Friday, January 24

Cents of Style: Jet Rag’s $1 sale offers rare deal in a chaotic setting

Daily Bruin columnist Linda Xu models the clothing she purchased at Jet Rag's weekly $1 clothing sale. (Photo by Hannah Burnett/Daily Bruin, photo illustration by LeAnn Woo/Graphics director)

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.

Prepare to get your hands dirty at Jet Rag’s $1 Sunday Sale.

Each week, the thrift shop on La Brea Avenue lays out select wares on the pavement outside its red storefront, pricing each piece of clothing at $1. The premise seems too good to be true, and shoppers who go in with a closed mindset may find this to be the case. However, underneath heaps of unwearable pieces that have clearly slipped past any form of quality control, there are true gems to be found.

The clothes are organized into four rows – and I use the term “rows” very loosely – on a patch of uncovered cement not much larger than a driveway. A set of newer items were vacuum-sealed into dense, packaged blocks laid out neatly next to the piles. It was an odd setup, but I understood later how the wrapped clothes came into play.

The piles seemed to have no organizational integrity. Funky prints and niche items such as Boy Scout uniforms and stiff Christmas sweaters were scattered randomly throughout the stacks.

[Related: Cents of Style: Crossroads Trading Co. disappoints with generic options, sterile atmosphere]

In preparation for the sale, I perused through a slew of YouTube videos and articles that likened Jet Rag’s weekly event to a violent bloodbath. After watching a video of shoppers climbing over each other to pick through piles of clothing like hungry vultures, I was fully prepared to go in with a determined attitude and some form of protective gear.

Instead, I walked into a relatively casual atmosphere; people took their time rifling through the clothing piles. Somehow, the sale catered to everyone in attendance, including a group of trendy teenagers, a European supermodel-type and a particularly striking individual wearing fishnet stockings and 3-inch red nails on a Sunday morning.

I also spotted a pair of women who brought a full-length mirror to the sale, denoting their veteran status since there were no changing rooms to be found. I strategically drifted closer to them and asked if they were regulars, expressing that it was my first time and that I had no idea what I was doing.

One of them explained that the shrink-wrapped bundles contained a new selection of clothing items that would be unwrapped and available to shoppers at 10:45 a.m. This is when the mad rush would ensue. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time and would have to return to the fray another morning.

I then asked if she had any tips for newbies.

She told me to just keep digging, her eyes crinkling in a smile.

And so I did, but I changed my approach from delicately examining clothes from the tops of the piles to ripping the mounds apart on my hands and knees. I saw that many experienced shoppers sat on the side of the curb with an armful of clothing, chucking back the garments they didn’t want.

[Related: Students dust off ’90s grunge trend to express individuality]

I adopted this strategy, erratically snatching any colors or prints that caught my eye, returning over half back to the piles. Through the process, I was able to find a couple of loose silky button ups, a comfortable sleep shirt and a striped skirt in retro orange and red. Apart from the skirt, I opted for looser fitting garments to avoid any sizing issues.

My total came to a whopping $5, paid to a young man with slicked back hair casually sipping coffee underneath a tent. The cost of the clothing was dirt cheap – however, I paid the price of sifting through garments in atrocious states of disarray.

Shopper be warned, this sale is not for the faint of heart. Around half the items I found had a conspicuous yellow stain or a giant frayed hole located in the chest area. A pair of white gym shorts I peeled off the ground looked like it had been run over multiple times by a heavy duty truck and then trampled on by a stampede of adult elephants.

However, for thrifting enthusiasts who get a thrill from finding a rare needle in a haystack, Jet Rag offers a hands-on experience and an abundance of used clothes. Just make sure to put them through a couple of wash cycles.

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