Thrifting with Ruby

Beacon's Closet on 13th Street.

Most of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores, vintage stores, and eBay. I do buy new clothing from time to time (jeans, for example, since vintage ones just don’t fit me properly) but avoid it when I can. The items in my closet that I fall out of love with get recycled: resold, traded, or donated.

Beacon’s Closet is awesome. I shouldn’t even call it a thrift shop because it’s nothing like the anachronistic thrift shops I grew up with: it’s actually a shop that has a modern approach to buying and selling used clothing. You bring them a bag of clothing you don’t want anymore, they give you a store credit and then you get to shop for free. The pieces they don’t want you can leave behind for donation. This method of guilt-free shopping thrills me. You spend zero money, go home with “new” clothing, responsibly recycle and donate to a good cause.Those extravagant afternoons at Barneys have become a distant memory (and I don’t miss them.)

Christopher Fischer embroidered cashmere sweater (originally $375) and a 1970s hand-embroidered sweater ($14 at Beacon's.)

Ruby, my 17-year-old daughter, was actually the one who turned me on to Beacon’s Closet. It thrills me that she’s passionate about thrifting because it’s really fun to do it together. She’s committed to the whole thrifting lifestyle: she belongs to an online clothing swap at her school, searches for (discounted) designer jeans on eBay and won’t even buy a new book. Maybe growing up in mommy’s vintage clothing store had something to do with it.

Yesterday Ruby and I brought a bag of old stuff to Beacon’s, got a $75 credit, and with it bought a gorgeous puff-sleeved 70s blazer ($17), a Christopher Fischer cashmere sweater ($24) with a hand-embroidered owl on it (I have a thing for owls), a white crochet sweater ($15) and a pair of Sigerson Morrison shoes ($25). Ok, so I ended up spending $17, but in New York there’s not even tax on items under $55!

Marc Jacobs is very clever to print the required, "Made in China" label in difficult-to-read black on black. DVF prints it in French so maybe Americans don't understand, or at least think it's chic.

Luckily Ruby has the same shopping philosophy as me (shopping requires concentration and is best done alone) so once inside we split up and remind each other to “look for stuff for me, too!” (Grunge dresses for me, oversized cashmere cardigans for her.) True, like any thrift shop, you have to look through lots of other people’s fashion faux pas to find a gem, but Beacon’s is curated so it seems that you always do.

I couldn’t help but notice that 90% of the items I looked at were made in China (even those from my beloved DVF, who manufactured her iconic wrap dresses in Italy in the 70s.) A whopping 1/3 of all apparel imports in the U.S. come from China, and unfortunately it’s impossible to know the details of how responsibly these items are manufactured. I hope people will become more aware of the benefits (financial, environmental, and social) of purchasing vintage and used clothing, especially when there are stores like Beacon’s Closet that make “thrift” shopping such a pleasant experience.

I've always loved the Betsey Johnson punk label from the 80s and coming across it at Beacon's Closet brought back memories of my NYU days. My friend Nancy and I had matching Betsey fingerless gloves that we wore with matching black dusters from Ibiza (I still have my gloves.) I didn't buy the glittery bustier because it was in poor condition, but since the label was hanging by just a thread (see photo), I took it. What can I say, I'm nostalgic.

About Chelsea Girl Vintage

ELISA CASAS (that's me) was born and raised in New York City. I have a BFA in Photography from NYU and worked as a photojournalist and talent scout for major record labels before opening Chelsea Girl in 1993. I also owned Laurel Canyon Vintage, Clutch! and a popular cafe, City Girl Cafe. I star in the groundbreaking Sundance series, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys” with my best friend, David Munk.
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