My name is Emily and earlier this year I went on a three week tour through the Midwestern and Southern United States with my band, Foxygen. More importantly, when I was not playing shows or looking for food, I scoured this great country of ours for hidden treasures of the thrift variety. I kept a diary of my expeditions to share with you, dear reader. Join me, won’t you?
THRIFT DIARY DAY SEVEN: BLOOMINGTON
I wake up as we pull into Bloomington on a beautiful spring day. We park our tour bus in the center of town as families and college students alike walk by and stare at our giant orange monstrosity, presumably trying to fathom what kind of people might dwell in such an ostentatious vehicle. This town happens to be home to Shaun, the drummer, so I ask him if he knows of a good thrift store. He tells me that Opportunity House is the best thrift in town but that it closes at 2 P.M.. I have one hour to walk a mile to this place and find the treasures that I’m sure are awaiting me there. So with an urgency normally reserved for really desperate bathroom situations, I throw on a black slip dress and some sunglasses and haul my ass to the store.
I am just getting off the phone with my brother as I walk into the store and a woman behind the counter who lets call “Maude” for the sake of the story says to me, “Whoever that was, I hope you’re going to see him later wearing that dress.” I informed her that unfortunately, I was talking to my brother, and I was not going to see him. “Well I hope you go to see SOMEBODY later wearing that dress.” Maude is my kind of lady. With 30 minutes left to shop, I essentially “supermarket sweep” the store and hit the jackpot on a rack containing SEVEN matching skirt and top sets for $5 each.
With Maude’s input I narrow the seven down to the best three (I can tell you that Maude had very strong opinions regarding which of the outfits to buy).
Normally in these posts I’d show you a bunch of stuff I didn’t get because it’s just fun to see what’s out there and I want to give the people what they want. However, as has been previously stated, time was not on my side. In the end I spent a grand total of $16 on what I consider to be three really special retro skirt sets and one pretty OK sweater. I also had the honor of being the topic of discussion between Maude and a man fixing a lightbulb five feet from the dressing room who spoke as if I could not hear them. All I remember about that conversation was the man saying that he didn’t know me but that I was “good looking.” Thanks for that. I guess the moral of the story is that if you get a good feeling about a thrift store you’ve never been to and you know that it will be closing soon, you take a chance and you forego showering and you speed walk a mile to that store and see what destiny has waiting for you. Also, if you ever meet a “Maude” you just enjoy her wisdom and company while you can.
THRIFT DIARY DAY EIGHT: CHICAGO
It is pouring as we pull into Chicago, and admittedly I am a little bit hungover, but nothing could keep me from shopping. So I got my shit together ie. I threw on a pair of sassy/semi waterproof boots, took a hit of weed, and walked a mile to the thrift store. Side note: I listened to the new Bjork album on the walk and it is a heartbreakingly beautiful record and yes, maybe it was enhanced by the fact that I was high walking through a steamy romantic rain shower in the city, BUT GODDAM that track Lionsong just GETS ME. Okay, back to the task at hand. After much puddle dodging I arrive at this unassuming little Salvation Army:
The shop had a lot of great stuff but was unfortunately pretty cramped, there were no dressing rooms, and only one mirror in the whole store so I had to get creative.
First lets look at the shoes. I found these bad bitch boots that looked like they had never been worn but were somewhat discolored to make them this interesting camel/orange color, and also these INSANE lucite wedge heels that literally fell apart when i tried them on so RIP beautiful funky plastic shoes, I hardly knew ye.
Next they had a few pretty great jackets:
Here we have this little beaded number, which is a bit “grandma” but chic nonetheless; this blazer with gold buttons and some great detail on the cuffs — Sergeant Pepper vibes; and this striped blazer which I did get. Think Beetlejuice by way of Heathers which is just how I feel on some days. At $12.99 it was a little steep for what I normally spend at the thrift store but still a goddam bargain.
Then there were these tops. First this sort of boho embroidered number that I would wear if I was a fashionable hippy yoga mom, or if I were vegan, maybe... This other top was beautiful and elegant and expensive looking but as you can see the beading becomes problematic when it is so heavy that it looks like your blouse has had a stroke. And then, listen, I will be the first one to admit that my first instinct is not always the best one. Case in point this awful, terrible, no good, very bad T-shirt that I considered long enough to take this picture until the hand of an angel or possibly Satan flew down from the heavens of hell to slap some fashion sense into me.
MOVING ON. There were some great dresses which were unfortunately pretty difficult to try on without taking all of my clothes off in the middle of the store. From the left we have this mod mini dress. I love the keyhole. Next is this beautiful long dress in a classic silhouette, with the blue flowers adding a nice little pop of color. Here is a cute asian inspired dress (pair it with some sandals if you’re feeling low key) and I love a good shirt dress. I find them incredibly flattering and this one is fab (do people still say fab?). The retro pattern may not be for everyone but I can’t get enough of it, bring the hem up over the knee and pair it with some high black boots and baby you got a stew going. I mean outfit...
I made it out of this store with two dresses and a jacket for $30 which is, again, pretty expensive for thrift but I figure that I end up saving money by eating free chips and M&M’s for dinner every night.
THRIFT DIARY DAY NINE: LEXINGTON
We arrive in Lexington on a drizzly morning and I immediately catch a ride with my tour manager to a hotel so I can shower for the first time in three days. Tour life, you guys. I wash myself and then make a bold decision — I am not helping load in gear today and I am paying for a cab and going to the Goodwill instead. Turns out nobody cares.
Upon entering the goodwill I am greeted by a giant stuffed bear displayed at the entrance, and for some reason on this day I am feeling open to new possibilities, and more specifically clothing. What that really means is that I grabbed a LOT of items off the the racks that I normally wouldn’t have glanced at, and hope that maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by what I find. As it happens, I won’t be pleasantly surprised. My “open willingness” to try new things translated to “trying on a bunch of crap.” Let’s take a look.
Here we have this ugly furry sweater in a terrible brown. I guess I thought maybe the fur would look cool but I was wrong. Next we have a sweater that is fine but just not my style. Then there was this patterned sweater that was a nice sturdy material and had cool metal buttons, but everything else is wrong with it: the print, the color, no thanks.
I pulled this sweater just to highlight how many things can go wrong on one garment — turns out it can be a lot of things. Between the puke color, the fur pom pom’s, the sheer fabric and the belly button exposing middle part I actually think the responsible thing to do would have been to buy this just so I could burn it and make sure it was never seen by human eyes ever again. That is what I should have done, but instead I left it there, and now I’m showing it to you like that tape in The Ring except instead of killing you in seven days, the image will just harass your senses and violate your eyes with its wretchedness.
MOVING ALONG! I tried on these two ugly stretchy shirts. The floral one isn’t the worst, I guess, in a ‘90s teenager at Wet Seal kind of way?
I appreciate the elaborate construction on this blouse but that is pretty much all I like about it. It kind of has an outer space vibe.
This vintage suede knit jacket is actually pretty good, but definitely not for me. Shout out to the woman creeping in the background. Maybe she wants the jacket? These two tops are also kind of good. They’re simple, silk, they hang nicely and they’re basic. Basic can be good sometimes!
These two skirts are fine, I guess, but no thanks.
These purses are interesting and kind of cute. I do love when things are monogrammed. And birds!
Someone thought they were being clever and hid these boots in the bric-a-brac section. They were too big on me so don’t worry bric-a-brac hider, your boots are safe from me THIS TIME, but don’t think you can ever pull a stunt like that and on me again. I’m on to you. The one thing I did find that I liked is this interesting Asian style blouse/vintage pajama top for $3.99.
So this shopping trip was mostly a bust but on the plus side I got to take a shower, skip loading in gear, and I was able to procure a ride home from my friend in his Cadillac. Onwards and upwards, as they say.
THRIFT DIARY DAY TEN: SOMEWHERE IN TENNESSEE
The day after our show in Lexington I bid farewell to my band and my tour bus and hopped into the 1988 Cadillac Coupe Deville that belonged to our opening act Alex Cameron and his sax player and business partner Roy Molloy. We had a day off, so while my bandmates drove on to the next town me and my two Australian cohorts went to the horse races.
I wish that I could say I got very lucky and won a lot of money which I then used to make it rain at the local salvation army but that is not what happened. What happened was that I had a great time drinking and watching horses, bidding small amounts of money on the horses with the best name and hanging out with my pals who were considered very interesting and exotic to the people of Lexington who went out of their way to make us feel very welcome.
Photo by Jim Pillion
As you can see they are very well dressed young men, so on the following day as we cruised along to our show in Athens, GA I suggested that we stop at a thrift store so that I could help outfit them in some new duds, and perhaps lend them some exposure with my award-winning thrift blog. I managed to find a Goodwill right off the highway so we pulled off to check it out.
In my mind we were all part of a musical montage scene in a movie like Pretty Woman when they’re bringing her all the clothing and there are cuts of her coming out of the dressing room in various outfits and it looks like everyone is just having a real gas and silliness ensues and overall it is just a fun gay old time. It definitely plays that way in my memory. In reality we walked around this store and I grabbed a few items of womens’ clothing and had the guys try them on. Also this elephant bank! Alex is clearly thrilled to be a part of this whole thing. here he is in this snazzy blue asian jacket that fits him very well. I thought it would be a good departure from his usual black and grey. Then I had Roy try on this leather jacket that was just a bit too small but would have been perfect on him otherwise. He looks like a million bucks regardless, LADIES.
Thats it for the boys, because lets be real folks, this is my thing. I am the protagonist of this blog story! The people want to see blurry pictures of me wearing thrifted clothing, so here you go.
First we have this weird hooded leather trench coat. Nice color. This is definitely what I’d be wearing to go out flashing if I ever chose to do that. Who even knows what the future holds for anyone? Next is this JLo-esque denim romper paired with colorful wedges. The guys liked this one but I’m thinking they know nothing about women’s fashion or my personal style and that is fine.
Shoes-wise, I found these two pairs of black heels that each have a unique twist. I especially like the straps on the closed-toe pair and the stitching on the other pair. Shiny cowboy boots sound like a good thing but turn out not to be a good thing. The more you know!
I didn’t actually buy anything at this store but Roy and Alex each got something and I feel great about that. We don’t have too much time on this planet and it’s nice to feel like you can make an impact on someone’s life no matter how small, even if it only means that sometimes when someone puts on a bright blue asian jacket they think of you and go, “Who was that American girl who convinced me this was a good look?” Some might call me a hero, but I’m just a woman who really enjoys shopping.
THRIFT DIARY DAY ELEVEN/THE LAST DAY OF TOUR: WINSTON SALEM
We get to Winston-Salem and it is a sunny beautiful day. I am hungover and it is my last day of tour. I have spent a month living on a bus, splitting my time between shopping in thrift stores, performing and “partying” (ie. drinking on my tour bus with my band mates before retiring to my bunk to watch Jeopardy! on my computer). I have sustained myself on a steady diet of tortilla chips, peanut butter M&M’s and whiskey. “So glad we spent that money on music school!” — My Parents.
It is my last day and I feel like a garbage can full of nightmares if the nightmares had been up until 5 A.M. drinking and trying to prevent two drunk Australian boys from wrestling women and each other. (Andy Kaufman eat your heart out!) But all of this is beside the point. I must conclude this thrift diary! So, wearing my matching purple pajama set I head out to the nearest thrift store.
I end up at the Rescue Mission thrift store, A small place that primarily sells furniture with about four clothing racks, so I set about grabbing anything that looks somewhat interesting
It should be said that at this point I am DGAF-ING HARD (D.G.A.F. = Don’t Give A Fuck) and I realize that is a very dumb acronym and maybe I am even using it incorrectly? But that is just how hard IDGAF. What I mean is, I’m walking around a store in a purple pajama set and I look ridiculous and I’m talking to my mom loudly on the phone as I shop, and people are staring, and I am pulling down all of the suitcases off of the shelf BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN WHO HAS BEEN SHOPPING FOR A MONTH STRAIGHT AND NEEDS AN EXTRA SUITCASE TO CARRY HOME ALL OF HER TREASURES. I end up going with this baby blue one. Bonus points because it had a bunch of maxi pads in it and the woman at the register didn’t even charge me extra for them (trust that I did ask her; she was not amused). In the biz we call that “a bargain.” Then here I am in my favorite find: this shark T-shirt which is perfect because it is big enough that you can get away with wearing it as a sort of dress with black stretchy shorts, tights and some knee high black boots, an outfit that I proceed to wear for the next three days.
As for the rest of the clothing, here we have these brightly printed let’s-call them-culottes which were kinda sorta almost there for me but for the fact that they looked like something that the Fresh Prince would have worn, which is not inherently bad but the combination of the hem length and the print just didn’t jibe with me. Also, they are ridiculous. Next there is this kind of cool suit jacket which, paired with my pajama pants, has a casual yet homeless air about it. I can’t tell if this print is good or not. It’s definitely not bad. I considered getting this for my lead singer Sam but in this moment I didn’t trust my judgement so I left it behind.
Then there is this printed blouse because today is crazy prints day. I didn’t even bother trying this top on because frankly I was trying not to vomit and this was not helping, but here you go. Also there were these blue faux leather pants. They match my newe suitcase but I wasn’t wearing underwear (because I’m a feminist but actually because I hadn’t done laundry in over a week) so the point is pants weren’t happening.
So that’s it, folks! It’s been a long and winding road. I’ve been to a lot of cities and bought a LOT of used clothing. I wonder where all of the people who previously wore these clothes are now? I bet most of them are dead, right? That isn’t a morbid thought, that’s just realistic. EVERYBODY DIES, EVENTUALLY. I imagine that the woman who owned the black body con dress with the fringe that I bought in Idaho wore that dress out on a date with her crimped side pony tail and felt like hot shit. Now I’m wearing it to the races in Lexington, Kentucky, getting drunk and betting on horses with a couple of Australians and I feel like hot shit. I imagine that the woman who owned the black velvet stretchy knee high boots was a single mother and career woman who worked very hard and did what she needed to do for her family, and I imagine that when she wore these boots she felt sexy and confident, and now I wear them almost every day and feel the same way. I imagine that the woman who owned the matching skirt and top sets that I bought in Bloomington, Indiana always looked put together and was known around town for her style. Not to get too sentimental, but all of these items carry a history that I can can never know but which I feel and am now a part of every time I wear them. What else can I say but that I hope I haven’t fucked myself over by sharing all of my thrift secrets with you. Just kidding; there are plenty of treasures for all of us. Go forth and shop. Until next time!