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Thrifty is Nifty!

Updated: Feb 25

By Naomi Serviss / New York City


The author modeling her thrift-shop finds: Johnny Was coat ($27) and tricolor, wool fedora ($6)
The author modeling her thrift-shop finds: Johnny Was coat ($27) and tricolor, wool fedora ($6)

I’ve been haunting thrift stores


since 10th grade,


when hippie-cool plaid flannel shirts,


stiff canvas painter’s pants


and worn denim overalls


were de rigueur.


What’s not to love


about multi-pocketed overalls for $3.99?


Goodwill was a college-years favorite


and juiced my wardrobe regularly.


Salvation Army was runner-up and


Junior League shops are treasure troves.


Set of vintage Melamine plates and cereal bowls ($16 for a set of 8)
Set of vintage Melamine plates and cereal bowls ($16 for a set of 8)

Never been a snob


about buying quality recycled duds


or cheerful melamine bowls


with European landmarks.


Have you heard melamine is making a comeback?


Besides, one person‘s trash…


As the youngest in a family of five,


hand-me-downs were the norm.


There was no debate.


Used clothes, once washed,


are newish, inherited or


thriftily purchased.


Still, I have a love-hate relationship


with secondhand stores.


The je ne sais quoi in their enclosed spaces


can be off-putting.


A flippant mix of watered-down prose


in mildewed books and Pine-Sol.


Faded dreams and washed-out jeans.


Disappointed sequined heels


with weary insoles.


Battered brand-name Top-Siders.

All with back stories.


My passion for hunting broken-in fashion


deflated


when Covid crashed the world.


The author sporting thrift-store treasures purchased during an unexpected morning shower in Manhattan: a magenta bucket hat ($3) and Harvé Bernard raincoat ($50)
The author sporting thrift-store treasures purchased during an unexpected morning shower in Manhattan: a magenta bucket hat ($3) and Harvé Bernard raincoat ($50)

Until then I was a frequent flyer


to the Upper East Side’s


optimistically deigned Unique Boutique.


It’s strategically positioned


around the corner


from my oft-frequented 92nd Street Y’s gym.


In the days


when I was a regular there..


Après-class visits


to the Bagel Shop and la Boutique


were my reward for powering through Zumba.


A sister location on the Upper West Side


provides both stellar and substandard


frockery and tchotchkes.


The church shop attracts


a queue of savvy shoppers


who line up a half hour


before its 11 a.m. opening


Wednesday through Sunday.


When the church bell chimes,


the door at the bottom of the steps


opens cautiously,


lest masked, overeager thrifters


storm the joint.


Cautiously optimistic and masked,


I stuck a toe back


in the game a few weeks ago,


and spotted


a coat from Johnny Was


(whose Bel Air-y prices


soar into the hundreds)


for $27!


This was a major score,


since their apparel


(which you either love or loathe)


is best described as Hawaiian in spirit,


and artsy in fact.


Free-spirited and whimsical


with heart-stopping sticker shock,


Johnny Was signals


creative joie de vivre


in theory and design.


But it’s not really about


chi-chi label hunting.


The search is the thing,


a meditative groove with a purpose.


Not just for the thrill of finding


boffo threads for less.


Eggs-cellent egg cups ($2.99 apiece)
Eggs-cellent egg cups ($2.99 apiece)

It’s a meditative respite


for my unbridled imagination.


It’s about the soothing tonal groove


that quashes stress,


offering a breather from daily frets.


My predilection for quirky threads


feeds an artist’s dream,


nourished with unexpected bounty.

I schooled myself


on finding quality toddler duds


while living on Long Island,


raising two ever-growing young ones


with my husband.


OshKosh overalls


were too adorable to pass up,


and a favorite thrift store


in Cold Spring Harbor,


(a hamlet about which


Billy Joel


famously has sung)


complied.


My working theory is that


wealthy neighborhoods


generate copious, expertly crafted offerings.


Full disclosure:


brands that telegraph their names


are anathema to me.

Why advertise someone else’s name?


Not my style.


If labels are hidden, I’m interested.


Otherwise, I’d prefer not to Just Do It!


Bargain-hunting for me


is neither about flagging L.L. Bean jammies


nor nailing a Lenox egg cup.


Psychedelic stilts ($16.99)
Psychedelic stilts ($16.99)

It’s a strategy to offset


the economic tsunami and runaway inflation


that’s been blindsiding us


this past year.

Retail price gouging,


a roller-coaster stock market


and consumer dread has created


a nation of nervous Nellies


for good reason.


I’m a citizen.



Which is probably why


the buzzy ASMR is making waves.


In case you’ve been out of the pop culture loop,


The acronym stands for:


Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.


A fancy way of describing


a tingling sensation that trails


from the scalp


and tickles the back of the neck


and upper spine.


A combo deep relaxation


and sensual frisson


generating all the feels.


Funky Halloween fare: a holiday cup set ($15)
Funky Halloween fare: a holiday cup set ($15)

That’s my thrift store jones.


Some get the thrill from gambling,


before the inevitable crash.


Others invested in the paranormal


may experience


a tingly rush from sharing frequencies


with a friendly spirit.


Of course, influencers are


capitalizing on the fad by


recording and sharing


quirky sounds or whispering.


Followers eat this stuff up.


I’d rather land


a buttery soft


Lou & Grey midi dress with pockets.


Better yet is my latest discovery:


The Buy Nothing Facebook group!


It’s a nationwide,


hyper-local neighborhood club


whose members offer their unwanted stuff


FOR FREE!


No strings attached,


only a promise to pick up


claimed merch.


It’s no joke!


Enter your zip code in the questionnaire


and you’ll likely find a group in your hood!


Try it, what have you got to lose?


Maybe you can offload


that awful oil painting anniversary gift


from your in-laws!


Win/Win!



 






Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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