Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'll give you some Family Jewels!*: Earrings Edition

As you have just witnessed, Laurie had her first "special trips" post this week (and what a special trip it was! Commune-run thrift stores? Bouncers with walkie-talkies? Cold Scientology-like follower/volunteers? I don't think there is a way to top that. Ever.) As we don't want to blow our special trips wad, I am trying my best to hold off on sharing the totally awesome finds I got this past weekend up in Washburn, WI.

This is not an easy feat.

But of course, it can (and will) be done. In the meantime, I've been thinking about the items I found, particularly a haul of crazy costume jewelry like I have never seen, that came from a recently deceased woman. This got me thinking about thrifted jewelry, and the weird stories and energy that come (or rather, don't come) with it.

Many of my favorite pieces of jewelry came from my mother or grandmother. It is, after all, pretty common place to pass important pieces of jewelry down through family lines (though, admittedly, most of my family jewels are costumey pieces that my mom wanted to get rid of to forget the 80's).

I like weird jewelry (I mean, come on, my engagement ring contains ivory (pre-illegal ivory trade ivory) and blue lapiz (and I can thank none other than Ms. Laurie Marman for helping Chris pick it out)), so you would think that thrifting would be a gold mine for such things. I have found, however, that good jewels are few and far between at thrift stores (perhaps due to the fact that most "real" jewelry either stays in the family, or is sold for better profits than what one gets from the tax deduction for donating). Still, by raking through my boxes and trays of jewelry, I ended up unearthing quite a collection of pieces I've thrifted throughout the years. Here are some of my favorites, starting with earrings!

Gray and White Striped Hoop Earrings

I love, love, love these white and gray striped earrings. The shape of the strange hoop, the colors, all of it. The only downside is that these are virtually impossible to wear while driving. One check of your blind spot and you have a (beautifully unique) earring flying across the car.

Tiger Earrings

I thought I was really going to up the ante when I got my first Minnesota drivers license by wearing these in the picture. What is more rad than a pair of screaming tiger earrings? Well, as it turns out, a lot, especially when you pair them with a terrible drunk bang job. I looked like a weird soccer mom.

Wooden Parrot Earrings

These parrot earrings are technically from a flea market. A birthday gift from my friend Lisa Luck, she and our friend Mandy picked them up on the way to her bachelorette party last year (which just happened to be on my birthday, which was actually awesome because it meant that I could party hard and dance to Warrant without having to plan an awkward get together where I make everyone give me attention). I like how one of them is missing its eyes. No eyed parrot—that can't make it easy to fly. Sad.

Wooden Elephant Earrings

As it turns out, the Halloween Bootique at Value Village isn't a gold mine just for weird clothes, it also is a great place to get strange (super cheap) jewelry like these wooden elephant earrings.

Wood and Gold Earrings

I am a huge fan of combining unlike materials in accessories. These wood block and gold dangly earrings are no exception. I love the different geometric shapes all partying together on one pair of earrings.

Stevie Nicks Sparkle Earrings

I can't remember exactly what thrift store I was at, or who I was with, when I got these sparkly earrings, but I do remember that the way my shopping partner convinced me to buy them was by telling me that they were "Stevie Nicks Coke Party Earrings." Sold.

Stay tuned for more fabulous thrifted jewels of my past—and present!

* I apologize for the title of this blog post. I find the term "family jewels" almost as revolting as the fact that Gene Simmons uses it in the title of his obnoxious reality television show. I mean, really, he is such an ass.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Special Trip! to Staten Island; It's a Thin Line Between Commune and Cult

Of all the things that I thought I would end up reflecting on in this post about my special trip to Staten Island, the point at which a commune becomes a cult, was most certainly not one of them. But here I am. I will begin at the beginning.

It all started at my boyfriend J's Birthday brunch last Saturday, when, two Bloody Marys deep in to the meal, sudden unanimous enthusiasm erupted between J, Julie, Chuck and I, at the suggestion to take an impromptu road trip to explore Staten Island. Before we even knew it, we were heading over the Verrazano Bridge in Chuck's Prius.

Here is Julie, double-fisting iphones; researching thrift stores and navigating at the same time.

This kind of devotion and focus moves me.

Fingerboard Road! Hahahaha. Oh! We all had a good laugh. What a magical place, Staten Island.
We were all so innocent then.

Our first stop was Bay Street thrift, one turn off of Fingerboard (ha!) Road.

This is not a picture of Bay Street Thrift. After what happened inside Bay Street Thrift, I was far too nervous to be seen taking a picture of the place. THE SHACK ATTACK! is a mere placeholder for Bay Street Thrift, and, surprising, is a firsthand, and not secondhand, store, located across the street.

Upon entering Bay Street Thrift, my raging adrenaline was quickly tempered by the very tense scene inside. There were no customers in the store, but three (what appeared to be) workers; two men and a woman. All three of them were standing totally silently, and nervously, about the store. One man very awkwardly and mechanically "welcomed" us, while all three watched us all extremely closely as we browsed around. It definitely felt like we walked in in the middle of something we weren't supposed to hear or see, and it was strange enough for all of us to nervously whisper to each other in order to communicate, afraid to speak aloud.

I was not going to let this air of utter weirdness stop me from finding deals, so I delved in regardless, especially excited by the cheaper-than-mainland-NYC thrift store prices.

These are some of our finds, decided on after a very closely monitored dressing room session.

Julie scored this awesome Southwestern-turquoise-printed-studded sweatshirt, for $2.

I found this fantastic lace yoke Western button down shirt, complete with rhinestone buttons.

I have since removed the collar hardware, to make it a little less "Dallas Ladies Who Lunch." You may or may not object to this decision.

Then there is this very special purple printed cropped velvet jacket. It has all the right kind of attitude. It even looks angst-y on the hanger.

After making my selections and emerging from the dressing room, J walked up to me and loudly (what seemed loudly, but was just normal speaking voice) asked me what I thought of a box of edible adult body paints that he had found. Laughing nervously, and wondering what the F he was thinking, doing such a thing in a place like this, I looked around at the utterly humorless staff who I knew would surely not find this at all funny. They did, in fact, not even crack a smile, and I was psychically screaming at J to stop making jokes!

Julie and I went to the check out with our things, and got up the courage to chat up the man behind the counter, who seemed to loosen up when he realized we would be spending money. We asked him if he knew of any other thrift stores in the area, and he was apparently melted by our charm. He said, he didn't "usually give these out, but you guys seem serious", and handed us this:

JACKPOT!!!!! He then kindly recommended that we check out Everything Goes, just down the street.

Regrouping in the safety of the outdoors, and Chuck's car, we tried to make sense of what in the holy hell was going on inside that store. J claimed that the woman didn't even work there, and that he heard one of the men say to her at one point "it's ok to go downstairs now", after which she disappeared down the back stairs. Then we all lamented the loss of the $2 edible body paints.

Stop #2, Everything Goes!

When we pulled up to the store, I was skeptical, as it seemed to have all the trappings of an overpriced, over-curated resale shop (neon sign, the world "vintage"). But overall, I think we were all just hoping for a little more normal shopping experience. This was not to be had.

Upon walking in to this place, we were greeted by a BOUNCER with a WALKIE TALKIE. This, in all my days, I have never seen. A bouncer in a thrift store.

We browsed no less, now somewhat drawn in by what was apparently a permeating, inexplicable weirdness throughout Staten Island. The store was, in fact, curated, but at different levels. Some rooms had really nice vintage, at decent prices, and others were just "nicer" random clothes at everyday thrift store prices. I pulled a sweet 90's halter dress (below) that was only $4, but was conflicted by my desire to purchase it. I had somewhat of a moral opposition to buying anything at a thrift store with a bouncer. But this dress was sweet, and only $4.

The dynamic between the workers at this place was definitely strange as well. Things were equally tense, and the workers seemingly under the influence of a very rigid, omnipresent power structure. When I went to pay for my dress, a women walked by with a box of hangers, and another woman said to her, very sternly, "DO THAT HERE." And the woman obediently stopped in her tracks, and sorted the hangers in the cramped space behind the counter. I bought my dress and got the hell out of there, relying on cell phone technologies to get me back together with my party, who were still inside.

Julie had found a very cool linen tank top, with appliqued zebra stripe-printed squares running down the center, for $4 or $5, that she planned on buying. The next thing I knew, standing out on the sidewalk with J and Chuck, who had also made it out, Julie came running out yelling "I couldn't do it! I couldn't do it! It was too weird in there!", sans linen tank top.

I am now terribly relieved, after all I went through, that I did in fact buy this dress. It fits perfectly, and will surely be a summer staple.

So, in summation. Recounting our adventures, we could not all help but laugh and conclude that the only explanation for the bizarre atmosphere that we experienced was that the entirety of Staten Island was run by some weird Satan-worshipping cult with thrift stores. Hahaha, how the imagination runs away!!!! Or not.

Having a debate coach for a boyfriend comes in handy often, especially when it comes to research. This is what J found when we got back home.

Exhibit A: BIG LOVE ON STATEN ISLAND. Everything Goes. The pun, is apparently, intended. The store is operated by members of the free love commune Ganas, a 20-odd year presence on the island. They have little people! And a very high member retention rate! They must be on to something.

Exhibit B: Rick Ross, an internet watchdog devoted to the critical monitoring of "controversial groups," has a somewhat less ideal view of things.

What did I take away from my trip to Staten Island? That even in the most bizarre of circumstances, you can score sweet deals. And that as much as I love thrifting, I don't ever want to join an oppressive free love thrift store operating commune.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Springtime is for...Goths?

The other day I tweeted (ugh) about "lovin' goths." I am not sure if it is all the True Blood I've been watching lately, or if I 've just been really inspired by this post on Fashionasty, but suddenly, I've been channeling some major Wednesday Addams in my everyday look. Which is rather un-springlike if I must say so myself. But then again, what is springy about lows being in the teens?

One of the best things about thrifting is that you can amass such a mish-mash of seemingly unlike items that flashes of fashion inspiration seem completely random—but they are much more likely to happen than when you just have a closet stuffed with this season's Forever 21 and H&M designer knockoffs.

Sometimes I am suprised with how new looks find me—I certainly wasn't looking to start dressing like a sexy nun (Chris' words, not mine). It just happened. But I'm digging it.

First, the "sexy nun" outfit. I took this school girl uniform shirt with a peter pan collar (courtesy of Everyday People) and tucked it into one of my best thrifted jean finds—the "crack finger pants" with buttons that go up the back of the calves. I threw on a decidedly goth three tier necklace from my grandma Vera (grandmas have the best saddens me to think about how generations to come will only get boxes filled with plastic remnants from Claires) and, of course, dark navy trouser socks (thrifted from the ABC thrift shop in Washburn, WI) and my adorable black oxfords from St. Vinnies.

Scallop Collar Button Down Top
Grandma Vera's 3 tier silver necklace
High Waisted Black Jeans
High Waisted Black Jeans Close Up
Black Leather Oxfords

Then, I threw on this outfit the other day for work (sometimes the best way to get through a long day of work is with a very cute outfit): my striped vintage sweater from wild thrifting with Jake, over the silk button down from the same trip (with the collar peaking out—simply adorable). Then I added this great flowy black skirt I picked up from a Bethesda in Minnetonka, black thigh-highs scrunched down to knee length (thanks to my co-worker Allie, who gave them to me!) and the black oxfords. Truly Wednesday Addams chic!

Cute Vintage Striped Sweater
Buttondown Silk Capped Sleeve Top
Black Flowy Skirt

Finally, I have a "grunge goth" look: my long sleeved black velvet mini dress, topped off with my denim Levi's vest, my grandmother's necklace, ripped black tights and my black buckle patriot shoes.

Velvet Mini Dress
Levi's Denim Vest
Buckle Patriot Shoes

Who knows how long this goth-inspired streak will go, but no matter what it is (darkly) fun while it lasts!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Club Boy Crazy and Flourescent Velour! 80's Childhood Revisited

It occurred to me just now while filing through the photos of my recent finds, that I were I 9 years old, and it 1989, I would have the 3 most perfect tops imaginable to party down in. My entire child and teenager-hood, I was required to wear a uniform to school. Any "fun" clothes were relegated to weekends only, and social events were extremely rare and important platforms for showing off your style. These are three tops that have my inner child totally freaking for an opportunity to wear.

Oh my god oh my god oh my god. I am creating a special category for this sweater that is called world's most perfect M.A.S.H. playing outfit.

I am wearing this sweater and I am totally going to marry Jonathan Brandis (RIP)*, have five kids, live in a mansion in Florida, and drive a yellow Mustang convertible.

I can already feel Holly punching me in the face when I announce that I didn't actually purchase this sweater. The photos are from the store. As priceless as it is, my apartment is too small and this sweater too crunchy and acrylic to pay $7 for. But through the magic of the internet, we can still all enjoy it. And it is still out in the world! On the loose! You could find it someday!

This next inner child top is the result of one of those thrifting moments when you transcend yourself. When you pull something that is going to take you in to brand new unexplored territory. I am along for the ride. The ride in to Fluorescent Velour Land.

In this top I am totally wearing stirrup pants, at the roller rink, and nursing a super rope for as long as humanly possible.

I love how the pockets and sleeves are ribbed. And I can already see the WTF? looks I will get when I first wear it.

Those are precisely the faces I got today when I wore this sweater for the first time. I mean, what is not to get?!

An asymmetrical V-neck, an asymmetrical hem, and fluorescent jumbo confetti design. In this sweater, I'm pretty sure it's my own birthday party, at Showbiz Pizza, and I am mentally unwrapping Barbie-box shaped Birthday presents while those creepy animatronic puppets sing me Happy Birthday.

*decidedly, Jonathan Brandis was an early 90's heartthrob, but he was my first real-deal heartthrob so I had to use him in my M.A.S.H. scenario. Please forgive the anachronism.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reader Finds! Sage Dawson's Beauts!

We are so very excited to present our new guest post feature, Reader Finds! Sage Dawson of Springfield, Missouri, was kind enough to share some of her recent thrifted finds with us. Sage has been a thrifter for about twelve years, and it shows in her treasures, which are making me drool (in the classiest way possible).They are so great that I am seriously contemplating a special trip down to Missouri to see what I am missing! Check out her sweet art on her blog Mint Map. Now on to the thrifted gems!


Southwestern Pink/Purple Sweater with Patches
Normally I wouldn't go for a sweater quite this southwestern, but when I saw the patches and the thunderbird I couldn't help myself. It's such a strange sweater and fondly reminds of New Mexico where I used to live. I found this for $2 at a local thrift shop.


Parrot Collar
This is such a unique piece. I found this for $1 at a flea market in Joplin, Missouri recently.


I had a pair of moccasins that I bought a while back from the mall, but a couple years ago I got rid of them because they were falling apart; my husband kept having to re-glue to soles. This was particularly annoying because they were expensive. I resigned myself to no longer being a part of moccasin fashion, until I recently found these just a couple weeks ago. I took a day trip to Crane, Missouri (just 45 minutes from home) and I hit the jackpot. These were just $1 and fit perfectly.


Danish-ish Sweater, Green
I also found this sweater in Crane, Missouri. It's a youth size, but fortunately I'm an extra small and could squeeze into it. This sweater is embroidered with figures of children and has a collar to die for. I bought this at a thrift shop that was run by two elderly women who encouraged me to rummage through the piles of clothing just in, as they were putting them out. It was practically a dream come true. My heart was beating fast and I had a full-on thrifting high while there.


60s Floral Cocktail Dress
$5 for this beauty. It's super fitted too, so quite charming to wear.


Pink Shirt
Made for Andrade. This is a prime example of a piece I wouldn't normally thrift. It's pretty bright for my taste and I was unsure about the choice to mix the paisley pattern with what appears to be some sort of pattern meant to look like batik. I went for it, mainly because Holly and Laurie have inspired me to branch out. This shirt is fitted and stops right at the waist, so it's perfect belted with a black dress underneath. $2 at a local thrift shop.


I found this belt for $1 while thrifting recently.

Thanks to Sage for sharing these with Operation Sparkle! It is great to see that others love thrifting as much as we do! If you would like to share your treasures for a Reader Finds post, just drop us an email with text and photos at !

Happy thrifting!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thrifting Crisis: Controlling the Situation

As Laurie explored the other day, sometimes what we find ourselves thrifting doesn't make any sense. Not that there is always rhyme or reason, or cohesion between the items that we thrift, but usually there is at least the sense that the items we thrift can be viewed as something that "Holly would buy" or "Laurie would buy" or whoever buying the item would buy.

Then there are the times when you find yourself with a cart full of crap that you are, in the deepest darkest depths of your soul, questioning. You may be questioning your cart contents, the items that, out of all the items in the store, you selected as being at least worthy enough to be added to the cart. You may even question your grip on reality and your own self-worth. Sometimes this is result of forcing yourself to go thrifting when you really shouldn't be thrifting. Sometimes it is merely an indicator that your style is shifting, or that you are trying a new look out. Sometimes it is just because the thrifting gods are not on your side.

So why all this ranting and raving about feeling disconnected with one's thrifting flow? Well, it is because the other day, I decided to go to one of my favorite thrift shops in the Twin Cities area, ARC Value Village in Richfield. I have found some amazing finds at ARC, which keeps me going back, despite the fact that it is on the pricier side. Keeping this in mind, I decided that it might be "fun" to limit my spending to $10 ($15 max!) and started conceptualizing the whole trip as a sort of "challenge" to share with all of you.

Once at ARC, I found myself in some what of a tailspin. Determined to spend at least $10, I started adding items to my cart that I normally wouldn't consider, but thought that maybe this challenge would include trying to piece together some random finds to make up this $10 total. As I was not finding any pieces that immediately jumped off the rack at me, I thought that perhaps this was one of those thrifting challenges, sent by the gods of thrift, testing my ability to see the beauty in items that, at first glance, may seem at odds with my personal style, ridiculous, or just plain ugly.


My rejects. Notice the nasty printed top I grabbed due to its key hole back and the "Florida" slip skirt. WTF.

If that wasn't enough to cloud my normally clear thrifting vision, I kept hearing the volunteers talking about how beautiful it was out and how everyone was busy celebrating St. Patricks day, which led to a mounting sense of panic that one can only experience when they have suffered through a Minnesota winter and are faced with one of the first beautiful days of the year. Determined to stay on task, I tried to keep my head in the game by reminding myself to take advantage of the lack of shoppers (due to the holiday).

But the time I reached the dressing room, almost two hours had passed, I had a cart full of junk that I wasn't really excited about AND my panic about how much time I was wasting on a seemingly wasteful excursion was reaching major proportions. That is when I saw it.

Bronze Vintage Sequin Dress

An almost perfect vintage, bronze covered-in-sequins cocktail dress.

This was it! The dress was hanging on a rack near the dressing rooms, obviously on its way back out to the floor. It never got there. I yanked it off and ran into one of the rooms, knowing that, no matter what, this dress was going to be something I was leaving with.

It ended up being fabulous. There was a small rip in the seam of the top shoulder, which can be easily fixed for even the most clumsy of sewers (i.e. me). The fabric is amazing and stretchy and while one may consider the dress as "large" on me, the cut is such that it looks boxy in a very good way.

Bronze Vintage Sequin Dress (detail)

Check out the amazing sequin detail! The entire thing is covered like this, so it weighs about 20 pounds.

Bronze Vintage Sequin Dress (back)

Check out the low v-neck back on this number. Totally sexy.

I had found a thrifting gem in a land of duds. At $12.99, I was over my $10 limit. I knew I was going to get the dress, no questions asked. But what about the remaining $2.01 I had left to the $15 maximum? Fast and furiously, I started editing the items I had compiled over the past two hours, should there be some gem that I forgot about, or at least some item that priced low enough to keep under the $15 total.

Linen Embroidered  Top
Linen Embroidered Top (detail)

I only found a couple items priced low enough to not max out my total. But I did resurface this number: a linen embroidered
top. Priced at $3.99, it put me over my maximum, but I couldn't question it. Even the color scheme fit with the dress. It was like no other top I have ever seen. It would look great with my new rust colored shorts, my new leather shorts, or, for maximum wackiness, my new vintage plaid skirt.

I left ARC going $1.98 over my "maximum" limit. Despite not meeting this challenge, I felt satisfied, with no regrets. I had found two amazing, unique pieces that I felt one with. And that, my friends, is a thrifting success.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrating the Spring Equinox! What to Wear to a Fertility Ritual

The Spring Equinox is one of those times of year when, upon receiving a last minute invite to a fertility ritual, you dive into the darkest depths of your closet in a slightly panicked state, hoping to somehow emerge with the perfect outfit. It is precisely these times when years of impulse thrift store buys have their moments of glory. Madly clutching __________ (in my case, sheer floor length glitter-printed slip) over your head in victory, you vaguely recall two years ago insisting on the nonsensical purchase with the assertion that SOMEDAY, someday, you will say to yourself, "I am so glad I bought this."

That is precisely the feeling I had when Holly suggested that we do a Spring Equinox post, and I recalled these hand-painted wooden eggs that I picked up last summer thrifting in Milwaukee. When purchasing these eggs, somewhere deep down, I KNEW, I simply knew, that someday I would do an Oestral-themed blog post, and they would be the perfect lead in.

If there is one Equinox tradition that cannot be foregone, it is the painting of eggs. It is by the ritual of adornment of these symbols of all earthly fertility that we imbue them with magic to supply the coming season with fruitfulness and goodness.

And what better magic-egg-painting outfit could you hope for than this hand embroidered tunic that I picked up for the equivalent of $5 in St. Petersburg, Russia, a few summers ago. Nothing says Eastern European-peasant-pagan-holiday much more than this.

This next piece is for the feast. Another Equinox tradition is the offering and planting of flowers and plants, making luscious floral prints the perfect attire. I have never had an opportunity to wear this dress because I feel as though it most often reads as being "too costume-y". But who is really going to have the guts to through a "too costume-y" stone at an Equinox feast? I think not.

I so love this print, all peach watercolor roses.

Why not pile those florals on, for extra effect? How about this gorgeous tulip printed silk scarf.

As per my reference above, next up is this sheer floor length gold glitter printed slip, for the after dark festivities.

Who needs undergarments at a fertility ritual? Just you and a little see-through glitter action, to promise that you will get plenty of action.

The glitter didn't read very well in the larger picture, so here is some detail. SOOOO PRETTY. It will just make you sparkle in the starlight like a real moon goddess.

In case you get cold at the bonfire, you can throw on this crocheted gold mesh cardigan, whose web-like design mimics the shape of the universe itself.

There you go! All phases of your Spring Equinox festivities are covered!