Thursday, March 22, 2012


As we've often said, we're all about the Retail Therapy. We're advocates and supporters.

But, we're also thrifty. Literally. Each week, we venture to our favorite local stops, the two westside National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Stores. We stop at Goodwill and Out of the Closet, and the occasional "independent" charity shop.

 We're far from indiscriminate buyers and are carefully to choose things that have true value, which we define as
1. something we can need or definitely can use
2. something we really like
3. something that is in new to near-new condition and
4. something that is genuinely a good deal for the price.

Since items are almost always one-of-a-kind when one is thrifting, it's a good idea to actually carry the item you might want around with you. Place it in a cart or basket. Before you check out, go through each item with great care. Remember, that items are there for a reason. You always hope they are there for the "one person's trash is another's treasure" aspect, but you should expect something might be wrong with the item -- it doesn't work, it's not practical, or it's damaged in some way.

Be sure you run your fingers around the edges of anything glass, ceramic, porcelain or china. Make sure that there are no nicks, chips or cracks.

For clothing items, make sure that there are no holes or rips. Check that all buttons are in place and that zippers work. We prefer items that have clearly been washed. Of course, we're going to wash the item again anyway, if we do decide to purchase it, but in terms of handling (and possibly trying on), we prefer it be as sanitary (and allergy-free) as possible.

That said -- and this is just our particular quirk -- we stay away from "Dry Clean Only" items. If the item is something spectacular (in actuality and deal) or if it is something we can easily hand wash, we may consider the purchase.

There are occasions when you can find new items, although they are often, as expected, the kinds of items purchased on a whim, gifts never returned, items that have long sat in drawers or closets.

Know your stuff: Checking labels will have little meaning to you unless you're familiar with brands. Sure, there are the obvious -- Marc Jacobs, Michael KorsFor example, Kimchi & Blue is a line popular at Urban Outfitters. Odille and Lux are lines often seen at Anthropologie. BP stands for Brass Plum, the junior line at Nordstrom. Look for quality (but perhaps lesser known) designers. We like Liefsdottir, Cynthia Steffe, Vince, Velvet by Spencer Graham, Ella Moss, Michael Stars, French Connection.

In terms of denim jeans, you may look for 7 For All Mankind or Citizens of Humanity, or even J Brand. But solidly well made lines can also be found: Hudson, Paige, Joe's Jeans, Christopher Blue, JAG, Mother, Rock n' Republic, William Rast, NYDJ. Check areas of frequent wear -- seat and crotch, bottom of hems.

Speaking of bottoms, the bottom line is that thrifters can never be in a rush. Quick scans may work for the very discerning eye, but most of us should be prepared to spend a good deal of time having a thorough "look-see."

You may come away with a significant "get," and that's a retail therapy buzz that can't be beat.