August 1, 2011
Jews are often characterized as being cheap – as in the joke about the new Jewish game show, The Price is Too Much! I refuse to take this as an insult: I am proud to be a thriftaholic. I rarely buy anything that hasn’t been pre-worn, pre-used, pre-loved. Among my frugalista friends, bargain-shopping is a competitive sport. So you can imagine my palpitations when I heard about the Sunday bargain fests at Jet Rags on La Brea. They put out mountains of vintage clothing in the parking lot, and you can take as much as you want for a dollar a piece.
This was particularly exciting for me, because – although I’m a writer and performer - I have a hobby business as a vintage fashion dealer. I buy ‘50s and ‘60s stuff at yard sales and thrift shops, and then resell them. You may have seen some of my finds on Mad Men.
I was looking for clothing from 1969 for the movie Men in Black 3 and I figured Jet Rags might be a treasure trove. It was indeed. I got there when it opened at 9, and there were already 40 hipsters combing through the piles. The crowd was a mix of students, tourists, unemployed actors, and serious fashionistas. I was definitely the den mother of the group.
In addition to a huge variety of clothing, you could also find fabric and linens. I saw someone taking a king-sized sheet set and asked if he wasn’t concerned about bedbugs (one of my biggest phobias.) He said that as long as you throw the item into the dryer at high heat, you’re safe.
One striking young woman was wearing a long black lace dress, oversized rhinestone jewelry, and 6-inch-high heels. Among her huge pile of purchases was ornate wedding gown, which she was planning to wear to a party that night. A wedding gown to a party? Oh well, different strokes…
A chic Dutch tourist stood aside while her friends rummaged. She didn’t much care for this form of battlefield shopping, and was looking forward to visiting the tidy, organized stores at The Grove.
One young fashion designer was buying up all the denim. He told me that denim is hot again, and he planned to use the fabric to create his own styles.
I didn’t find much in the way of 1969 summer dresses, but I did pick up a cool Hawaiian shirt for my son, a rain jacket for my husband, and a vintage hand-embroidered dish towel for my shabby chic kitchen. Not a bad haul for three bucks!
What I couldn’t figure out was how the store could afford to sell stuff so cheaply. The manager explained that they buy hundred-pound bales for very little, and put out 12 bales every week. They are actually making money on the dollar items, so everybody wins.
From Jet Rags, I moved on to my usual Sunday haunt: Out of the Closet. This chain of thrift stores has dollar sales every Sunday, and I managed to find a dress and shirt for Men in Black, plus a Donna Karan silk knit turtleneck for myself. All in a day’s work!