Friday, February 21

Cheap Threads

Monday, August 19, 1996

Thrift stores and vintage clothing stores such as Muskrat
Vintage Clothing Store, Salvation Army, Salvation Navy and
Aaardvarks offer bargain basement deals for the discriminating
shopper.By Lena Hicks

Summer Bruin Contributor

Upon entering Muskrat Vintage Clothing Store, located on 3rd
Street Promenade in Santa Monica, the stale smell of old polyester
permeates the air. But once beyond the initial odor, the assortment
of blouses, sweaters, and button-up shirts on the $5 rack shift the
senses and open eyes to bargains.

"I get people in here who stay for four or five hours … people
usually stay and go through everything," Muskrat store owner Tom
Kampas said.

Fashionable garb and classic styles, at inexpensive prices, draw
many to thrift and vintage stores. Some argue, however, that
differences between thrift and vintage exist.

Vintage stores have been popular for the last 20 years, Kampas
said. He attributes their popularity to the discount prices given
to quality items. Muskrat sells a vintage Lilli Ann blazer for
$125, compared to a $300 price tag attached to a similar blazer at
an expensive boutique.

"The high dollar store is going to be quadruple or more for the
same stuff," Kampas said.

Kampas added that although similar in popularity, thrift and
vintage stores differ in terms of price range, store organization
and merchandise quality. "Vintage stores are basically private
owned, and prices are higher … We assort things so it’s easier to
find. We get better quality stuff," Kampas said. "You can’t find
all of these 1940s Joan Crawford blazers in thrift stores."

On the contrary, the Salvation Navy Thrift Store, located on
Melrose Avenue, sells rare vintage items and still considers itself
a thrift store.

"We call ourselves a thrift store because our prices are so
inexpensive," Salvation Navy manager Pam Moomjean said.

Salvation Navy’s Levi’s start at $5 and go as high as $300 for
the classic 1940s style, made out of indigo dye and hemp.

"They call them Big E’s," Moomjean said, who revealed the
trademark capitol "E" on the back pocket’s red Levi tag. "Certain
eras are worth more money because they are rare."

Although Big E’s tend to be more costly, Moomjean explained that
prices vary from item to item, so the customer can purchase stylish
clothing without spending too much.

"We try to cater to the young kids who want to have the new look
without paying an arm and a leg for it," she said.

Some believe that the quality of merchandise varies from store
to store.

"What’s the difference between Salvation Army and Salvation
Navy? Salvation Army’s clothing is donated and Salvation Navy buys
its clothing," Moomjean said.

Salvation Army, created in 1865 through the International
Religion and Charitable Movement, owns various thrift stores,
including the location on 11th Street in Santa Monica. By obtaining
merchandise through donations,customers of lower economic status
have access to inexpensive clothing.

"I guess our goal is to help people out … we are trying to
give people, who are not as wealthy as others, something that’s in
good shape," store clerk Donell Norwood said.

Stores such as Muskrat and Salvation Navy do not receive their
clothing from donation or other stores. Instead, stores owners
select items from wholesalers and vintage warehouses throughout the

"The stuff I get aren’t from garage sales, and I hand pick
everything myself," Kampas said.

According to Moomjean, Salvation Navy owner Martin Fromer does
not rely on other thrift stores for his merchandise. "No, he
doesn’t buy from other thrift stores. In fact, other store owners
actually shop here … because our prices are so cheap," she

Some people do not see any difference between thrift and vintage
stores. "There is no difference … it’s the same … I think
vintage is a better way of saying it," salesperson Keith Respicio
commented, standing behind the counter of Aaardvarks, also located
on Melrose Avenue.

Aaardvarks, with clothing ranging from $2 to $1000, attracts
many customers through its supply of 1950s style and other vintage

"The ’50s look ­ that’s a look that will never go out of
style … it’s just like a fine wine. It gets better with age,"
Respicio said, who attributes the popularity of thrift and vintage
stores to the rarity of their items which can not be found in
mainstream clothing stores.

"You can’t find a lot of these styles in (regular) stores,"
Respicio said. "It’s not like we have 15 of the same shirt."

Because most of their clothing is second hand, thrift and
vintage stores mark prices lower, based on the condition of the
items. Merchandise is often washed or dry cleaned for

"It’s really nothing to worry about," Respicio said. "We wash

Many feel that the low prices along with the excellent condition
of the clothing play a primary role in attracting clientele.

"It’s easier to express your individuality at a cheaper price
… girls can create the same look from a magazine for a cheaper
price," Moomjean said.

Respicio agrees that thrift and vintage shopping is worthwhile.
"I remember my mom used to tell me that she used to go get her bell
bottoms from Good Will for $2!"

Many customers think that the satisfaction gained in thrift and
vintage shopping is a unique one that regular store shopping

"It’s cheaper and I can find what I want," shopper Farid Ansari
said. "I feel guilty when I buy something expensive."

Trendy, fashion conscious juveniles are not the only ones
intrigued by the original styles that thrift and vintage stores
around the city have to offer. Older clientele satisfy their
nostalgic appetites amongst the classic attire and inexpensive
prices that make thrift and vintage stores so appealing.

"We come maybe twice a year because we find so many wonderful
things," expressed customer Roberta Brookes, of Manhattan, New
York, about Salvation Navy. She pulled a double breasted Don Louper
blazer from the rack and held it up. "It keeps memories alive. When
I look at this jacket, it reminds me of the 1940s and my mom."

Kampas commented that if shoppers save dollars on clothing, the
remaining money can go towards other necessities. "What’s the basic
three? Food, clothing and shelter. If you save money on clothing,
you can spend it on food, rent … car payments," he said.

But even though its popularity lies in the cheap prices, the
original styles, and the classics fashion, thrift and vintage
shopping is a fetish that provides a sense of amusement for
customers from various generations.

"It’s like a treasure hunt," Moomjean said. "That’s part of the
fun, you know, digging for a treasure."

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