Thrift Shops: Havens of Ultimate Cool,Macklemore Says So

You know those license plate frames you see, “I’d Rather Be Shopping at Nordstrom’s”? I need one that says, “I’d Rather Be Doing Almost Anything Rather Than Shopping at Nordstrom’s, Except Maybe Shopping at Macy’s.” I’d need a really big license plate frame. But at least I’d be expressing my deepest self, and that’s what license plate frames are for, right?

Something about those giant department stores just creeps me out. All those piles of handbags and acres of makeup counter…they make me question my feminity. Just how strong is my ol’ X chromosome anyway, when I want to go screaming out of here just minutes after I wander in? And it’s not the canned music–heck, Nordstrom’s has a piano player! Or used to. It’s the size, the shininess, that feeling of being trapped inside a magazine. Let’s just say department stores were not built for women like me.

But thrift shops? They can make me double-park and run across traffic.

I LOVE thrift shops, especially for clothing, although I have a nice collection of thrifty dishes too. Now that I no longer have to wear professional work clothes, I’m slowly “laundering” my old wardrobe through our local thrift shop. Every time I make a new purchase, I make myself donate something. The rate I’m going, there should be nothing tailored left in my closet by November.

My proudest purchase, though, came in 1978, when I bought my wedding dress. Understand, though–I did not get married until 1987. I’m just thrifty…and lucky.

Juniors in high school, my friend Mimi and I were sifting through items at the Nearly New Shoppe in my hometown in North Carolina, when we found a box of unpriced clothing in the back of the store. Mim pulled out something in ivory satin that just kept coming…and coming…and…holy cow! A wedding gown with a 10-foot train. One LONG, uninterrupted swath of silky sheen. Leg-o’-mutton sleeves with satin-covered buttons. A heart-shaped neckline.

“How much for this dress?” I called to the woman up front.

Without looking up, she replied, “Oh, everything in that box back there’s a dollar.”

Mimi and I looked at each other. “Fifty cents each?” she proposed. For that price, we didn’t even bother to try it on.

During that school year I wore it to a costume party, and I’m pretty sure Mimi put it to a similar use. Otherwise it hung in my closet, or hers, occasionally brought out to brag on, but mostly forgotten. Until 1987.

I said Yes to the DressI said Yes to the Dress

When I decided to use the dress for its Ultimate Purpose, I consulted with Mimi. OK if I had it altered a little, to get rid of some age stains and shorten up that crazy train? It was an outdoor wedding, after all, and we have some serious red clay in NC. Mimi was fine with it.

The alterations cost me $10. So, with the original purchase price, that came to $10.50. I’ve heard of people buying wedding dresses for “ten-fifty,” but there are usually more zeroes attached to that.

Can you tell how ridiculously proud of myself I am for that find? But it’s not just about the money.

There is something inspiring to me about wearing the clothes of some anonymous woman. So much to wonder about! Did she really get married in that dress? Is she happily married still, or did it end badly? Perhaps the wedding fell through, and she never even had the chance to wear that dress. Was she relieved? Heartbroken? Is she still alive?


And NOW, come to find out I’m completely trendy! Macklemore’s video “Thrift Shop” has language a little more raunchy than what I want to post here, but check out this video of teenagers watching it:

What about y’all? Any hard-core thrift shoppers out there? Tell us the coolest thing you ever scored.

4 thoughts on “Thrift Shops: Havens of Ultimate Cool,Macklemore Says So

  1. Wow, what a find! I love that you wore it as a costume and so did your friend and then years later had it altered for such a reasonable price and wore it for your wedding! I shop in thrift stores occasionally, but I seldom shop anywhere these days. I don’t really have time to go rummaging through piles of clothes. I like thrift stores that are a bit organized. My favorite time to shop at thrift stores is around Halloween if I’m looking for a costume or accessories for a costume.

    I got married in 1976, so my wedding dress wasn’t the bargain that you got, but I only paid $10 for it. It was new, on sale, and wasn’t really a wedding dress. It was a long white dress, though, that easily passed as a wedding dress, especially with the full slip that poofed the bottom out a bit. I borrowed that from a friend, and her mom made my veil.

    I love shopping at Ross because a lot of their prices are comparable to some thrift store prices. My favorite department is the housewares department and the Pier One style furniture. I’ve found some really cool pieces that at bargain prices. I love bargains!

    Great post!

    • Goodness, Kim, get yourself on out there! Or maybe Aussies don’t have thrift shops as commonly as we do? And…do you call ’em thrift shops, or something else?

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