About a month ago my sister Carolyn sold her home and she and her husband moved to a smaller house. And because she has so much on her plate these days, I asked her what I could do to help, that did NOT involve lifting. Because... uh, back issues... the month last winter that I spent in physio has me not wanting to go there again. So Carolyn asked: "Could I go through her clothes closet and make her a shopping list of what she might need?" Could I? Had I not recently spent a week editing my closet, and then writing about curated closets, and capsule wardrobes? I sure had. Am I not the one who loves to organize, not to mention the one who loves to boss people around? I sure am. So, I was happy as a clam to help her unpack her clothes, organize her new closet, and help her to decide what was wearable, not wearable, donate-able, or throw-out-able.
|Some of Fiona's funky decor at The Frock Exchange.|
We had a lovely afternoon and, at the end of it, with everything hanging or folded neatly in its designated spot, or piled into bags to be donated or thrown out, I came to the conclusion that my sister had been right all along. Every time we discuss shopping she sighs and says, "I have nothing to wear." "You're right. You have nothing to wear," I said as I stood in her edited closet and laughed. "You need pretty much everything, except party wear, and event clothes to wear to a wedding or a conference dinner."
My sister was in this fix partly because she's really, really busy, and when she finds the time to shop, it's always for some specific event she needs to attend. Like a step-son's wedding in Newport, or a conference somewhere hot. And partly because she suffers from what I call "white coat syndrome"... as a pharmacist, she can cover up whatever she wears to work with her white lab coat. So work clothes, as long as they're clean and the pants are presentable, don't really matter. White coat syndrome allows the sufferer to put off shopping until they are really desperate. Thence my sister had almost nothing to wear to a casual dinner, or to the movies, or... say... shopping. Hardly any every-day, non-work, real-life stuff. And what she did have she was right royally sick to death of. If you'll pardon my ending that sentence with a preposition. So we needed to take action because, once we had cleaned out her closet, she needed some clothes to wear. D'uh. We set a date to go shopping... for basics, mostly tops. And since we were planning to buy more than one thing, I suggested we save some money by starting at my friend Fiona's secondhand clothing shop.
|Fiona's window display for her summer sale event.|
Fiona's store The Frock Exchange, is not exactly a thrift shop. Her clothes are second hand, but they are sold on consignment. I take my stuff there when I edit my closet. I love what Fiona has done with her shop. The antique furniture she uses for fixtures, like the china cabinet below which holds jewellry. And the whole cheeky, British vibe. Like dressing those window mannequins, above, in scarves with the Union Jack motif, and sneakers... for her summer sale event. So cute. To be truthful, I think Fiona has a teensy crush on anything British. I hear her husband refers to her childhood home as "little England." Ha. Given that most of what I read or watch or listen to originates in some part of Britain or Ireland, I should talk.
So on the appointed day, I arrived early at The Frock Exchange bringing a bag of my fall clothing for Fiona to look at, and possibly to consign. While I waited for Carolyn, Fiona and I chatted, she went through my things, and I searched the racks for jeans and tops that Carolyn might like and which were her size. Then when she arrived we ensconced her in the dressing room (unlike most second-hand store changing rooms Fiona's are lovely) to try everything on. I fetched and carried, and Fiona brought more 'possibles,' including several things that had come in only the day before.
|Shoe department at The Frock Exchange.|
Like this luscious faux fur jacket in a deep, deep blue. The fabric is synthetic, but it looks like Persian lamb, and feels wonderfully soft. A perfect late fall or winter jacket to throw on over jeans and a white tee, and make you feel all cozy and pulled together.
|Happy sister. It IS a wonderful life.|
See? Somebody looks happy. And with good reason. My sister went home with the faux fur jacket. A pair of black jeans that fit her to perfection... this despite the fact that, according to Fiona, jeans are the hardest things to find when thrift or consignment store shopping. So many styles, so many sizes, and each pair a one and only. A striped sweater from Brooks Brothers (that's exactly like mine, I might add.) A Ralph Lauren denim shirt. A black v-neck, long, loose tee. A green quilted jacket that makes her green eyes pop. And a black Cole Haan bag. And all of this for less than she'd pay for the Cole Haan bag new.
|What She Got.|
I did not go home empty handed either. Pun intended. Fiona recognized my bracelet (below) as an Anne Marie Chagnon and said that a ring which might match it had just come in. Well, spotted Fiona. That ring came home with me.
|What I got.|
Although I consider myself to be a good shopper and I do love to shop vintage, I am no expert on thrift store or consignment store shopping. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Ever since I wrote a post about the Slow Fashion movement last spring, I've been trying to keep more of an open mind about consignment or thrift store shopping. Trying to do better when it comes to being a more "ethical shopper." I mean beyond just consigning or donating my own clothes. I found this article on the value of thrift store shopping on a very cool site called Unwrinkling. Great title, eh? Much of the article is common sense, but still worth a read.
When my friend Elizabeth and I started planning for our trip to New York at the end of October, and we decided we might like to sample the vintage and thrift stores there, I contacted Patti of the blog Not Dead Yet Style... who I know IS an expert on thrifting and vintage shopping. Especially in New York. She sent me a long list of her favourite stores. Thanks Patti. I know we will visit Saks and Bloomingdale's et al... but vintage or thrift store shopping in New York will be very cool.
Now, back to our sisters' adventure. Eventually, Fiona packaged up all of Carolyn's purchases. I wore mine. And we decamped to scarf down A&W Teen Burgers and root beer for lunch. Shopping is hungry work. And thrift store shopping followed by Teen Burgers makes for a throw-back afternoon all round. A&W was our first fast food restaurant in Fredericton back when I was a kid in the late sixties. I still have a nostalgic love of their root beer.
And so, as Mr. McGarrity said to Maggie Muggins: "All in all we'd had quite a day." We spent some money, but not as much as we might have if we'd shopped somewhere else. Fiona gained a new customer in my sister. Carolyn found some great things that she'll be able to parlay into numerous outfits. And we spent some 'quality' sister time together. Win, win, win, I'd say.
How about you friends? Are you thrift shop shoppers? Or consignment store customers?
If you live in the Ottawa area, stop into The Frock Exchange at 471 Hazeldean Road in Kanata and say hello to Fiona. You might even find something to take home with you.
Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, and Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun and with Saturday Share Link-Up at Not Dressed As Lamb