This Is Fucking Awesome*

vv wide view titleHere is the best-case scenario when you arrange to meet a friend in the suburbs for hardcore Labor Day thrifting.

You are both well-fed and well-rested, and you both have water bottles in tow.

You are sufficiently acquainted with each other to make informed recommendations to each other whilst perusing the racks.

You both appear in the official uniform of serious thrift-store shopping (see Fig. 1).

thrift model

Fig. 1

  1. Uncomplicated hair that you can’t mess up easily. Going to be a lot of ruffling going on today.
  2. No earrings, if you tend to. Things snag, it’s a pain, don’t bother.
  3. A close-fitting shirt, ideally sleeveless. You want an unintrusive under-layer over which you can try things on and get a fairly accurate idea of the fit.
  4. A longish, looseish, elastic-waisted skirt that you can pull pants on under without giving Value Village a show.
  5. Shoes that come off and go back on easily. Of course.

styrofoam heads Value Village has multiple half-off days per year (Memorial Day, Labor Day, and other dates that escape both my and the internet’s memories**). Labor Day is my favorite¬† because you get scenes like the one pictured above. Alongside all the summer and back-to-school stuff, you’re greeted with their hilariously earnest and random Halloween suggestions. Goth! Fairy! Athlete! Princess! Basketcase! As someone who used to love Halloween extra because I could stock up on black nail polish for the lean months to come, I adore this.***

I left with the same number of heads that I arrived with, though.

The haul, in progressOnly the hoodie worked from this pile.

I felt a little disloyal avoiding my local Capitol Hill Value Village – you know, the one that was recently immortalized. But on half-off days, you want to flee density. You want to go to LYNNWOOD. And, later, when you find you still have a little energy left, EDMONDS.

For the uninitiated, here’s how this works.

  1. Decide ahead of time what you want. In my case, I needed new non-t-shirt shirts, dresses, skirts, and maybe pants if I was lucky. A new hoodie (pictured above, thanks) was a bonus score.
  2. Have a working idea of what silhouettes, colors, and brands work on you. For me, this means scoop-neck shirts, a-line or pencil skirts, and dresses with a defined waist. No exceptions.
  3. Take it a section at a time. Don’t carry your shit – get yourself a basket. Treat yourself right. (I got two sore arms by midday – one from carrying too much crap, and the other from the repetitive motion of moving stuff on racks. WHERE’S MY HOLIDAY.)
  4. Find a mirror slightly out of the major thoroughfare. Ideally, at the end of a kids’ aisle rack. Bonus if it has space to hang your stuff.
  5. Try things on over your sensibly chosen thrift-store shopping ensemble. Hang the hideous stuff on the return rack. Abscond to checkout with the stuff that works.
  6. Take a break for liberal applications of hand sanitizer. Also possibly snacks and coffee. You’re making a hundred small and constant decisions. One gets tired.
  7. Repeat until exhausted or itchy. Then go home, take a shower, and wash all your awesome new stuff on hot. Maybe wash it twice. Shit, maybe wash yourself twice as well.

My friend has certain brands she won’t buy for ethical reasons. My only boycotts are of things I know won’t fit me, like Old Navy ribbed shirts that look awesome for the first hour – until they stretch out into a giant, unflattering bag that will turn back into a good shirt when you put it through the laundry again. But I feel like the Great Thrift System washes off the taint of even the shittiest brands****, leaving it free to bring you great joy. Even if it has a stupid Abercrombie moose on the boob or something worse.

knick-knacksI almost exclusively stick with clothes.***** You may be more adventurous or more emotionally resilient, and you may be inclined to venture into the housewares aisle. Beware of abandoned art and handmade gifts. Beware of sad objects commemorating sad, long-gone-by travel or other experiences.

Maaaaaybe just take your basket and GTFO. But that’s just my professional opinion.

My score? A pile of super-flattering shirts, a 1920s-esque polka-dot dress, things with sequins and iridescence, and bright red corduroys. Set for fall, and all it took was eight hours in the suburbs.

VV Capitol Hill is where my heart will always belong. But my head? Well… I can’t say, lest I get drummed out of the hill.

vv womenBut you know. You all know.

*Legally, everything written in Seattle that has anything even faintly to do with thrifting must include a Macklemore reference. Sorry, guys. It was either that, or I get thrown out of Seattle Pseudo-Hipster Union 504, and I need the benefits.

**Multiple Googlings, and the bulk of the results are things like “VALUE VILLAGE HALF DAY HAUL WOOOOO.” Fucking haul videos, man. No.

***THIS is why I don’t mind when things I’ve liked all along become stylish. Being able to buy high-quality black nail polish year-round? The hell with it, let’s all have short black nails, I don’t care.

****Though not necessarily the taint of the previous owner. Always sniff, even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.

*****With a few exceptions, such as my enormous, glorious stockpot, in which I make ludicrously large batches of winter soup. At $14.99, it was on the expensive side, but it’s been so worth it.