There was a time, many years ago, when I was embarrassed to admit that most of my clothes came either from second-hand stores or thrift shops.
This somehow seemed akin to being on relief or public welfare. But all that changed decades ago when I came across an article about Barbra Streisand (long before she hit the big time on Broadway). In this article she boasted proudly that she bought all her clothes in thrift shops on Manhattan’s Second Avenue. If I recall, she was even the inspiration for the song, “Second Hand Rose.”
Well, by gum, if thrift shops were good enough for Barbra, who was I to think it demeaning to select clothes at these great bargain emporiums? Thanks to Barb, I was suddenly liberated. I came out of the closet (in a manner of speaking), no longer in denial.
“Yes, yes,” I shouted to anyone who cared to listen, “everything I wear comes from thrift shops and I’m not ashamed to say so.”
Well, with passing time, I’m happy to say my financial situation has improved to a point where I can now actually afford to shop at popular department stores, such as Macy’s and Nordstroms. Guess what? I’ve discovered I don’t really like shopping in big, impersonal department stores, riffling through acres and acres of racks bulging with unattractive, over-priced garments. I find nothing imaginative or distinct like the clothes I find in thrift shops.
So now, after much dedicated research, I’ve become a self-proclaimed expert on East Bay Thrift Stores, Consignment Shops and, yes, even flea markets. I’m happy to share my updated Consumer’s Guide to such establishments with Daily Planet readers.
Let’s begin with the obvious names—Goodwill, Salvation Army and St. Vincent dePaul. These stores are to be found all over Berkeley, Oakland, El Cerrito and San Pablo. Lesser known are stores such as the Turnabout Shop in El Cerrito, sponsored by the Berkeley Auxiliary Clinic and Clausen House in Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue. (The latter store helps people with developmental disability find employment).
Then there are the American Cancer Society Discovery Shops and the Bambino Thrift Shop benefiting Children’s Hospital. When shopping at Trader Joe’s in the Rockridge district, you might walk over to Rockridge Rags, which is a bit more upscale than the other stores mentioned. This shop might even accept some of your own clothes on consignment if they’re in vogue and in good condition. And you wouldn’t be too far from the Alta Bates Showcase. In my own neighborhood, there’s the Cellar Thrift Shop in the basement of the First Congregational Church.
As discussed above, having been liberated by Barbra S.’s revelation that she haunted New York’s thrift shops, I can say from personal experience I’m absolutely hooked on these shops! There’s something thrilling about running across Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, even, on rare occasions, a Versace garment. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does—my heart leaps! This past week I found a stunning, royal blue silk pantsuit bearing the label, “Sail Away: From The Royal Princess Cruise Line.” It was priced at $5.99! Now I’ll have to look into Princess cruises.
As might be expected, there are those friends who can’t resist making catty remarks about my penchant for thrift shop clothing. One such friend recently commented on an L.L. Bean cotton blouse I was wearing, obviously waiting for me to confess that I had picked it up at Goodwill or some other thrift shop. Whereupon I breezily remarked that the blouse was shown in the L.L. Bean Catalog, inferring, that I actually bought it new. But, as luck would have it, said friend, helping me into my jacket, found a price tag still attached to the collar, reading $2.59. Ah, well—pride goeth before a fall.
So, having acted as a Guide to Local Thrift Shops, Consignment Stores and other bargain spots, let me repeat once again how exhilarating it is to find just what you’ve been looking for, something truly stunning and distinct, at astonishingly low prices. If your own wardrobe needs replenishing, just head for your nearest Thrift Shop and load up on new, (or should I say “gently used”) fashions?