Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thrift store heaven

Me, a child raised only on thrifted clothes.

I remember the first time I shopped in a mall. The store that took my new-clothes virginity was Mervyns.

I will never forget the confusion I felt when I saw my first rack of never-worn clothes. Why were there so many of the same shirt? And what kind of weirdo would buy something knowing that 20 other people would be wearing the exact same thing?

Ah yes. I was a bit of a fashion Encino Girl.

You see, I was raised in a consignment store, the Sweetheart Shop, at the foothills where Loveland met Estes Park. For 11 years, I helped my mom sort, price and organize the clothes people dropped off -- which also meant I had dibs on everything, and no need to visit the mall.

In sixth grade, I made a goal: not to wear the same outfit twice. Sound uppity? Not if you're sneaking clothes in your backpack, wearing them one day and returning them to the rack the next day. Indeed, I was the best-dressed, cheapest-dressed pre-teen at Walt Clark Middle School.

Andy's Girl boots

Years after the Sweetheart Shop closed -- and changed into a hookah bar -- I still haven't changed. In fact, today I made a goal: to put together the cheapest outfit possible. Bright blue jersey dress from a church garage sale: free. Vintage red thick belt with a butterfly clasp: 50 cents from Savers. Red chandelier earrings from a thrift store: $1. Even my red boots were the floor-sample boots that I bought after Boulder designer Andy's Girl closed down, for approximately 5,000 percent off.

My thrifty nature
is part of the reason October is one of my favorite months. Sure, there's the pumpkin lattes, the world's biggest dress-up party (aka Halloween) and the chilly, sharp air -- the smell of change.

But October is also Thrift Store Heaven, when all thrift/consignment stores roll out their besties in hopes of reeling in shoppers in need of a wicked costume. For folks who dress up on a daily basis (ahem, ahem), this also translates into the closest equivalent to Vintage Fashion Month.

Which is how I ended up in a basement in Louisville, surrounded by leopard-print dresses, teal cowboy boots, short shirts and long (red) jackets sexy enough for Cake to write a song about.

I'd heard rumblings about the store, Found Underground, but had put off visiting it because, well, honestly, I had no reason to swing by downtown Louisville.

Now I have a reason.

Photo by Jonathan Castner.
It's called floor-length black velour opera coat, $23.

And that's just the beginning. As a self-proclaimed (but difficult to dispute) used-clothing expert, I say Found Underground is one of Boulder County's greatest. Nancy Cooley, of Louisville, says she opened the shop three years ago because she loves funky clothes. As proof: She worked at the Ritz clothing and costume store in Boulder for 12 years, where, in her words, "I raised my kids. Yes, I raised my kids in a store."

(My eyebrows perk up.)
Daily Camera photo

Found Underground, at 901 Main St., is entirely recycled, from the racks to hangers. It carries all kinds of goodies, from Betsey Johnson to labelless retro to belly-dancer costumes to prom dresses, which Cooley sells on a sliding scale for lower-income high-schoolers.

The store carries quality consignment clothes at thrift-store prices. And after four to six weeks, everything that hasn't yet sold moves into a half-off room, which rivals even Salvation Army prices, but with the style and brands of Boulder's upscale consignment stores, such as Rags.

I'm talking $12 for a black formal gown from Macy's, with tags; $28 for a red vintage skirt and suit jacket; $12 for never-worn brown and pink round-toe Steve Madden heels -- the same heels I brought at the Steve Madden store for, um, add a zero.

It was the teal Justin mid-calf boots that got me. I have the twin pair of these boots, but in bright purple. I bought mine in worse condition at Urban Outfitters, as part of the Urban Renewal line, for $80. At Found Underground, the nearly immaculate teal sisters are $20.

They're not my size, but I almost bought them anyway. There are some deals that surpass reason.

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