Several weeks ago when we ran on Acculturated a series of blog posts about our “pop culture guilty pleasures,” I had intended to write in about glossy fashion magazines–and how much I loved paging through them, not to read the articles, but just to look at the gorgeous ads that make up the bulk of the content of magazines like Vogue, Elle, Glamour, and the rest.
Of course, for someone like me–and perhaps for most of us here–admiring high fashion is one thing. Actually taking part in it through purchasing high couture is quite another. For a classic little black dress by Oscar de la Renta, for instance, you should be prepared to pay about $2,500. If you are looking for a pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos to complete your outfit, that will be another $900. I once walked into the Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York to see what it was like, and came across a rather plain looking scarf that was being sold for $875.
These prices are excessive enough if it were a regular day of the year. But today, January 17, is the beginning of Thrift Week.
Observed every year up through the 1960s around the January 17th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, National Thrift Week was a coast-to-coast celebration of responsible consumerism. It was organized primarily by community groups, government agencies, professional organizations, financial institutions, and places like your local thrift store. . . .
Despite what the ever-present commercials and advertisements tell us, thrift can be fun and it should always be in style!
When you consider the history of Thrift Week, the whole enterprise of high fashion seems pretty indulgent:
In 1916, with the First World War looming imminently on the horizon, the leaders of America’s major civic organizations launched an ambitious education campaign designed to ready the American public for a wartime economy. Dubbed “National Thrift Week” and sponsored primarily by the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), the campaign became a recurring celebration, beginning each year on January 17, in honor of the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the “American apostle of thrift.”
Though we live in a culture where the virtue of thrift seems to be forgotten, thrift is an idea that is especially suited to our times, given the state of the economy. That’s why the national effort to “Bring Back Thrift Week” is something we should all get behind.
Tight budgets from entry-level or student jobs don’t leave room for designer purchases. So many fashion-conscious Generation Y women drool over the latest Diane Von Furstenberg seen in “Vogue” or the Oscar de La Renta their favorite celebrity wore on the red carpet, but never dream of being able to wear a designer dress themselves. Rent the Runway might change that.
Rent the Runway is a Web site to rent designer clothing at roughly ten percent of the retail cost. It’s essentially a model much like NetFlix: browse the site to find the garment you’d like to wear, schedule a delivery date and then return the dress in pre-paid packaging by dropping off at your nearest mailbox (Rent the Runway will take care of dry cleaning).
Then there are thrift stores. I don’t know about you, but I love them. They are places where you can uncover true gems in fashion at reasonable prices. I once saw a Chanel suit at a thrift store in New Hampshire being sold for forty dollars.
The fashion blog Thrift Store Runway–which is affiliated with the Bring Back Thrift Week initiative and sponsored by Templeton Press (the same publisher that sponsors Acculturated)–highlights ordinary people who, through their love of fashion and creativity, have used thrift stores to put together “million dollar looks” with “fifty dollar budgets.”
Each month, Thrift Store Runway holds a contest each month to celebrate these people. The first rule of the contest is “There is a spending cap of $50 per entry.” With that in mind, here are some of the looks they came up with.
As a fashion lover who must be, by necessity, thrifty, I find their efforts very inspiring!
If you are as inspired as I am, you might consider entering Thrift Store Runway’s contest. As I mentioned, they hold a contest every month with cash prizes, and the deadline for submissions is the end of the month.