Last week I was complaining to Karsten about being bored with my work wardrobe. Not only bored, but I can’t help noticing that there are interns at my company that are wearing more stylish and interesting work clothes than what I’m making do with. I lamented that it may be time to make the switch from my entirely-thrift-store-bought wardrobe to one where I start buying one good piece at a time and build a real professional wardrobe.

So, with a heavy heart, on Friday I started doing a little research. I checked some of the big retailers online, like bananarepublic.com, nordstrom.com, macys.com, and so on. Mind you, I’ve only paid retail prices for, oh, about two garments ever in my life. So I was getting pretty depressed at the prices and what it would mean for my budget if I were to start having to pay a lot of money for each piece. We’re talking pants — on clearance, mind you — for between $40 and $80.

I also took a lunchtime run by a few of the more trendy independent stores in town. I liked some of what they had, but I was very unimpressed with the prices. Even on the clearance rack, we’re still talking about $30 to $50 for a pair of pants.

Then on my way home Friday evening, I stopped in at Goodwill. I don’t know what made me think it would be worthwhile on a Friday at 7:00 PM to bother with a thrift store (my usual approach is not to bother with thrift stores past mid-morning because most of the stylish stuff has usually been cleared out by resellers and other savvy shoppers), but the car just sort of steered itself.

I found five pairs of stylish, professional pants and a perfect blue-gray knee-length Banana Republic skirt that’s destined to become one of my favorite pieces, as well as a very cute knee-length denim skirt (with that sandblast wash with the sort of thin stripey look that’s been so hot for the past year or two) for evenings and weekends which is already one of my favorite pieces and I haven’t even worn it out yet — all for under $30 total.

But far more importantly, I found out that they were having a 50% off of everything sale the next day, and opening at 7:00 AM for the occasion.

So Karsten and I got there yesterday morning right at 7, and we were there until after 10, hunting, trying on clothes, hunting, trying on clothes. And I got 62 articles of name-brand (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Benetton, Express, Gap, Limited, etc), stylish clothing, most of them appropriate for work, plus a hip Hawaiian-style shirt for Karsten, plus some children’s books (he uses them for art projects), plus a new Ralph Lauren 100% cotton sheet for our non-bed, for just under $150.

Let’s do the math real quick, shall we? A work wardrobe of five pairs of work-appropriate pants, a skirt, and, let’s just call it 40 shirts and sweaters and such. (Not all of the 62 items were work-appropriate, but definitely more than half were.) Even if I were buying these on deep, deep clearance, and the pants and skirt were, let’s say $15 each and the tops were, let’s say $10 each, that still adds up to $490. And my grand total of $180 for both shopping trips was well under half of that. Whee!

Anyway, I spent the next few hours at home trying things on again, looking for outfits in what I bought and what I already own (there were lots!), and then clearing out the less interesting pieces from my closet.

Now I just have to get to the laundromat and dry cleaner (only three of my new pieces are dry-clean only — I made an effort to avoid those except where it seemed really worth it) and then reorganize my closet.

Oh, and Goodwill is having another one of these big sales next month. 🙂

Perfect timing (and thrift store mojo)

21 thoughts on “Perfect timing (and thrift store mojo)

  • July 11, 2004 at 12:34 am
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    That’s incredible! You guys really had tremendous luck!

    It sounds like you got a great wardrobe and won’t need much more for now, but for the future, I’d suggest checking out The Limited…you’re pretty slender and young enough to look good in a lot of their clothes, and they do have lots of work-type trousers and stuff. They have reasonable prices compared to Ann Taylor and places like it, and if you work the sale racks and get on their mailing list for coupons, you’ll really luck out. I think The Limited is owned by the same parent company as Lane Bryant, and Lane Bryant regularly sends out “get $25 off of a $75 purchase” or “get $50 off a $150 purchase” coupons. I use those partway into a season when things have gone down in price a little bit, and then I go in and clean house and really stock up on basics – get the same top in a variety of colors, etc.

    Also, if there are any higher-end consignment stores near you, you’d have good luck there too. If you pick one in a ritzy area of town, you’re likely to find designer stuff.

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  • July 11, 2004 at 1:07 am
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    Wow, that’s awesome! Congrats. What Goodwill do you go to, if you don’t mind my asking…I can find cool alternative-looking clothes at Goodwill, but never anything business professional.

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  • July 11, 2004 at 1:38 am
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    That is SO COOL. I never have that kind of luck at normal thrift stores. Where I do find stuff is at this consignment boutique near where I grew up called Second Time Around — basically, it’s rich people’s old clothes. Everything is designer, and everything is good quality. Of course, the drawback is you pay for what you’re getting, too, so they’re not normal thrift store prices. But it’s where I always turn when I want to buy new clothes for work.

    -J

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  • July 11, 2004 at 1:59 am
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    I’ve gone browsing at Express and the Limited stores before and my biggest objection to buying anything from them new is that their clothes turn up so frequently in thrift stores. 🙂

    But yeah, I should probably get on those mailing lists just in case. I get those kinds of coupons for Ann Taylor, but (fortunately) never when I’m feeling desperate.

    Still, for me, I think this experience is just further proof that I’m a long way from ever needing to buy anything at retail anyway. Maybe if I’m someday promoted to, like, director level and I need an executive wardrobe, but for now, my thrifty-hip-professional “I’m creative and yet responsible” look will do just fine. 😉

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  • July 11, 2004 at 2:04 am
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    The one on Charlotte is mere blocks away from our apartment, so we go there most often. I also like the one on Franklin sometimes.

    And you do know about the 50% off clothing sales on Wednesdays at the Salvation Army, right? There’s one on Charlotte almost across the street from our apartment complex. And the one on Nolensville is good, too. (Oh, and in case you didn’t know, the big one near the Coliseum on the east side doesn’t do 50% off Wednesdays for some reason.)

    Happy thrifting!

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  • July 11, 2004 at 2:08 am
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    I often forget about consignment shops, so thanks for the tip. And yet I think it probably would bug me to pay more than thrift store prices for what usually feels like a thrift store environment and shopping experience.

    But like I wrote to above, this just proves for me that I don’t need to broaden my shopping beyond thrift stores just yet. Which is a major relief. And maybe once the interns are gone, I won’t care so much anyway. 😉

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  • July 11, 2004 at 2:15 am
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    Ever thought of hiring yourself out as a personal shopper? I’d hire you in a heartbeat, especially if you have decent pinstriped-suit radar (gotta have a few suits for court, and can’t stand most of what’s out there).

    I’ve had bad luck with thrift stores in the past; family-sized women seem never to give away their good clothes.

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  • July 11, 2004 at 3:06 am
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    Do you have a sizable group of girlfriends?

    I belong to a local bi/bi-friendly women’s group, and twice a year, we get together for a “clothing swap.” We clean our closets, bring all our old but in good condition clothes ( a lot of the time it’s very nice stuff that’s just too big or too small ) and all take turns trying it on and trading it around. Especially for those who have lost or gained weight, it’s a lifesaver! We donate the rest to charity.

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  • July 11, 2004 at 3:19 am
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    Funny, I have thought about that. My boss’s boss, for example, is about my size and her taste runs similar to mine, but on the more conservative side. I think about her every so often when I run across something that appeals to me for its color or style but isn’t as hip and youthful overall as I prefer.

    But then again, if she were my client, I’d probably be conflicted about handing over the good finds versus keeping them for myself. 🙂

    As for pinstriped suits, or suits of any kind really, they’re tough. I’m always on the lookout for those; suits that don’t look helplessly 80s, complete with oversized gold-colored plastic buttons and large shoulderpads, are pretty hard to come by. If you narrow that down further and want suits of a particular style (like pinstripe) or with particular characteristic (like machine-washable, as I prefer), then you’re really slimming the pickings.

    But if you tell me your size range I can keep my eyes open for them in the future. I do get lucky from time to time. 🙂

    (Oh, and when do I get to give you this thing I’ve been hanging on to for you? Are you still in the easternland or are you back in town?)

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  • July 11, 2004 at 6:15 am
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    I’m always on the lookout for those; suits that don’t look helplessly 80s, complete with oversized gold-colored plastic buttons and large shoulderpads, are pretty hard to come by.

    Heh. Such the image. There’s always the option of taking out the shoulderpads and replacing the buttons with something cool, both operations I’ve performed on otherwise desirable items of clothing in the past. If you find something you love that needs a bit of a facelift like that, I could probably do it for you; I don’t do serious sewing at the moment (although getting a sewing machine and re-entering that world is creeping upwards on my list of projects), but that’s hand-sew work and pretty straightforward.

    But if you tell me your size range I can keep my eyes open for them in the future. I do get lucky from time to time. 🙂

    Huh. Didn’t actually mean to co-opt you into the personal-shopping gig – but that’s a handsome offer. I tend towards the 22-24 side of things, aka 2x. (Makes you wonder what women larger than I am – of whom there are many in this world – wear, doesn’t it.)

    (Oh, and when do I get to give you this thing I’ve been hanging on to for you? Are you still in the easternland or are you back in town?)

    Still in the sticks. I’m back in town this coming weekend to move all my worldly possessions from my untenably landladied and badly maintained little house to an apartment on Old Hickory, and briefly back in town the next weekend to clean said little house before said landlady has a fit and a half. I’ll be back for the school year on or about 16 August.

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  • July 11, 2004 at 7:29 pm
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    I have been debating this myself- I’m too poor to buy new clothes but I’m so tired of all my clothes being “not quite right” from years of thrift shopping. I really need new clothes at the moment but I haven’t found anything at thrift stores recently. You know that feeling, when you go in *ready to buy* but then nothing works and you come away empty handed. Here’s hoping some of your mojo will rub off. 🙂

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  • July 12, 2004 at 2:51 am
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    We do dry cleaning for the initial cleaning then we use Dryel (the stuff you use in your dryer) and about once every 10 cleanings we again goto the ‘real” dry cleaner

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  • July 12, 2004 at 2:41 pm
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    What a cool concept. Unfortunately for me, my group of girlfriends has shrunk considerably since I moved south to go to law school – and none of the ones within clothes-swapping range are, well, sufficiently sizeable :-). Maybe I should START a group like this (with as our honorary slender member, if she likes :-p.)

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  • July 13, 2004 at 2:48 am
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    I’ll bring the newly found clothes from the thrift stores. I frequently find great clothes in sizes that are either way too small or way too large for me and it would be satisfying to be able to get any of them for someone else. 🙂

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  • July 13, 2004 at 2:49 am
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    Huh. So that stuff works sufficiently well to do that? I’ll admit I’ve been curious about it. I noticed a package of it in my boss’ boss laundry room, so maybe she follows something similar to your approach.

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  • July 13, 2004 at 2:51 am
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    Let’s plan something for when you get back, then. How about you come by for dinner or something?

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  • July 13, 2004 at 4:06 am
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    I bought Pooch a trial pack and he’s been very pleased – if somethign has a spot then he’ll still take that into the cleaners, and every x times thing go in for a “full cleaning” but for after each wear remove sweat and smoke and smells type of cleaning it works great! And MUCH MUCH cheaper

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  • July 13, 2004 at 1:10 pm
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    Lovely. School starts 23 August and is likely to be not quite as frantic that first week as it will be later (although I reserve the right to have a life even in the absence of apparent chronological ability to do so). Any time that week work for you? If not, throw out a date and we’ll plan from there.

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  • July 14, 2004 at 4:41 am
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    Sure! How does Sunday the 29th work for you? I’ve tentatively marked it in my calendar.

    Reply

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