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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Better (and cheaper) the Second Time Around

Better (and cheaper) the Second Time Around

With fall rolling in and the school year beginning I find myself reminiscing about younger days. In junior high and high school, shopping for new gear and the raddest fashions was always my favorite part of restarting school. My mom and I used to pile into our car a few weekends before the first day to “bargain shop,” but now I’m an adult (mostly, anyway) and I must buy my own clothing.

Like many other students I ain’t rolling in dough, and I’m a bus snob. I turn my nose up at taking a bus to the ‘burbs, so a mall with decent prices is out of the question.

My answer for holders of thin wallets who want to be less conventional than the average Target shopper is: Thrift Shopping!

Last Saturday, I went on a bit of a shopping spree at stores that wouldn’t completely drain my bank account or leave me without enough money to pay for an Odwalla bar and a few Marlboro Lights each day for the next few weeks. I threw on my sneakers and hit the streets of Cambridge with my best friend, an iced coffee, and a mission-to acquire enough to satisfy me without spending too much. I began at my old stomping grounds: Goodwill and Salvation Army.

The Goodwill in Central doesn’t get five stars, but hey, it’s Goodwill. The staff is pretty friendly, the clientele a mix of types. Goodwill in Central Square turned out to be a bit of a bust in the clothing department. (If you’re looking for oversized T-shirts from the Dakotas or a used bathrobe with burn marks you’ve come to the right place!) Pickings for women on this particular day were slim; even the local drag queen left empty-handed.

For men there was a wide selection of jeans: Lee, Wrangler, and even some Echo. Plus a number of cozy sweatshirts complete with sweat marks. (What are sweatshirts for if not to sweat in?)

I have to give Goodwill one shout-out: they have a wide selection of household items, complete with blenders! If you’ve recently moved into a new apartment and are broke from first, last, and security, here you can fully stock your kitchen.

The Goodwill in Davis Square parallels the one in Central, but with more boy’s T-shirts, which make a great off-the-shoulder cut for chicks.

* * *

After that prototypical thrift shopping experience, I needed some flavor, and fast. Still in the Central Square area, we made our way to the Great Eastern Trading Co. on River Street. That store’s got flavor like a Cherry Tootsie Roll Pop. Its vivacious color and fully dressed and accessorized mannequin on bar-stool is just the sweet outer coating. The inside doesn’t disappoint; everything about this store beckons to eclectic fashion desires.

Don’t come here if you’re looking for jeans, slacks and tee shirts. If, however, you’re looking to spend thirty minutes of pure fashion bliss with some of the friendliest sales associates I’ve ever encountered this place it.

G.E.T. has a wide selection of vintage clothing (I saw a gorgeous circa 1940 Gloria Swanson dress), an entire table full of Nico-esque sunglasses, thousands of beaded necklaces, feathers, wigs for women and men, cowboy boots in near perfect condition, dresses, gowns, skirts (from serious vintage to flowing bohemian), and bargains. If G.E.T isn’t your everyday cup of tea, it’s excellent for specialty wear such as Halloween costumes or Belly Dancing couture.

G.E.T.’s prices are entirely reasonable. Dresses run from under $20 to $100. Shirts can be found under $20. Jewelry and accessories are great bargains as well.

Great Eastern Trade Co. is an experience, rather than just a shopping trip. It’s a store that makes you feel at home and beautiful in your own skin. I felt connected to the changing and moving cultural universe, the essence of thrift shopping for me. I saw sequins hours after I left.

* * *

Next, I stopped in Harvard Square, where finding a bargain is about as easy as registering through WISER. A real “thrift” store does exist on Mass Ave: OONA’S. Started in 1972, the store window reads “experienced clothing” rather than thrift store, and there’s lots of it! Racks, bins, and tables overflow with delightful discoveries, so plan to spend a few hours. OONA’S exotic and welcoming feel make it and Club Passim two of the few Harvard Square spots still holding onto roots of culture, non-consumerism and self-expression.

A literally thrifty thrift store, OONA’S hasn’t jumped on the forced neo-hippie bandwagon of flowing tie-dye, but rather presents an earnest and honest approach to offering both the truly vintage and the timely.

Outside the store $5 bins, a rack of $1 T-shirts, and a mixed style preview welcome costumers. I’m personally partial to the punk-pirate fusion in high-quality fabric. Inside, thousands of accessories, pins, and broaches await inspection. Another discount bin follows (“OMG, this stuff is only $2!”), as well as a wide selection of leather coats, fur coats, and fiercely patterned, totally fabulous dresses. OONA’ s prices are unbeatable. The clientele are friendly, funky, funny and knowledgeable. I can go into this store in need of vintage fashion advice and learn a lot.

Two things really caught my eye. First, a white and fluorescent pink Hampton Beach T-shirt cut up and strung with beads that looked like a funky birthday cake. Second a1950s one-piece bathing suit-something I’d been looking for all summer. Then tragedy struck.

In return for the near guarantee that you won’t find another person in your ensemble, the thing about thrift store gear is that if it doesn’t fit and you’re not a tailor, you’re out of luck. The swimsuit was too big, and I was devastated! For you Marilyn Monroe figures out there, I suggest you find your way over to OONA’S-fast. You might find me crowding the racks next weekend, searching for that Hampton Beach shirt.

No foray into Boston thrift shopping is complete until you stop at the Garment District near Kendall Square. Garment District never disappoints, with predominately 60s and 70s vintage, contemporary, a vast array of costumes, accessories and enough shoes for Carrie Bradshaw. The most notable thing at the GD is the Dollar a Pound room, a HUGE pile of mixed clothes dumped in a pile. Fridays, it’s only $.75 per pound. Whenever I go I dive into the pile as if it were the deep end of the pool. The skittish may be leery of this, but there’s just something about a full floor of clothes.

Finally, if you’re near the Green line, check out Cafe Society in Brookline Village. Its hand-picked, high quality vintage clothing is mostly geared toward ladies, but guys can find some good stuff too. For instance, one of my friends now walks around campus looking very down-home in her cotton cowgirl shirt which she bought for only $12.

Some people get sketched out wearing used clothes. Truthfully, a friend of mine did contract scabies by wearing unwashed vintage from a thrift store in an undesirable section of town. (Note that a little detergent may have prevented this.) So, if you’re looking for thrift, aren’t crazy over used or vintage, and are more of a holla back girl I suggest Tello’s. Tello’s stores are located all over the Boston area. Although I find the sales associates less than hospitable, the jeans cling to all the right spots especially if you’ve got some booty. And the prices are almost as wallet-friendly as the Salvation Army.

Good luck shopping, my fellow style-savvy bargain hunters.

Desiree Metta is the Arts Editor for The Mass Media. You can reach her by email at [email protected].

CHECK THESE OUT:GoodwillRating: 2.5 starsGood for: Jeans, boy’s T-shirts, kitchen stuff

Boston – 1010 Harrison Ave.Cambridge – 520 Mass Ave.Somerville – 230 Elm. St.South Boston – 470 West Broadway

Great Eastern Trading CoRating: 5 starsGood for: Customer service, Classic vintage, and Novelty-wear

49 River St. CambridgeRed Line: Central Sq.617-354-5279

OONA’SRating: 5 starsGood for: Bargains, Vintage, Customer service

1210 Mass Ave. CambridgeRed Line: Harvard 617-491-2654

Garment DistrictRating: 4 starsGood for: 60s & 70s Vintage, Novelties, $1 per lb. pile

200 Broadway, CambridgeRed Line: Kendall Sq.

Cafe SocietyRating: 3.5 starsGood for: Women’s vintage

Brookline, MAGreen Line: Brookline Village