Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dinner with a Secondhand Rose

Just before I moved, I met a woman I'll call "Marina" for dinner. 

Marina is a petite, slim, glamourous woman in her mid-fifties, divorced, with two young-adult children and a high-profile career in public service. I appreciate her mordant wit, ready opinions and devotion to her family.

A suit like Marina's by David Dixon
Marina, who had come from work, wore a fitted, pea-green wool suit with simple, chic tailoring, and pointed-toe black flats: think Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", but with tumbling auburn hair.

Marina then told me, "I buy all my clothes secondhand". And I thought, of course. She's so smart, in both senses of the word. 

Let someone else take the gaspingly high-priced hit on a Celine suit, wear it for a few years, then it's yours for a fourth or fifth of the price. Marina knows what she likes and how to put it together. "I always look around, and think 'I'm the best-dressed woman here'", she said, matter of factly. And she's right.

I've heard many reasons for buying new: I'm too big/tall/short; I don't have time to prowl the racks and (strange to me, but she said it) "Who knows who owned this before me?" I replied that I'd sage the dress to excise any evil vibes.

Gently-used Gucci
If you are truly a hard to find size, you can still score bags, scarves, sunglasses.  (Shown, vintage Gucci equestrienne bag from Rice and Beans Vintage, $375.)

YSL tortoise heel

Look at these vintage YSL navy linen shoes with tortoiseshell heels, in excellent condition, size 6-6.5, for $175 from Rice and Beans!

If time is short, online vintage boutiques (many list on Etsy) often offer more attentive service than bricks and mortar shops; many now offer video clips so you can see clothes from all sides.

Unlike Marina, not much of my (now severely edited) wardrobe is secondhand, but some of my favourites are: a yellow crocodile framed handbag, a French spring coat in burnt orange, a soft grey cashmere tunic.

If I were a more standard size, I'd shop mostly in such places. I like the idea of recycling and the pleasure of owning something well-made for less.  
t
Courrèges dress, Enoki.com

I was annoyed to hear a woman complain about the price of high-quality vintage at my favourite Toronto treasure, Thrill of the Find. She expected a mint-condition Courrèges dress to sell for far less than $375, which I consider a great price. Designer vintage/consignment is not thrift; if she can find Courrèges at Value Village, she's incredibly lucky, but if paying someone else to do the picking, she ought not expect it for $75. 


I would rather own that secondhand masterpiece than the wobbly-seamed, plastic-buttoned-and-zippered dress on offer most everywhere these days for the same price.

Marina and I strode into the night, saying goodbye at the streetcar. She wore a trench that looked soft and spectacular, and had lived a life before hers. Why not?

9 comments:

Susan said...

I do shop at a consignment shop in Dallas. And yes, IF I was a size 6 or 8, I would have many many choices there. At a size 12/14, I have fewer choices, but I do find something wonderful from time to time. One of my favorites is an early fall dark linen dress from Faconnable. I also have purchased a reversible 3/4 length leather jacket which is creamy leather on one size and leopardy on the other side. One of my favorite go to summer dresses is from the shop also.

I also consign my own things to the shop---especially shoes or boots that turned out to not be comfortable after worn a few times. I've also sold handbags there.

Sue said...

I have loved thrift shops since I was a teenager. My favorite finds are the vintage ones but they are getting so rare. I am starting to redefine the term 'vintage' to include styles that I have actually worn, earlier in life!

une femme said...

Every few months I keep vowing to search out the good local consignment stores, but never have much luck. I think I need to figure out a more scientific approach. LA is so spread out, it's not like you can generally go hit one or two on a lunch hour.

Duchesse said...

Susan: Like yo uI have been buyer and consignor at same place. Nice b/c you can sometimes trade!

Sue: I would not call Marina's store "thrift" by a long shot. There is a continuum from the church rummage sale (where I have found used tissues in pockets, ycch) through very chi chi consignment stores. All can yield treasures but I avoid the really funky places where the clothes smell musty (as I am sure you do.)

une femme: Find one near you, where you can drop by every 2-4 weeks, and get to know them. Proximity really helps as they get new stuff all the time. And online is great for scarves (as you know) and accessories- even clothes.

materfamilias said...

I'd be a regular consignment shopper if I were closer to a good store. The one you took me to in Toronto (Thrill of the Find?) was wonderfully inviting and I can imagine stopping in every few weeks. For one thing, the editing in a good shop brings so much wider a range than in the current season of any regular retail. We often forgot what a limited range of colours we get restricted to by the fashion of the moment. Have you singled out a few favourites yet in Montreal?

Tiffany said...

An excellent reminder - I know there are some good consignments shops in the rather well-heeled suburb my MIL lives in - I must check them out, especially for work-appropriate garb.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: Thrill of the Find is where I placed my designer clothes when I moved- as well as the place I bought things. I have not ventured out to find any here yet, as have all I need for the moment- I'm resolved to live with far fewer clothes.

Tiffany; I find them good for both work and formal wear, not so good for very casual clothes. (You can wear jeans till they shred, I guess!)

Mardel said...

I've occasionally shopped consignment shops when I am in area where there are good ones, and I have found some very good things for the money. My local expeditions have been disappointing, not in the least because most of the shops won't accept anything more than 2 years old and they are filled with outdated versions of the same dreck I find in the mall.

lagatta à montréal said...

If Marina were in her mid-to-late forties rather than fifties, she'd be my younger cousin who is a senior civil servant, two young-adult children (though the son is still in his late teens) etc.

Since she is about a size 7, she finds the most beautiful garments at bazaars and consignment shops.

I have never found dirty kleenex in pockets at the "boutique" at Ste-Madeleine d'Outremont church bazaar, though I have seen such horrors at others.

Not being as slim as my younger cousin, I don't find nearly as many top-end garments. Last weekend I did make a great find - red gloves, European-made, beautiful leather for $5. I don't think they were ever worn. They will look smashing on a bicycle come autumn.