1. This Week on Thriftanthology: Thrifting, Remembering, Forgetting (by HMK)

    There are, of course, people who don’t care about stuff.

    I do not think that I understand those people.

    It’s like how Freud said that a cigar was never really just a cigar. (Or maybe he didn’t really say that, I can’t remember if that one is apocryphal or not. But he was a smoker, and a penis-fixated creep, so it sounds plausible.) Stuff, I think (perhaps Freud also thinks?), is never really just stuff. The stuff we possess says something (to ourselves, to our friends, to the world) about what we love, what we value, who we are. (Like how John Waters said that if you go home with someone and they don’t have any books in their house, not to sleep with them. I know that quote, at least, is real, because it was several of my friends’ Facebook cover photos for weeks on end last year. Wise friends.)

    For me, physical stuff is, inevitably, also emotional stuff. I cling very hard indeed to things which were given to me by people whom I love, which are from places that I love, and which remind me of experiences that I loved. And, on the other side of that particular coin, you will find me equally incapable of retaining things associated with pain, loss, disappointment, trouble. (When my elementary school crush broke my heart, I immediately tore his Snoopy valentine up—clean through the doghouse, right through the happy dancing feet, straight through the smug little smile. Snoopy was DEAD to me. The bathing suit which I got teased for wearing on a middle school field trip was, at my insistence, donated to Goodwill the instant I got home. Once my PhD was in hand, I gave all of the grad school books which I had cried over—so hard, and for so long—right to the library in my town.

    I read an article recently which claimed that possessions associated with our hard times—the love letter written by the man who no longer loves us, the gift given by the employer who never liked us, the memento from the place which no longer welcomes us—had the potential to become precious keepsakes, given time.

    And I called bullshit, and I tore the article up, too.

    Perhaps for some people, a shirt is just a shirt, intended exclusively to shield us from the elements and the cold. Perhaps for some people, a painting is just a way of livening up an otherwise dull wall—a clock is just a way of marking time—a dress is just something to wear because, when it comes down to brass tacks, we need to wear SOMETHING.

    But not for me. It wasn’t true when I was a sad, angry seven-year-old, bent on tearing a grinning Peanuts character into the tiniest possible of tiny little pieces, and it isn’t true of me now, as a thirty-two-year-old who is too lazy to properly research feng shui, but who nonetheless believes that the stuff which we keep (and the stuff which we let go) possesses tremendous, if intangible, power.

    And so this week on Thriftanthology, let us contemplate the stuff which we choose to keep, and why we choose to keep it. How do our feelings seep into our garments? How do our memories infiltrate our tchotchkes? How do our sentiments settle in the shoes on our feet, the art on our walls, the clothes on our bodies? Let us find out…

  2. Thrifted Dress Sunday: On Neither Buying, Nor Planning, Ahead (by HMK)

    What: Festive black and floral H&M dress, via Goodwill
    Price: $5

    I seldom buy a dress (or any garment) with specific notions of when and where I will wear it. It feels like tempting cruel fate, somehow, to thus venturesomely seek to peer into, or presume to know, my sartorial future.

    Like most humans, when it comes to most things, I rather blithely (and touchingly) plan for my future as though I had the least idea in hell what it is going to look like. I wake up in my home, and assume that I will always have just such a lovely home, to wake up in. I go to my job, and I assume that said job will always be there, for me to go to. I call my friends, and I assume that they will always be there, to answer those calls. Like most humans, most of the time, I resolutely and willfully close my eyes to the possibility/inevitability of change. I know that sometimes houses burn down and jobs disappear and friendships change.

    But like most humans, I don’t like to think about those things, most of the time.

    When it comes to thrifting and thrifted goods, though, I am somehow able to stare down the unknown unblinkingly, and with an untroubled mind. You enter a thrift store, and you cannot predict what on God’s green earth you will find there. You buy a dress, and you cannot say for sure where you might wear it, or if, indeed, you ever will. To embrace thrifting is to embrace the fundamental unpredictability of… everything. (Perhaps yet another reason that it is not an endeavor intended for the faint of heart.)

    In life, like most humans, I fret—I worry and wonder about what the next hour, day, week, month, year has in store.

    But in thrifting, I am somehow able to let the future, and all of my speculation about it—about what it will look like and what I will want to wear, when I get there—go. I can simply see a beautiful dress like this one, and trust that there will be beautiful days ahead, on which I will wish to wear it.

    And move on from there.

  3. Thrifted Should-Have-Been Saturday Dress: How A Lady Professor Ought to be Garbed (by HMK)

    What: Stunning vintage black and white dress, via Goodwill
    Price: $5

    A brief list of things that I hate, when it comes to guidebooks which are intended to tell women how they are “supposed” to dress for any given occasion:

    -Everything (I told you it would be brief.)

    I really do hate the idea that there is one specific way (or even a small handful of pre-ordained ways) that you are “supposed” to dress for anything, apart from the basic rule of being respectful of your own and other people’s feelings, when considering what you wear out the door. For example, I love the idea of a funeral to which one might wear glitter—I hope that people wear glittery garb to mine, for instance, magpie that I am—but I suppose that it is in general best avoided. And unless invited to do otherwise, I do like the idea of dressing up in suitably festive, celebratory clothes for festive, celebratory occasions. That crank you heard muttering crabbily about the gent who chose to wear a ratty gray T-shirt to the last wedding you intended? That was me.)

    But otherwise—rules about what we are supposed to wear seem to hem us in and hamper us in ways which, to me, do not seem terribly productive. I have read more style guides than I can count which have told me not to wear heels (as I am beanpole tall), figure-hugging shirts (as I am Midwestern-fields-flat), or anything of an even-slightly-reddish hue (as I am rather reddish of hair, myself.)

    But the thing is, I like heeled shoes, even if they do make me taller than most of the surrounding populace. I like close-fitting shirts, sometimes, even though my dimensions are invariably and unalterably those of a twelve-year-old boy. I like red clothes, even though I am myself a ginger. And I do not like the idea of being told to go against what I naturally and intuitively like, for any (especially, seemingly entirely arbitrary) reason.

    The style advice given to Lady Professionals, in particular, always seems to me to be especially fraught. “Highlight your femininity! Wear skirts sometimes! But not too short, you slut! But not that long, either, who are you, Laura Ingalls Wilder? Is there butter somewhere which needs churning that I am unaware of? I don’t currently see any cows around which need milking! So put that bonnet away! Stop dowdying it up! And maybe join the 21st century and try wearing some pants. But not mannish pants, this isn’t the ’80s. No more power suits! But do your pants really have to be THAT tight? Do you really want your employer to be fully aware of your underwear preferences? Try being a lady for a change. But have fun!” Sigh. It all makes me, as so many things in life do, feel rather tired.

    As I contemplate the start of a new semester, the question of What to Wear once again begins to take on just such a new significance. Must wear something which is professional, but which expresses personality. Must wear something which I will not have to fret over, in terms of tightness, neckline, hemline, but also something I love. Must wear something which makes me feel authoritative, but which also lets me be comfortable. [Sinks down in front of closet and stares at it, glassy-eyed and baffled.]

    Faced with these conundrums, finding a dress like this one feels like a godsend. Its hemline is suitably modest. Once I slap another layer or two under it, the neckline will be, likewise. Its muted colors and flowing fit seem suitably professional. But this is a garment which will also allow me to move, and in which I feel like myself—something in its slouchy ’70s-ness would appeal to me, whether I had designated it for the classroom, or no.

    It can be a tricky thing, to be a Lady Professor, sometimes. Thank goodness for dresses which, much as those persnickety style guides might hate them, we can wear, and can love.

  4. Thrifted Should-Have-Been Friday Skirt: Acts of Sartorial Courage (by HMK)

    What: Blue and white polka dot skirt, Forever 21 via Goodwill

    What, in the end, does it mean to have courage? (If it in any way resembles the version of it most frequently depicted in the movies, then count me out—there will be no wielding of weapons or battling of beasts in this neck of the woods.) The courage which I am the most familiar with is not of the dramatic, but rather of the quiet, variety. People who choose to speak kind or difficult or candid words when they could remain cozily silent. People choose to act even when feeling shaky and fragile and nauseous, when remaining passive would shield them from all such unpleasantness. People who choose to move, when even the thought of motion seems quite literally unthinkable. Not the kind of courage which most frequently finds its way onto the big screen, perhaps. But a powerful and meaningful form of the thing, nonetheless.

    Most women I know exercise a great deal of sartorial courage on a daily basis. Given our drearily patriarchal society (“look sexy and young all the time, but not too sexy because that’s slutty, but then, being dowdy is almost as bad—also, trying to look young is pathetic, but you do have to try—but don’t try too hard”—and so on, and so forth, into tedious infinity.) Women who are thin are scrawny, and women who aren’t thin are fat, and being scrawny is bad, but being fat is worse. Girls can’t dress like grown women and grown women can’t dress like girls, and it’s pathetic when a woman of a certain age tries to look too young (but then, how pathetic it is, likewise, if she no longer tries at all.)

    No wonder getting dressed can feel like a bit of a minefield, sometimes. Is a given garment “appropriate” to our age, height, weight, body type? The answer almost always can, if we let it, be “no.” We can always be too old or too young or too tall or too short or too thin or too fat for anything. If we allow ourselves to be.

    What a pleasure, then, NOT to allow it, sometimes. I am clearly too old to wear this skirt. (Sold at Forever 21, doubtless intended for girls at or under that age.) I am likewise clearly too tall to wear this skirt (it is quite short on me, and as a professional woman in my 30s, I need to learn to put. It. Away.)

    And we can always choose the “appropriate” sartorial path, I suppose. Can always embrace what is the easiest—can always go with what will ruffle the fewest possible feathers—what will garner us the fewest possible questioning stares.

    Or we can have courage.

  5. Thrifted Shoes Thursday: The Promise of Motion (by HMK)

    What/Brand: Lovely dark brown Sketchers sneakers, via Goodwill
    Price: $4

    My feet have put up with a good deal from me. When I was in grad school, I managed to break two of my toes while standing still in a library. (When I commit to a life of Klutzhood, I REALLY commit to it.) I seem to stub at least one toe daily. I leave toenail polish on much, much longer than any sane pedicurist would recommend. And to cap it all off, I am addicted to shoes which do my feet no favors. I wear heels which make my toes ache. I wear ballet flats which offer little to nothing in terms of arch support. I hope that I am not a terribly cruel person to either animals or people. But I surely am cruel to my poor feet.

    And perhaps it is the wisdom (?) which (hopefully?) comes alongside venturing deeper into my 30s, but I have begun to actively seek comfy shoes when I go out thrifting. Shoes with padding in them. Shoes specifically designed to walk in. Sensible shoes. Whoever would have thought that the day would come.

    I was drawn to these particular beauties the moment I saw them. They are dowdy in exactly the way that I love. They are Sketchers, the brand that saw me safely and comfortably through my college days (before I lost my Shoe Mind entirely.) These are shoes specifically designed to encourage motion.

    And how very much I do want to move. Much as I love my home, I am a restless person by nature, and I have not been on a bloody plane in a year. I have not crossed an ocean for even longer than that. I have not gone to a city which I do not know for more months than I have fingers. I. Need. To. Move.

    And happily, I soon will. The fall promises many things, and motion is chief among them. I will cross multiple state lines, and one broad ocean. I will go to cities I have never seen, walk streets I’ve never heard of, see things which are entirely new.

    And I will be armed with shoes explicitly designed to protect my restless feet, when I do so.

  6. Thrifted Clock Wednesday: On the Reliability of Clocks (by HMK)

    What: Gorgeous vintage green clock, via Goodwill
    Price: $3

    The summer of 2014 has been a summer of Clock Flux (as well as general flux), for me. Of course, as a dedicated Clock Obsessive, there is always a steady flow of clocks into my house. (Friend, asking me how many clocks I own: “I mean, are we talking ten? Twenty? Thirty?” Me: conspicuously silent. She stopped asking after thirty. That was wise of her.)

    But this summer, I have not just been taking new clocks in. I have been moving old clocks around (what was once in the kitchen is now in the bedroom, what was once in the bedroom is now in the living room, and so on and so forth, into dizzying infinity.) I have let the beautiful clocks which my ex-boyfriend got me go back out into the world, away from my home, as he has gone back out into the world, away from me. I have put batteries in the clocks which I never used and made them active, and have retired clocks which I have been using for years, transforming them back into objects of quiet decoration. This summer, I have been mobile, and restless, and found myself uprooted in ways which I had not expected. And in consequence—so have my clocks.

    In the wake of all this motion and flux, I do so very much want this new clock of mine to be steady. There is the perfect spot for her now open by my bedside table, and I do so very much want her to sit there, undisturbed and unmoving, in the days and weeks and months ahead.

    I want this clock to sit peacefully by me while I am sleeping (alone, now, again) for the rest of 2014, and to ring in 2015 by my side. Who can say what that eerily futuristic-sounding year has in store. But if there is at least the guarantee of a beautiful clock, ticking reliably and faithfully away by one’s side at its beginnings—that does seem to bode well.

  7. Thrifted What I Wore: Tuesday Edition. Everything but the earrings (which were a gift from Dad. Thanks Dad) is thrifted. Also, I take back every negative thing I said about winter. Summer heat is definitely the worst.

  8. Thrifted Skirt Tuesday: Dressing for Who We Are Not, and May Never Be (by HMK)

    What/Brand: Insane glittery gray and silver skirt, Express via Goodwill
    Price: $4

    I am not now, and have never really been, the right girl to wear this skirt. I wasn’t when I was a lass of 23, and I am certainly not as a woman of nearly 33. It is a bit much for me, in all respects. A bit too short. (Very well—a LOT too short.) A bit too glittery. (Very well—INSANELY glittery.) A bit too overtly attention-seeking. (Very well—EXTREMELY attention-seeking.)

    God knows where I will wear this beauty, or if I ever will. But as I contemplate and gear up for being a full-time teacher once again, owning a skirt like this somehow feels vitally necessary. As a professor, professionalism needs to be at the heart and center of what I wear, and how I act. And I don’t begrudge that. I am a professional, after all, and I want to dress and act accordingly.

    But that is not all I am. I may be too old and too tall and too (sartorially) conservative to wear a skirt like this, ever, in real life.

    But I hope not. I am comfortable being a professional, after all. That is a role, and an aesthetic, which suits me. I am not comfortable, even now, as a grown-up human female, in being the woman in the room who wants attention—the woman who is at ease with her body being visible, not as a means of perambulating knowledge from one end of the classroom to the other, but as a body. That is not now, and never has been, intuitive or natural for me.

    But it might be. Every garment which we own is, after all, a door which, if we choose to, we can step through the day we put it on. And I might not be ready to step through this particular door, and into those particular possibilities, today.

    But who knows. I may be, tomorrow. And this beauty will be waiting for me, in my closet, when, as, and if I am.

  9. This Week on Thriftanthology: Thrifting and Transition (by HMK)

    One of the best things about thrifting is that it is steady. Not everything in life is always guaranteed to bring delight to our hearts. We spend a week reading a book, and by the end of it, feel like that is a week which we might have better spent reading cereal box labels, or billboards, or blog posts about unsavory celebrities, or anything else, really. We spend an hour listening to a podcast, and feel like this is an hour which might have been more profitably spent in listening to white noise, or sad music, or nothing at all. We pay $15 to spend a day at the movies, and feel like that money might have been better spent on actual decent popcorn, or a copy of the book on which the film is based, or the donation box by the theater door. Our time is precious, and there are some things in life which unfortunately seem specifically designed to waste that precious time.

    But not thrifting. Thrifting makes few promises to us, and it keeps fewer, but one thing which it does reliably promise is diversion. I have been bored by books and podcasts and movies, but I have never been bored by thrifting. Even in the pokiest little store in the pokiest little town, you will find something intriguing and unexpected and strange. Thrift stores are steady rock of delight, in a sea of less reliably pleasant experiences.

    And as such, thrifting often serves as an anchor in times of flux. While we cannot know if we will like the next song we listen to or the next book we read or the next TV show we watch, but we CAN know that there is a thrift store just around the corner, somewhere, and that wonderful things dwell therein.

    Thrifting is consequently very useful this time of year, since as we slide into late summer, many of us (especially those of us who are teachers) find ourselves in flux—uneasily sitting in between one state of being and another. We are no longer entirely immersed in summer—the new semester is too frighteningly close for that—but neither are we in the full flush of a new year. We sit poised somewhere in between letting go of what has been, and of moving on to what is next. And there are worse places to be, I suppose. But there are also more reassuring ones.

    So this week on Thriftanthology, let us consider thrifting in times of flux—as we stand here on the dividing line between the summer and the fall—let us see where thrifting takes us. As we prepare to say goodbye to the summer, and hello to the year ahead, what do our thrifting hearts want? Down what strange and unexpected roads will our thrifting desires lead us? Let us find out…

  10. Thrifted Skirt Sunday: Somewhere Between Eyesore and Wonder (by HMK)

    What: Madcap patchwork Ann Taylor Loft skirt, via Goodwill
    Price: $4

    As Kelli and I have talked about on this Tumblr, there is great delight and great benefit to Thrifting in Numbers. Thrifting on one’s own is a tremendous pleasure, of course. But thrifting with others is also ripe with wonders and benefits. Not only is it more fun and festive, but it also allows one to rifle through one’s friends remarkable brains, for their remarkable thrifting insights. They pull a dress for you which you never would have considered. They talk you off the ledge when you are considering buying a shirt that you clearly do not like, but which for some reason you stubbornly feel compelled to purchase. Good people, thrifting friends.

    My friend Julie is just one such wondrous thrifting companion, in that she has an unerring eye for Things Which All Her Friends Would Like, knowing our taste often better than we know it ourselves. (“This shirt has weird ruffles on it, is super-baggy, and is in a dreary color. Very you!”) Well spotted, dear friend. Well spotted.

    Julie is, however, wary, when we thrift, in showing me garments which she thinks are excessively and comically terrible—because nine times out of ten, my eyes will light up, and I will grab them, try them on, love them, buy them. And then wear them in front of Julie, much to her amusement/horror.

    Because though I am also a sucker for the classically pretty (what a nice color! What a well-formed garment! What soft fabric!), I am an even greater sucker for the strange. The clashing colors. The odd shapes. The weird buttons. I am infatuated with them all. And every time I see Julie (who has unerringly good, original, striking taste) making a face over something, I know there is a 99% chance that what she is looking at is mind-numbingly hideous and unflattering to all human life forms, and that I WILL WANT IT TO POSSESS IT.

    I feel like this skirt is one which walks that fine line between so ugly that it is simply…ugly, and interestingly off-kilter. I love the clashing fabrics and the lumpy piping and the overall 1970s frumpiness of it. I think I hesitated for about two seconds before deciding that this was indeed dowdy, drab, did me no favors, and that I lovvvved it.

    In some ways, fashion is about the uncomplicatedly pretty—flattering silhouettes, soothing colors, elegant construction. And all of these things surely have their place. But so too does the discordant—the uneven textures and strange hemlines and odd details.

    Perhaps the most important thing about a garment is that it stops you in your tracks. To admire it or to puzzle over it—either way. As long as it fails to bore you.

    And so I will wear the clothes which Julie points out to me because they are lovely, and I will wear the clothes which Julie points out to me because they are hideous. And I will be happy, wearing them all.

  11. Thrifted Shoes Saturday: Full Suitcase, Blind Determination (by HMK)

    What: Remarkable tri-color autumnal heels
    Price: $5

    How a thrifter (this thrifter, anyway) thinks, when she is traveling, and has limited space in her suitcase in which to schlep any new thrifteds home.

    On Seeing These Shoes:

    There is no way in Hades that these are going to fit into your bag. Your bag is already full, missy, and these are not. Going. To. Fit. Into. It. Maybe if they were a shirt? You could totally fit a shirt in there. A dress, even, if you were careful about how you folded it. But shoes? No. No way. It is impossible. Put the shoes down, child. Walk away.

    But surely it can’t hurt to just see if they fit me? They LOOK like they would fit me.

    Ah. But they are not your size. So—they won’t fit you.

    But—worth trying, anyway? After all, maybe they are vintage. Maybe they are European. And all sizes are psychological, anyway, aren’t they? And doesn’t foot size fluctuate over one’s lifetime? I think I heard that, somewhere? My birthday is coming up. Maybe in honor of impending old age, my feet have grown. [Pause.] Lord, they fit me.

    Not perfectly, though. Look at that gap at the back of your heel.

    But I could wear leggings with them. Fill that gap in. No problem.

    [Snorts skeptically.]

    THICK leggings. And socks!

    Okay, okay, so they could work. But they CAN’T work. You DO NOT HAVE ROOM. Your suitcase is FULL. BACK AWAY FROM THE SHOES.

    But what do I have in my suitcase, anyway? Toiletries? Please. I can buy those anywhere. I will totally throw out my bag of toothpaste and face wash, if it would mean I can fit these beauties in my bag.

    [Massages temples as if getting a headache.] So, you’re getting the shoes, I take it? You are going to smush and cram and even jettison items, if that is what is required to get these loves in your bag?

    [Smiles with quiet determination.]

    And home they came.

  12. Thrifted Purse Friday: I Need Another Purse Like I Need A… Really, I Just Need Another Purse (by HMK)

    What/Brand: Glorious vintage tan purse
    Price: $4

    A brief list of things which, technically, I do not need any more of:

    -Books. I have shelves upon shelves, piles upon piles of them. At home, at work, everywhere. All books, all the time.

    -Clocks. As I have discussed elsewhere on this Tumblr, I am something of a Clock Fiend. I have more clocks than I have walls, many, many times over. And most of them don’t work. And I don’t care.

    -Shoes. My feet are starting to get very, very crotchety and are starting to have a very, very low tolerance for heels. You would think this would stop me from buying them. It does not.

    -Purses. SO MANY PURSES. How many things do I have to carry, after all? And how many variety of receptacles do I need to carry them in? Such practical considerations do not guide my purse-purchasing, in the least, I must confess. I have small purses and big purses, vintage purses and new purses, subdued purses and bright purses. So. Many. Purses.

    The fact that I have more than enough of these things does not, of course, prevent me from buying them. Because I lovvvve them. But I DO try to be a smidge more selective, when deciding which of these objects to bring into my home. I will not buy books which I feel like I SHOULD read, but which I do not actually WISH to read. I will not buy clocks which are pretty, but which are not bizarre. (Prettiness is fine. Bizarreness is necessary.) I will not buy shoes which are pleasant, but which do not stop me in my tracks.

    And I will not buy purses which it does not actually physically pain me to think about leaving behind in the store. And this purse is such a purse. I kept trying to put her down and walk away—and I simply could not do it. I loved her weird clasp and greenish-brown color and severe, angular shape far too much. And so, reader, I bought her.

    Life is too short to buy things which we do not absolutely love. And too short not to buy things which we absolutely do.

  13. Thrifted Skirt Thursday: Super-Short Skirts, Redux (by HMK)

    What/Brand: Stunning, ruffly, ridiculously short gray skirt from Forever 21, via Goodwill

    Price: $4

    Much like me, this skirt is rather betwixt and between. Its fabric suggests that it might be suitable for the workplace—it is constructed from that rich, crepe-y material that one often finds in sensible skirt suits (which one could theoretically wear if one was a sensible lady politician, or other type of well-heeled and high-powered professional lady. Which one, admittedly, is not.)

    And yet, the skirt is also craaaazily short (granted, I am quite tall, so it rides rather more scandalously high on me than it would on some folks—but still. Regardless of one’s height: very. Short. Indeed.)

    So the skirt is somewhere in between severe and flirtatious—in between tidily professional and wildly inappropriate.

    And right now I, too, am in between things. Physically in between where I grew up and where I live. Chronologically, between the full flush of summer and the beginnings of a new semester. Sartorially, between being the person who wears Very Short Skirts, and the person who wears things which are muted, unobtrusive, classy, and gray.

    It seems that we cannot quite settle, or make up our minds, this skirt and I.

    And really, when one comes to think about it—why should we?

  14. Thrifted What I Wore: Wednesday Edition. Shirt and skirt were thrifted.


  15. Anonymous said: Hello! I just saw the earring post about the small Old Saybrook thrift store and I'm extremely interested in going there, since I am from that area. I know the exact name and location of the store are somewhat forgotten, but I was wondering if you remember anything around it, that could help me find the store?

    Hello! Thank you for your question (and for reading our blog!). So, the person to answer that is Holly (this is Kelli), and I’ll make sure she sees your question.