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JANICE WELLS: Second-hand style

Some people wouldn’t be caught dead in a thrift store.
Some people wouldn’t be caught dead in a thrift store. - 123RF Stock Photo

I don’t mean to brag, but I have been so ahead of the curve for so long that I am in danger of turning into a concentric circle.

Back in the '70s, I started using house plants a lot in decorating, just because I liked them. I kid you not; within a few months, the decorating magazines were full of ideas for decorating with plants.

I couldn’t find a hanger for my spider plant in the local stores and had to send away for one from the Sears catalogue. Then the macramé craze hit and plant hangers of every description were all over the place. You couldn’t take off your panty hose without someone braiding them into a plant hanger. Janine actually had to go out and buy some plants because she got three plants hangers at her wedding shower.

In the mid-1972, I was the first person in Corner Brook to use a body baby carrier. Honest to God. My friend brought it to me from Germany and people used to stare at me. By the time Daughter #2 was born, a Snugli was de rigueur with the granola mothers.

Move on to the eighties, when I wanted a particular type of pink for my towels and shower curtain. I didn’t know what to call it, but it was nowhere to be found. You guessed it; within a year, dusty rose was all the rage.

In the nineties, I wanted floor covering with the look of adobe tile in vinyl because I couldn’t afford tile. There was none to be found in St. John’s. Until the next year — after my floor had been done in something boring.

The common thread among these things is that I’m talking about new merchandise but I feel I am also ahead of the curve on second-hand merchandise. Reusing and repurposing have become stylish. Pshaw; people with more resourcefulness than money have been doing that forever.

Now it’s cool for celebrities to wear something vintage or retro that isn’t even designer. Ordinary people over the age of 30 still can’t get away with much of that. Sixty-one-year-old Madonna can wear a jacket with Joan Crawford-style padded shoulders but we mortals just can’t carry it off. Luckily, thrift stores abound with treasures of every era. Second-hand no longer harkens back to the things your older sister wore, or, God forbid, your aunt. There I was, traumatized by hand-me-downs as a child, and here I am now, loathe to buy anything new unless its very much on sale.

Some people wouldn’t be caught dead in a thrift store. What if someone they knew saw them going in or coming out? Whenever I run into someone I know in a thrift store, my opinion of that person goes up immediately, depending on how they act. If they look sheepish or try to act like a tourist, I try not to seem smug as I tell them about the Guess bag that I got for $5 or the Ralph Loren suede jacket for $20.

God, I’m cool.

Second-hand no longer harkens back to the things your older sister wore, or, God forbid, your aunt.

One busy street in St. John’s has three thrift stores on the same side of the road. Janine and I start at the top so we don’t have to make any left-hand turns. Going to this strip is often the highlight of our week. We call it stripping. Don’t think I don’t have excitement in my life.

Over 20 years ago, I furnished an entire apartment in Halifax for $272 plus change. This was not junky stuff; five moves later, I still have some of it. Everything came from yard sales. My daughters and I saw more of the streets of Halifax than most Haligonians ever will. I was so pleased with myself that I wrote an article about it and sent it to the Herald, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Last week, I read about a woman who went a whole year without buying anything new for herself or her house. Then she wrote an article about it.

There’s that curve again. I have to find positive affirmation wherever I can.

Janice Wells offers her own unique take on life as a baby boomer, often served up with a twist of humour and a splash of gin. She lives in St. John’s, NL and can be reached at [email protected]


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