If the clothes are on a dirty floor of a warehouse in Queens, is it still considered shopping? Fearless foraging at Housing Works’ $20-Per-Bag Sale.
About 90 seconds after I hopstopped directions to Housing Works’ All-You-Can-Stuff Bag Sale and realized I’d never taken the 7 train, let alone been to Queens, I called my friend Kim.
Kim pairs Chanel sunglasses with Dickies pants, lives in the not-yet-gentrified Bed Stuy, manages to introduce me to new music/art/thrift stores et. al sans pretension, uses electrical tape to frame photos, and plays Roller Derby. In short, she’s a hipster of the original, non-judgmental ilk. I knew if anyone was up for what proved to be the most arduous, out-of-the-box shopping experience ever, it’d be her.
As the odds of me navigating my way to and from Long Island City without incident were slim (I don’t even know my left from my right…for serious), I needed Kim’s sense of direction and street smarts to ensure that my spoiled ass survived its inaugural trip to Queens.
When we exited the 7 train at 33rd St./Rawson, Kim murmured something about us needing to walk South. South? Which way is South?! Why is there a 33rd St. and a 33rd Avenue? WHERE THE EFF ARE WE?!! Kim shot me an amused grin, whipped out her keychain and checked her mini-compass. Phew.
After freezing our assess off for ten blocks or so, we found our way to the Sale which, btdubs, had started at 10am. It was only 12:30, but the carnage of the first few hours was already apparent: It looked like something had tossed its cookies all over the place, except instead of regurgitating stomach fluid, it vomited up clothes.
Kim and I have shopped our fair share of thrift stores, but this was a whole different animal. Baby onesies, Halloween costumes, stained sweatshirts and sketchy leisure suits seemed to obscure anything halfway decent. Plus, 75% of the stuff was on the effing FLOOR.
We were totally icked out, but figured we’d at least poke around for a bit: We’d come too far to wimp out at the get-go. Moments later, Kim found a kickass, tweed blazer, the material equivalent of the sun bursting through storm clouds – the place had potential after all!
We donned some flair to psych ourselves up – reindeer ears for Kim, a big black cape for me – and got down to biznass.
We tackled the space separately, section by section, and stayed within an arm-throw’s reach. This enabled us to periodically toss items of interest at each other i.e. play Catch! with clothes. Pass me that blue dress! Throw me that black shirt! It was probs my most fun athletic experience EVER.
After we’d filled our bags and started trying stuff, we realized there was no mirror, so with my pink Sony Coolpix we made like Cher and relied on Polaroids. The details of our finds obvs require subsequent posts, but Kim and I snagged at least 10 items of awesomeness each and – perhaps more importantly – had a blast in the process. For one whole afternoon, Do I need this? and Will I wear this? became irrelevant questions, as the answer to both was Who cares?! It’s $20 for whatever fits in the bag! Pretty effing liberating, methinks.
In closing, I’d like to address the many “How do you DO it?!” comments I get re: my shopping prowess.
I can’t instruct you on how to be awesome at shopping – that’s your journey. I can, however, use a fellow Housing Works’ Sale shopper’s attitude to illustrate what NOT to do. This uber chic shopper was an old acquaintance of Kim’s with whom we had a chance run-in; after they’d exchanged awkward Hellos, I noticed she had the appearance of a deer-in-headlights. Obviously overwhelmed by the scene, she wandered around aimlessly, sneering at nearly everything she touched.
On her way out, she whined to us: I can’t fiiiiind anythiiiiing. I reeeeeally wanted a shrunken, cropped, tuxedo jacket and it’s soooo not happeniiiing. I bit my tongue to prevent myself from shrieking: What do you think this is, New York Vintage? Do you have any idea where you are right now? You can’t come into a sale like this looking for anything specific! Take off those blinders and open your mind, girlfriend, or walk those $700 boots out the door.
Stay tuned for examples of the many things you can find at an All-You-Can-Stuff Bag Sale…even if it’s on the dirty floor of a warehouse in Queens.
Note: All items were taken immediately to the laundromat after being photographed, and multiple applications of hand sanitizer followed the handling of said items.
I mean I’m thrifty, but I’m not INSANE.