Feb 11 2010

Second hand rose.


Frugal is in. Shame it took a rotten economy to make it so.
But a silver lining is just that.

Purchasing is less frequent, based more on need than consumption.
Things are a wee bit less “disposable.” We gather more selectively.

My discovery of consignment shopping, though, wasn’t fueled by the economy as much as curiosity!

My adventure began, naturally enough in Portland, a pretty green city known for recycling just about everything. A sign that read, “What’s Upstairs?” hung next to a vintage sundress beckoned me during a stroll down 23rd Street, a charming shopping and restaurant Mecca with a dizzying array of charming store windows. My curiosity was rewarded! An evening dress, faux fur-trimmed sweater, suede skirt, wool jacket, knit shirt, $24 beaded top and pearl bracelet for the price, of well, a jacket I bought new a few doors south. What’s Upstairs shares the second floor with a coffee house. Step outside the curtained changing area and you’ve got a gang of new friends just the other side of a double glass paned doors, sipping lattes and willing to give you the thumbs up, or down on each outfit. Barely before dark I was skipping home humming “Secondhand Rose” from “Funny Girl” – eager to share my “finds” and experience. Somewhere in Portland I now knew there was a lady named “Trish” with my taste, breaking in my future wardrobe! I am not completely without some snobbery; I shun shopping malls. Consignment shopping is more like antiquing.

Reporting on my solo exploration brought me an invitation from artist Sherrie Wolf to join her for a trip to the Gilded Closet, another nearby consignment shop. The thrill of the hunt now came with female companionship and one with a 10% off coupon, at that!

Remember when “garage sales” became “estate sales” sometime during the late 80’s? Seems “thrift shop,” the term I was using, describes venues such the Goodwill store (Portland’s downtown store is a national model of successful thrift store retail). “Thrift” is upgraded to “consignment” when a $30,000 Bill Blass couture gown is offered for $2000. These are the type things brought from the back of the shop for inquiring customers at Gilded Closet. The day Sherri and I were visiting we watched this practice performed for two fundraising co-chairs shopping for ball gowns.

The experience of shopping consignment stores also comes with memorable conversation and dialogue with sales clerks and fellow shoppers. Intimate settings encourage comments, as do the “goods,” the affordable but one-of-a-kind items – no longer available in size 6,8 & 10. Collections can be as eclectic as the fashion sense of the buyers. Engage the staff so you get a call when new items arrive and visit enough to get a feel for when items are marked down.

“Never fear being vulgar, just boring.” Diana Vreeland.

In every city there are clothing shops for the whole family, as well as stores stocked with household items and furniture bargains. Pick a store or two and tell me what treasures you find! Here are two links to get you plotting your next shopping adventure.

In Portland: http://www.insiderpages.com/s/OR/Portland/ConsignmentShops?order=best&radius=10

In Tulsa: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1011676/top_five_consignment_and_thrift_stores.html?cat=46

“Second Hand Rose” was written for the Ziegfield Follies of 1921 and is attributed to Fanny Brice. Barbara Streisand sang the song in the 1960s biographical musical play and movie “Funny Girl.” Listen at http://new.music.yahoo.com/barbra-streisand/tracks/second-hand-rose–2016179

As always, Trix