I started shopping in thrift shops in high school--my budget did not allow for a closet full of the requisite Guess jeans and Forenza sweaters, so out of necessity and defiance, I opted for an Ally Sheedy/Breakfast Club-Molly Ringwald/Pretty in Pink look--long baggy skirts worn with long underwear and combat boots. A man's overcoat in a tweedy plaid--the pockets were inexplicably full of matchbooks from a local restaurant when I bought it for $5.00 at the local thrift shop. I often wondered about the old man (all the clothes at the thrift shop were Old People Clothes) who had worn it before it was donated to the thrift shop--had he died? Was his compulsive matchbook grabbing a sign of early dementia? Had he smoked? In my imagination he was always balding and stooped, liver-spotted and wore natty ties.
This thrift shop was dark, dingy and totally scary and foul smelling. There was nothing vintage/retro/cool about it. You had to really dig through mounds of polyester pants and ugly acrylic sweaters to find the good stuff and when you did find anything worth buying, you definitely had to wash it well before wearing. Looking back, I was rare--a middle class kid shopping in the poor man's zone at the time--but half of my earnings had to go for college savings which left Not Much for fun and frivolity. Plus, I'd rather wear well made classics with flair before I'd head to Maurice's or Deb for cheaply made knock-offs.
Sometime in college I bought another wool coat for $12. Lined with silk, my favorite coat has sleeves that are slightly gathered at the wrists to keep the chill out. It's a 1960's style swing coat evocative of Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn--it covered every substantial inch of my body while pregnant and looked unbelievably chic in the 80's, the 90's and now the 00's. Talk about timeless. It fits me like a glove--the sleeves are the perfect length and the hem hits the slimmest point of my German calves.
Sure, the buttons might be missing a few rhinestones and the lining is torn in one corner, but this wool coat is warm, made from Old School materials and not about to go out of fashion or fall apart any time soon. I wear it to church, weddings, gala events, and nice restaurants. It's one of a kind and I always feel glamourous when I wear it.
Sometimes I imagine the old woman who wore this coat--did she think in a million years that after she was done with it, a much younger woman would look like the cat's ME-OW every time she slid it on? Did she know what a classic it was? Did she appreciate the tightly woven fabric that could withstand the coldest days of winter? Women would pay fifty times as much for a coat of this quality, but I'll never sell. I may, however, bequeath my beautiful favorite wool coat to a thrift shop when I die--and imagine who will wear it next.