A Secondhand Lament

“We can accept these items.” The thin, fashionable saleslady pushes three of my former wardrobe pieces–a pair of tribal print shoes, some gladiator sandals and a pink dress–across the counter. “We’ll give you 8.50 for them.”

I look at the three items on the counter. I then look at the still-bulging bag of perfectly good clothes that I will now have to lug back to the car in the Florida heat. The walk of shame. No one wanted her clothes.

“Okay,” I reply, trying to sound upbeat. The $8.50 covers the cost of the pair of shorts I just bought, which makes me sigh. I just traded two pairs of shoes for a pair of used shorts.

(But I really did need the shorts.)

This seems to happen to me every time. I drag my clothes into Plato’s Closet with the utmost enthusiasm. Of course they’ll want my clothes–I have great clothes! Once in a blue moon, I’ll strike the jackpot. They’ll take all my clothes and hand me a twenty.

But, more often than not, they return my bag half-full, having taken the strangest items, and I will have to return home with clothes that now hate me because I tried to give them away. They never quite fit me the same way afterwards, as if they resent me for trying to give them up and refuse to prove their worth anymore.

“We’re really looking for more accessories now,” the saleslady tells me. “So if you have more shoes like these, or maybe some belts, bring them in.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say.

Why is it that secondhand clothes shopping can be such an ordeal? I always have such high hopes, and it’s a one-in-a-million chance I’ll find the perfect fit of anything. It does happen–I’ll find a great pair of jeans or something and it will renew my faith in the whole escapade. Usually, though, I buy clothes that bring to mind I can see why they gave this away when I put them on.

I browse the aisles with the same tenacity as a treasure hunter, like Ponce de Leon looking for the fountain of youth. Only I’m looking for a great dress or a skirt with real character. I must weed through the jungle of sagging, bedazzled shirts with wrinkled fabric and faint stains to find a diamond in the rough. And, like real treasure hunters encounter, I must face wildlife in this fabric jungle.

Like the father-daughter team arguing near the dressing rooms.

“I am not paying for that,” I heard from across the store. I peered through the racks to see a girl of about 15 wearing a slim black dress and sky-high red heels. “Your mother and I are having a serious discussion when we get back. When did you start dressing like that!?”

“Da-ad!” she grumbled, throwing her head back the way teenage girls do. “It’s not a big deal!”

“Put this on!” he answered back, tossing her a giant Aeropostale hoodie. “This is the last time you go out in public looking like a—well, like that.”

I heard people in the store giggling. This duo had captured the attention of the entire store. Grumbling, the girl changed back into jeans a t-shirt, but as if to make doubly sure she got the message, her father made her buy the hoodie.

Once the excitement had died down, I had to face the store girls that had charge of my used clothes. These secondhand fashionistas always dress a little bit like bohemian hippies with long, flowy maxi dresses and floral headbands. More often than not, they look at me as if I got dressed in the dark.

“We don’t take Disney shirts,” one sales lady apologized to me when she returned my bag half-full. I looked at her. Why on earth not? I shrugged, letting the frustration go, and decided to browse the racks, where I found not one, not two, but three Disney shirts (really cute ones) that looked like what I had just tried to sell.

Because I buy Disney Couture shirts, with my Disney Discount (yay, perks of being a Cast Member!) I took offense. My Disney shirts are quality. They’re not the kind you buy from those discount stores just off property.

Oh, well. What can you do?

In a perfect world, I’d be able to always find magical clothes at great prices. And people would buy my things for full price.  Not just twelve bucks for six skirts, four tees and three great pairs of boots.

Of course, I’m a bit biased. I like my clothes. They have memories. From the classy shirt I wore on Christmas Eve of 2009 (the year I brought that sad-looking cheesecake I will never stop apologizing for) to the skirt I sported on the world’s most disastrous date (good riddance to that one–they can have it for free) I look at outfits and think of the times I had in them. They’re more than just fabric, they’re bits and pieces of stories.

I’d better stop before I start sounding like a Cotton Inc. commercial.

The point is this: secondhand clothes dealing is, in short, a gamble. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. (Most of the time it doesn’t.)

It’s like the Lottery of Twentysomething Fashion, and I have terrible luck. It’s entertaining, though, to say the least. I always leave with the hope of maybe next time.

And, for the record, sometimes the gamble pays off. (I am the proud owner of secondhand heels that I wear to every job interview and have gotten a compliment on them every time. No joke.)


Also, an update on the terrines from the last post! They are currently in the walk-in cooler of the Catering and Buffet room, weighted and waiting to be sliced and displayed on Monday. I’ll keep you posted.



2 thoughts on “A Secondhand Lament

  1. The boutiques (sometime vintage) are always the most interesting, and I remember when our first set of Plato’s closet and similar stores opened up in Colorado as it was a step away from the secondhand, and “cool” in a sense. The stores are genius from a marketing and financial perspective in how they turnaround, as my Mum use to run one quite similar.

    I’ve come to find Florida does have hidden gems of vintage/resell stores, just keep your eyes out for them!

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