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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


About a month ago we happened upon a sale of sample clothing - great pieces at even greater prices.  Most of the clothing had labels removed and some pieces were slightly damaged (mostly broken zippers which could be repaired at a small cost).  At this particular sale EN picked up some fantastic dresses for a laughable amount.  These included a black Grecian style Calvin Klein dress for 20$ (that's right!), a blue sequined cocktail dress so beautifully outrageous that the 15$ (I know!)  it cost really was a steal, and a hot pink halter style dress with a broken zipper for 10$ (cost to repair zipper - between 20$ - 30$...still a bargain).

When gleefully sharing this shopping coup with a friend, her initial and immediate response was "Ewww...but were these dresses used??".  What a strange question, we thought.  In fact, these items were not "used" (they were samples)...but at 20$ for a designer dress...who the hell cares?  It seems that she did.  So, a subsequent survey of friends, family and virtual strangers revealed that she was not alone.  There seems to be a subset of the population that thinks that used or second-hand clothing is just plain yucky.

Now, having grown up with an older sister, receiving hand-me-downs is nothing new to EN.  And, when this lovely older sister had children, she saved much of their goodies and then handed those down to our daughters. Fantastic!  To this day, between hand-me-downs and what they receive as gifts (and the added bonus of  school uniforms), we have really not had to buy our girls much in the way of clothes and even shoes.

Our informal survey (have you mailed yours back yet? :) ) revealed however that most people do not object to hand-me-downs from people that they know - but used clothing from strangers is another story.  Some of the reasons people cite for never accepting or shopping for used clothing are the following:

1.  Gross!  How could you possibly want to wear stuff that someone else has worn?  

To this we simply ask: Have you ever eaten in a restaurant?  Stayed in a hotel?  The idea that wearing clothes that someone else has worn is gross stems from the fact that one believes that these articles of clothing are dirty, germy, contaminated (we guess).  But think about it.  If you bring home something from a second-hand wash it. So really, what's the problem?  Do you think that when you check into a hotel, whether it's a 2 star or a 5 star, that you're getting brand spanking new sheets and towels each time?  Sorry to burst your hygiene bubble, but that towel you're using to dry your's been used before.  And what about when you go to a restaurant? Do you think that you're eating off of never-been-used-before dishes and that the cutlery you're using is right out of the box?  Nope...used before. Now sure, the laundry machines in hotels and the dish-washing machines in restaurants are probably much more powerful than those that you have at home.  Well, we hope so because in those establishments they have to wash away the yuckiness of lots and lots of folks.  If you still feel that your own laundering will not get rid of the coodies, take your purchase to the dry cleaners.  Germ problem solved!

2.  Buying or accepting second-hand stuff means you can't afford better stuff.

Well, maybe that's actually true, but it may not be, and anyhow, that's not the point.  The assumption that you're making is that hand-me-downs are, by definition, of poor quality.  That is most definitely not true.  Anyone who has ever shopped in a good vintage shop, gone to a fantastic estate sale or befriended a really rich somebody who only buys high end stuff and has a high turnover rate (we all need friends like this) knows that you can find some phenomenal pieces this way.  And, you also know that you can wear what you've bought without worrying that your co-workers will walk into work wearing the same thing, and horrors, looking better in it than you do!

As for not being able to afford "better" aka "new" stuff, the sad fact is that some vintage items are actually a small fortune, and you can get new clothes (of pretty poor quality) for next to nothing.  It's all about how you choose to use the few pennies you allow yourself to spend.  Besides, if you're shopping for clothes that are beautiful and are also saving some money...all the better!

3. Used clothing is old and therefore not fashionable.

Well, we guess that this depends on what you consider fashionable.  If your definition of fashion is what everyone is wearing because that is what is in all the magazines (oh, by the way...shoulder pads are back!),  then you're for second had stuff may not meet this cookie-cutter definition.  But there is nothing to say that you cannot pair some current must-haves with some older finds.  That way, you create a look that is uniquely your own.  So long as you are wearing something you love and that you are comfortable and confident in (and that fits you properly) - you'll look fabulous. ( the this point Frugal Freddie would just like to say that he really has no idea or interest in fashion and has completely zoned out of this entry.  Good thing he just lets EN pick out his clothes)

4. If you can afford to buy new stuff, then you should leave the used clothing for people who really can't afford anything else.

An interesting argument for sure.  But, consider this, if you're going to shop from a second hand store that caters to lower income people, even if you yourself are not one,  you are contributing to this organization in another way.  The Salvation Army for instance uses the money that it makes on sales to put back into the community and to be able to run their stores.

If you still feel like you are shopping immorally, why not donate some of the things that you no longer wear for them to sell?

5. But it's used....

I love language and am a firm believer that semantics is everything!  No wonder people only want to buy and wear new stuff when the alternative is called "used".  "Used" gives the impression that something is past it's usefulness.  We think of "used and abused"...well, I wouldn't want a dress that fit that description either.  So, instead of "used" how about referring to these items as "vintage" (how chic) or "pre-loved" (how heart-felt) or "recycled" (how green).  I for one don't have anything used in my closet, but I've got plenty of  incredible, vintage fashion pieces that I saved from the garbage dump, and that I am absolutely loving.

The Tightwads (well... mostly,  until FF decided to cut the grass after point 3)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The "new" window shopping

Ladies, this one's for you (and for any metrosexual, in-touch-with-my-female-side guy who loves to shop).  Take a moment and think about what shopping means to you.  And I (that would be EN) don't mean shopping for dental floss or apples...but real shopping.  You know, the kind of shopping that you do ... just because. I get tingly just thinking about it.

But, given that our family has embraced a life of frugality, shopping "just because" is not something that can be done too often. (note that I did not say "never").  So, given that this new way of life has put a damper on my shopping sprees, I thought that it would be wise to consider exactly why shopping gives me such a thrill - in order to see if I could get this thrill some other way (get your minds out the gutter people...this is about shopping). 

So, I sat in a meditative pose (thank you yoga), closed my eyes, and imagined myself in my favorite shop.  I saw myself sweeping through the aisles, running my hands across racks and racks of garments, feeling the silks, wools and cottons ... and occasional polyester blends.  My eyes took in the almost incomprehensible array of colours and my nose inhaled the smell of newness which surrounded me (and the garlic breath of the person next to me).  I saw myself lifting the perfect black dress off the rack and holding it up against my body - perfect.  I found a white button-down blouse that was calling my name...even though I hate to wear blouses.  Skinny jeans which were the perfect shade of jean and a scarf that matched absolutely nothing in my wardrobe, also found their way into my capable arms.  And then, I saw myself gliding to the shoe section.  I caught my breath as I took in the rows and rows of pedal works of art.  High heels, wedges and sandals - oh my!  One pair more glorious than the next, and as I tried each one on I felt as though I had been tranformed into post-glass slipper Cinderella.  I allowed myself to take in this scene for a little while longer and then roused myself from this shopping trance.  Opening my eyes, stretching my legs and looking around I felt exhilirated !  Fulfilled, refreshed, happy.  But why?  you may ask.  How could simply imagining yourself shopping be that positive an experience?

I was brought back to memories of a time when I was a poor full-time student (as opposed to now, when I am a somewhat better off full-time student).  Back then, shopping "just because" was simply not an option.  Not one to ever want to rack up credit card debts, I rarely shopped for pleasure.  What I did do though was spend hours and hours (hey, it was better than studying) going through catalogues that would come in the mail (Victoria's Secret, J. Crew, Eaton's (sigh...remember Eaton's?) and pretend shop.  Come on....I can't be the only loser  young penniless lady to have done this.  I would carefully give the catalogue a first pass, then go through it a second time and circle all the items I would order if money was not an option.  Then, I would quickly calculate what the total would be (honing up my math skills), experience a few heart palpitations, and proceed to eliminate items from my "cart".  Then, with only a few choice items left, I would  convince myself that a) the item would never look as good on me as it did on the model (did you know that Victoria's Secret models are visitors from another planet!), b) that it would stretch or c) that it would require.... horrors...IRONING!  I got pretty creative coming up with reasons why I didn't want said item, and before I knew it, my pretend cart was empty and my pretend shopping excursion actually left me feeling pretty satisfied.

This really isn't that strange, is it?  I mean, we've all gone window shopping.  The malls are full of people trolling the stores, looking around, maybe trying things on, but not actually buying anything.  There is obviously some appeal and psychological benefit to doing this or it wouldn't be so common.  Maybe it's the joy of seeing pretty things, being presented with endless possibilities, being witness to the creative talents of designers and shoe makers. My pretend catalogue shopping achieved pretty much the same thing - except better, because I didn't even have to get dressed to reap the benefits.

These days of greener living, I no longer get catalogues in the mail.  No worries though.  Now I conduct my pretend shopping online.  I have recently discovered a number of "exclusive" discount shopping sites.  (The fact that they're exclusive gives them an added appeal, but in reality the only thing you have to do to be included is sign up with your email address.)  Now, I can browse the sites, add things to my virtual shopping cart and then empty it before checking out.  The nice thing is that in most of these sites...if you don't purchase your item within 15 minutes of adding it to your cart, it gets removed for you!  And, added bonus, new arrivals are entered into the virtual store every day.  What fun!

In case you want to engage in some pretend shopping of your own, or if you're tired of dealing with crowds during your traditional window shopping are a few of my favorite sites.

Happy pretend shopping :)
Economia Nia