Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A return to thrift

Except for the end-of-season A.P.C. sale scoop, I've mostly returned to thrifting as my primary mode of acquisition

I've tried the French Method, to some success. It definitely has helped me develop a more discerning eye. However, I feel that my love of thrift shopping and vintage clothes limits me from really implementing the French method. It's true that even with thrifting, I can select items more carefully and with an eye towards wardrobe building. But otherwise, shopping from a list just doesn't work all that well when thrift shopping means everything is a jumble. You never know what exactly you'll come up with when you survey secondhand goods. While patience and moderation are virtues of the French Method that can carry over to thrifting, it's difficult to adhere to a minimalistic point of view if you like vintage. At least, it is in my experience.

Somewhat relatedly, I also don't get the same satisfaction from buying new as I do from uncovering vintage goods. I've never blogged about the things I purchased new that would be considered more covetable. I never wrote abouthe Rachel Comey Mars boothat I purchased last November for my birthday, or the Marc Jacobs Teri handbag that I recently pulled out from oblivion from the back of my closet, or the Miu Miu and Mulberry Bayswater that were my first forays into expensive handbags, among other things. I just never felt good about broadcasting items like thatthough I do appreciate seeing them on other blogs.

My aesthetic doesn't really require any high-end items. I'm not really minimal and clean in my outfits, where texture and cut matter a lot. Rather, I like earthy, slightly outdoorsy, and for want of a better word, quirky, looks. I love vintage prints, uncomplicated tailoring, and that crisp cotton blend that you can only find in older fabrics. My heart beats faster when I chance upon a beautiful vintage piece among all the detritus of a secondhand shop.

I still plan to shop outside of thrift for the easy basics and sharp tailoring that mightoughen up my wardrobe a bit. But I think there's something in the air, and spending on luxury items just doesn't seem necessary right now, not just for personal reasons, but also for financial, environmental, and ethical ones.


  1. It's interesting how you say that patience is a virtue of the French Method, I find this to be my experience more so when it comes to thrifting... I do not follow the French Method, so I can't proclaim to be an expert on that, but when I go shopping I am literally in and out of a shop in minutes, unless something catches my eye - you've lost me. For me shopping is a fast and furious experience usually done in a lunch break. I know in my mind what I want and it's like I have terminator vision looking for these items. I have been thrift shopping with a girlfriend once and I found it to be an incredibility overwhelming experience. I didn't know where to look first, nothing was properly merchandised and it was a little musky... but having said that though I can fully understand the charm of it and it makes me sad that I don't "get it". I have seen the joy on my friend's face when she picks up something amazing and looks amazing in it. I appreciate the fact that when you thrift you come away with something no one else is wearing (anymore) and that one is recycling... but it requires so much time and patience something I clearly lack... :(

  2. Cats, I think if you know exactly what you want, thrifting can be a frustrating experience that calls for a lot of patience. But if you don't know, then thrifting usually rewards impulsive shopping for exactly the reason that you cite as its reward--you come across a one-of-a-kind item and that tends to muddle your thinking about it. I suspect most dedicated thrifters continually re-donate some of these impulsive purchases that turn out to be not so special after all. I know I have.

  3. I enjoy thrifting when I travel - thrifting doesn't exist here in Singapore, unfortunately (I wonder what people do with old clothes. When I thrift, it's usually for "out of character" things - an ornate belt, old jewellery that makes you imagine all kinds of back stories, colourful scarves and bright dresses in colours and prints people don't make anymore. My day to day style is very basic and you don't really find basic white tees or grey cardigans in vintage shops, so for me thrifting is about the unexpected. It's more of a treat than a "primary mode of acquisition" as you say, but I agree, there are environmental/ethical benefits, and that should be an important point of consideration when shopping.

  4. Very interesting and thoughtful post. I think in general there has been a return to value and thrift - I need to take your advice and remember that patience is a key virtue for the French Wardrobe!

  5. Lin, I know what you mean by finding unique items at thrift stores, rather than foundational items. I've given up looking at jersey type tops at thrift stores. they're always pill-ey and usually cheap.

    Katherine, thanks for visiting. I'm going to hop over to your blog now. And yes, I think the recession has sparked a lot of rethinking about thriftiness and frugality.