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A Thrifter’s Wet Dream: Housing Works Buy the Bag

Okayfine, describing the relaunch of Housing Works Buy the Bag as a wet dream is maybe a little bit gross. It’s also incredibly accurate.

This is warehouse-style thrifting, beotches. Much like sex or the prospect thereof, it involves varying degrees of shame and frustration. Whether or not you allow these feelings to jeopardize your ability to snag some material tail is a matter of mental fortitude.

That means think positive, for fuck’s sake.

At most thrift warehouses (see Goodwill Outlet Center, Queens), clothing gets lumped into general textiles and ends up buried among dirty towels, stained pillowcases and used jockstraps (yum).

Why should you give Buy the Bag a whirl, even if you’ve never before braved the bins? Because Housing Works PRE-SORTS their donated goods, removing the irrelevant ick before their bins hit the floor. This increases your odds of finding something amazeballs exponentially. Obvs.
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Junk Jam! (Killer Vintage Necklace)

At AuH2O Thriftique, we’re pretty old school about how we stock our store. We go out and unearth the gently worn gems ourselves for two reasons:

1. We’re utterly addicted to the thrill of the hunt.
2. We’re DIRT CHEAP.

We spend hours on end in icky, icky places to deliver the goods at the lowest possible cost. The only thing we sell that doesn’t involve a shit ton of patience, grit and endurance on our part? Jewelry. We order in bulk from our vintage suppliers, a box of baubles arrives and wee! Kate Goldwater and I are both Jewish, so opening those boxes is basically the closest thing to Christmas morning we’ve ever experienced.
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A Modern Perversion of Vintage

On an AuH2O stock run a few weeks back, Kate and I came across two labels of note.

One was vintage. One was pretending to be.

The label at left hails from a time when shoppers actually gave a shit about where their clothing came from. A time when textile workers had real, live rights.

An International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union tag basically says Hey, no one was killed or injured or forced to work overtime or paid unlivable wages to make this garment you’re buying. Isn’t that cool?!

Sooo cool. Sooo retro. Made in the U.S.A. with morally sound manufacturing practices – the only vintage trend that’ll never make a comeback.

The label at right reads, WE CREATED THIS GARMENT TO STAND OUT FROM ALL THE REST. EMBRACE THE IMPERFECTIONS OF YOUR SHIRT. THE HOLES, STREAKS AND SPOTS HELP CREATE THE “VINTAGE LOOK.”

I smell a vintage-inspired shitshow of verbiage. And it STINKS.

Note to Project E: Damaged things are cool when they’re old and actually have a bit of fucking history attached to them. Not when they’re intentionally beat up, marked up and made in China like everything else.

That being said, an item’s age doesn’t necessarily make damage a foregone conclusion. To imply as much makes me wonder if you know jack about vintage at all.

Vintage means classic styles and good fabric, responsibly produced in a way that enables the resulting garments to stand the test of time. Holes, streaks and spots hardly do it justice.

Ditto for those fugly, double Xs slapped on every synthetic top you import. Blech.

Vodka, Me and QVC

So, it’s Saturday night. I’m supposed to hit a party with my BF in Brooklyn but I’m all kinds of exhaustified. I decide to be responsible (read: drink cocktails at my apartment instead of at a bar), tell the BF to have a boys’ night and settle in for an evening of total control over the clicker (“remote”, for those of you who didn’t grow up in Jersey).

Five minutes into vegetating, I remember Saturday night TV sucks monkey balls. Disgruntled, I select some program about Fashion Week on the off-chance it’ll make me give a flying fuck about the charade. Only after I’ve refreshed my double-vodka-splash-of-grapefruit do I realize the channel I’m watching is


At first, I’m non-plussed. It’s a bunch of chain linked together costing upwards of fifty bucks, and a generic interpretation of edginess to boot. Heidi and Lisa keep talking.

A great way to vamp it up without going overboard; The perfect hint of edgy; Dress it up or down; Look at all the necklines you can pair it with, it’s a fabulous with a low-V OR a Mock-Turtle; Rose Gold is very trendy right now; Eek! It’s even more wearable in Gunmetal!

Okay, fine, maybe the chain bib is kinda cute. Borderline cool. Still, it’s not something I’d look twice at if I saw it in a boutique.

The thing is, I’m not in a boutique. I’m in the comfort of my own apartment. I’m two vodkas deep, alone and just the teensiest bit bored. AND QVC KNOWS IT.

Retail value of $75.00; Call now, and snap up the Chain Bib Necklace at its one-time-offer price of $54.50! Lisa gets an update from her invisible earpiece, and delivers the news to the camera with intensity. We started with 400 offers, and we’re already down to 200. Heidi beams at the camera; the necklace glows right along with her. Lisa looks concerned, like she wishes she had an infinite amount of these offers so everyone could experience the unbridled ecstasy of the bib chain. If you’re going for the Gunmetal, we recommend picking up the phone immediately. We don’t want to see you miss out on this incredible piece at this amazing value.

The ticking clock flashes on the screen. One minute, thirty seconds left. Heidi says “versatile” about nine thousand times. I sip my drink and listen attentively to her adorable German lilt. I’d probably get it in Rose Gold, as I already have a lot of silver. Heidi’s right – that color’s totally In.

The number of offers left plummets from three digits to two. Maybe I’ve confused generic with versatile, maybe the bib chain’s lack of in-your-face badassness is what makes it chic with an edgy cherry on top. I could buy this necklace. No one is stopping me. I could say I got it on Etsy or eBay. No one would know.


The offer expires. I exit my trance-like state and wonder what the fuck just happened to me.

I’m the snobbiest of skeptics where home shopping is concerned. I’m immune to impulse buys, and I’m cheap in the dirtiest sense of the term. A fifty-four dollar necklace that was, in retrospect, totally meh should have been a breeze for me to resist. In any other context – boutique shopping, ebrowsing, whatevs – it would have been.

What was it about the chain bib necklace that made it so tempting on QVC?

Nothing. Because on QVC, it’s not about the necklace, cocktail ring, coat, skincare line or whatever else they’re selling. It’s never about the thing. It’s about establishing a connection between you and said thing. QVC dreams up a story of you and the thing, and delivers it with a warm smile and nurturing vibe. It swaddles you and the thing in a blanket of promise. Sartorial satisfaction, material bliss – it’s yours! All you have to do is pick up the phone. Like, now.

QVC brought me thisclose to buyer’s remorse by getting into my head. The real jaw-dropper is, I’m not mad at them. I’m impressed. I sat through the Wildlife segment in its entirety, playing with fire every time a new piece hit the screen, marveling their ability to make me love something I’d otherwise not give a shit about every single time. It’s quite the accomplishment. Particularly if the viewer’s a cold-hearted skeptic like me.

I’m too fascinated to stop now, which means a psychological experiment is in order. I drink vodka. I watch QVC. I allow myself to get irrationally sentimental about stupid material things. I write about it.

In the next installment, I’ll observe the selling powers of QVC maharajah Isaac Mizrahi. Stay tuned. Unless you think this idea blows or whatevs. Mwah.

Damage-Free Digging at One of a Kind Thrift Shop

I trekked to Queens the other day in search of new and noteworthy neighborhood thrifts (whoa alliteration overload – my bad).

My first stop was

As I browsed the racks, I had a sneaking suspicion that something was missing from the thrifting equation. It wasn’t until the conclusion of my hunt that I realized what it was. DAMAGES! No missing buttons; no stains; no visible wear and tear; NADA!

I was impressed enough to compliment the owner, Aladeen, who’s basically the nicest dude ever.

One of a Kind has about five huge bins of $1.00 items outside its storefront on a given day. The dollar bins obvs would have been my first order of biznass, if they hadn’t been covered in plastic on account of the rain. Aladeen was kind enough to lug the bins inside for me so I could dig through them at my leisure. What a DOLL.

I asked Aladeen how he got into the thrifting business, and learned that he used to manage a Goodwill. I subsequently relayed the dismaying tale of the $39.99 make-up stained Calypso dress.

What was Goodwill’s rationale for putting damaged crap on the racks? “‘Let the shopper decide,’ that’s what the corporate retail experts at Goodwill used to tell us. I never thought it was fair.”

Thanks to Aladeen and One of a Kind Thrift, for proving that reasonably priced secondhand goodies aren’t yet extinct in NYC. Loves it!