Monday, May 30, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Not Just For Yoga Instructors

So it's all lead up to this; this great, final, epic, and #1 TOP TANK TOP. What is so unique and strange and definitive as to make rise to the top of the heap? This field has been so impressive, it must be magic, or unicorns, or pornography, surely.

But no! It's a quasi-Buddhist plastic bead mandala-esque medallion racer back tank!

Like your weird new age-y neighbor or yoga instructor might wear!!!!! Or me!!!

But come on. Truly, I am in love with this:

There is tactility to this technique that cannot be denied, and the best adjective I can come up with to describe the design (aside from mandala-esque, which, you have to hand to me) is "kaleidoscopic", a word that has probably never before in the history of mankind been employed to describe a tank top. Which is exciting, and surely warrants being #1.

And as thought that weren't enough, this tag is candy-coated preciousness:

TIPPY TOPS! TIPPY TOPS! Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Summer Perfect

For my #2 TOP TANK TOP, I feel as though there is not much explaining to do. And since everyone is surely much busier partying hard, I will keep it short and sweet.

Check it:

Take note, Memorial Day Weekend: This tank + Cut Offs = Summer Fashion Perfection, pure and simple. It's as summer as F-ing baseball and lemonade.

It is simply the stuff that summer wardrobe dreams are made of, and for $3, dreaming comes cheap. The print is amazing, the colors are right on, and the silhouette is the form perfected.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: BRUCE

Even though I have found pieces through thrifting that I never imagined even existed, there are a few items that are so elusive, I have pretty much given up ever coming across them in a thrifting context. While the number one item I constantly search for but never find amidst all the copies of Jurassic Park and Jerry Maguire is a VHS copy of Purple Rain, another equally elusory item would fall under the category of "original concert t-shirts."

To be fair, I have, over years of disappointment, pretty much cut out rifling through the racks of men's and boys' t-shirts while thrifting. Though I found my most favorite t-shirt of all time at a thrift store back in Madison on such a rack, the benefits of doing so were greatly usurped by the amount of time I was wasting, when I could have been going through a section that would, without a doubt, afford me at least one treasure.

Imagine my surprise, then, when, doing my normal hunting through women's tops at a Salvation Army in St. Paul, I found this number:

Vintage Bruce Springsteen Tour Top
Vintage Bruce Springsteen Tour Top (detail)
Vintage Bruce Springsteen Tour Top (back)

An original* sleeveless "Born in the USA" Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirt.

When I found this piece, I had a major thrifting rush. I ran all over the store, showing off my find to my friends (who included Laurie, in town for the her then annual forced summer vacation courtesy of Gap corporation) and was so excited that I started getting paranoid—the tag might fall off, someone might see its gloriousness and grab it from my cart when I wasn't looking, I might misplace it amongst all my other treasures on that trip.

My excitement and paranoia was so fervent that Mary and Laurie thought it would be a "funny" joke to take it out of my bag when they were grabbing their things out of my trunk as I was dropping them off.

I won't get into the details about how this whole scenario ended up playing out, but let's just say I have never wanted to knife anyone like I did when I realized that my bag was missing my pride and joy. Everything worked out though, and I am pretty certain that Laurie and Mary will never play a practical joke involving thrifting pieces on me again.

*I have done a lot (like an hour's worth) of research on this top, trying to determine whether or not it is indeed authentic. With everyone from Urban Outfitters to Kmart reissuing concert t's, the last thing you want to do is sing the praises of a t-shirt just to find out someone actually bought it from Kohl's three years ago.**
** This also makes it difficult for people who actually obtain the real concert t-shirts, as then others start assuming they are just buying their t's reissued, which my friend Nick found out when he got into a fight with some biker dude about a real concert t-shirt he was wearing.***
***Concert t-shirts tend to illicit strong feelings in those purists who care about the authenticity of such tops.

Friday, May 27, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Get Your Rave On, I Know I Am

Yes, I am doing it, I am going there.

Remember that weird period in the 90's, circa 96', when this weird rave-ified version of the 60's came back? Instead of 60's on acid, as they were, it was 60's on extacy? Aside from freely associating drug-related subcultures, fashion-wise, it mostly had to do with tiny topically "psychedelic" halter tops to pair with oversized pants. Overall, not a proud moment for fashion, or drugs, or subculture, but that is not stopping me from going there.

I bring you my #3 TOP TANK TOP, and my #1 fashion risk for the summer, this 90's rave-style space-dyed high-neck halter top:

I cannot tell you what exactly made me decide that this was a good decision. In fact, I just described why it is a bad decision. But with Lady Gaga and whatnot, these days it is very hard to find a piece of fashion history that is not already being borrowed from, this being one of the few. And otherwise, I legitimately like it.

I find that the high halter look is actually flattering and rather sophisticated, compared to its booby counterpart, which has been more the style for the past decade. Another key factor at play in my attraction to this top has also got to be that, at the time this was actually in style,this was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to wear. Still reeling from 12 years of Catholic school dress code, however, this seemed very risque and beyond me. But I am back to reclaim it!

Then there is, of course, this lovely space-dyed stripe, and I am such a sucker for anything space-dyed. Like I really, really love it, even at it's cheesiest. I have a whole collection of 70's space dyed sweaters that I only wear around the house because they are kind of embarrassing but I love them. But that is a whole other blog post.

And then, for your enjoyment, is this webpage, a part of the Fantazia Rave Archive, about the different categories of ravers, and the fashion that defines them. The internet is a glorious thing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: As DIY As I get/The Winona Ryder Vest Top

This may come as shock considering the fact that I run a zine about creative women (C.L.A.P.) and am an artist, but I am actually not that crafty. Years of attempting to start craft projects and "getting into" sewing resulted in piles of unfinished stuffed nylon dolls and and more containers with crafting materials than I can find room for. I suppose I could blame my lack of commitment to the crafting lifestyle on my mother's lack of support/expertise ("I can't sew and I failed home ec," she used to lament), but really it has much more to do with my contradictory tendencies towards perfection and lack of patience.

That said, while I absolutely love the idea of this fantasy in which I take so-so thrifted garments that have so much potential and turn them into beautiful works of art, I am a bit more grounded in reality. A reality in which the closest I will come to altering a garment will be through the use of a pair of scissors. Sometimes, however, this is all a garment needs.

Case in point: my deep teal button-down Winona Ryder circa Reality Bites tank vest.

Winona Ryder Vest Top
Winona Ryder Vest Top (back detail)

Another much loved piece, I found this thrifting years ago. Except, at the time it was a knee-length body slimming dress—a dress that would be totally awesome if it could actually button over my hips and butt. I couldn't pass up a piece that so screamed Reality Bites (and admittedly, the only positive attribute of that whole shitty film is the fashion and possibly Janeane Garofalo's* character), and this was even before the whole 90's fashion revival. I adored the color, the cut, the buttons and the strange tiered sculpturing on the neck, so despite the impossible fit, I bought it. The solution? Cut the bottom off and wah-la! A perfect button-up vest tank!

Sure it is an uneven and fraying hem, along with ripped arm holes from my attempt at creating a more relaxed fit, but like Laurie's adorable top from yesterday, I have had years of memories wearing this piece—and that is what makes it a true treasure!

*Word to the wise: if you google Janeane Garofalo's name misspelled you get a whole slew of insulting/depressing results. People apparently really hate her and liberals. And they love Dane Cook.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Sentimental Value and Staying Power

For all of the clothes that I cycle through in the course of a few years--buying, selling, donating, or otherwise purging--it is really exciting when something survives in my wardrobe for years. It is both a badge of honor for the garment itself, and for me, for not thoughtlessly discarding it in an anxious panic over my exponentially growing wardrobe. It is even more exciting when it sits on the bench for years, because it's not really doing it for me at the moment, but I figure it will eventually, and then that time does really eventually come.

Such is the case with my #4 TOP TANK TOP, this 80's JC Penney color block shoulder button tank with pointed yoke:

For all the reasons above, this tank makes it near the top of my list. I thrifted this sometime in the Summer of 2003 when I was living in Milwaukee, and it was a favorite top for the summers of '03 and '04. I wore it constantly. Coincidentally, it got bumped from my lineup right around the time I moved to New York, resulting in my strong sentimental associations between this top and my last year or so living in Milwaukee. In my mind, it defines an era of my life, in the very best kind of way.

Now that (not really) colorblocking is all he rage again, it is going to get play again in the summer of 2011, a solid 7 years later. And what a gem it is! The white pointed woven yoke with red shoulder snaps is just precious, and actually does some flattering stuff for my meager bosoms. The red and white combo is a classic, and the knit bottom fits like a dream.

The thing really is just a big ole piece of candy. And to top it all off, the adorable retro JC Penney tag.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Some Rules are Made to Be Broken

While it certainly helps to abide by certain self-imposed rules during your thrifting escapades, sometimes a thrifter needs to know when to break those rules. Case in point? This totally awesome black lace leotard I thrifted a while back from the Salvation Army on a particularly fruitful day of Salvation Army shopping. Though Laurie and I have long operated under the confines of "no crotches," I find myself occasionally breaking this rule for a rad swimsuit or leotard or even a shiny blue spandex full body suit.

Black Lace Bodysuit
Black Lace Bodysuit Close Up

This piece arrived in my life at the height of American Apparel's pushing of all things lace, particulary in the bodysuit/leotard territory. As the store's trends tend to, like Urban Outfitters, mimic thrifted style, I wasn't surprised to find this number for a mere dollar or two. Not only did it cost a fraction of what AA would charge for it, but it has everything you could ask for in a lace body suit—snapped bottom (for easy bathroom usage, a must for full body pieces), french cut to keep things interesting (even with the highest waisted of pants, it is apparent this "tank" is more than just a tank), and of course, black lace, the sexiest of all laces.

While I suppose this is technically not a "tank top" per say, I think we can bend (possibly even break?) the rules of this countdown as well. Because, truthfully, the only way I can really see myself wearing this in public is under a pair of bottoms which then transforms a full leotard into, ta-da!, a tank top!

Monday, May 23, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: On Biodiversity, Fashion, & Thrifting

Sometimes, cataloging our thrifting finds reminds me of (one of the most amazing places in New York City) the Hall of Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History. The Hall of Biodiversity is a massive hall adorned with thousands upon thousands of animal specimens, from the tiniest insect, to the most massive whales. Generally, the experience of being confronted by the scale of the infinite variation of life on Planet Earth and the genius of evolution is awe-inspiring and ego squashing. Much the same, a solid day of thrift-store scavenging and a handful of finds that you could have never conjured with you wildest imagination can elicit feelings of smallness and wonder.

My #5 TOP TANK TOP is such a find, a symphonic assemblage of intuitive details, that only the genius of evolution could design:

Like the nervous system of a jelly fish, it is a delicate, simple, but perfect thing.

Firstly, the color; a pale peach. These "nude" tones are all the rage, although I will declare that I have long been a proponent of such shades, long before they were trendy. In fact, I started wearing this top LAST summer. So there. But I digress.

Next, the fantastic silhouette. It's a tank, as designated by the straps, but the body is like a fitted vest, complete with princess seams and pointed hem detail. Take a vest body and turn it in to a tank? Genius!

Then there are the lovely looped button holes and close-set buttons. It reminds me of Victorian garment details--overwrought and painstaking--in the best kind of way.

Last but not least, tightly, finely shirred back side panels, and if that weren't enough, adjustable button straps. I tempt Nature to design something so perfect.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: The Magic of a Bag Sale

It occurs to me as we get deeper into this countdown that the tanks I have reserved for the end may not be the most flashy of my tanks, nor are they the ones which look the most impressive. Indeed, these tanks are some of my most loved, and therefore are now the most worn, stained, ripped, etc. Please take my word that these pieces were once pristine, even by thrifting standards.

That said, I present you with a piece that didn't immediately wow me. In fact, if it wasn't for a bag sale up near Spooner, WI that Laurie and I accidentally stumbled upon (resulting in a incidence where we may or may not have made a small child wait at a closed zoo while we were ravenously stuffing whatever we could into a bag for $2), I probably wouldn't have picked it up. At Laurie's urging, however, I did, and boy am I glad I listened.

Red Ribbed Button-down Tank
Red Ribbed Button-down Tank (detail)

For what was probably about 10¢, I came away with an excellent casual tank that has been a staple in my wardrobe since—the ribbed, button-down red cotton tank.

Now cotton tanks are a dime a dozen and most don't age well—think pilling, stains, fading. But for this piece, age has done it well, as it has settled into a perfectly worn comfort zone. Even the red hasn't faded into a color that resembles a pair of period panties—while it is surely not as radiant as it once was, it still provides a perfect amount of pop to any outfit. With the subtle ribbing (alternating lines of thick and thin, which puts it above the typical ribbed tank of this material) and buttons, it perfects that 90's tank look but not in a dated way. A perfect example of why bag sales are so bomb, this tank proves that given a good enough sale, you can walk away with treasures you don't even recognize until you begin to incorporate them into your wardrobe. And that, my friends, is why bag sales are so magical!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Trompe Le'oeil Tank

The only double showing on a countdown in Operation Sparkle's brief but storied history, my #6 TOP TANK TOP, that once rocked us all the way to Christmas 2010, is going to play tricks on our eyes in the summertime.

It is going to be tough not to repeat myself with this one, but it is surely worth it. Still, six months later, this remains one the most amazing prints I have ever seen. It truly produces a trompe le'oeil effect, appearing to be 3D, as much as any printed textile I've ever seen. I ask you, how many tromp le'oeil tops do YOU have, huh? And it's from the Limited! Can you ever imagine finding this at a Limited store? I can't even figure what era it's from. It seems pretty early 90's, but I shopped at the Limited in the early 90's, and they sure didn't have this kind of stuff there. They had oversized V-neck sweaters and broomstick skirts. Or maybe the Limited store in the Green Bay mall got all the boring stuff, because Green Bay is boring. This is very possible.

I fully owe this find to Cortney Heimerl, who first found this top while thrifting together, and handed off to me after seeing "the look on (my) face" when she held it up. It is always good to be giving while thrifting, and to hand off things to someone who it is more suitable for. If you do, you're more likely to be on the receiving end. And we all want to be on the receiving end, at least every now and then.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: More Flowy Florals

In my book, there is really nothing better than a simple flowy tank with a cute pattern. It goes with almost everything, can be layered for even wintertime wear and is light enough to throw on over your bikini for a day at the beach. In other words, a perfect go-to kind of top.

As I previously mentioned, I scored some great tanks last spring in one trip to ARC Value Village—the Lux floral and lace camisole, the Jonathan Martin button-down print tank, and now this, the flowy floral boxy tank.


This tan and navy floral print number is one of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe. The color palette can be paired with a lot of pieces, while the subtleness of the tones mean that you can either go for contrast (say pairing it with a bright ensemble) or cohesion (by wearing other neutral colors). The floral pattern is interesting without being obnoxious (there is certainly something to be said for 90's floral patterns that don't resemble something off of a Lisa Frank folder), and again, subtle enough to add complexity to an outfit without overtaking it. Plus, even though the colors and pattern are understated, there is the WTF element in that it features tan roses (say what?!).

Beyond the tone and print of this tank, I love it for its fit—loose and flowy, the boxy shape fits perfectly and is actually flattering. One of the biggest bonuses of this top? No arm pit pinching! This is such an issue with so many tanks, I am surprised that it hasn't come up sooner in our countdown. But then again, for me, if a top pinches the pits in the dressing room, it doesn't leave the store. It also doesn't hurt that one of the more ridiculous 90's brands, Rampage, is responsible for its existence.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Paying $3 for Catherine Malandrino Might Make You Self Righteous

One of the greatest joys of thrifting is to know that, no matter how or why you do it, you are most certainly always beating the system. You are personally telling The Man that he has no power over you, and that you cannot, and will not, be bought and sold. Except on those rare occasions when a tractor beam pulls you in to a Forever 29 and you buy some trendy sweat shop piece of shit that you are not allowed to return once lucidity is regained, and you have to shower to get the guilt off. But aside from those times, beating the system, and nailing those deals to the wall, supplies you with a high that keeps you coming back for more.

The only time the high of nailing a deal gets higher, is when you nail a designer deal. And that brings me to my #7 TOP TANK TOP, this Catherine Malandrino fine-gauge crocheted tank:

Oooohhhh aaaahhhh it's just so PRETTY. You can see in the detail shot below, the knit has this fantastic texture and tiny fancy knit stitch. The crochet-ball trim on the straps and tie is divine, and you can't really tell in the picture, but it has a criss-cross back. All that fashion--real, bonafide, European fashion--for THREE DOLLARS. $3.

And let the gloating begin! This is when you kick back and think, what SUCKERS people are. I mean, are they just dumb? or lazy? or are they dumb AND lazy? Because, shit, whoever paid $250 for this is some kind of sucker. If they weren't so dumb and lazy, they would be smart like me, and thrift it, and pay $3, and tell all of their friends to make them jealous.

Any idiot can pay full price for designer clothes at a department store, but it takes a genius to get the same thing for 98% off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Better Than a Pillow Case

It appears as though my shaming of mother earth last weekend worked because we have been having 70 degree temps and gorgeous, sunny days! What better way to show my appreciation for this blessing than with my most hippiest of tanks: The Mother Earth Tank.

Mother Earth Tank
Mother Earth Tank (back)
Mother Earth Tank (detail)

I just picked up this baby in Chicago (more amazing finds from that trip to come!) and was thisclose to not being able to get it, as the rather bitchy sales lady didn't see the tag right away and, without even saying anything to me, discarded it as they are apparently very strict about the "no tag, no sale" policy at Family Thrift. Luckily, I was paying attention and caught this, thus saving the day.

It is my belief that everyone should have at least one piece in their wardrobe they can refer to as a "mother earth" piece. I've looked for quite sometime for mine and I am pleased that we have finally found each other. The lace detail and embroidery is fantastic, I love the button-down back, and it is made of this great soft cottony linen that will breath in the summertime. While I do fear it will make me look a bit preggers, as these tiered baby-doll cut tops always do, I think that when I am feeling particularly womanly, I'll be fine with rocking it.

At any rate, it is far cuter than the mother earth tops of my boss Kitty's college days in Lawrence Kansas, when the hippie chicks would make their tops by quilting shit onto pillow cases and tying them to their bodies with string (open backs of course). While I can totally get down with some Birkenstock action and following The Dead, when it comes to DIY open back tanks, no thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Baby's First Espirit

My #8 TOP TANK TOP is a nod to Operation Sparkle's #8 thrifting tip: do not discount categories/departments that don't "fit" you. Like, literally, don't fit you. Like this fantastic (literally) little number doesn't; a little girl's multi-colored, multi-funky, plaid Espirit button down tank!

On a little girl, this is actually a full-size, back button top. But on me, it is a shrunken cropped button-front vest! Now howdya like that! With a black tank underneath and a denim skirt or pair of shorts, I mean, how cute. And not a soul will be the wiser that God did not intend it to be worn that way. The people who categorized it at the thrift store didn't even know, as I found it in the women's section, even though the tag says "Espirit kids".

Not to mention this sweet plaid action, with embroidered stripe detail.

It also gets points for reminding me of elementary school, when everyone had to have an Espirit book bag, or you were simply not cool. You know what I'm talking about. Those bags were the be all and end all school yard trend in the early 90's. Now, if Espirit were really smart, they would start making these again, throwback style, because everybody f-ing loves nostalgia. F-ing loves it, more than anything. They'd make a million dollars.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: I hate Mondays

I don't even have a traditional work schedule (in fact, today is my day off), but because I love office humor/Garfield/the comic Cathy (ACK! Chocolate!) sooooo much*, I hate Mondays. Of course, this could also be due to the fact that I am so in touch with the energies of the universe that I am picking up on all the negative vibes being emitted from all the 9-5ers laboring away out there.

Since Mondays suck, I try to allow myself a "free pass" as much as possible on Mondays. What better way to enjoy a free pass than by doing some "lite" day drinking?

And what better place to do some light day drinking than the Joint**, home of the Monday all day $1.50 happy hour? Of course, $1.50 happy hour can quickly lapse into heavy day-into-night drinking, but for someone on a budget with a love of the BEST CHEESE CURDS IN THE CITY, the Joint is where it is at.

As the Joint is a biker bar, and I am entertaining the idea of heading over there as I write this, I present you with my daily tank top, as inspired by this fabulous establishment:

Vintage Sturgis Tanktop

The 1989 Sturgis Tank Top.

Now, normally little ribbed tanks with lace trimming are ass, but the fact that this is a vintage piece celebrating the most badass biking celebration offsets that rule. Now, I can't pretend that I know a whole lot about biking culture, but I am willing to bet that Sturgis in 1989 was a bit more badass than today's annual event, where (from what I gathered from a print publication found in the hotel room we were staying at en route to Portland a couple years ago***) the festival has become a bit of a stomping ground for middle-agers bent on pretending that they still are/ever were actual badasses.

The thing about this top is that, despite its awesomeness, wearing such a declaration of biking culture is not a task to be taken lightly. As I am not a biker, I don't want to be that poser who shows up at the Joint wearing it. Conversely, wearing a Sturgis top anywhere is apparently an invitation to old biker dudes to strike up a conversation with you, so it helps to have a few drinks in you.

Such is the dilemma I face with the Sturgis tank. Regardless, I greatly admire this top and can only imagine the sorts of adventures it has the potential to get me in.

**I just came across a description of the Joint that called it "a sunny place for shady people."
***Note: if you are moving your brother across the country, take note of when the largest motorcycle festival is happening if you are planning on spending the night in South Dakota. Of course, if you don't, you may have the pleasure of engaging in conversation with Hells Angels wearing brass knuckles while they fill up their tanks and try to shove boxes of condoms into their packs.****
****True story.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Saucy Hemlines

My next TOP TANK TOP earned one of the few coveted spots on the unofficial short list of Top Summer Pieces Thrifted During the Winter Months that I Can’t Wait to be Able to Wear. In the company of other tanks, however, it gets bumped up a little higher. This was determined by mathematically subtracting the value of a top position on my “Top Summer Pieces…” list from the square root of the value of the cumulative “TOP TANK TOP” list, resulting in this white crinkle tent-tunic/dress/tank rolling in at a respectable #9.

The reason that I am so jazzed about this tank is its versatility, which is suggested by how cross-categorical it is, as denoted by all the slashes utilized in describing it. It is versatile because you can call how you want to play it, and you can play it all kinds of ways. On a short girl (not I), it could be worn as a mini dress. On myself, it almost works as a mini dress, except that the surreptitiously shortens at a very crucial point, making it quite indecent. I wore this one time already, in TX where it is already very much summer, with short shorts. It produces quite the interesting illusion, as the shorts were nearly totally invisible, save for where the hem raises. Let's just say, I noticed people noticing, or maybe it was more like wondering. I am all for perceived indecency, it can only be a bonus. It would also be great as a beach cover-up, where perceived indecency is totally socially acceptable. Worn with pants, it is even work appropriate.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Tiniest Tank for the Coldest Day

So today was supposed to be a fantastic spring day. I had a whole line-up of fabulous outdoor spring things to do on my Saturday off—a trip to the farmers market to stock up on my summer herbs (decided after last summer's heinous yield that I am forgoing veggies and only planting herbs this year), a spin around the Seward garage sales and an afternoon BBQ at my friends' Grant and Sarah's place.

Guess what?

I woke up on this most glorious of May 14ths to find....46 degree temps and rain.

WTF to the max.

So, rather than letting the weather get me down too much (we are still doing the BBQ at the very least and substituting other outdoor activities with painting and a viewing of Bridesmaids), I am flipping ma nature the bird and presenting my most tiny, summery tank I've got:


The Lux Floral and Lace Camisole.

I couldn't believe my luck, as on one trip to Value Village last spring I picked up this piece, my rope pattern Jonathan Martin tank from a few posts back and another, even more favorite tank that you will need to wait to see (get excited. As excited as you can get for a tank top).

While such a tank isn't as versatile as some tanks are, having strappy cotton tops like this are a MUST for those rare, but extreme, summer days when temps reach the triple digits and the humidity index makes you feel like you are swimming in a puddle of your own sweat. Not only does a tank like this allow for maximum breathability, it is beyond cute. The floral print and lace are a bit girly for my tastes, but I love the pink and gray on navy action. I also believe that when you are dripping in weather that is leading to the occasional hallucination, a little touch of feminine charm is totally acceptable, as it can be one way to offset the decidedly unsexiness of extreme heat.*

*Another option, of course, is to just wear your birthday suit, but as far as I know, you can't thrift that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Austin TX Special Trip Preview

This next tank top, my #10 TOP TANK TOP, is a little preview to my coming feature (next month, after this epic countdown), my special trip to Austin, Texas. The deals were abundant, the fashion, fresh and exciting, the breakfast tacos, bean-filled and satisfying. To tide you over until my feature on Austin TX, in case that breakfast taco reference wasn’t enough, I give you this lovely bold African-printed tank!

I picked this guy up at a thrift store (which will remain anonymous, I am under strict orders) that was conveniently located across the street from my motel, for a whopping $2. I spend quite a bit of time in Austin, and I find that this place is always reliable for tank tops. In fact, I think I have only ever bought tank tops there, oddly enough. But I digress. What makes this tank top great is not only the fantastic geometric stripe African-style print, but how it is asymmetrically applied. Not only that (again!), it has a slightly off-center pleat with a vertical boarder stripe, making for a really interesting composition of the wearers torso and chest. Who doesn’t want their torso redesigned? I mean, come on.

That is A LOT of design for one tank top, and $2, and a short trip across the street. Even cheaper than a breakfast taco.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Back to the Basics

While Laurie is having a quarter + fourlife crisis about seeing her 20's slipping away (three words for you: pitchers of margaritas), I have been contemplating my own existence. More specifically, my style existence. After a five day migraine, one failed attempt at a gluten-free diet, one vomiting/pooing dog, a viewing of American Beauty, a haircut at the hands of my beloved and a well deserved Party Pizza, I finally remember who I am. My next daunting task, however, is to revisit the piles of clothing in my room and continue the process of my spring time purge (yes, I realize this has been going on for about a month now. I am very busy).

One of the most tedious things about purging a closet filled with thrifted finds is deciding which gems are actually gems that I will wear and which gems are actually just chunks of coal that haven't quite gotten to the diamond stage of their lives and are more likely to get there hanging in someone else's closet. As the most exciting thing about thrifting for me (I said it. The MOST exciting thing about thrifting) is finding the most crazy, unimaginable pieces you never even imagined existed, I have a lot of pieces that require major effort to incorporate in my daily wardrobe.

Keeping this in mind, sometimes it is best to look for basic pieces while thrifting. Sure, they aren't the most exciting things to write about (or photograph), but while your turquoise dress overcoat with a flower on the shoulder that is the size of your head haunts you until you are ready to come to terms with parting with it, basics will never do you wrong. They will never hurt you, or make you angry every time you open your drawers. They will be like trusted friends, who are always there when you need a foundation for a totally amazing outfit or to conceal your boobs in that sheer top.

Such is the case with my second Jonathan Martin (unicorns!) tank in this countdown—a black silk camisole.


Yawn, right? Even if I was the most amazing photographer in the world, with the best camera money can buy, I probably still couldn't photograph this top in a way that would make you want to thrift it. Yet, the uses of this cami are endless—I picked this up for a few bucks a year ago and it has been an excellent go-to for topping crazy bottoms, for wearing underneath tops that need a nice base layer, or for those days when I feel like I am in the Ab Fab minimalist skit*.

Even if it isn't much to brag about, I know for a fact that this will be staying in my closet for years to come—and that is why sometimes it pays to thrift for the basics.

*I tried for like eight minutes** to find a clip of this video, because it is one of my favorites and I think everyone deserves to see it, but because the BBC Worldwide corporation apparently is more concerned with money than enhancing the world by sharing creativity and humor (excuse me, humour), I can't. Sorry.
** Eight minutes spent googling "Absolutely Fabulous minimalism" is like 160 minutes in real life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: On Tank Tops, and Existential Dread

There are moments when I suddenly realize that I have been living in New York for a long-ass time/ I am getting old. Usually, it happens when I am suddenly reminded of something or someplace that used to exist, or that I "always used to" do or go to. Then I realize that that place or thing hasn't existed for at least three years, and that I used to go there or do that "all the time" five or six years ago. Then I begin to wonder how the hell it is even possible that I have been sucked in to the k-hole that is New York City for going on seven years now, my twenties are almost over.....and cue the existential crisis.

What, you might wonder, does existential dread have to do with tank tops, and where this all going? Well, my next tank on the countdown, my #11 TOP TANK TOP, a blue chambray tie waist cropped button down sleeveless top with jumbo notched collar, triggered such an episode upon recently rediscovering it. But first, the top:

For such a tiny piece of clothing, there is a lot of action happening here. Just look how long and rambling my description of it is, to include all of it's fabulous features? To recap; it's light blue chambray, which is, if I had a segment to categorize such suitable commonplace phenomenon, a good thing. It is cropped with a tie waste, which is retro to about 3 different decades (I would argue, 60's, 70's, and 80's at least), and best of all, has a giant floppy notched collar. Moving on to existential dread.

When I recently rediscovered this piece, I realized that I got it at the Avenue A flea market in the East Village what must have been about 4 years ago. The Avenue A flea market was this adorable little flea market in a church parking lot that was pretty affordable and always entertaining. My boyfriend and I would often go before or after weekend brunch and see what we could find. I scored this top for a mere $1 from my favorite vendor there, a sketchy setup, were a few guys would dump a huge pile of clothes on a couple of folding tables, many of which were from Urban Outfitters, and charge $1 a piece no matter what it was. I would often buy a bunch of the Urban stuff and resell it to Beacon's Closet for a profit, because I hustle like that.

Now, the crisis part comes when, as I hear myself explaining this scenario, it sounds so old-timey New York that I can hardly believe I lived it. I mean, come on, $1 clothes? At a flea market? In Manhattan? If anyone has been to that hell hole they call a flea market by all the half-empty Williamsburg condos, they will agree that this seems utterly impossible. But I lived it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: The Tale of Two Tanks

There are moments when I feel really connected to my creative partners, and this is one of them. I spent my whole morning dog walk musing over which tank top I wanted to share with you today, and decided on, after much contemplation, what follows. So imagine my surprise when I found that Ms. Laurie Marman already beat me to the punch! Two tank tops! Well, my take on the two tank post is a bit different, but I wanted first to recognize that there is really something to be said about how creative energy works between people, even if it is across the country, and through the internet.

So, that aside, I present you with The Tale of Two Tank Tops!

Now, as I have often lamented, thrifting can have its dark side. For me, it becomes a bit dangerous when it plays too much into my hoarding tendencies. In particular, I have found myself accidentially thrifting pieces that, as it turns out, are pretty much identical to something already hanging in my closet. When this happens, and I realize that I truly am becoming a hoarder, I momentarily suffer a panic attack and shame myself for being greedy in my consumption.

The fix? Easy—eliminate one of the pieces.

Here you have two tanks. Both are flowy, darkish teal and slightly boxy in shape. I do not need two flowy, darkish teal, slightly boxy tank tops. No one does. So here comes the challenge of deciding which of the two tops will be of better use in my wardrobe, and which one should be let back out into the wild marketplace.

Witness Tank #1:

Teal Embroidered Tank

Purchased during our Black Friday Thrifting escapade of 2010, I was immediately drawn to the sweetness of this top. The embroidered floral detail on the bust was a bit much for me, but I thought it was simple enough to be able to wear without feeling like a 12-year-old. I am a huge fan of blue and green shades, especially teals, so I often find myself thrifting items in this color palette. As I have mentioned before, when I find a flowy, cute tank I almost always buy it, so with this one, I did.

Witness Tank #2:

Teal Silk Tank

Jump ahead two months to my special trip to Forest Lake, when it was twenty below outside. In two months we had been hit with snow storm after snow storm (one which blessed the Twin Cities with 18 inches) and had been enduring weeks of zero degree temps—hardly tank top weather. I blame this for why I did not remember my #1 teal tank when I found this number.

Like my first teal tank top, I was drawn to the #2 tank because of the color and cut. It is also silk, which I have a major affinity for in tanks (and life). I may or may not have also been swayed by its Casual Corner origins, because that store always reminds me of the first time my mom and I went shopping together on a "girls day out."*

Upon realizing this slight duplication in my wardrobe, I had to make a decision. Which tank would be on the chopping block? Which would stay and become my prized teal tank?

After much deliberation, I chose to part with my first tank. While there were extenuating circumstances that lead to my forgetfulness about its existence when I purchased the second tank, I do believe that if a piece really meant something to me, it would surface in my mind as I came across a piece similar to it. In the end, the floral detail was too much for me, and the darker shade (and silk) of the second tank won out. Logic aside, I also had to listen to my heart. Did it want a youthful, 90's teal tank or did it yearn for something a bit more sophisticated that a 70's college art professor might wear? The answer was clear: the number two tank is now my number one.

*I came away from my first girls day out with a small potpourri stuffed cat and a denim Blossom hat. I still have both.

Monday, May 9, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: From Zero to Fluorescent in Two Tanks

Lately, I have become increasingly aware that, for a long time now, the flexibility of my wardrobe has been extremely handicapped by the fact that it is nearly entirely black. Time and time again, I reach for some new multicolored top or bottom, and, out of my sea of clothes, can come up with nothing better to coordinate it with than a basic black something or other. The results are at best boring and often totally stupid. This is even a little embarrassing to admit, considering fashion is somewhat a thing of mine, or I like to think so. Regardless, the first step to solving any problem is admitting you have one, am I right?

Not only have I admitted to myself that I have a problem, solving my problem is the core of the primary tenant of my Spring/Summer 2011 thrifting excursions; to find color, color, and MORE COLOR. If I die trying.

I would like to illustrate the fruits of my hard self-improvement efforts with my #12 TOP TANK TOP(s), these two fluorescent cropped tanks!

Now I know this is a little bit cheating, to have two tanks in one post, but I felt that displaying just one would fail to exemplify the pitch of my newfound fervor for color. The fantastic qualities of these tanks do not end at their highlighter shades. The yellow one is, for one thing, the goddamn softest thing in the world, which counts for a lot. Clothes that are worn and aged to soft perfection are one of the holy grails of thrifting. Those are the things you never get rid of and have with you forever. Not only that, but I think it is actually a little boy’s cast-off, well-loved muscle tee, which lends a great shrunken effect to it.

And the pink is a winner because it is cropped with a wide bell-shape to it, which reminds me of my first tank on this countdown. I am really in to this shape, as it allows you to wear something small yet not tight at the same time.

There are just so many endless variations on this theme, I am so IN to it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: More Stripes, But from The Crew

You probably have guessed that I am not a big mall shopper. I am not. There are, however, times when I find myself going into a what could only be considered as a semi-conscious state, hopping on the lightrail, and somehow arriving at the M.O.A.* While the majority of my time at the mall is usually spent with my mouth open, aghast that stores are able to charge so much for such cheaply-made, sweat-shop labor products (that, after a while, all start looking the same), I have to admit that there are a few mall shops that have "gotten" me.

I don't like to admit it. It is very uncool, in terms of both street cred and conscious consumerism. But I have come to terms with the fact that, despite myself, there are stores that I actually like shopping at. Or at least am somewhat impressed with their merchandise.

These are (and you are really witnessing the surfacing of some very private, oft suppressed, confessions):

1. American Apparel
2. Urban Outfitters (I know)
3. J. Crew

Now, I have to state that with each of these stores, I have major qualms unique to each. You are also free to judge me and associate whatever blanket term to me you would like on account of these confessions. But, I am coming clean. I actually sort of like these stores.

Want to know another great thing about thrifting**? In addition to all the great, crazy vintage pieces, you can occasionally find mall brands, at super low prices.

Which brings me to my next tank top: a simple, but useful white and yellow striped tank. From the Crew.


Now, the only thing I have ever bought new from J. Crew was a swimsuit eight years ago, and I bought that on the internet. It continues to be my favorite swimsuit, and as it is falling apart, I am actually considering purchasing a new one, even it will set me back a cool $100. So I don't actually spend a lot of time shopping at the Crew. But I do know that I have been sucked into their marketing as being a classy, clean lifestyle brand. While yuppiedom isn't something that I covet on a regular basis, sometimes I feel like I want to explore what it would be like to have chosen a life my mother would have preferred me to.

So when I found a J. Crew tank top in cute colors like this for $3, of course I had to get it. Now when I need a piece to finish off the rare sporty casual outfit, I've got it.

*Mall of America. Our public transport rail goes from Target Field, where the Twins play, to the Mall of America. I believe this speaks volumes about what is valued in our society. It was probably just a happy accident that the airport was along the way.
** Gotta also put a plug in for resale shopping here. Places like Everyday People often have tons of recent mall store merchandise in stock, which makes it a million times more affordable.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Some Girly Action

Every so often I stray off in to girly land, when a well considered ruffle or bow—design details that I generally find to be trite and categorically barfy—strike a chord somewhere deep within my feminine soul, and call out to me. They whisper in my ear to abandon efforts to be edgy and inventive, and give in to the ease of girliness. I especially tend to hear these whispers when I am hung over, my senses are dulled, and my brain responds only to the most basic aesthetic cues. This tank, my #13 TOP TANK TOP, falls in to this particular category.

I found this guy on a recent outing in Queens, at a small shop in Sunnyside. They had a huge rack of tanks that were all $3 each, and when I saw this piece, it was too good, if a little bit too girly, to pass up for a mere 3 bones. The girly factors of this tank are very well composed. The ruffle edges are subtle, the drawstring tie waist is a nod to bow rather than being one, while the double dose of the floral and the plaid threatens to push it over the edge, the quality of the execution pulls it back before it goes over. But the thing that really sold me on this piece in the end was the sweet textile action. And we all know that I am a sucker for sweet textile action. Let me explain.

The plaid pattern is yard dyed in to the fabric, meaning the yarns were dyed before they were woven in to the plaid design. The floral pattern however, is printed on top of the yarn dye, making this top of a double dose of surface design technique. Actually very sophisticated, thoughtful, and a lot more design process than one ever sees in these days of fast and cheap clothing.

And that, my friends, is why you gotta love thrifting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Pink and White Striped Tank

As you may have guessed from the fact that I agreed to allocate an entire month of fashion blogging to the topic of tank tops, I am a huge fan of the tank. There are many reasons for this—the style's association with summer (my most favorite season of all time), my affinity towards bare arms, breathable pits, their versatility, and, above all, the way that most simple tank top can be so awesome that you find yourself going to it again and again. In other words, tank tops are, to me, the security blankets of my wardrobe.

Unlike other pieces of clothing, if I find a tank top thrifting that I like, I almost always get it. I do this because, without fail, I will end up getting tons of milage out of it. Even if it doesn't initially seem like a crazy, standout piece, its usefulness will lead to utter devotion. Plus, tanks are usually among the cheapest clothing you can find thrifting!

Case in point: this pink and white striped boxy 90's tank.

90's Striped Boxy Tank Top

I picked this up thrifting in Ironwood last winter and was initially unsure about the fit. Initially, it seemed too boxy, but I am a sucker for stripes and (as I just explored in my last post) BUTTONS. As it turns out, the top has quickly climbed to the height of my "go to" clothing list. I've decided that the cut is just boxy enough, and the colors and details are both interesting and subtle enough to allow for many different styling options (i.e. what sort of top I can put over it). Though I have been sporting this piece since winter, I am excited to get some mileage out of it in the warmer months, so it can shine on its own. Plus, can you imagine how cute it would look with a pair of shorts?! CAN'T WAIT!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

BELTANE to MEMORIAL DAY countdown: Sweaters and Summer are Not Mutually Exclusive

When Holly first explored the topic of sweaters that should have long sleeves but don't, I really had to bite my tongue (fingers?) in order to not unleash bitter and angry commenting all over her post. As it turns out, short sleeved sweaters are one of my biggest fashion pet peeves. You are probably wondering why I have such rage directed towards such a seemingly harmless and playful twist of a design feature. I will explain.

Throughout my many long years of thrifting, I have probably thrifted upwards of 15 uniquely delightful, irresistible short sleeved sweaters, each of which I had nothing but the highest hopes for. Of those 15 or so short sleeved sweaters, I have probably worn any of them never. And eventually, I have gotten rid of every single one of them. For the simple reason that I have never experienced a time when I want to be warm, EXCEPT for my arms. And as a matter of fact, my arms are usually what are the coldest, if I am in fact cold, and need to be warmed by clothing.

Resultantly, I have suffered for every one of those short sleeved sweaters I have bought, holding on to it for years, pulling it out every now and then and trying to make it work, only to be exasperated by my inability to, and finally giving up and getting rid of it just so I don't have to be reminded of my failures every time I open a dresser drawer. And so, by this scientific process, I have concluded that short sleeved sweaters are utterly useless.

That being said, this next tank top, my #13 TOP TANK TOP, is a major gamble. Because it is even more oxymoronic than a short sleeved sweater, it is a SWEATER TANK:

I almost passed this one up on principle, but it enticed me with it's charms. The front and back double scoop is a great feature. The color is fantastic, a deep red brown. And it has the biz-casual factor, which is good for us working ladies. I am skeptical about it being suitable for any weather, especially 100 degree, 95% humidity NYC summers. Even still, it somehow seems less nonsensical to me than a short sleeved sweater...

I think I can make this tank happen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beltane to Memorial Day Countdown: Jonathan Martin Hermes-Print Tank

As it appears we are on a "classy tank top" trajectory, for my 14th tank, I present my Jonathan Martin Fake Hermes Patterned Button-up Tank. While I know little of Jonathan Martin (except for the fact that I appreciate the unicorn on his labels and that he makes cute tanks), I do know that nothing says "rich bitch" more than a pile of ropes incorporated into a pattern (really, can someone explain this to me? Are they supposed to represent the restrictive bonds of upper class society? Or what?).

Tank Close-up

I found this piece last spring, when I was on the lookout for a piece of clothing, preferably a shirt, that had a print such as this (what can I say? I wanted to feel rich, even on my T.A. salary). Imagine my excitement when I stumbled across this number—not only is it a small, yet flowy tank (versus the majority of tops sporting such prints which tend to be boxy in the most unflattering way*), but it buttons up! I absolutely love tanks that incorporate buttons, which you will witness throughout the course of this countdown. After all, what is more classy than buttons?**

*Actually, as I am writing this, I suddenly have an urge to add one such top to my Wishlist—a long sleeved button-up number that can be tucked in for extra classiness.
**Versus zippers, the trash of the fastening world.