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Choosing a Name for My Personal Style

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Over the New Year’s holiday, my daughter and her grandma, Candice, and I drove from my little town in northwestern PA to Philadelphia and spent several days there, checking things out.

Adrienne will finish graduate school this summer and is considering a move there.

The three of us also did what the three of us have done when we’re together for at least twenty years (yes, even when Adrienne was a little bitty thing) — we hit the thrift stores.

In particular, we went to one called Philly AIDS Thrift three times. Or I did. Adrienne and Candice only went twice. There’s definitely a story there.

The first time was a no-brainer. We Googled thrift stores and this one had a review that called it the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of thrift stores. I defy you to be a thrift store aficionado and a middle grade author and pass that up.

We went on our second day in town — right after I had my colors done, so I had my Dark Autumn fan in tow. The store didn’t disappoint. It really does have a kind of magical quality to it. There are so many rooms and they’re all filled with a modge podge of fantastical things.

There are whole rooms full of things that cost a dollar. And bins to dig through. And then racks full of high end designer things. And art work that’s priced in the hundreds of dollars mixed with funky vintage things that are practically free.

We ended up at Philly AIDS Thrift twice because we went to a Jewish deli for lunch the next day — and it was right across the street. We didn’t even realize that we were in the same neighborhood.

So, we went back over. Because there was this blue leather vintage Coach purse for $30 and I didn’t buy it the day before. I was feeling some buyer’s remorse and I wanted to take another look. Only it was too late. The purse was gone. There was another one, a nice burgundy leather Coach purse— this one wasn’t as vintage, it was pretty heavily worn, and it was a little more expensive.

I couldn’t make myself decide to buy it.

BUT — they were having some kind of magical bag sale in a secret third floor room. Whatever you can shove into a ginormous bag for $12. So, we trooped up there, because of course we did. And we filled a bag with all kinds of stuff. Our Airbnb didn’t have enough blankets, so I grabbed one — a pretty plaid blanket, super soft (when we got home, Adrienne noticed it was made by Ralph Lauren.) I got Ruby a pair of boots and myself a coat. And whatever else we could jam into that bag.

The last day we were in Philly, we went back to the Jewish deli. The food was out of this world. As we were eating, I decided that I really wanted to go back to the Philly AIDS Thrift store again — which, remember, was right across the street — to see if they still had that purse. It was $38 and I decided that if it was still there, I wanted it.

Also, Candice had bought so many things on her trip to visit me, she needed a second suitcase to get it all home.

As I was headed into the store, I noticed a couple of suitcases out front. The bag I wanted was still there. I decided I really did want it. As I was paying for it, I asked the cashier about the suitcases out front — how much were they?

Free. She said, just take one if I need it. But be careful, sometimes they’re out there because they don’t roll.

Huh. Well, that works. Thanks!

So, on my way I out, I snagged a suitcase. It rolled perfectly. I could feel there was something inside it, but everyone was waiting on me at the restaurant, so I didn’t stop to investigate.

When I did, I realized there was second, smaller suitcase inside. And that they were a set of Diane Von Furstenberg luggage — very similar to this. The trim on the large suitcase was worn — but the inside was sparkling clean and the second suitcase was like new.

Similar DVF luggage, via Poshmark.

I’d never pay hundreds of dollars for a new Coach purse or a set of designer luggage. Whether or not I can afford it is beside the point. There’s no fun in that to me. No thrill of the hunt.

No story.

I want the story. It means as much to me as the thing itself. That coach purse really is a thing of beauty. It’s beautifully made and I’m sure it will last me forever.

Turns out that the next time I’m in Buffalo, there’s a Coach store there and they’ll clean and condition her for free for me. I think she needs it. She’s been used — and it shows.

Photo: Author

But there’s something about the use — the wear around the edges — that appeals to me a thousand times more than spending a lot of money for something brand new that no one else has ever owned before.

Zelda (Yes, she has a name. Hush.) has been out in the world. She’s seen things. She’s done things. She’s got a story. And her cousins, the suitcases — they’ve really been places, too.

I think that’s why I love thrift stores so much. It isn’t that I can’t afford to buy new things. It’s that there’s something about digging through all of the crap, looking for that one bright spot — the one thing that calls out to me — that appeals so strongly. And, yes, the idea of even something as simple as a pair of jeans with a story that I like.

I’ve been working my way through Anushka Ree’s The Curated Closet Workbook and one of the exercises is to create a Pinterest Board and curate it — figure out what exactly it is that appeals to you and then try it all on and see what works for you and what doesn’t.

And then, finally, as you get it all nailed down, name your look. I’ve made my board and I keep looking at it and adding to it, taking away from it sometimes, tweaking it.

I’m in love with it.

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