The Pinay guide to thrifting: Who pays full price?

By Cristina DC Pastor

I found a flaming red Italian jacket in Madrid’s El Rastro flea market. I’m not sure where to wear it but the Gucci label did it for me. The price sealed the sale: 20 euros — or $21. It went inside an amorphous plastic bag. It is now stored in the farthest corner of my closet. Another clothing to be worn only on the rarest of occasions and never to be seen again in years!

Welcome to the exhilarating world of ‘thrifting,’ where the find is as exciting as the hunt. Find a Filipina at a flea market, a vintage store, a stoop sale (in New York) or an estate sale (in New Jersey), or a second-hand shop like Goodwill, and chances are, looking for that bargain becomes an event to remember. One famous personality I had interviewed shared that she shops at thrift stores around Manhattan. “Why pay full price for anything?” she said. Her caveat though: It has to be in Manhattan! “I won’t do Brooklyn.”

In Queens, a friend buys her winter shirts by the bag from a thrift store. $9 per bag can yield up to five shirts of name brands. “You should go,” she urged me. “Let me take you.”

Another friend frequents Housing Works for books, trinkets, and decorative curio for her room. On a good-weather weekend, she goes to a parking lot by Chelsea just to drool over pretty vintage furniture she could actually afford but could not fit in her tiny apartment. “Interior designers come here, and they come early,” she said.

From left: Sockie Laya Smith, Jessy Daing, and Ernabel Demillo:  ‘More artsy, more personal buys’

From left: Sockie Laya Smith, Jessy Daing, and Ernabel Demillo: ‘More artsy, more personal buys’

Entrepreneur Jessy Daing, who loves walking around the Englishtown flea market in New Jersey, remembered going home with loot that included Sephora makeup for $10 and a pair of True Religion jeans for $50 – the original price tag of $300 still dangling by the belt loop.

“If you go to flea markets you will find varieties of items you cannot find in a regular mall, most of the time unique cheap items,” said Jessy, who owns the Jessy Couture online store selling genuine designer handbags and watches.

She finds thrifting a leisurely experience where she stumbles into items she could give away to family and friends. Like that dollar Barbie dolls she gave to her ‘inaanak’ on Christmas. Bless the bargain beast and the children!

Journalist Ernabel Demillo doesn’t shop at flea markets, but loves to browse at second-hand stores and vintage shops. She shared how she went to Paris and found a “beautiful” Chloe jacket for $50 at a vintage shop.

Bargains used to be the lure to thrift shopping, but not always.

Reiki healing facilitator and RN Sockie Laya Smith goes to Goodwill along 23rd Street. More than the “great buys,” she is out there to support small retailers against Big Box stores that are overrunning close-knit neighborhoods.

“Flea market goods are less commercial, more artsy, more personal, sometimes better quality,” she said.

I know now. Years ago I discovered the East Village and its cluster of seconds shops from No Relation Vintage to Cure Thrift Shop, whose sales support diabetes research. Whenever I invite friends to have lunch at Jeepney, for example, the irritating Filipino Time can go by really quickly as I hop from one store to another. I’ve found clothing in styles my mother used to wear back in the day when she walked me to school wearing shift dresses in paisleys, Peter Pan collars, and large fabric covered buttons. I’d grab a pretty dress for $15 and get a tailor to shorten the hem, widen the arm hole, let out the waistline, remove the ribbon, tighten the buttons, and remember what my thrift hound of a boss used to say: “Bring them to a good cleaner and they’re yours.”

Ernabel Demillo interviewing New York Times columnist Jane Brody wearing her pre-loved Chloe jacket.

Ernabel Demillo interviewing New York Times columnist Jane Brody wearing her pre-loved Chloe jacket.

One Comment

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