2012-02-04

Thrift History

me1

We moved to Canada when I was 5 years old. I came with a blonde bowl-cut, a scar above my lip and about 7 english words in my repertoire. Even though I was born and raised in South Korea (an experience which would make a great book one day), my parents had always expected to move back to Holland. I spoke Dutch, believed in Sinterklaas, not Santa and we ate a lot of boerenkool and hutspot.

And then my dad got a job offer in Canada. My parents went to visit that far-away land before they made the final decision and came back to us with stories of what was to be our new home. This move to Canada was going to be the last big move in our family; my older brothers were in middle school and it was time to settle down.

I had no idea what to expect of Canada. I heard the stories and saw some some pictures but nothing seemed tangible. The only thing I was certain of was that Canada was the land of skipping. You see, as a going away gift, I had received a fancy skipping rope. It had wooden handles and they were painted in some pretty cool bright colours. Today we would call it colour blocked, back then I just called it awesome. My mom made me put it away, saying I could play with it when we got to our new home in Canada. And so, with that skipping rope tucked away carefully in my hand luggage, I had visions of cobblestone streets and skipping marathons with new friends.

Turns out there weren't a lot of cobblestone streets around our new home in Hamilton. And the biggest skipping marathon I participated in was Jump Rope for Heart and I used the skipping ropes they handed out, not my own fancy rope. Getting new friends was also not quite what I expected. The bowl-cut, the lack of English and the fact that I was born and raised in a country that rhymes with diarrhea made social climbing a hard sport. It was even harder for my older brothers in middle school; kids can be so cruel.

Of course, Canada was also an exciting place to live and experience new adventures. The first Halloween blew my mind. We got to dress up and get heaps of candy... for nothing? We bought a new car, the ugliest brown station wagon you've ever seen, but I couldn't believe we got to drive such a big and, in my eyes, luxurious car around. And when we finally settled into our own home a few months after moving to Canada, we met a Dutch family with kids our age that lived just up the street. It was my new friend's Mom who told me to tell my Mom about Goodwill and their dollar bag sales. Money saving tips from one Dutch mother to another.

That is when I learned that Canada was not going to be the land of skipping. It was going to the land of thrifting.

What's your story? How did you start thrifting?

30 comments :

newpetite said...

Loved reading your story!

Adin B said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It's beautiful! I love thrifting too even when I was still in the Philippines and now that I am here in the US, I still thrift shop.

Adin B

Adin B said...

I started thrifting for the reason of not being able to afford buying brand new clothes so instead we turn to Ukay-Ukayan (that's what we call those pitched tent selling secondhand items and dig away to find that thrifted treasures)and we buy a lot of our clothes there. Since then, I am hooked on thrift shopping and saving money as well. :)

Adin B

Patricia said...

You need to tell more of these stories! They're always so interesting to read when you speak from the heart.

Sydney said...

I love a good thrift story. I first got my whiff of thrifting in high school when it was cool to be "indie" and "hip" and wear too small t-shirts from the little boys section. The baseball t-shirts were our favorite. I've since graduated to buying sweet blazers and pj like pants and amazing jewelry, but the premise is still the same: stand out and stay cheap.

Sheila said...

Wow, you growing up in Korea would be a great story, Jentine!

I've always worn second-hand clothes or homemade clothes as we were pretty poor when I was a kid. I started thrifting when I was in high school, because I wanted to dress differently and I loved the look of vintage. I wore my Mom's clothes from the 50s and 60s in the 80s. We used to have some amazing thrift stores full of vintage clothes in Victoria, but they have been replaced by pricey boutiques.

Terri said...

I always love learning new things about blogger's backgrounds. How long was it before you felt you had a solid grasp of English? And do you have clear memories of Korea? I began thrifting when I was a single mother with full financial responsibility for three young daughters. My first purchase was a heavy wool coat.

Laura said...

Love hearing about your story! I started thrifting when I was very very young, because my mother dress me like a little Amish girl and there is only so long that is going to work in the public school system. So, I started thrifting when she wouldn't buy be the $40 American Eagle jeans. I do remember the moment however when I realized, "Hmmm. I might be good at this." I was probably in ninth grade and I was at a Goodwill. I tried on this pencil skirt that was green that I like because it looked like a vintage Girl Scout skirt (probably was actually), but it didn't fit right. So, I went to put it back on the rack when this really cool indie girl, who was probably in her twenties, asked if she could possibly try that skirt on. I handed it to her and she sprinted away with an armful of similarly awesome items that I liked but wouldn't have the guts to wear. Thanks to getting over the 14 year old awkward body type and going to college (where honestly people don't care what you wear) I am now that early twenties girl swiping vintage pencil skirts of the thrift store racks! :)

Scripted or Thrifted? said...

Your story was touching and inspiring, thanks for sharing.

I am 2nd generation dutch american (my grandparents were born in Holland) so the thrifty ways were passed along from family. My father was an auctioneer so EVERYTHING we owned had been loved before. I always wore hand-me-downs from my other dutch cousins a state away and thankfully they were ahead of our rural area in the "fashion scene"' so the idea of wearing second hand clothes never made me flinch. It did pose problems with fit so I learned my way around a sewing machine at a very young age.

I think I started thrifting by going through my grandmother's and/or mother's closets when I was in high school in the 80s and I liked the look of the 50 & 60s vintage. (I still have and wear some awesome dresses from my mom) So, when I discovered thrift stores in college it was just an extension of how I had always acquired my clothes. Second-hand.
I am now the mother to a 4 year old daughter who really thinks nothing of the church shops and charity stores we frequent. I hope she can continue to not be bothered by the thought of a "new dress" not really being new.
Again, I love your blog and your style thanks for adding a fun touch to my day.

andrea k (blonde bedhead) said...

The more I learn more about you, the more I learn how even cooler than I thought before. Sounds like you had a very exciting childhood and I love hearing about how you were first introduced to thrifting at such a young age along with your momma!

ebbandflo said...

I thrifted a little when I lived in the UK. My mother was an avid antiques and flea market hunter, and she was very good at making do/bargain shopping.

I really started thrifting in earnest when I arrived in Canada. I was living off my husband and newly unsalaried/unemployed. I tried to cost as little as possible, and thrifting has become my way of affording treats.

scruggers said...

This was such a great story...well told too. Your childhood perception of doing something new made me smile.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome story Yen!

Rose said...

I grew up with parents fluent in the language of flea markets and antique shops, so second hand was second nature to me. I don't remember the first time I finally screwed up the courage to venture into the dark, musty, crumbling little building that housed the hospital auxiliary thrift store in my home town, but from the moment that heavy wooden door creaked shut behind me I knew I would never turn back. Flickering flourescent lights and lurid 60s colored glass lamps lit rack after rack crammed with inconceivable treasures...wool suits from the 40s and cheery 50s house dresses, lace and velvet Gunne Sax dresses from the 80s, metallic platform sandals from the 70s, 90s Doc Martens, almost everything under $2, and men's ties $.10. And then there were the books...I was a lost soul. The treasures I unearthed there formed the backbone of my vintage collection and fueled the frequent chameleonic transformations that eventually converged into my personal style.

Kat said...

What an endearing story!! Thanks for sharing the ups and down Jentina. I learned I've been thrifting since before I knew it what it is. I remember perusing a store around age 6 and finding the coolest Esprit sweatshirt (what can I say, I had an eye even back then) that I wore until it was ragged. Years later when I asked my mom, she mentioned it was from 'that second-hand store'. Then I tried Phase II in middle school but gave up after the sweatshirt rack (by this point you'd think I'd learned), not realizing the treasures that lay beyond. Then finally, living as a poor grad student in a hipstermatic neighbourhood in Sydney Aus helped thrift stores find their rightful place in my heart. The End.

Wren said...

I hope you still eat lots of boerenkool. This is such a wonderful story. It's fascinating to hear about people's lives and where they come from. Thank you for sharing.

briannelee said...

Aw, so cute!

I started thrift store shopping after college. I remember my first purhcase was a fun vintage purse I used to wear out to the bars. Now its been many years and about 200 thrift store purses later ;)

Meg said...

Thanks for sharing! Such a great story. :)

I was born into a family of thrifters - my father is king of bargains and owns hundreds of pairs of pants to accomodate all his shifts in weight over the years.

Shug in Boots said...

What an awesome post! Bless your hearts moving to a (seemingly strange) new place as children, especially your brothers in middle school. Fascinating though to have experienced various cultures growing up! Thanks for posting!

The Suburb Experiment said...

My mom didn't have patience for fashion and certainly wasn't going to give up hard-earned money so her daughter could wear what was "in". I discovered thrift stores as a way to stretch my birthday/Christmas money.

Jenn
The Suburb Experiment

Susanna said...

Yen,

I love this post! I remember as clear as day when you guys moved to Hamilton and started coming to Timothy...our class was never the same again after you came! You added so much vibrancy seemingly adjusted so quickly!:)

I am just beginning to think about thrifting...until now, I've been lazy and just bought new but I really want to start thrifting more. My older sister thrifts ALL the time and has the best thrift store near her house so I want to start checking it out. Thrift stores are so hit and miss depending on communities, etc but her store is amazing and she gets the nicest clothes there for her whole family!

Destrehan's Daughter said...

My Mom always thrifted furniture when we were younger. I did start looking for clothes until I volunteered as a tour guide at a plantation and needed a fancy old style dress. After that I thrifted on and off through college and my early married days. I just started thrifting locally again and have found a few really great deals.

Greetings from Texas! said...

Wow, you really should write a book. Good stuff here!

Flight Attendant Extraordinaire said...

I'm still not a dedicated thrifter...I grew up poor, so one would think I grew up thrifting. But there weren't really any thrift stores in my little town. We did shop at a LOT of garage sales. But the worst thing (and I think this was the reason I resisted pre-worn clothing once I had the option) was when other families with girls would deliver ginormous black trash-bags of hand-me-downs to our house. And my sister & I would have to sort through the bags and pick out what we wanted. As a wee one who didn't realize we didn't have any money, I always resented that other kids got to go to the mall and I had to dig through a trash bag. So it was a long, long time (almost until college really, when thrifting became "cool") before I embraced the second-hand goods. But not before they've been properly laundered or spent a week or two in the freezer.

Nicole Demsey said...

I loved reading this post!

Babes in Thriftland said...

My mom grew up with almost no money and was very thrifty (cheap) when we were growing up. We went to thrift stores back then but at my school, second hand stuff was FAR from cool. So, my mom let me get stuff from Abercrombie or American Eagle if is was on sale. Then, when I went to graduate school I was finally on my own financially and I got back to my thrifting roots! I go at least once a week now and I love all of the unique items I find. Every time someone comments that they like my outfit and it's thrifted I get such a thrill!

Lauren said...

I'm living in South Korea now! Neato. I love thrifting, mostly because it's hunting. You NEVER know what you will find and the joy is in the chase.

Jaileen said...

Awesome story! I love reading your tips on thrifting since I'm just starting to get into it. When my family moved to FL we didn't have a lot of money so the salvation army, goodwill, and walmart were our life savers! Now that I have the money to buy brand new, name brand clothes I tend to associate thrift stores with my past. That was until I started to read blogs. I now have a love for thrifting/hunting for something you don't know you want until you find it

T. said...

Loved reading your story!

MisisD said...

Cool, thanks for sharing :)