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ballin' on a budget: tricks of the trade

I hate to stereotype, but as a girl it’s inevitable that from time-to-time I'm hit by an insatiable urge to shop. The thrill of the hunt, the anticipation in waiting for the dressing room, the satisfaction of leaving with new clothes–it’s euphoric. Not to mention necessary when you work in an industry where wearing last season's clothes results in raised eyebrows.

However, this urge can be a bit hard to satisfy when your phone company is threatening to shut off your service. I’ve tried to do the right thing and just not shop, but whom are we kidding? That usually results in some panic driven moment in which you buy something totally ridiculous that you’ll never wear, just to have bought something.

Thankfully, I have found a way around this. “Sell, buy and trade” stores. When the urge hits me, I take last year's goods in to Beacon’s Closet in Brooklyn, allow the disturbingly well-dressed buyers to judge my clothes, and (after a few heartbreaking moments of wondering WHY they didn’t think that sweater I bought at Goodwill is good enough to re-sell) get credit to shop around.

There are several things I love about places like Beacon’s Closet. Unlike many “vintage” stores, things aren’t overpriced because they swear it’s originally from the '50s. They also aren’t restricted to size 6 and under because they swear people were “just smaller boned” back then. (Hi, Marilyn Monroe?).

On the other hand, unlike thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army (both places dear to my heart, mind you), they are edited. You don’t have to sort through 100 weird, stained shirts that say things like “World’s #1 Mom,” or dresses made of such flammable polyester you’re too scared to try them on near a radiator. The lovely ladies at Beacon’s have already done that for you. And while yes, it is pricier than Goodwill, $15 for a skirt is a small price to pay. Even smaller when you have enough credit from selling.

The thing is, you have to go in there with an open mind. You can’t say, “I really need a pair of high waisted floral pants.” If you started thinking that way, then you’d have to hope that a real person out there wanted to get rid of some high waisted floral pants (which would incidentally make her insane), and that she recently decided to bring them to Beacon’s closet. And that she was your size.

When you’re trading in clothes (read: shopping for free) you need to lower your standards a little, but not entirely. Sometimes I’ll go in and say “I’m only looking at dresses,” or “I’m only looking at jackets,” or “I’m only looking at things that are hot pink.”

These places buy seasonally, so you can’t try to pawn off that sweater that didn’t work out for you this past winter in May. This past weekend, a beautiful sheer peasant blouse I bought last spring—which hugged me in all the WRONG places—was sacrificed. So was a very cool "it’ll-fit-me-when-I-lose-5-pounds" vintage dress.

As the buyer sorted through my offerings (was that a nose wrinkle at what was my favorite blazer for a week?) I sifted through the racks. Then I saw it.

It was white, it was billowy, and it was long. It was also jammed in with a bunch of maxi dresses. It was, in fact, a jump suit. A white, airy, cap sleeve, cropped leg jump suit. My heart skipped a beat. This thing was beautiful. But tough. A jump suit is inherently a LOOK. It is also tricky to pull off when you aren’t a willowy nymph. Especially so when you are short and plump.

But it was so light, and airy, and, in fact, hugged me in all the RIGHT places, that I threw out all the caution I possessed, right along with last season's misfit clothes. The other thing about trading: you have license to be a little reckless. When "buying" something doesn’t affect your bank account, you can buy something crazy and not feel guilty.

I went home with an awesome jumpsuit that I plan on wearing all summer. And none the poorer. While Beacon’s may be my favorite, there are other trade/consignment shops all over the country such as Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads and Plato’s Closet. I’d love to hear about any other trade shops in the tri-state area! (Insert Will Travel for Clothes sign here.)

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ballin on a budget