. I enjoy looking at all the neato accessories and shoes and makeup, but as I looked at these baubles and outfits and whatnot, it made me wonder: who the hell buys this stuff?
I like nice stuff. If it were up to me, I'd wear Ralph Lauren exclusively. I just like his style: classic and conservative. But I can't justify spending $200 on an outfit with his name on it when I can pick up the same stuff at the thrifts for less than 10 percent of the purchase price for something brand new. The prices in Lucky magazine were startling, or maybe I'm just really, really poor. A lambswool varsity jacket went for $1,052. I thought about the varsity jacket I'd picked up for $1.25 at a bag sale that Queen of Angels was having. I'd picked up three other things that day too, but the only other one I can remember is the Emanuel Ungaro dress I got for $1.25. I still have it, even though I'm too fat to wear it. It's a classic little black dress, and I'll never forget the attention I got when I was wearing it. Maybe if I hang up up somewhere, it will inspire me to lose some weight so I can wear it again. It's not like it's a size 2 or anything.
I glanced through the rest of the magazine. One hundred seventy five dollars for a bracelet. Forty-one dollars for blush. A belt for $650 (granted, it was Gucci.) Rubber flip flops for $24. I'm sorry, but even if I do become middle class again, I'm not paying these kinds of prices. I remember spending upwards of $200 on a Roots leather varsity jacket. Ironically, I've only worn it a few times because I'm afraid of messing it up. And that's what would happen if I spent money on this high-priced stuff. I'd be afraid of lugging around a $700 Coach bag because tons of stuff could go wrong: I'd spill a Coke on it. I'd accidentally scratch it. Or, I'd take a pen out of the bag and end up marking the front of it. No, I think I'd rather get a used bag. Because that way, if I did screw it up, at least the bag had a few good months or years before it encountered me.
But I understand that beauty/shopping magazines are porn for women. That bag won't ever leave you; you're the one who will decide to donate it or resell it. Those Steve Madden shoes don't care if you gain weight. That's the big attraction with women and shoes. Whether I'm fat or thin, my bargain Doc Martens feel comfy and durable. I remember seeing a Dior bag years ago that was $1,400 or so. It was in the shape of an English saddle, which grabbed my eye. Western saddle purses are a dime a dozen, especially at the truck stop boutiques. A few years after that, a friend of mine got me a tiny leather bag in the shape of an English saddle. I've not ever used it, but I look at it. Sometimes we need to look at stuff that's pleasing to the eye, even if we can't afford it.
And at a thrift store, I saw what I thought was the most beautiful causal outfit ever. I debated whether or not to buy it. I caved and bought it. I can just squeeze into the top, but I haven't even tried to put the pants on. I usually don't buy stuff I can't wear, but for less than $10, this outfit is hanging in my room. There's just something about the way it looks. I am thinking about maybe framing it. But I won't ever forget the way I felt when I was looking at it in the store. It was just beautiful. So I bought it. And maybe it was then that I really understood the lure of fashion. But if I'm to join in, it has to fit within my budget. So, I'll look at the magazines, take note of the styles, then go to the thrifts and resale shops and create the same look—for a lot less.