Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: Hunting treasure at the thrift shop

Apr. 27, 2013 @ 06:56 PM

“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket…” You are either singing the rest of the lyrics or saying “Huh?” If you listen to multiple radio stations, you have heard the rap song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz. It’s a funny, infectious song that is the opposite of hip-hop music braggery about expensive stuff.
“Popping tags” means taking the tags off things you buy. Thrift stores I go to just have signs up telling you how much it costs. There’s been controversy over the very, very, and yes, worth a third very, large salary of the head of Goodwill in North Carolina. And yet, Goodwill is good at what it does – offering a lot of sorted stuff at cheap prices. There are other thrift stores to frequent, including the Durham Rescue Mission, which has a few big ones with all kinds of things. And there’s Pennies for Change, which benefits the Durham Crisis Response Center, a small store but still worth a look.
Years before I moved here, I was visiting my sister in Carrboro and went to the PTA Thrift Shop. I bought a cute little pitcher with flowers on it, and a few books. People who shop at thrift stores like to share what kinds of treasures they’ve acquired. Last year in the PTA Thrift Shop in Chapel Hill, I found a Herald-Sun mug I ’80s colors of grey and aqua. I added it to my newspaper mug collection. At another thrift store a bought a now-defunct television station mug because the rainbow logo was cool. There are always so many dishes at thrift stores, and even if you think you don’t need anymore, somehow that unique mug says, “Hello, bring me home!” Same for yard sales, where I obtained my Holly Hobbie Christmas glasses. Of course, it’s a good policy to donate as much as you consume.
The fun of thrift stores, aside from the cost savings, is in the hunt. Ooh, what a find. I’ve bought several items of clothing over the years that had no tag because someone made them, or the tag was from a factory long since closed down. Really the best thrift store items come from shops in rural areas or small towns. A community’s textile history can often be found in its thrift shops.
The lyrics in “Thrift Shop” mention grandparents’ clothes, and rightly so. Older folks know how to maintain some quality clothing. And by maintain, I mean keep in the closet for 40 years. Older clothes are, let’s face it, better quality. Yes, there are plenty of quality clothes being made now, but at a price.
Now, you might question the clothing style of the 1970s, but let’s acknowledge that there were some unique outfits. Courtesy of a thrift shop, I own a polyester blue and red plaid butterfly-collar blazer. Now, I haven’t worn said blazer in the 10 years I’ve owned it. But there might come a time that I am invited to a 1970s-themed event, and I will sport the best sport coat there. There must be a matching pair of plaid polyester pants out there somewhere, waiting for me in the thrift store.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.