Monday, August 27, 2012

Life Lessons: Being True to Thine Own Self

Due to my reinvigorated thrifting spirit, I decided to spend my Friday off thrifting up a storm. The plan was to hit up the Robbinsdale Unique and the ARC Value Village (relatively) close by, but the combo of VIP day (25% off for cardholders) and the poor junk to treasure ratio of Unique kept me busy for a good two hours, leaving zero time for the second shop. 

As I recently mentioned, my thrifting scope as of late has been largely limited to housewares—something I maintain is the result of "fashion fatigue." A few months off the fashion, and an impending season change has gotten me back on the horse, though I must admit I'm confused about what direction to take said horse in.
The five soft cover books were considered "children's" and thus each cost whatever 25% off of 69¢ is. STEALZ.
Thus, I found myself in an annoying, and potentially dangerous, situation. After some initial non-clothing fabulous finds (six Harry Potter books for six bones, and A Discovery of Witches, the newest mystical trilogy I am delving into), I combed the clothing racks for a solid hour, putting item after time into my cart, all the while knowing deep down that I had a pile of duds. 

By the time I came to my senses (aided, in part, by an elderly chap's comment that "it looked like a lucky day" for me), and realized I had to start making decisions, I had a cartload of crap.

Most items were easy to discount—a patterned H&M maxi dress for $7; a misshaped, wayyyyy too oversized ivory-ish sweater that reminded me of boogers; an initially promising boxy black button up that was spun from the thickest poly-fabric I have witnessed in recent times—but there were an handful of "vintage" items that I was having a harder time settling on. This was a particularly difficult task, as I have been satiating my 70's dress sensibility more as of late, and four of the major items at hand were pieces that more or less could fit that decade: a calf-length, color blocked suede jacket; a hand knit sweater and two vests (one a red, suede, cowboy-style, fringed number; the other a cropped, denim, patchwork Gunne Sax piece). 

After some hemming and hawing, I realized that what I had in front of me was a thrifting novice's dilemma—pieces that, by virtue of their existence, and connection to the past, made me think they were good vintage. Except they weren't. And I didn't need them. And, perhaps even more importantly, they weren't perfect. 

Perhaps could have been...but not.
Case in point: The suede jacket. 

What. Do I really want to dress like a cast member from That 70's Show? I think not. Actually, in many respects, this piece is pretty sweet. But one of the snaps was busted, and it just felt...dirty. AND I am not a huge fan of this color scheme. So...back to the racks it went. 

Add to your imagination: slightly unflattering cut that rests high thigh and huge bell bottom...sleeves.
I was drawn to the nasty, 70's version of primary colors in this piece, but the acrylic yarn used to knit it was so gross feeling that it made my skin crawl. I just couldn't do it, and thus sacrificed my vision of myself as an art teacher/mother of a Waldorf student from this time period. 

Clearly I was having a fashion identity crisis—perhaps due in part to the fact that it had been so long since I had indulged in a good thrifting session. It seemed as though I was trying to make up for the fact that I wasn't able to imagine treasures into existence by allowing myself to settle.

Party and business all the way around (plus pockets!).
But settle I did not. The sole piece of clothing I did come away with was a keeper—a vintage, highwaisted, wool skirt that can be both party (perhaps with this wacky sweater) and business (for that "job" I may get some day). 

Moral of the story: To thine own self be true! 
Your closet will thank you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GET WILD! Patterns galore!

One of my favorite things about thrifting is the crazy patterns you find. Even though this fall it appears as though high fashion magazines want you to believe that "crazy patterns" and "crazy pattern mixing" is so in that just about anyone can do it, I think not. It takes a trained eye, and a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to wild patterns. What they don't tell you is that if you are going to go down that route, you must do it with attitude! This means that if you are out at a bar and decided to wear a shirt as a dress, you need to not give two hoots if someone calls you out on it! Wear those patterns with pride and no one can stop you!


This amazing, vintage, kimono-style muumuu situation. It was probably intended to be worn as pjs, but you bet your sweet bippy I am going to wear this to a fancy event some day. Some day. Also, I love the pattern so much at it is currently on my list for "tattoo inspirations" (sorry Mom).

We have SO much to catch up on—like what has transpired with my challenge of thrifting Sheila's summer wardrobe. We have some results, and we had some duds. Luckily, some of the "duds" meant they were passed to me, like this boxy, black and white floral patterned top. It spoke to my grandma and goth style preferences perfectly.

I love this pattern. Love it. 

I found this weird 90's style button up during the same Saver's run as the above kimono dress. I feel like it was meant for some comic artist, who loves Talking Heads and Keith Haring.

And finally, since it is almost (almost!) sweater weather, I have this child's "Glamour Knits" top that is stylistically in the vein of the comic top. I feel very "Claudia" wearing this. You can't go wrong with weird knit patterns. EVER! (Just don't forget your ATTITUDE!).

WE ARE BACK! With farmers' market style chic!


I am sure many of you have been anxiously waking every morning, leaping to your computer and checking to see if we have rebooted Operation Sparkle and have posted about our great deals and steals. For those of you who have been doing that, I am sorry. It is for you, however, that I'm doing a very special OPERATION SPARKLE DOUBLE FEATURE!

Now that I am sort of on instagram (it is on my man's i-touch, which makes it a bit difficult to access and utilize as most instagram users can. My name is "doublepeace," which you may or may not be able to use to follow me. I'm really a novice at this new technology), it is pretty ridiculous to not share my amazing thrifting deals with the world! Plus, after a brief break from the thrifting world (two years working in a resale shop and years of giving into my thrifting obsession whenever I had the chance really started to do a number on my closet), I am ready to get back on that horse! I can't speak for Laurie, of course, but I do know that her recent move back to Milwaukee has exploded her thrifting options out of the water, so if we keep pestering her, maybe we can get her to share her recent treasures as well.

So again—deepest apologies for denying you of the magic of Operation Sparkle for so long. We have both been really busy, and had a lot of personal junk to deal with over the past year. Thankfully, thrifting will never go away, and you know that when you set something free, and it comes back to you, it is true love.

Or something.

So, for my first post of two back on the horse, I present you with a look that may be at least stylistically suitable for being on a horse (though not at all practical): Farmers' Market Style Chic!

While I have, on account of my busting closet, been looking more for housewares during my thrifting escapades instead of clothing and fashion accessories as of late, I did find a perfect outfit on a recent trip up north with my fabulous friend Mary. I say "perfect," because one of my many style icons is this chick that I once saw driving around with her man (or brother or friend) in a pick up truck in Chicago. They were both wearing various shades of brown, and looked like the coolest urban farmers you could imagine. I wanted so badly to emulate what they emulated to me within the 5 seconds that I saw them: people who worked their urban landscape and looked fabulous in sun hats and earth tones.

I am totally digging this 90's floral maxi dress. It is a bit large on me, even when I utilize the totally 90's back tie, but with a belt, I think it works. I recently rolled up to my friends' house wearing this, along with huge, vintage, blue-tinted sunglasses, and they told me that I looked like I was "from the future, coming to tell them something." Which I can totally get down with. 

I also dig this dress because it reminds me of Phoebe singing about Smelly Cat, who, along with Claudia and Dawn from the Babysitters Club, was one of my few fashion icons growing up. And speaking of strangers whose fashion I want to emulate/be, I was also drawn to this dress because it reminded me of this cute girl I once saw working at the bakery by the thrift store this came from in Ashland, WI. She had braids and a dress sort of like this, and made me think that if I moved up north and worked in a bakery, I could be just as stylish as her. I also imagine that she works part time at a farm and has a really hot boyfriend.

These vintage leather shoes, purchased at the same thrift store as above dress, are one of my best finds of the year. I maintain they have magical properties, as they looked really narrow and small, but somehow fit on my feet perfectly. They are also the answer to my summer footwear debacle: sandally, but not too sandally.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Second time's NOT the charm: Lindstrom disappoints

If you are still reading/checking up on our thrifting adventures here on Operation Sparkle, you are probably wondering where the hell we have been for the past few months. Honestly, I am not really sure—suffice it to say that both Laurie and I have been dealing with quite a lot in our "offline" lives, which has prevented us from heartily engaging in both the act of thrifting and in the act of blogging about it. But, as now is a new time (the dawning of the Age of Aquarius), it is also time to get back on that thrifting horse. Unfortunately, my most recent re-trip to Lindstrom was akin to me getting on that horse and promptly falling off and breaking my collar bone.

Those of you who have been with us for sometime may recall the stellar finds I came across on my last Lindstrom special trip, accompanied by my two friends named Mary. It was to my dismay, and horror, that the adventure and brilliant finds of this previous adventure were unmatched by anything I came across on my most recent trip. The only logical explanation for such a shift has to be that so many thrifters read my post singing the praises of thrifting in Lindstrom that the market has been saturated.

Whatever the reason, all Molly (my comrade in arms) and I found was crap—think pilled, faded, oddly stretched out fashions from Maurices circa 2003. Despite hitting up FIVE thrift stores (three from last years trip (the other of which has since closed)), I, in an completely unprecedented move, left empty handed from the first three. Molly found a few things, like a hanging shoe rack, but for the most part was unimpressed.

It wasn't until we hit up some Family Pathways (technically not even located in Lindstrom, but in Wyoming and Forest Lake, respectively) that I found something to get my mitts on. In Wyoming I found a small picture frame in which to encase a quote by one of the more inspiring adults in my life, however little I know him, and a pot in which to encase a new plant I am currently rooting.

Forest Lake presented me with a few more finds. Clearly inspired by my reinvigoration into the world of Northern Exposure, I came away with these Southwestern patterned hankies, a mug with a Siberian Husky on it for my brother, and this cropped tshirt that screams Shelly Tambo.

I also found this notebook in which to pen my upcoming great American political novel. It is college ruled, five subject and was fifty cents. What sold me was the line written on the cover: "Acedemic Writing."

 Acedemic writing indeed!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Boundary-Pushing Velvet Frock

Now, as many of you know, the aim of Operation Sparkle is to spread the joys of thrifting, not to be some sort of snarky, cultural commentary blog. That said, it may seem off-putting to read what I am about to write, because it, so closely on the heels of my recent post "Gandalf, This One's for You," seems to imply the opposite. 

But hear me out. As I spend less and less time consuming mainstream media, the more shocked I become at what passes as "entertainment," otherwise know as "stuff apparently worthwhile enough to grace the pages of a national publication." The bar for what is considered "content" is ever lowered, especially when you factor in the tendency to boost about 99% of the material by attaching some sort of celebrity to it. 

As my co-worker said the other day, I am sick of hearing about celebrities. They don't raise their own children, their marriages always fall apart, they don't dress themselves and most of them are incredibly boring and talentless. As this is the case, the bar for what makes a "unique" celebrity is also very low. Case in point: Zooey Deschanel. 

Now, as I stated previously, it may appear as though I was taking the piss out of Zooey Deschanel earlier this month with my Gandalf post, but I wasn't. There I was taking the piss out of Hollywood's depiction of "dorky girls." HERE is where I take the piss out of Zooey Deschanel.*

And why would I waste my time doing so? Well, because just recently, as was brought to my attention by my great friend (and fellow thrifter) Jackie, she was interviewed for the food magazine Bon Appetit  (????why???) and made an incredibly insulting comment about one of the fabrics that I hold closest to my heart, an Operation Sparkle favorite: velvet. 

The excerpt: 

Bon Appetit: What's a girl's can't-go-wrong holiday party outfit?

ZD: A velvet frock. But then, I push the envelope a little more than most girls.


Oh no you DIDN'T ZD! You did NOT just imply that you are so quirky, and edgy, and special that you are actually being some sort of "boundary-pusher" by wearing one of the most classic and loved fabrics of the winter time to a holiday party! 

Now, it is, I admit, unclear as to where this "envelope-pushing" actually stems from—is it the fabric or her ambiguous reference to a "frock?" Now, if she meant "frock" as in "a robe worn by monks, friars, and other clerics; a habit," then yes, I would agree with ZD that she is indeed pushing some boundaries by wearing velvet religious garb to a holiday party (Baby Jesus would love that!). My guess, however, is that she meant "a woman's dress," which is, like, wait, do you consider Urban Outfitters circa Fall 2010 to be edgy? Because here I have my little black velvet mini which was duplicated and sold at UO last year:

Now don't get me wrong, I love my LBVM, but I wouldn't say it is necessarily "boundary-pushing" by any means. If one were to really think outside the box with their velvet frocks, maybe they should go for a shapeless, two-toned, floor-length, jewel-colored, All that Jazz number, like this one.**

If you were SUPER edgy, you would wear something like this crushed velvet, silver mini dress. Unfortunately, ZD will never be able to be as boundary-pushing as the dress' current owner, because it is a man.***

Maybe this is more along the lines of what Zooey considers to be really appropriately wild, because it has flowers on it, and flowers are, like, really cute and feminine. Too bad I got it to emulate the grunge look from the Portlandia "Dream of the 90's" sketch (? also very edgy?).

Two of the wildest velvet items I have thrifted I've since let loose for greener pastures, which possibly indicates that I, as it turns out, am actually not that much of a velvet-wearing boundary-pusher. What would be great is if someone would wear this blue velvet crop top with these black velvet overalls to a holiday party. Now that is what I call a holiday party staple! 

Still, I always have my prince/Prince-inspired purple, crushed velvet vest. Holiday outfit, here I come! 

*NOTE: This post isn't meant to be an attack merely on Zooey Deschanel saying something stupid (we all say stupid things) and the magazine printing it. It is meant, instead, to draw attention to how LAME our society has gotten—to the point where it becomes acceptable to equate "envelope-pushing" in fashion to wearing a velvet dress to a holiday party. 

**FULL DISCLOSURE: I actually forgot I had this dress as it has been sitting in some bag in my basement awaiting a modification session, along with about 25 other items I have purchased over the years with the intent to "do something" with them. If anything though, I am all that more motivated to wear it as it actually is if only to push some envelopes. 

***I'd love to see ZD and Jake Thompson, who I traded this dress to for a series of boxy, over sized black tshirts featuring wolves and soaring eagles, go head-to-head in an edgy dress off. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

UPDATE: A Rock and a Hard Place

I just wanted you all to know that after much contemplation and reflection, I have decided to replace my rock. Luckily, we have this rock shop in MPLS called ZRS Fossils that was able to supply me with a replacement rock.

I also got this nifty little info card that explains the properties of labradorite, which include "enhances magical experience via telepathy, prophecy, spirit connections, serendipitous experiences, etc. Assists in finding truths in challenging transitions and life changes. Greatly protects and strengthens your personal energies." Now that is what I call a magical rock!

I also wanted to add that the little town which Fat n Happy's (and the resting place of my first rock) is located in is called "Castle Danger."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Rock and a Hard Place: Thriftin' the North Shore

A few weeks ago, my life partner, Chris, and I took a trip up the "coast" (of Lake Superior) to the North Shore of Minnesota. This was a pretty major get-away as it was the first time in the six and a half years that we have been dating where we took a trip just the two of us. Needless to say, expectations were high.

Initial expectations included some thrifting on the way up north, which was thwarted by a later than expected departure time. I know, it seems pretty incomprehensible that moi would pass up any chance to thrift, but sometimes, when you just want to get to the wilderness, you just want to get to the wilderness. Happily, we discovered walking around the tiny town of Grand Marais on Sunday that there was a thrift store a mere three blocks from our hotel*. Unfortunately, like most thrift shops, this one was closed on Sundays, so I had to wait a WHOLE DAY to see what delights awaited!

Given the small size of both the shop and the community, I came away more than content with my finds. First, we have this unseasonable (that just means I have something to look forward to when spring comes again) pair of vintage highwaisted striped shorts. SCORE!

Then, the short sleeved button down sporting one of the most impressively insane patterns I have witnessed on such a piece.

The crème de la crème of thrifting in Grand Marais didn't come in fashion form, but instead in the form of old school pair of snowshoes I picked up for a cool benjamin**. This find was truly serendipitous as they had just dropped the price from $150 to a $100 and I had just been stating that some day I wanted to have a pair of my very own snowshoes.

With these finds in hand, I was feeling lucky. We took off soon after for an evening in Duluth, and, on the way, stopped at a rock shop (I am sucker for huge signs that exclaim "AGATES!"). There I found a precious little rock of labradorite, a mineral I have been coveting ever since Molly told me it had magical powers two years ago. Even though it was $7.50, it was beautiful, and I was on vacation, so I decided to treat myself.

Things were looking up. I had snow shoes, sweet 90's clothes, and a mesmerizing rock. The remainder of the trip I kept the rock close by, alternatively clutching it and cradling it in my lap, should I absorb some of its magical properties.

Then disaster, cloaked in treasure, hit. We stopped to get coffee at a little cafe/restaurant and low and behold, the second thrift store of the day!

Fat n Happy's.

Yes. I KNOW. Can you believe this shit? It is truly too good to be true!

And, unfortunately, it was.

As it turns out, Fat n Happy's was closed (no word on if it will reopen, but judging from the huge "FOR SALE! Be your own boss!" sign on the outside of it, things are not looking up for Fat n Happy's). The larger disappointment?

I was so excited about Fat n Happy's, so unable to contain my excitement, that I leapt out of the car and ran towards it, forgetting about MY ROCK. After figuring out that Fat n Happy's was closed and spending $12 on speciality chocolates, I was so distraught that it wasn't until we were about ten minutes away that I noticed that my rock...was missing. Ten more minutes passed until I, becoming increasingly panicky, was freaking out so much that Chris pulled to a wayside to search for my rock.

It was GONE.

My rock, which must have been on my lap, had been sprung into the parking lot of Fat n Happy's without me even noticing! Chris offered to go back for it, but tacking an additional 40 minutes onto a trip for a rock that may or may not still be in the Fat n Happy's parking lot was just too much. That didn't stop me from mourning my rock for the next day or so (it continues to weigh heavily on my heart***). The only thing that made me feel better was thinking that it was such a powerful rock, it couldn't be held down! And indeed, between all that clutching and cradling, I must have transferred part of myself to the rock, so it was only natural that it would do whatever it could to stay at Fat n Happy's thrift store, thereby permanently leaving part of my soul, a la a horcrux, at a thrift shop on the North Shore.

Not all was lost, however, as we did stop at a thrift shop in Pine City the next day and I found this totally amazing Woolrich patterned thick wool jacket, the only one I have seen to almost (almost) rival the BEST COAT EVER.

 Lesson to be learned: in the sport of thrifting, you win some and you lose some. But no matter what, be sure to keep track of your rocks!

* This wasn't that much of a shocker as everything in Grand Marais is three blocks from each other.

** "A BENJAMIN!? That isn't a DEAL!," You may be exclaiming to yourself. "I was promised deals!" Well, in the world of winter outdoor sports (something I have embraced the past few years to get through the season), a benjamin for old school snow shoes with bindings is, my friends, a deal. 

*** So...if anyone happens to find an oval shaped labradorite rock hanging out in the parking lot by Fat n Happy's, return information can be obtained by contacting me at (serious inquiries only, please).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gandalf, this one's for you!

A few nights ago, I was up late finishing an article and decided to treat myself with some online television viewing. While I should have launched right into the newest season of Parks and Recreation, I instead decided to check out The New Girl, that seemingly abhorrently awful new Fox sitcom staring Zooey Deschanel. Really, I wanted to see how insulted I could feel. As it turned out, my expectations were fulfilled and it was just as I imagined it would be—sexist, not even vaguely funny, and shaped by television producers' assumptions surrounding the posh/hipness of 20 somethings (more loft apartments, PLEASE!) and the never ending belief that if a girl wears glasses, no one is going to bone her, because, please, that is sooooo dorky.

My biggest beef with The New Girl?

That one of their tactics to drive home just how lame this girl was to have her reference Lord of the Rings. Clearly this was too much for her kind-hearted male roommates who reacted to this action as though she had told them they could contact syphilis just by touching her. Now that I've got that rant off my chest, let's delve into the real matter at hand, shall we?

In response to this blatantly sexist and totally lame assertion by Hollywood that haute chicks can't be down with the LOTR, I present you with my most recent GBC finds, as influenced by all that is "dorky" and "lame" in Hollywood land.

First, totally dorky accessories.

Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are for dorks. Their cousins, after all, are just normal glasses, made so people can see, which is totally gross. Sunglasses are lame because it means that you are trying to protect your eyes, and someone who is interested in taking care of themselves clearly doesn't know had to party.


So, naturally, I picked up these four pairs. I am especially in love with the second from the top pair.


Big, cartoony buttons are dorky to the max. I don't even need to pretend they are dorky, because that is how dorky they are. These all came in one of those grab bags, along with an uncomfortable one about Jesus. My favorite is clearly the dorkiest of them all, the one that says "Left Handed Genius." I am going to wear it all the time, because its true. I also am going to sport the "Happy Winter" one when I feel like being deeply in denial.

A beautiful metal woven bangle is lame because it reminds people of the Renaissance festival and faerie themed jewelry.

Not exactly "accessories," but still lame, because what kind of cool people drink things like coffee and tea? I made the executive decision to stock up on these mostly 25¢ mugs because Chris is forever taking mugs out of the house and losing them. I picked Gandalf-inspired mugs, a Cathy mug (it says "Woman on the move!") and one that says "I'm Proud to Be a Farm Wife," because those were the dorkiest ones I could find.

Now for the clothing!


This vintage carpety fabric vest is something only a true lover of LOTR would wear. Unless they found a knock-off at Forever 21, which would then make it "cool."

Button-downs?! Come on, SO LAME!


For real though, I've been looking for a chambray and black silk button-down forever, so finding these was like Christmas.

Then we have these 90's dresses that the "dorky" girl would wear once she got rid of her glasses and suddenly became hot.



This navy with little sunflower trim number is extra sweet with its keyhole back.

Polka dots?! Scalloped heart neckline?! Little bow on the back that I will have to slightly fix because one side is detached but it's okay because the whole thing was a dollar?! SO LAME!


Then we have this totally Grandma eyelet blouse. Fewer things are more dorky than Grandmas and eyelets.


Finally, this vintage red dress that no matter what way I spun it, couldn't come up with a way to make it dorky. It's impossible to put this on and not imagine myself on the streets of Paris, probably being photographed from some super tres chic street fashion blogger.

I guess the lesson to be learned is that in even the dorkiest of girls, there is a cool one underneath.