Sunday, November 26, 2017

A new thrifty tradition

Last year, a little before Thanksgiving, my aunt sent around an e-mail to the family asking what everyone wanted for Hanukkah/Christmas. For herself, she requested gift cards to Macy's and Ann Taylor, since she had recently lost some weight and needed new clothes. I was nonplussed by this idea, since I'd just finished my article on sustainable clothing, which talked how today's "fast fashion" industry harms both the environment and the workers who create the garments. And I also knew, from a CNN article I'd read while working on another piece, that thrift shops have far more merchandise than they can sell. According to the article, roughly 90% of all the clothes donated to thrift shops eventually end up in the landfill. (This was the factoid that inspired my 2016 Thrift Week series on local thrift shops.)

So I proposed an alternative to my aunt: Over Thanksgiving weekend, I would take her to a local consignment shop (called Greene Street Consignment, though it's actually on Nassau Street) and buy her any item of her choice. Not only was she receptive to this idea, she enjoyed the trip so much that she bought herself three new dresses (ranging from a formal black number to a casual one in bright orange) in addition to the one I got her. She even went so far as to suggest we make this thrift-shop trip an annual event.

This year, when Thanksgiving rolled around, my aunt said that not only would she like to make the trip to the consignment shop again, my uncle would like to get in on it as well. So I proposed hitting a second thrift shop, called Nearly New, which has a larger selection of casual clothing. I thought this store would offer more options for the gents in the party, and possibly some for my sister's kids as well. (Greene Street has a limited selection of menswear, but nothing for children.) However, my aunt said she was "partial to" Greene Street, since she'd had such good luck there last year, so I suggested hitting them both.

So our little outing to Princeton turned out to be a much bigger outing, involving me and Brian, my sister, her kids, my uncle and aunt, and my (male) cousin, who popped in for the first thrift shop trip and then headed home. Unfortunately, I hadn't reckoned on just how busy the thrift stores were going to be on Black Friday. (Perhaps, subconsciously, I'd been hoping that the really big crowds wouldn't show up until Small Business Saturday.) Nearly New didn't seem overly crowded, but the few shoppers in the store were very enthusiastic, taking dozens of items into the fitting rooms—so we ended up waiting around half an hour just for my aunt to try on her items.

However, once she finally managed to get into a fitting room, she found several things she liked, including a comfy pair of shoes, a tailored blouse, a nightgown, and a crazy black sweater with feather trim around the neckline, which ended up being my holiday gift to her. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera on the trip, so I didn't get a picture of it.

Luckily, I can give you a picture of what she bought for me. No, this isn't something I would normally wear, but let me explain: Brian and I will soon be starting a game of "Spirit of 77," which is a role-playing game with a 1970s theme. (You play over-the-top characters straight out of '70s films and TV shows, from "Shaft" to "The Dukes of Hazzard.") I thought it would be fun to dress in flamboyant '70s-style garb for this campaign, but I didn't have anything suitable in my closet. So I kept my eyes peeled at the thrift shop and managed to find a tunic in a vivid, flamboyant print, which I can pair with my widest-legged black trousers. To round out the outfit, I picked up a little knitted vest with crazy tufts that resemble fur (but aren't). Just $9 for both pieces, and I will be all ready to rock my new, funky look for our first game session.

We had a few other hits at the first thrift shop as well—a pair of pants for my uncle and a pink pashmina for my sister—before heading off to the second one. We had a little less luck there, as my uncle looked for a tuxedo shirt without success, and Brian tried on a green Henley shirt that proved to be too tight—but my aunt found a fabulous dress for only $42 to wear to a black-tie New Year's party she has coming up. So that part of the trip was a success as well.

All in all, I'd say this thrift shop excursion is shaping up to be an enjoyable—and ecofrugal—part of our family's Thanksgiving traditions. It's a bit disappointing that it has to cut into our time for hanging out and playing games, but then again, you can't really do that all weekend. Devoting a couple of hours to thrift-shopping on Friday afternoon makes for a nice break, after which we can get back to Boggle and Apples to Apples.

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