I have a confession to make. For the past month, I’ve been buying my clothes by the pound. $1.49 a pound.
A place called Goodwill Outlet—a last-stop thrift store for clothes sold at regular Goodwill’s—makes this possible.
I’m not cheap. Really. I just have:
1) An aversion to blowing money on things that don’t appreciate or involve a passport.
2) Recycling on the brain.
3) Rebel genes.
4) A passion for adventure.
All of this makes it fairly unappealing to shop mid and upscale department stores on a regular basis, so when a fashionista friend hot-listed Goodwill Outlet as the place to go for clothing steals, I went to check it out.
On my first visit, it was clear that The Outlet was not–I repeat, NOT—a place for prissy people. That it might even, more or less, be a step up from dumpster diving.
Unlike the average, say, Macy’s, Nordstrom, or regular Goodwill, it was a one-story, half-a-block long warehouse with dozens of HUGE rolling bins filled with random stuff. None of it was sorted. Blouses, skirts, dresses, pants and coats were thrown into the same bin. Women’s clothes were mixed with men’s and kid’s AND sometimes linens and candles too. Some stuff was grimy or mysteriously wet and smelly.
Some shoppers showed up just shy of a Hazmat suit, wearing gloves and masks. I came as is, but before diving in needed a minute for the overwhelm to fade. Then I rolled up my sleeves and literally dug in, because that was what the situation required.
Following my friend’s advice, I dug, sorted and repeated for about two hours—getting a thorough gym-style upper-body-workout—and then I eyeballed each item up and down like a factory clothing inspector. In the end, only mint-condition, soul-stirring, totally-me pieces made the cut.
So, I giddily sauntered up to the register, loaded my finds onto a scale, and wah-lah, for about fifteen bucks, I updated my spring/summer wardrobe. A turquoise trench, two floral dresses, white wrap dress, a maxi striped skirt, white and colored jeans, vivid print tops, pencil skirts, a springy blazer and scarves. I get compliments on everything.
On my second trip, with my friend along for fun and moral support, I plucked out two cashmere sweaters, camel coat and jeans for fall, and yoga pants. A heavier haul for fewer pieces, but still the damage was only about twelve bucks.
Thrifting isn’t new. It’s how my mother, an Olympian budget stretcher, kept five children clothed, although I turned my teenage nose up then. She was unpretentious, like most of the people I’ve met at The Outlet, from all walks of life. Random bargain-hunters. Regulars who resell on EBay or container-ship to Africa. Grannies tooling around for grandkid clothes and toys. Well-heeled penny-pinchers who pull up in Benz’s. All of us elbow-to-elbow patiently digging through the trash for treasure, a little smug about gaming the system and dodging crazy retail mark ups.
Once you go Outlet, do you go back? I don’t know, but so far, with the exception of the rare, ratty pieces the dog could have drug in, the quality of the often-label clothing is surprisingly good, and sometimes, I can’t believe my fortune. I can only imagine that it goes this way: People impulse-buy brand new stuff they hardly wear, grow sick of the clutter, donate and repeat, and Outletters score stylish hand-me-downs at $1.49 a pound instead of shipping them off to already-crowded landfills.
I’m pre-Mackelmore, the rapper, but I still dig his viral YouTube hit Thrift Shop, filmed at The Outlet, and much like he sings in the song, when it comes to spicing up your wardrobe, twenty bucks will do.
To buried treasure,