Thrift Shops in Ireland…and Why I Gave Up Thrift Shopping for Lent

Our trip to Ireland last week was glorious – a great mix of wandering city streets in Dublin and Galway, hiking in Glendalough and the Burren, and celebrating in pubs and at the wedding of a dear friend.  But in between, of course, I made time to stop in pretty much every thrift shop (“charity shop” in that part of the world) we passed – for the first half of the week, anyway. More on that in a second.

My spouse was a willing accomplice since he was looking for a tweed sport coat.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I soon realized there were dozens of such shops and I would have to be quick in each one if I wanted to see things like, say, Trinity College.

First up, the Dublin Flea Market, held in Newmarket Square on the last Sunday of the month (we had grand timing!).  They had indoor and outdoor stalls with everything from secondhand clothes to LPs to furniture to Guinness signs and handmade jewelry, original prints, and cactus stained glass.

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Oh hi Beatles record in great shape for €10.  You can’t find that stuff in the US.
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Tweed candidate…alas, too big:IMG_4946IMG_4947

Original Dublin prints by the lovely lady below:

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Did I mention the croissants and the falafel?

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Ingenious method for brewing multiple artisanal coffees in one go.

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More on various Dublin flea markets here.

Bonus – the Dublin Flea Market is right next door to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery if you fancy a tour and a nip (we did; it was delicious and very informative about the distilling process and the Irish whiskey industry, including the time an entire whiskey warehouse went up in flames and the Dublin fire brigade put it out with manure):

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In Dublin we also poked our heads into an Oxfam shop. (Thanks Eimear for the heads up on good streets for charity shops in Dublin.  It’s very handy that they seem to all cluster together!)

First up, Vincent’s, the savvy branding for a St. Vincent De Paul shop:

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A nice blend between a Chanel-style blazer and a moto jacket:

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Someone please explain that brand tag to me?

RIGHT next door (so convenient), an Oxfam shop:

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We walked past a few Enable Ireland shops as well but they were closed when we happened to spot them.

After those first two shops I realized I was going to have an entirely different thrift store experience from the States.  The shops were much, much smaller than your typical Goodwill or Sally; more comparable in size to family-owned small town thrift shops I’ve visited.  The selection was therefore much narrower, featuring mainly inexpensive brands with a few high street and vintage pieces thrown in.

My spouse and I talked about why this was with our Air BnB host.  The Spouse and I contributed hypotheses that rent for urban shop locations would be higher per square foot than a big box-size store in suburbia, and that Americans buy a TON of clothes; but when I did some research it appears that the average Irish adult spends just as much, often more, on clothing every year compared to the average American.  Scrap that idea.  Then our host Aoife (pronounce EE-fah) mentioned the climate as a common reason for lower inventory: clothes stored in Irish attics are prone to moisture damage because it’s so wet.  I can see that as a reason for low vintage stock (bye, Granny’s gorgeous wool coat from the 50s!) but am not sure how often this affects newer clothing stored just during the off season.  Can anyone in a wet climate weigh in?

 

Next stop was Galway.  Our first outing (apart from scarfing fresh fish and some Galway Hooker at Hooked – yum) involved a wander through Salthill and 2 more charity shops.

As Good as New:

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Oh Dorothy Perkins, I was dreaming of charity shops full of your sassy floral prints, but this one Chanel-esque blazer is all I found:

IMG_5077Lovely, but not my colors/size.

Gorta:

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I almost got that hedgehog scarf but then didn’t – although it was quite endearing, I decided it was a little too cute for my personal style. This brought my total thrift purchases in Ireland to a grand total of: 0.  Shock!

The Spouse, however, had forgotten his hat and figured a secondhand shop would be the perfect place to pick one up:

IMG_5096See how it sort of ties together at the top?  Subtle yet unique (or at least that’s what I told him!). The Gourmet Tart Co. was lunch on our first full day in Galway.

Also in Salthill we perused a secondhand bookstore where I scored my dad some books about Irish railroads:IMG_5080

And where I failed to convince my spouse to buy either the Public Enemy or the Peter Gabriel LPs, both just €10, because he was afraid they would crack in our carry-ons on the way back home.  :(IMG_5081

All this secondhand goodness in a charming neighborhood right next to the sea and happily dotted with pubs and traditional music:

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Later in the afternoon we wandered into a mall built around a medieval wall:

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Complete with tower for sale:

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And concealing a lovely little consignment shop where I wish I’d had room in my suitcase (and wallet – it was €50) for this felted wool number:

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Lovely floral dresses:IMG_5147

Our second full day in Galway was Ash Wednesday, and as I had decided to give up clothes shopping for Lent, I determined to avert my gaze from all further charity shops encountered on our trip.  I was almost successful; still hunting for a present for my sister, I did stop into one next to the Aldi where we went grocery shopping on our last morning in Galway.  (Aldi in Ireland is magically twice the size and has 4 times the wine section of Aldi at home.)  No luck for a funky little present, though, and I managed not to even look at the clothes.  High fives.

Why did I give up thrift shopping? (For clothes for me, at any rate – clothes for my kiddo or husband or friends and books/homewares are still fair game.)  I realized I had been too often thinking of my free time in terms of how I might fit in a run to the thrift store – as opposed to a run through my neighborhood or a run after my kid as the “tickle monster.”  Like a goldfish (or maybe an invasive plant?) my highly enjoyable habit had slowly grown to take over as much time as I allotted it – and sometimes more.  During Lent I want more time for spiritual habits like prayer, contemplation, reading theological and ministry-related books, and generally doing things that ground me (e.g. spending time with my family).  I knew thrifting would cut into all of that.

I also realized that although I’m rather satisfied with my current cool weather wardrobe and have MORE than enough for spring/summer, I’ve kept shopping. And more often than not, I kept finding something I just “couldn’t” leave on the rack.  If I’m shopping with a friend or my spouse, trying to help them find the perfect secondhand find, I can be totally disinterested in clothes for me.  But if I’m just popping in by myself to check things out, I have a harder time saying no to something I really like – even if I know I already have a surfeit of clothes in my sartorial stash.

Frequent shopping is part of successful thrifting – if you don’t look often, you won’t find the gems.  But my wardrobe, and my inner life, can go 6 weeks without more clothes to clog them up.

No worries for all you readers, though – I have plenty of post ideas and plan to spend more time writing about how I’ve styled what I already have, something you all have asked for.  Also check back in the next few weeks for posts about outfits I wore in Ireland out of my carry-on suitcase; packing tips; Irish street style snaps; and, if you’d be interested, a post on our favorite (non-thrifting) things we did on our trip.

Sláinte, and for those who observe it, have a meaningful Lent!

 

Happy International Women’s Day – Supporting a Women-Owned Clothing Business

Hey all – Happy International Women’s Day!

If you’re like me and haven’t been active enough on (American) social media to realize there was a whole “wear red, strike” movement going on, I’d like to encourage you to do something else awesome today – support a woman-owned business by making a Kiva loan.

Kiva is a non-pofit that takes loans as small as $25 from regular people like you and me and uses them to create microloans that fund entrepreneurs all over the world – often women entrepreneurs.  Today they’re doubling the impact of your microloan so it’s a great day to give!  If you can spare $25 (or more) for the length of the loan, it’ll be returned to you and you can then reinvest it to another entrepreneur or put it back in your wallet.  You can browse hundreds of women-owned business’ profiles to decide which you’d like to support.

I’m funding Hawa, a 32-year-old woman who represents the Abahuje Cb Group, a Rwandan small business collective whose members sell secondhand clothing.  Can’t think of a better match for this blog!

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Source: first link below

Click here if you’d like to join me in funding Hawa and her group, or click here if you’d like to browse other entrepreneurs’ profiles.

However you choose to celebrate/protest/invest/support today, cheers!  The future, as they say, is female.

 

How to Wear Culottes in Real Life

Today, a look at how to wear culottes, the newest in pant leg silhouettes. I was not sold on this trend (for me, or anyone) until I saw the following two women work it. One is a more wintry look while the other shouts summer; what do they have in common?

A defined waist.

Sure, you can wear culottes with something baggy or oversize, but to me the look becomes very “fashion” or off-duty model – architectural and statement-making rather than style I want to live in. In my opinion a closer cut on top balances the bloom of the pant legs below.

Here is Lee of Style Bee rocking a striking silhouette and an even more striking color palette, with boots for cooler weather:

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Her blog features several more ways to style these kind of pants – one of her wardrobe staples – as well as a review on the Everlane (read: responsibly made) version of these pants, pictured below. This top has a little more give but still highlights the waist:

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Even this blousier top is tucked in, keeping the waist the focal point of the outfit:

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Thanks to Lee I had this silhouette kicking around my brain as a style possibility, but still one pulled off by a style blogger who is supposed to have an edgier look than the rest of us.

And then I saw a random woman wearing culottes in a bookstore. She was working in a nearby office, proving real people wear these to real jobs; and I’d guess she was in her 50s or 60s, proving that this trend is not just for the young folk.

I’m still not sold on this trend for me, but if I *were* going to hop on the bandwagon, I would do it exactly the way she did – a little sailor chic, a little Audrey Hepburn:

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I have that shirt, that red pant in a different cut, and those shoes. Bam.

PS check out the buttons on that fly!
PPS sorry I cut off the bottom of the pants in the second photo. :/ Unbeknownst to me, my finger was in the way as I tried to surreptitiously capture her fabulous style.

 

What do you think of the culotte look? Are you convinced by these takes on it the way I was?

 

My Secret for the Perfect Blazer & a Blue Blazer Cage Match

I admit it, that title is a bit dramatic.  But since I’ve already used “A Tale of Two Blazers,” I went with it.  Also, it’s not really a cage match as I right now I plan to keep both of my new finds (below)… but depending on which I reach for more, one may eventually win a permanent place in my closet.

First, though, let’s start with my revelation vis-a-vis the perfect blazer. After many false starts and fitting-room frowns, I realized that I like lapels that are long and narrow, not wide and curvy:

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Love the tweed, though!

In general I prefer a silhouette without a lot of curve.  My blouses tend to be a little loose, not fitted, so they can fall in a straight-ish line from my shoulders to hips.  I don’t do form-fitting on the bottom, either – my go-to pant is slim, not skinny. Even my sheath dresses, which do follow the form of my body, don’t do much curving – because I ain’t got a lotta curves.

And I already knew I didn’t like jackets with too much of an hourglass shape.  So I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that a key part of my loving a blazer is having lapels that elongate my look instead of adding width/curve.  This “aha” moment made it that much easier to flip through a rack of blazers and sift out good candidates.

I got a chance to put this epiphany into action last week while thrifting for a special occasion dress. You may recall that I was not happy with my navy wool blazer of yore because it picked up every fuzzy lint ball and stray cat hair and when I washed it (THAT was dumb) it didn’t reform back to the silhouette I liked.

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So I was on the lookout for a replacement blue blazer – and found two.

The first was this navy number by Charlotte Russe:

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Please ignore horrid yellow lighting.

The inverted lapels are unexpected and create that long line I love.  The decorative buttons are a great detail and in a nice neutral palette, and the permanently scrunched sleeves at my favorite length mean I can look chic without having to shove them up my arms all the time.

Since Charlotte Russe is super fast fashion, I am skeptical about how this will hold up.  Surprisingly, though, it is much less rumpled than most of the unlined jackets I find in thrift stores, even from significantly higher pricepoints.   I actually like the fact that it’s unlined as it makes a nice finishing layer without adding a ton of bulk/warmth, since I tend to wear blazers in spring/fall when a fully lined wool jacket in Atlanta = sweat.

 

The next day I found this medium blue baby by H&M:

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I LOVE the color – it’s hard to find blue blazers that aren’t navy (and often a severe shade of it).  I also love the ponte fabric and the satin-y finish on the top line of the pockets.  I’m a little iffy on the pointiness of the lapel notch and the topstitch detail, but the long/lean line is in effect and that’s what I value most.  The fit also runs nicely along my torso.

I was *not* in love with the large silver buttons (I don’t wear silver jewelry and the tops ones hit right at bust level), so I removed them.  You can see where they were stitched on; it’s not as obvious when I’m wearing it and the ponte may bounce back over time.  I’m definitely going to sew a button back on to the only non-decorative spot in the middle; if the other spots are still noticeable in a week or two I’ll find some gold/bronze buttons and resew them as well.

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Obviously H&M is also fast fashion.  I’ve noticed that as far as blazers go, people tend to hold onto well made ones and not donate them ’til they’ve gone out of style (which is why you lots of blazers from the 80s and 90s at the thrift store).  Most often cuts and styles that feel more current are of the fast fashion variety because it’s a lot easier to donate something that cost you $30 vs. $200.  There are occasional exceptions but I’m not holding my breath to find them.  I’ll keep you updated on how these two hold up.

 

What do you think of my finds and my impromptu blazer surgery?  What’s most important to you in a blazer or a jacket? Scroll down to comment!

 

A Structured Dress Coat; or, in Which I Take a Page from the Duchess of Cambridge

Catherine is a big fan of the coat dress, or the dress coat (sometimes it’s not clear which is which):

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Source, sourcesource.

I had never entertained the thought of wearing such a garment myself until a super-soft, structured number by Tahari by Arthur S. Levine jumped off the coat rack section and into my hands all by itself.  I loved its sleek, tailored lines and the drama of the collar:

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Check out the contrast stitching and those chic pockets:
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My first thought was “this is a great piece and it would look great on someone else who wears coat dress/dress coats.”

My second thought was, “Why can’t *I* be that person?”

So into the dressing room it went!  A la the Duchess of Cambridge, I think it works well over dresses, either open or closed:

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This will be great for scarves, I can see it now.

It makes a more dressed up, grown up alternative to a long cardigan, and nips in just a touch at the waist:

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Here it is with a fun plaid scarf I picked up:

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I’ve learned from experience (and other bloggers) that adding an outside-your-comfort-zone piece to your wardrobe is best done when it’s paired with other favorites and it’s inside your comfort zone in some other way – e.g. the color matches your palette, it’s a familiar cut, etc.  So it helped that this dress coat was a gentle shade of navy (color palette – check) and that it looked great with the dressy corduroys and neutral top I was wearing (plays well with wardrobe staples – check).  It made it easy to focus on the fresh vibe this new silhouette added to by repertoire instead of trying to imagine whether it would work.

Here it is on its first official engagement (yes, on yet another thrifting expedition):

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Sleek, no?  Chic, feminine, Dr. Who-esque, yes?  

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Metallic top: Pull & Bear, thrifted
Dress coat: Tahari by Arthur S. Levine, thrifted
Cream corduroys: Lauren by Ralph Lauren, thrifted & tailored

Socks: Target, retail
Shoes: hand-me-downs from my mother-in-law, repainted
Necklace: DIY from Goodwill finds

I rate this outside-my-style-comfort-zone experiment a success.  What do you think?  When have you gone outside your style comfort zone and had it work?  When not?  Scroll down to share!

 

What I’m Packing to Ireland – in a Carry On

As you read this I will be heading out to Ireland to co-officiate my college BFF’s wedding.  It’s also the first time the spouse and I have ever taken a vacation together that does not involve family or friends.  Whoopie!

We’ll travel light to expedite connecting flights and hauling our stuff around the country. So what’s in my carry on?

Specs
First up, let’s do the numbers.  We’ll be gone for 8 days; right now the forecast is calling for rain (not a surprise, but blech) and highs in the high 40s/low 50s, so I’m looking at warm layers and rain-resistant outerwear.  3 out of 4 of the accommodations we’ll stay in are Air BnBs with laundry facilities so I plan to wash things halfway through.  Our activities will hopefully include a day hike (weather allowing), a few morning runs, lots of walking, and a wedding.  Most things will be pretty versatile except that wedding outfit – which I might be able to turn into a nice dinner outfit, but we’ll see.

 

In the bag
As usual, everything is thrifted unless noted otherwise.

Pants:

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Jeans: Banana Republic; corduroy: Lauren by Ralph Lauren

 

Tops:

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Gap; J. Crew; Loft; French Connection

 

Layers/outerwear:

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J. Crew; Kelty (gift from my spouse lo these many years ago – image source); navy polka dot vest from Savile Row Co.; no label gloves/hat; buffalo check scarf no label (image source).

 

Running/hiking/sleeping/keeping my legs warm under my pants:

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x2 leggings by American Apparel (responsibly made) – one in black, one in navy; gifts; source. Silk running shirt by Winter Silks; bamboo tech shirt by Tasc Performance.

 

Shoes

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Puma for walking; Champion for running/hiking – retail; source.

 

Wedding outfit

The wedding colors are navy and grey, so I’m going with a floor-length navy velvet dress you may remember as a runner-up for another wedding outfit. I kept it around thinking it would be great for another formal event, and voilà, it is.

Enjoy this outfit pic in which I a) pose ridiculously b) have much shorter hair than now and c) appear to have only one foot:

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Wrap from my mama:

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Shoes by Talbots:

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All this plus underwear, socks, bras, and toiletries packed into my suitcase:

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Those little Konmari bundles are deceiving – they’ll squish a lot more, making enough room for a few thrift finds and some gifts for those keeping the home fires burning. (Thanks family!)

 

I’ll report back in two weeks with any last minute changes, outfit pics, and what I wore/what stayed in the suitcase/what I wish I’d brought instead.  Wish me luck!

 

Thursday ReBlog: “Dressing Like a Grown Up” and the Crème de la Crème

It’s Thursday, yes, but I’m posting my Ireland packing list tomorrow so you get a “Friday” ReBlog today.

First up, Duchesse at Passage des Perles responds to Vanessa Friedman’s New York Times article “How to Dress Like an Adult.”  Some good food for thought in both categories.  I just went in for a (thrifted, of course) dress-coat as a topper to replace a long slouchy sweater in part because it felt more put-together, more “grown up” for my work life (post next week!).  And to Ms. Friedman’s point #3 – essentially, take care of your clothes – I also just bought a travel-sized steamer to reduce that “sat under a pile of clothes” look things get when I don’t hang them up right away.  (I’ll write a review in a few weeks when I’ve tested it out a few more times.)

 

Second, Adina at Blue Collar Red Lipstick waxes eloquent on wearing only the crème de la crème of her wardrobe and how she’s moving from a wardrobe full of 7s out of 10 that worked just fine to 10s all the way.  (She now says she gets the Marie Kondo “spark joy” thing.)  While I’m not holding on to so-so work horses in the same way she was, I am holding on to some “meh” pieces that I just don’t wear/like because they are interesting/unique/good quality.  Great inspiration if you’re looking to really go for the gold, wardrobe-wise.

 

What are your thoughts on making a wardrobe out of 10s and dressing as a grown up?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Thrift Store Review: Out of the Closet

Last week my friend Allen tipped me off to a new thrift store in town, and it was not 48 hours before I had to go see it in person.

Out of the Closet  at 1858 Cheshire Bridge Road is an outpost of a California-based chain of thrift stores of the same name.  They opened about 4 months ago and are a non-profit with proceeds benefiting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.  Here they are all decked out for Valentine’s:

A post shared by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

The store is a respectable size, clean and well-organized, and even has some decorative touches (do you spy that cowboy boot banner up top?).  Plus there were free Snickers! (Oh, and condoms.  Yay for sexual health!)

A post shared by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

The prices were reasonable – on par with Goodwill in our area, some cheaper, some a bit more expensive.  The staff were personable and helpful, and they provide free HIV testing, which I am totally down for.  And in fact, while I was there, someone came in for a test.  Know your status, people!

They have a stellar men’s section, which is exciting because my spouse is always complaining that he can’t find good men’s stuff at the Goodwill.  I picked up two shirts for him right off the bat (Happy Valentine’s Day, darling!  #GivetheGiftYouWishYouCouldGet).  Here’s one:

A post shared by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

But he’s looking forward to visiting on his own to try on all the things.

On the flip side, the sales associate told me they need to grow their women’s section a bit – bring them your women’s clothing donations!

Still, I managed to find a dress I liked and a bag I probably didn’t need.

This dress by H&M is my favorite sheath silhouette but with more structure in the bodice.  It’s quite similar to my cream sheath dress for winter but lighter, and with a longer hem, both of which mean I can wear it in spring, without leggings.  Score.

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Sorry it’s blurry!  The line you see on the skirt is from my dark leggings; won’t be a problem with just underwear.

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Where the bodice and lining meet shows through in a way that is…interesting?  Reminiscent of a sweetheart neckline (or Jessica Rabbit), I’m not sure how I feel about it.  We’ll see if I embrace it or use a scarf to cover it up.  (It’s not ideal to buy something you’ll have to keep covered, but I may end up loving the unusual detail, so I took a chance.)

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Here’s the bag – no label.  It’s made of vinyl (I think) with an embossed snakeskin pattern.

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It’s faux-suede inside which makes for an interesting texture contrast. The little stitched circles conceal a magnet closure.

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Love the zipper details – and they give a little extra room when unzipped:

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The pocket flap inside that is only attached to the bag in one spot instead of being sewn onto the inside wall.  That might get annoying, can’t tell yet:

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What do you think of my finds?  If you’re in Atlanta, have you checked out Out of the Closet yet?  (See my other Atlanta thrift store reviews here and here.)  Scroll down to share!

 

Friday ReBlog: Keeping a Piece Past a Year, Anti-Hauls, and the Bag I Should Not Have Bought

A couple of interesting bits for you today on this lovely Friday.

First up: the comments in this post over at Un-Fancy are a great discussion on when/why/how you let go of a piece – do you follow the oft-cited “if you haven’t worn it in a year, let it go”?  Or do you stash away classic faves to see if you love them again in a year?  I tend much more towards the former, but I have stashed away one or two pieces (e.g. sailor pants) of which I’m not currently enamored but have a lot of personality and that I can see myself loving again.

 

Next: have you heard of “haul” videos on You Tube?  The idea is to go out and buy a bunch of stuff (or thrift – but usually these are retail affairs), and then make a video showing off your clothing/makeup/shoe purchases.  It’s a weird blend of consumer excess and vicarious living and I can’t bring myself to watch them.

(There’s some hypocrisy here of course because I do monthly “thrift finds” posts where I show you what I thrifted in the last month. I imagine they do inspire more consumption when you see a look you’d like to emulate, but since you won’t be able to go out and buy the same exact thing, and I don’t make money off of you clicking through to buy a piece I found, I’m okay with it.  Plus I love seeing what others have thrifted even when it’s totally not my cup of tea.)

To the topic at hand: apparently there is also the anti-haul, pioneered by Kimberly Clark and profiled by Anna of The Anna Edit here.  Kimberly’s anti-haul mantra is “Don’t need it.  Not gonna buy it.”  The idea is you go through products (in this case makeup) and describe why they’re not worth buying.  I love that there is someone out there doing this.  It’s a good corrective for those days when I waltz into a thrift store, see a bag that fits the parameters I’ve been looking for, and then realize I am happy with the bag I have and have no reason to purchase a new one (I thought I needed two, one for winter and one for summer, but that is a lie).  “Don’t need it.  Not gonna buy it.”  Thanks Kimberly.

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But it was snakeskin print…

But whoops, I did buy that bag because it was before I read about anti-hauls.  (That’s no excuse, I should know not to buy bags I don’t need.)  Luckily for me, though, the purchase went to a great cause because I was shopping at Out of the Closet, a new (to Atlanta) thrift store benefiting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.  Look for a post about it next week!

 

Alright y’all, I’m off to enjoy the weekend.  Happy thrifting!

 

A (Very) Brief Hiatus

Hello faithful readers! Just a short note to let you know that as I work on some personal projects, finish up the busiest part of my work year, and get ready for our trip to Ireland at the end of the month, I’ll be slowing down on posts. I promise to be back up and running with a “what I’m packing in my carryon” post before the end of the month.  I very well may have a few more posts before then since I have to dress myself everyday anyway and I basically never stop thrifting. :)

In the meantime, I’d still love to hear your travel tips if any of you have been to Ireland.  (Thanks Carol for your great recs the last time I mentioned this!)  To give you an idea of where we’ll be (and thus what attractions we might see): we’ll start in Dublin, head down to Glendalough for a day hike, drive over to Galway/Connemara for a couple days, and then I get to co-officiate my college best friend’s wedding (!!) in Spanish Point before heading back to Dublin for an afternoon.  I’m trying to convince the spouse to do an afternoon of curling/Irish football in there but he watched a match online and thinks he’ll die. Ha.  Scroll down to share!

In the meantime, happy thrifting!