The safest way to keep me from spending money in a thrift store is to simply bar me from entry. But who says I can't peruse the windows, especially if they're showcasing the wares at one of my favorite haunts in New York City, Vintage Thrift.
I wasn't planning on walking by Vintage Thrift this morning, but when I did, how could I not be mesmerized by its windows: the bright vintage typewriter, the carousel holding stamps, the school grade cards and the old metal desk lamps?
But wait, the drawers are open! Just take a peek at all those old vintage desk supplies inside. It's as if this desk was picked up from a school in the late 1960s and placed right in the window.
For some off-duty reading for this teacher (or principal), there's a comic book, a deck of cards and a MAD magazine.
And finally, there's a peek into the school yearbook with one of the funniest headlines I've ever seen, "Track Team Struck by Ill Luck."
But for me, today was a very lucky day!
Always Frugal, Always Fabulous, The Elegant Thrifter
Taken back in the early 1990s when I was an editor at the now defunct Children's Business at Fairchild Publications, this Polaroid image take me back the day of wide ties and (eek) pleated pants. While I'm usually pretty astute at remembering why and what I was wearing at the time of a photo, these choices have me completely at a loss for explanation.
Do take into consideration, though, that this was taken just before the concept of flat-front trousers picked up in the mid-to-late '90s. It was also the first time goatees became popular after a long respite, but before the days we had the correct tools to keep them neat and trimmed. I do remember those fancy Giorgio Armani glasses that came with clip-on sunglasses, which, by the way I lost and replaced three or four times. And wow! I really did have hair. See for yourself!
As for Bert and Ernie, Bert still has his unibrow, and they both have hipster 'dos, high on the top and sheered on the sides. And to this day, these two Muppets still show their stripes, both vertically and horizontal. Thank goodness some things never change.
Tea? For 25 little girls? No problem! It all started when my good pal Allison Hemming of The Hired Guns asked me where to get inexpensive tea cups for a Mad Hatter birthday party for her seven-year-old daughter, Fiona. My natural response? Thrift, of course!
I hit garage sales and thrift stores in New Jersey and Vermont, as well as my favorite, most trusted New York stop, Vintage Thrift, to curate a mix-and-match teacup set fit for the birthday girl and her mad-hatted entourage. But the work didn't stop there. Before I knew it, I was neck deep in creating the look for this fun-filled affair. Oh, twist my arm...
For the tabletop, Allison and I used pretty much what we had on hand: playing cards, metal bird; odd dishes; vintage linens, garland, children's toys, novelty salt and pepper shakers, you name it! Allison's mother's gorgeous silver tea set shimmered as a focal point, especially after Allison gave it a hearty polish.
Allison bought green Astroturf that we cut into lengths to create runners for our extra-long serving tables that enhanced the garden them.
One mother made magical mushroom cupcakes that we displayed on fanciful cardboard tiers found at Penelope Wurr's adorable shop in Brattleboro, Vermont. Look closely and you'll see a real mushroom that Allison found in the woods near her home in Jamaica, Vermont.
A pair of lawn ornament bunnies from Allison's Vermont home were transformed into table decorations.
My mother whipped up these colorful, casual napkins out of a favorite, thread barren vintage tablecloth. She simply cut them into squares with pinking sheers.
What's a party without an activity? Here, party goers were invited to customize Mason jars with press-on gems and paper Alice in Wonderland characters and then fill them with Jelly Bellys, M&Ms, gum balls, rock candy and candy fruit slices. I placed another Astroturf runner atop a vintage white tablecloth to keep our theme consistent.
Talk about a sugar high! These party girls are at work filling their jars with treats.
A second activity centered around making necklaces with strands of ribbons I have collected over the years and tiny metal keys that I bought on Etsy. I place the keys in a butterfly dish I picked up years ago for $1.00 at The Red Racks Thrift Store in Independence, Missouri.
Witness all the craftiness at work.
And here is Miss Fiona wearing one of the necklaces and sampling a cupcake. What a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad day of fun!
Anyone who knows me also knows that I love Dolly Parton. I have been a fan since childhood, and while I've only met her once, I feel like she is one of my most trusted friends who never fails to inspire and entertain. So to celebrate her newest recording Blue Smoke , here's a photo of Dolly and me taken almost 12 years ago on the release of her Halos and Horns CD.
I heard about the meet and greet just hours before it was to take place at the now closed Virgin Mega Store in Times Square. To get tickets to the event, I stood in line at the crack of dawn and purchased my CDs. Then later in the day, I returned to store and lined up to meet Dolly.
Those were the days just before everyone had a digital camera so on my way to the event, I grabbed a box camera at the drug store to somehow document this monumental meeting. While I stood in line for hours, the moments passed quickly as we all swapped stories and we one-upped each other with our Dolly knowledge. (Nobody topped me, I'm happy to say!) The next thing I knew, I was third in line and quickly made a pact with my new friends that we would all take pictures and share them with each other.
I was up next. I was so nervous I didn't know what to say, and Dolly could sense it. I told her she was beautiful, and couldn't help staring down at her infamous bosom, especially since I was standing and she was seated about three feet below me. I know my voice cracked when I told her I felt like a kid who was meeting Santa Claus for the first time, and she said to me, "Well, I'm just Granny Claus."
As soon as my CDs were signed, I was whisked away into the crowd and couldn't believe what had just happened. Then a few days later I was reminded as all my photos started to arrive. The one I'm sharing here is my favorite because unbeknownst to me, Dolly hand was firmly planted on my arm.
Why, Dolly touched me!
Always Frugal, Always Fabulous, The Elegant Thrifter
One of the best jobs I ever had was one that definitely put me on a specific career path that I was only aware of later in life. At the age of 15, I began working in a vintage photography studio, Spittiin' Image, at Kansas City's amusement park, Worlds of Fun. At that young age (and with a full head of hair), I had no idea that one day my love for fashion would merge with my passion for all things old.
Fun was the key word, since no matter how high the mercury rose, how smelly the costumes became or the number of double shifts I pulled a week, I never, ever once felt like I was working.
So when I gaze upon this sepia toned, faux tin type of myself at about the age of 17, I remind myself that whatever I do to make a living must reap more than a paycheck. And I remind myself to maintain a healthy balance between what I must do and what I desire without letting the dollar signs cloud my vision.
So what will I be doing this summer?
Something FUN! Always Frugal, Always Fabulous, The Elegant Thrifter
When a dear friend asked me where she could get inexpensive teacups for her daughter's Mad Hatter birthday party, my response was predictable: Thrift, of course! The task of assembling this porcelain potpourri took only a few hours, thanks to the bounty of goodies available at the Town-Wide Garage Sale in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and a quick stop at a trusted thrift store.
On the hunt with my thrifting pal Michael Quinn, we targeted odd cups and saucers that we could mix and match to create a cheery assortment.
Always Frugal, Always Fabulous, The Elegant Thrifter
When you look at men's fashion over the years, you'll notice that little has changes over the past 50 years. Some guys still wear a suit and tie if their jobs require it, but most professionals have eased on down with a sports jacket and shirt, either with jeans or slacks, as Haggar , which has dressed men since 1926, would have it.
A few weeks ago I was invited to rummage through the Haggar archives in Dallas, Texas. Here's one of the many images I landed upon.
Dating back to 1983, this ad appealed to me because it features superstar Len Dawson from my hometown football team, Kansas City Chiefs. I was never a big football follower, but I do know that Dawson lead the team to victory in Super Bowl IV and remember seeing him on the news desk at KMBC, the local Kansas City affiliate.
Now I can't help but shift gears to the lady in the red sweater "snapping" the group photo. It appears to me that she's using a Kodak Stylite camera -- one that made barely viewable images with miniature rolls of film. The only camera that produced more pitiful pictures was launched a year before this ad appeared. That would be the Disc, which has been listed as one of the biggest technological failures of all time.
But back to football and fashion, and this ad is a winner! Dawson all tailored and handsome looks as if he could be today's MVP, and the "Super Fan" in the green sweater remains just a goofy as ever.
Get your very own copy of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details by visiting Amazon .
SPECIAL OFFER UPDATE
If you already own The Find, email me your mailing address and I will send you a personalized plate that you can put in your copy. Just tell me what name or names you would like inside, if it's for a special occasion, or any other information you think I should know, and I'll dash you off one in the mail!
If you didn't see the piece in USA Weekend where I talk about buying and selling your second-hand goods, here it is.
I am so honored to see The Find reviewed by the fabulous Design*Sponge. Read it here.
Apartment Therapy Boston names The Find best design book of 2009. Read ithere.
Wondering how to deal with a drunk at your holiday party or a good excuse for declining an invite?Los Angeles Times hit my funny bone when they asked me for some advice. Read ithere.
1st Dibs wrote an amazing review of The Find. Read ithere.
The June 18 issue of the Independence, Mo., Examiner features me and The Find on its cover. See the storyhere.
TheBaltimore Sun covered the fabulous and frugal cocktail party in Los Angeles in their June 5 issues. Re-visit the fun affair in The Baltimore Sun, here.
Los Angeles Timeswent cocktail nuts for The Find and The Elegant Thrifter on May 23. My pal Ruth Handel and I threw a cocktail party back in February, andhere are the results. Be sure to click in the box with the forks to read the sidebar!
Vanessa De Vargas gave The Find a glowing review and interviewed me in Apartment Therapy,here.
Aaron Krach, House Beautiful'sfeatures editor, said in his blog that after reading The Find, he was inspired to go thrift shopping! Read about it,here.