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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If It's Your Size, That's ALL You Need--Creativity in a Crumbling Economy

Reading the paper and hearing once again about the prices of wheat, gas and even cotton going up, up, up, I wasn't surprised when I went to my coffee shop this week and the whole wheat bagels that I normally buy had gone up 10%. Now, I know it's not much, but I've seen the price rise 30% over the last few years now, and at some point, I have to say enough is enough. And, I am also an avid lover of all things cotton--I'd prefer no other cloth ever touch my skin--and I assume I'll feel the crunch there, as well.

But, you know, I've decided that I can draw the purse strings a little tighter and still have fun with it. I may forgo getting a bagel every day, and eat my Ezekial Bread at home with some hummus. And I've never had a problem scouring eclectic places for well-made vintage clothing items.

For example....

Tuesday, I attended a lovely dinner at Virage with my friend and a bunch of lovely folks from the local P.O. box store on First Avenue-- a nice mix of voice over artists, illustrators and writers for animation. Virage is a great place to meet-- it's one of those quintessential East Village joints that is half New York and half Paris, and the make-over of the interior certainly did remind me of little cafes near Notre Dame. (Ordering the Chicken Tagine, as I do in France, added to the illusion.)

Working at home, I don't often get the chance to dress up, so I threw together a retro outfit with a black and white vintage needlepoint dress from a re-sale store on 23rd, my black leather boots bought in Spain last year, and a lace shrug--the origins of which I can't remember although I think it was bought on our trip to San Sebastian years ago. With my hair tied back, and a string of pearls and jade from a trip to China, I felt my Audry Hepburn best...though certainly not as skinny.

And it made me kinda happy...Being able to throw an outfit together at the last minute, look put together, you know, and not have it cost an arm and a leg. I get alot of joy out of that actually, and am not opposed to telling anyone about the bargains I've found at my haunts around NYC and elsewhere.

My 1950's dress, probably cost $7.00. at that place on East 23rd, was made beautifully and had a great ballroom flow, AND the purchase went to help folks in need. The boots were a splurge and souvenir from Gijon. Good boots last forever. As I said as I justified the purchase to myself. BUT, I've found great leather riding boots and cowboy boots in local resale shops for $15.-$40. dollars. Not the hundreds that they sell for new!

Getting good things cheap is, well, FUN!

Why? Well, certainly, it's the economy, but I've been doing this since I was a kid. Flea markets and garage sales were always like the gravitational pull of the moon!

So, yes, I am, admittedly, a collector of cool stuff. And the treasure hunt thrills me!

Over the years, one develops a discerning eye. I can tell a piece of depression glass from 50 yards, and probably rattle off the pattern as well. When I see a hand sewn quilt, I KNOW the time and effort that went into that quilt top, and it's worth the measly $20. they are asking for it. A pair of leather boots can easily be re-soled, stretched or polished up at the local cobbler. A leather jacket can have a new zipper put in!(I have a great cobbler in the East Village, that has worked miracles on my cowboy boots, and leather jackets).

Those of you that read my blog know that I've been fortunate enough to travel often for business--and I don't take those opportunities for granted--I always look for the little stores, hidden away, no matter where I am. Thrift shops, antique stores, vintage stores. You name it. And you can do that too, no matter if in your home town or where you may find yourself!

Oh, and sometimes it is purely for necessity! Twice now, I've been surprised by the weather in various countries and finding myself freezing and coatless, have made my way to the nearest flea market instead of spending hundreds on some overpriced thing on the Champs Elysee. Amsterdam has a great flea market by the way, near the Amstel River. Full of antiques and garments and character. One of my artist friends, Joe, and I both bought coats there one blustery day. I'm talking about leather for $20.

Oh, and don't get me started on well-made antique furniture! I mean, really, Don't get me started. In truth, I've been collecting furniture for the B&B I'm gonna have "someday" now, for what? Twenty years. Not to mention, what you clothes lovers can find in re-sale shops! True, there is only one size of everything, but if it's your size, that's all you need. :-)

I'm here to tell you--You can discover some wonderful hidden gems. (It's also great inspiration for you designers out there. Put a new twist on something old!)

And again, the fun factor is what appeals to me. The looking for that one thing is half the adventure.

So...my nice evening out at Virage, once again made me happy to be an eclectic New Yorker (by way of Texas). So, as prices go up,up,up, I'll try not to despair. As a sage writer I know always says, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." And no, that's not a pessimistic statement. If you can do it, it does give you alot of optimism.

It may require a little creativity on our part in these times, but creativity-- we can do THAT! And if you shop in charitable outlets, you are helping others at the same time!

Happy Treasure Hunting, ya'll!


(Above: Some of my treasures from a recent trip to Spain, all found in a tiny little antique shop. A Llardo figurine for me, A Goebel's dog for a friends' birthday, a silver, square, mother of pearl ring, and three shell buttons that I really needed for an old coat. All for less than $40!)

Flea Market leather coat in Amsterdam. Only $10.

A bit more dressy on a dime. A vintage 1920's dress on the town. Can't wear 'em every day, but when you can, it's fun. :-)

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