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 QVC. It appears I’ve stumbled on a fashion show comprised entirely of QVC apparel and accessories. Innnteresting.
Imagine, if you will, the textile equivalent of a diesel-filled eighteen-wheeler spinning out on a highway and totaling five cars before bursting into a fiery ball of toxicity. Except less sad and more fun, because no one dies or gets screwed over by their insurance or whatever. The QVC runway is the Fashion Week equivalent of a multi-car pileup – a ghastly, poorly lit parade of tacky, ill-fitting synthetics set to mind-numbing synthesized string instrumentation, and it’s taking itself verrrrry seriously. The melodrama of the event only adds to its inherent hilarity – even the models look like they’re about to bust a nonexistent nut laughing. I’m not watching so much as rubbernecking.
At the conclusion of the runway segment, I’m obvs too wildly entertained to tear myself away from the nylon/poly carnage. I ready myself for the product bonanza portion of the evening by splashing a little more vod (eff the grapefruit) into my Priscilla Queen of the Desert cup. Perky host Lisa Robertson fills the screen, clad in an overwhelming amount of red. I have no idea what she’s saying. I’m too busy gaping at the presence of Heidi Klum.
My first thought is, Wow, how nice of Heidi to swing by QVC’s party on her Fashion Week rounds and pretend she likes their jewelry! Except Heidi’s doing more than smiling and nodding at the pieces – she’s GUSHING with PRIDE.
I’m confused. Is it possible that this darling of the exclusive, uppity and uber chic faction of the fashion industry actually designs a line for QVC?
It is. As the glitz bombardment begins, I learn that Wildlife by Heidi Klum isn’t just a line of QVC costume jewelry – it’s a way for otherwise trend-shy women to dabble in fashion’s latest via the power of accessories. Gag me with a spoon.
First up, the Ombre Chain Bib Necklace. Heidi’s all kinds of psyched about it; Lisa is absolutely losing her shit. My eyerolls don’t do jack to dampen the onscreen enthusiasm: Both giddily don the bib chain and proceed to discuss its merits at length. This goes on for approximately four minutes.
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.
I’m not really sure how to explain the shit going down at Goodwill’s Greenwich Village Boutique. I’m also not really sure why no one else in the NYC shopping blogosphere seems to have a problem with it.
Daily Candy named Goodwill GVB one of five Boutique Openings to Get Excited About. Racked‘s review seemed too wooed by the good deed factor of Goodwill to question the obvious.
For women, the store carries frilly and floral skirts, shorts in a variety of colors and lengths, and dresses for every occasion. Tank tops and bright, light weight tops are under $15 each, and coats and jackets range from $9.99 for a Mossimo rain jacket to $69.99 for an Ann Taylor Loft pea coat.
Maybe a Mossimo rain jacket costs more than $9.99 at Target. Maybe I don’t give a shit. Charging more than five bucks for an already-budget item of piss-poor quality is an insult to the art of thrift. Where the Ann Taylor Loft pea coat’s concerned, I mean, JESUS. A seventy dollar price tag at Goodwill? For an effing generic ATL pea coat? In MAY?!
Curated, my ASS.
Where charity thrift’s concerned, hell hath frozen over: Bundle up beotches, and brace yourselves for the cold hard reality of what it now costs to shop for a cause.
Mmkay, so these photos suck dong, but that’s because the security guard kept eyeballing me whilst I snapped (also, a security guard… what’s worth stealing, the fake Louis Vuitton bag in the window? Pfft.). Apologies, and onto the ludicrousness pictured.
Twenty8Twelve tops retail for hundreds of dollars. Ditto for Theory. It follows that paying $69.99 for one isn’t all that unreasonable… at Loehmann’s, or at a sample sale, or maybe even at a high-end consignment shop. I wouldn’t do it, but I understand it.
Paying that amount at Goodwill GVB is a different story – one in which I’m still digging through significant amounts of donated muck.
You heard me. DONATED. Goodwill wants $69.99 for each of these garments, but what’d they pay out of pocket? Zero. That’s a mark-up even Barneys can’t top.
I don’t have a problem with trading on charity – nationwide, Goodwill puts millions of people to work, and uses 84% of its profits to fund its numerous charitable initiatives. What I have a problem with is its complete disregard for the monetary expectations of those who keep it in business: We, the thrifters.
Goodwill GVB might be a smidge easier to shop than its larger Manhattan counterparts, but copious amounts of Target crap and Old Navy shizzz doth not a *curated* *vintage* *boutique* experience make.When I shop Goodwill, I expect to spend a bit more time and energy browsing than I would shopping retail. In return for my efforts, I expect to snag something amazing for a fraction of its retail cost – meaning five, ten, twelve bucks max. That uber cheap price is my reward for going gently worn, and for giving to charity via my secondhand purchase.
At Goodwill GVB, what do my efforts net me? Brand-name rip-offs, and a fucking forty dollar make-up stain.
About a month or so ago, an intriguing flyer made its way into my mailbox. Goodwill was going upmarket, reserving the best of its donation pool for its latest initiative:
The Goodwill Greenwich Village Boutique. Thrift boutiques – thriftiques, if you will – have been popping up all over as of late. Kate Goldwater and I know this facet of the gently worn world inside out and bass ackwards; it’s why AuH2O is the number one shopping listing on Yelp for all of New York City.
The rules of a successful thriftique operation are as follows:
1. Have an Eye.
Over the past few months, Kate and I have basically trained ourselves to be brand-blind. This isn’t because we have anything against labels; it’s because we understand the extent to which they influence our judgment.
I recently unearthed a stunning, cream linen pencil skirt from a bin at one of our go-to stock spots. We squealed with delight before we even knew what it was: A vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Yes, it was a lucky score, but when quality’s your end-game, the gems eventually find you.
When assessing any item, we deal with cut (is it flattering? is the fit versatile? is it too big or too small for our shoppers?), fabric (is it jersey knit that’s going to pill after one wash? is it scratchy vintage polyester?), color (we hate pink), seasonal wearability (fuck, another amazing vintage sweater we don’t have space to store) and stylistic relevance (can we cut out the shoulder-pads?). The brand’s the last part of the equation, and rarely the deciding factor.
Having an eye also means getting outside of your own head, i.e. knowing who you’re buying for. Our East Village shoppers are basically a walking street style blog: Their creative wardrobe choices inspire a lot of what we stock, and they rarely lead us astray.
2. Check for Damages.
A thriftique is, first and foremost, a screening tool designed to alleviate the browsing drudgery associated with traditional thrift.
That’s a verbose way of saying NO DAMAGED SHIT ON YOUR RACKS. If you’re going to tack on a convenience charge for curated secondhand stock, checking for pit-stains, missing buttons, busted zippers, fabric tears, pen marks, excessive pilling, iron burns, etc. isn’t an option – it’s your fucking JOB.
Note: If thrift warehouses and vintage junk shops are your stock sources, here’s your golden rule: If it’s really effing amazing, there’s probably something wrong with it. Write that down.
Kate and I do two damage checks for every single item we choose, and we do it every single time we stock, and we STILL mess up occasionally. If we pull something out of the dryer, see a stain and realize we’ve been had, do we say meh, whatevs, no one else will notice, we’ll just put it out anyway? No, because we’re not lazy pieces of shit.
If we knowingly stock a damaged item, it’s a big fat eff you to our shoppers – no item is worth having our judgment and/or thrifting skillz called into question.
If we unknowingly stock a damaged item, and a shopper catches the flaw, it’s 75% off its tagged price if she still wants it; if she doesn’t, we pull it off the floor immediately.
For any item that’s not wearable in its current form, you’ve got two choices: Fix it, or get rid of it.
3. Don’t Forget What You’re Selling.
No, really. What do you sell?
A vintage shopkeeper might answer authentic 60s and 70s era garb. A Housing Works manager might answer designer items at a discount. A Goodwill Boutique employee might say brands for less.
All of these answers amount to a steaming pile of cow dung – a crock of bullshit that enables many thriftique owners to rationalize overcharging for previously worn goods.
Vintage, designer – I don’t give a rat’s ass. First and foremost, it’s USED, and it should be priced as such.
So. Did Goodwill’s Greenwich Village Boutique hit or miss the thriftique mark?
Oy. Effing. Vey. Photographic evidence to follow. Stay tuned.
Pardon the absence, chickadees – biznass at my thriftique is, well, BOOMING.
By the by, we’re phasing out consignment and phasing in cash-for-clothes – if you’ve got castoffs to sell, we’d love to take a look! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment with me or my hetero-life-mate, Kate Goldwater.
I schlep it out on stock runs, but I’ve started classing it up a bit on my days running the store. For someone with an affinity for hiked-up hemlines and shredded denim, this is obvs uncharted territory.
I used to think cardigans, blouses and skirts of the non-mini ilk had some kind of transformative power – wear them in conjunction and poof! You’re Betty Draper.
A wildly irrational assumption, yes. I mean, they’re just clothes, for fuck’s sake – any power they have over us is always in our own heads. Alas, sometimes logic alone isn’t enough to cut through one’s own ridiculous projections.
Throw an effing amazing ladylike piece into the mix, and the argument for occasional elegance is a hell of a lot more convincing. The skirt above was unearthed from one of the back bins at Green Village Junk Shop. I was on the hunt for store stock at the time, but one look at this puppy was enough to convince me to sell it never. Tuck a white tank into it, throw on flat sandals and some jewelry and it’s not just the easiest outfit in existence – it’s one of the greats.
FYI you guys: While Green Village’s front racks are always ripe with vintage finds, its by-the-pound selection (and I use that term loosely) bears the highest of sketch factors. Successful guerilla thrifting generally hinges on hard work and endurance – where Green Village’s back bins are concerned, sometimes neither gets you jack shit.
Finding a skirt like this in a by-the-pound context is a matter of blind luck alone. Save yourself the agony, and stick to the racks. (Unless you have a borderline-psychotic addiction to digging a la moi, in which case, go for it.)
Now lookie, I wasn’t drawn to this skirt because tea-lengths are oh-so-haute-right-now. I just like to stick it to retail as much as possible. Attached to the occasional on-trend secondhand find is something I’m not nearly mature enough to forgo.
BRAGGING RIGHTS.A brief analysis of my vintage number and its Dolce Vita counterpart:
Similar button placement.
Similar color family.
A two hundred and nineteen dollar difference in cost.
How you like me now, retail? HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!
Every time I hit Shopbop for Hanky Pankies, I make the mistake of forgetting to browse by brand. Instead, I hit the general “Panties” category, where I’m inevitably confronted by a slew of offenses in the form of two hundred dollar underwear.
I’ve always wondered how upscale lingerie companies a la Kiki de Montparnasse stay in business, but I’m not the kind of jackhole who’d ever pony up two benjamins to find out.
Think a $195 thong is the stupidest thing in existence?
THINK AGAIN.What. The. FUCK.
The fact this garment costs $175 is par for the Kiki course and heretofore, the least of my concerns. No. What concerns me most is the Why factor, as in why, WHY does it EXIST?
Color, season and general over-the-toppedness suggest it’s post-wedding bridal garb, you know, in case you feel like putting on a tail after tying the knot.
It’s a piss poor explanation at best, but so is the idiocy you see before you, so whatevs.