Thrifty is Nifty!
Updated: Feb 25
By Naomi Serviss / New York City
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.
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
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
when Covid crashed the world.
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..
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
lest masked, overeager thrifters
storm the joint.
Cautiously optimistic and masked,
I stuck a toe back
in the game a few weeks ago,
a coat from Johnny Was
(whose Bel Air-y prices
soar into the hundreds)
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.
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.
were too adorable to pass up,
and a favorite thrift store
in Cold Spring Harbor,
(a hamlet about which
famously has sung)
My working theory is that
generate copious, expertly crafted offerings.
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.
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.
That’s my thrift store jones.
Some get the thrill from gambling,
before the inevitable crash.
Others invested in the paranormal
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
No strings attached,
only a promise to pick up
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!
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