If you love thrift shops, be forewarned: I’m about to make you strikingly jealous. First, close your eyes and picture the sassiest one you’ve ever seen. In what city was it located? I’m happy to report I have a new answer: Austin, Texas, baby.
Last week I attended a conference in Austin, which happens to be my former hometown. I took a few days afterward to visit friends I rarely get to see. After enjoying tacos with my fave gals from the high school days, I ventured across the street to Top Drawer Thrift. It turned out to be wondrous, and I’d like you to have a similar encounter soon. To make sure you’re prepared, I’ll share my Five Signs You’re in the Presence of Thrift-Shop Greatness.
Sign #1: Displays are Artfully Prepared
Not everyone knows how to pair a silver vintage dress with a colorful ceramic mask. Or that the same silver dress would benefit from a paisley silk scarf being swooped around its waist. Fortunately, somebody at Top Drawer’s got a keen artistic eye. Artful displays in the aisles impressed me even before I discovered the shop hosts college-level interns in visual merchandising. (Loving your sparkle-antlers, Anna!)
Sign #2: Wandering Brings Out Your Playfulness
I get that some people don’t understand the allure of shopping for discarded items. For me, though, it’s hard to beat the experience of making old things new. Seeing possibility requires a certain level of playfulness.
This shop clearly understands the the importance of a joyful shopping experience. Um, yeah . . . if your display contains a tutu-sporting, boa-wearing, equality-touting unicorn, then I say, “Playfulness? Check!”
Sign #3: You Find an Affordable Discovery You Can’t Live Without
For my friend, this meant finding a pair of pink-and-purple boots. The second she came across them, she exclaimed, “I’ve been looking for a cowboy rainboot!” They fit her perfectly and it was a done deal. I, on the other hand, had never heard of cowboy rainboots. This did not stop me from immediately wishing those fabulous things were mine. How, oh, how, had I lived through four decades without knowing I had an urgent need for plastic boots?
The item I couldn’t live without turned out to be vintage upholstery fabric. Labeled Covington Fabric Corp., the sample pack showcased an address of Fifth Avenue in New York. The 1940 company has since moved away from this textile-row address, but it remains one of the largest manufacturers of printed home-decor fabrics.
Sign #4: The Shop Supports the Community
Thrift shops and community go hand in hand. In this case, the store is part of a nonprofit that provides hospice and housing. In also supports the local economy, evidenced by a hand-drawn map of other second-hand stores in the area.
Sign #5: The Shop Inspires a New Craft Project
As soon as I saw the Covington samples, I sensed they’d become a sewing project. Their colors were vibrantly retro. Their linen-cotton blend would be easy to work with, but provide substantial heft. And I couldn’t resist the way the samples coordinated with each other. The only question was, “What to make?”
Vote: What Should I Make from Fabric Samples?
So, what should I make, y’all? I’d love to hear your thoughts.