Wedged in between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, UCLA students have no shortage of places to shop for clothes. However, high price tags can limit shopping options for money-conscious students on a college budget. Each week, columnist Linda Xu explores different secondhand shops in Los Angeles and discusses her thrifty outfits.
Stray Cat Thrift practically converted me from staunch dog lover to crazy cat lady.
The new pop-up store on Westwood Boulevard sells donated clothes to raise money for programs managed by the Stray Cat Alliance, a volunteer-based organization that sponsors spay-and-neuter clinics and foster homes for stray cats around Los Angeles.
Upon walking in last Saturday, I was reminded of an estate sale – fine china and silverware were displayed on long tables behind an assortment of old wicker furniture. A small alcove housed a few racks of clothes and shoes as well as a changing area, shrouded on four sides by draped sheets. The small selection was disheartening at first, but a thorough search produced quirky finds suitable for aspiring feline moms.
Pointed boots, tweed blazers and an obscene amount of leopard print made up the mix of vintage and zany styles that defined the tiny nook. Throw on one of the pairs of tiny, red-rimmed spectacles spread out behind some porcelain tea sets and you’ve got yourself a certifiable cat lady outfit.
A paper on the wall listed out the price range for each category of clothing, which is then determined at the discretion of the cashier unless otherwise marked. Tops were $5 to $10 and skirts were priced slightly higher at $5 to $15.
For those who don’t fit the niche feline lifestyle, plainer options can be found amongst the ruffled blouses and bejeweled, flared jeans.
Solid-colored trousers and shrunken cardigans may not be the trendiest pieces, but I wouldn’t expect to find the freshest threads in a store that sells artisan candle holders and mid-century kitchen appliances.
Outmoded merchandise aside, the most surprising thing about the store was that, despite the low prices and antique wares, I found a remarkable number of newer designer items. I stumbled across a vinyl Chanel fanny pack and three pairs of Stuart Weitzman shoes priced at $15 each, still in relatively good condition and extremely hard to pass up.
However, leaning towards more everyday clothes, I instead picked out a T-shirt with radishes emblazoned on the front – in honor of Earth Day – and a tweed skirt I had my friend shorten and hem. I was going for hipster Taylor Swift cat lady, not frumpy cat lady.
While I was waiting to check out, my eyes fell upon the peculiar main attraction of the already kooky store – a wooden shelf, housing a variety of cat paraphernalia, including miniature figurines made out of glass, wood and ceramic. I met the piercing blue gaze of a perched Siamese before examining a potholder depicting a couple of tabbies frolicking in the grass.
Next to the shelf was a glass cabinet containing neat rows of decorative silver spoons. I was won over by the overall charm of the shop; it was like going on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland as an adult.
I brought my items to the makeshift checkout counter, which is made up of foldout tables. The counter was manned by a volunteer, also named Linda, who immediately asked me for my zodiac sign after I introduced myself.
Alas, I was a Cancer and she was a Gemini. But, astrological differences aside, she ended up giving me a pretty good deal on the clothes, pursing her lips while examining the value of each item. She settled on $5 for the shirt and $7 for the skirt.
I even let her persuade me to buy a gold necklace hanging inside a picture frame on the wall, falling under the spell of her wink. While chatting with Linda about cats, I caught a glimpse of my future, perhaps unearthing my latent affection for the furry creatures.
Stray Cat Thrift is certainly not for everyone, but the posters of forlorn stray kittens tacked on the walls are hard to resist. If I ever need a clay sculpture of a cat jumping out of a top hat, I’ll know where to go.