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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall is SO IN Right Now

I always find it humorous when fashion designers/magazine editors/whoever gets paid to espouse their fashion "expertise" declare certain colors are "in" for the season—now it is jeweled tones! Emerald green! And then a bunch of totally early 90's orange and magenta for color blocking! While the concept does bring Meryl Streep's face-punch inducing "cerulean sweater" monologue from that equally face-punch inducing film The Devil Wears Prada to mind, I do have to admit that sometimes these people are on to something.

While I am excited to be contradicting this fall by wearing lots of pastels and white shoes*, I am also embracing a color palette more suited for fall. Just the other day, I celebrated having the day off from work by hitting up Unique's 25% off Customer Appreciation day and it became clear that my subconscious was clearly influenced by the changing of the season. Much in the same way that little 12 year-old Holly prepared for her first day of 8th grade with silk color-blocked button-downs, high waisted jeans and scrunchies,** all in shades of navy blue, forest green and maroon, my fall wardrobe is being peppered with colors that one can most readily find in the Crayola "Bold" marker box.

First the tops.

This almost red-orange top has me freaking out. I mean really. The pseudo short-sleeved/no sleevedness of this top is messing with me in the best possible way.

I found this oversized goldenrod silk top in the men's section.

Can't you tell?

I realized after washing it that it was missing two buttons, but it's all good. The overall bagginess of this whole situation means I probably will just wear it as an overcoat sort of deal. I could always sew on new buttons, but let's be real here. Who has that kind of time?

Now for the bottoms....

You can never go wrong with denim pencil skirts. I would like one in every shade of rainbow, please, but for now, I'll settle for some forest green action.

I was a bit on the fence with this printed mid-calve skirt, but I'm glad I got it. There are pockets this piece as well, so really, there was no question. And no matter what fashion magazines say about how "patterns are so in right now!," patterns always have, and always will be, in with me.

This burnt sienna vintage highwaisted skirt is probably the piece I am most excited about from this trip. I am digging the color and love the cut and the little scalloped action at the top. Pieces like this make the changing of the seasons for me.

And finally, proof that thrifting isn't just for super stylish finds, but that it is also useful for finding practical goods at outlandishly cheap prices, a much-needed rain jacket. This puppy will be perfect while I bicycle on those drizzly fall mornings. The little heart motif is a bit girly for my tastes, but as patterns on the inside of rain jackets always make me a little giggly (little ducks? little umbrellas? love it), I think I can deal.

*Keep your laws off my body.
**I was totally the inspiration for the start of this little company called American Apparel. You are welcome, Dov.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transitional Thrifing: A Bad Day of Thrifting is Better than a Good Day at Work

I find that attempting to thrift in anticipation of a changing season is often disappointing. While the "real" fashion world prefigures/cultivates our anxiety over having all the key trends in line four months before the weather changes, thrift stores are generally unaware of the consumerist neuroses that has possessed us and generated a sudden and desperate need for snakeskin pants in August. Thus, my attempt to utilize my trip back to WI to visit my family for Labor Day as an opportunity to establish the foundation for my fall wardrobe, utterly failed. Because despite the universal belief that fall magically happens the day after Labor Day (certainly a marketing strategy), it actually does not. Mother Earth has no regard for our silly holidays and how we falsely demarcate the changing of the seasons by them. Nor do thrift stores.

From a sampling of six or so thrift stores in Milwaukee and Green Bay over an extended Labor Day weekend, the temperature of the water was still definitely summer. And, even more unfortunately so, it seemed to be the dregs of the summer goods. The stuff that had sat in the back for a few months or was still trickling in after some odd-timed closet purgings. There were a few extra sweaters and jackets maybe, but no real show of force in the fall items.

Thus, my haul, though modest, did produce some interesting pieces and a general flavor of what this time of year actually is: transitional. One day it's 75 degrees and the next it's 55. The weather is schizophrenic and so your wardrobe has to be as well. While we are all trying to make fall happen for our own feverish desire to freak out on new trends, there is still a definite need for our summer standbys.

And so I present my finds, on a scale of Most Summer to Most Fall.

For obvious reasons, this piece falls (ha!) in to The Most Summer slot.

A killer late summer swimsuit find, this thing defies all conventional swimsuit knowledge. The bizarre gold metallic and floral trellis-like placement print is incredible. It has removable straps and can be strapless or not, depending on how far you want to push it. And it still had the tags on it, eliminating the inevitable, even if minimal, gross out factor of buying second hand swimsuit. AND, it is one of two finds from this small group of items by the brand Newport News. I have no idea where this brand outlets, but I though Newport News sold cigarettes. I have been schooled.

Although, if there were a cigarette company that also sold apparel, this is precisely the kind of thing I would expect them to make.

Definitely on the still summer end of the spectrum, in the Summer Called, It Wants to Take the Boat Out Today slot, is this cute lil' multi color nautical stripe tee.

Nautical stripes have been The Trend That Will Not Die for a solid three years now, but the colors and the great 70's silhouette are enough to counter the super-trendiness of this top.

Edging towards a middle position, at Potentially Do-able for Fall, is this, also very cute, red tee with ruffled edges.

I used to not "do" red, but now that I do, I can't stop. The ruffles take this tee from boring to subtly exciting!

Smack dab in the middle, in the Jewelry Has No Season slot, is this killer chunky gold triangle necklace.

This is such a statement piece of jewelry, that if you're wearing it, it doesn't matter what else you're wearing, if you know what I mean.*

In the most satisfying of slots, the This Is Actually Exactly What I Was Hoping to Find to be the Foundation of My Fall Wardrobe slot, is this neutral-toned, wallpaper-floral printed silk blouse.

I ADORE the palette that is going one here, and the romantic Victorian wallpaper floral design. It is truly exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to find on this trip. As if it hadn't already swept me off my feet, it still had the tags from it, from TJ Maxx, and the tag looked exactly the way that they did in the 90's when I worked at the service desk at the TJ's in Green Bay. Perhaps I even sold this blouse the original owner, when I was 16 years old? The romantic floral, perfect Fall silk blouse, now steeped in the nostalgia of my youth.....

The silhouette wasn't perfect on this, but I took it in an inch or so on each side and now it is the perfect amount of oversized. I haven't worn it yet, but absolutely can't wait.

This blouse is probably only 15 years old, tops, but they don't really do printing like this anymore, sadly.

Falling solidly at the end of my list is the Nothing is More Fall than Goth slot, is this black sheer silk peasant tie neck blouse:

It's hard to get a good idea of it from the picture, but it is very nice, and it is the kind of "staple" item that is key to your wardrobe. While thrifting is often defined by the "wow" pieces, it is also the best way to fill in on those great basics that get play forever. And yes! Bookending my list, this blouse is the second Newport News find from this trip. I am receiving a very confused picture of this brand.