Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Woman's Treasure

So, Readers, I want to confess something to you. I know I'm going to feel a lot better after I've gotten this off my chest, just as Foucault explained. It's hard to say this in front of the whole wide internet, but...I have a problem. A little addiction. I can't stop myself, and it seems to be getting worse. There's no longer any genuine need or logic involved. I am helpless to resist.

During my last play, my friend Jessica introduced me to a couple of her favorite thrift shops. They always have these catchy, boutique-y kind of names like "Disabled American Veterans." ("Thanks...I got it at Disabled American Veterans for $4.00. Sexy, right?") In a moment of brilliant discovery, I landed the floofy bubble-gum pink '60s-era dress that I wore in "The Stepford Guy." I accessorized with a big, fake flower in my hair, pearls, pink shoes and a satin bow sash. I looked a treat. (I need to post a photo, don't I?) The dress smelled like a granny's attic and seemed to be made of some fire-retardant plastic amalgam. (Hard to tell when the tags are removed.) It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. When I came out to the cast for the big reveal, there were gasps. Actual gasps, Readers. That's how delicious I looked. The cost of the dress? $6.00. I was a freakin' genius, and a wizard economist to boot.

So, I knew that with my current show, there would be more thrifting, as stealthy as a black-ops mission. I would search, and I would destroy all competition. I would parachute into those warehouses just as major shipments of fabulousness dropped; I would swoop them up and airlift out before the other shoppers could blink.

Only one hitch: this show is set in the 19th century. In the glory that is Amvets, there's not a big market for late Victorian period. Not a lot of supply, either. I was going to have to get crafty. I yanked feverishly through the racks, focusing like a personal shopper in a think tank dedicated to coordinating separates. This was going to take all my imagination...and fortitude. Maybe a vanilla iced coffee or two.

Now, there's one little problem with thrift shopping, and it's also fuel for my burning desire. There are no dressing rooms. Sure, some of the pieces have sizes on the tags, but some don't, and some of those sizes were assigned in other decades. You can hold up the garment, shimmy it over your clothes, or you can do what I do. You can gamble. (Oooh, just writing it is like a shot of liquid Xanax in my veins!) You squint at that baby and will it to fit you, not just fit but spill over your curves like a water feature at a theme park.

And, inevitably, you get stupid. You go too far. Thinking you are SO money, you plunk down your remaining chips and bet it all on the red velvet. And when it's just you and the red velvet and your closet mirror and a zipper that will not move another inch, you lose. You lose, baby, but the sweat on your upper lip and the slight panting you hear (is that you?) tells you you're going back anyway, even though your closet is bulging with finery that didn't quite get there.

I am a magpie thrift shopper. If you've seen me in action, you know. Anything with paillettes, gold thread, burn-out velvet, satin, chiffon, tulle, angora, bell sleeves, underskirts, giant sashes, rose ribbons finds me snaking out a trembling finger, sucked in by the Siren-call of someone's bridesmaid cast-offs. Do I dress like that in real life? I wish. Maybe if my "habit" continues, I'll start. As it stands, drag queens could have some fun in my hall closet. (That sounds a bit odd, doesn't it?)

I did find an amazing dress for Hedda's "dressed for callers" scene, after a long and satisfying search, with several false positives. (Did I mention there are "NO RETURNS, NO EXCHANGES, NO EXCEPTIONS?) I actually found it a day before I bought it, went home and dreamt feverishly about it before screeching back in the morning "in terror and hope" (as Nora would say) to see if it was still there. It was. It has a black velvet top and a goldy-green tulle skirt that swishes on the floor. Over it, I button a tight green velvet blazer, and I look like a 19th century lady. Well, a 19th century lady who wants to get laid. When I debuted it at rehearsal the other night, there were gales of "OOOooooooh" when I emerged from the changing room. Gales, I tell you. Now if I can keep from killing myself on the dark stairs backstage (I keep stepping on the hem) I won't have to go method when I exclaim "Then you should have found no one to receive you, for I have been in my room, changing my dress, ever since lunch." I look like I've been changing since lunch, baby. And I'm doing it for $9.95.

Has finding this gorgeous treasure stemmed my compulsion? Oh, no. I took another cast member, Rachel, shopping yesterday afternoon. Rachel is a runner, and would literally look good in a burlap sack. But why wear a burlap sack when you can swathe your litheness in a full-length purple satin gown with a tight, double-vested, crushed velvet jacket? And look like a million freakin' 19th century bucks? Rachel told me later that she'd never have found anything without me, that it took my trained eye to put that combo together. I was flattered, but deep inside, I knew it. I have a gift. I've finally found my calling.

You might think it's all about costumes. Oh, how sweetly naive you are. Slowly but surely, my whole wardrobe is getting supplanted with thrifty finds. I wore a sundress to pick up Jarrah yesterday which got a compliment from across the parking lot. When I replied, "Amvets, $3.00." I got a "Shut UP! I do not BELIEVE that!" Now that's the kind of response I like. Crave. Could grow to NEED.

Somebody stop me. Wait, I take that back. I don't have a problem. I can stop any time. Let's talk about this sensibly. Maybe over iced coffee and a You know what? I could totally see you in a satin duster.


Aunt LoLo said...

You crack. me. up. Myrnie and I were chatting this morning, as I sped home with my latest thrifty finds - we shop for TOTALLY different things. I was all over the ruffly bedsheets, hand embroidered pillowcases and manly-print top sheets - I use them to make my aprons. When I stumbled across a vintage handmade little chinese hopped in the cart. When they told me it was $1??? I almost squealed! Oh, and I found this GORG little chinese teapot.

And NONE of that is anything that would make YOU look twice - all in the eye of the beholder!

DrSpouse said...

Just mention "yellow plates" to Mr. Spouse and you'll get the twitchy-eyed look...

Myrnie said...

Ah, thrifting. It's my new addiction, especially since we put a freeze on most "impulse buys" about 4 years ago. Wool sweaters felted into cardigans for Ernie, huge bags of vintage ribbons for $1... and now, I'm charged with kitting out my little sister for a week-long PIONEER TREK. Oh boy... :)

Loved this post!

Paul and Heather said...

Oh my goodness. I went thorugh a thrift store craze myself! It wasn't clothing and dresses was housewares, serving dishes, 1950's aprons and tea towels. Every saturday morning I would wake up with small bills and change in a zippie bag and RACE to hit my fav shop the Opportunity Shoppe (or the Op Shop to those in the know) that benefited the local hospital....and the one run by the nuns...can't remember the name...just the nuns. I have a stash of vintage pyrex, enough lovely hand stiched aprons to stock Leave it to Beaver's mom for decades and all my service wear. It is like a DISEASE I tell you. The busting seams of my closets, storage areas and shelves is the only thing that has curbed my habit. Shop away my thrifty away.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

So, I was going to ask you about the true meaning of this line:

"When I came out to the cast . . ."

But then you made yourself clear:

"As it stands, drag queens could have some fun in my hall closet."


Did you know that Deb is thrift shop junkie, too?