Stuff on a Budget: Thrift Stores, Yard Sales, Auctions, Town-wide Garage Sales, Costuming Plays

Anne rarely paid full retail price for any item, clothing in particular, and almost never play costumes. Her parents regularly made the rounds of yard and garage sales in the Ambler, PA area. I would be the last person to claim this was in her genes, especially because she was adopted, but Anne came by thrifting honestly from her parents’ example.

When I first met Anne in 1977, she was so pleased that she had just scored at auction a marvelous sideboard that served as a dresser, and an equally marvelous 4-piece, tall, combination wardrobe and dresser. She went to that auction site repeatedly until something she really coveted came up, and she could acquire it on her limited budget. The carving on both of these walnut pieces is stunning. It was hard to get her to bypass a yard or garage sale, and she would meticulously examine almost everything offered for something she could use, or might use in the future.

Anne was skilled at costuming plays at Edison on a limited budget. Road trips to Dayton were made several times at the beginning of each play rehearsal, and there was always an entourage of devoted students who turned the trip into a social event for not only purchasing play clothing and material, but also scoring personal wardrobe items. I was awed at how rich velvet curtains of deep hues could become capes and outer garments for Elizabethan clothes. 

 Thrift shopping for costumes and material, 2001

Thrift shopping for costumes and material, 2001

It was fortunate that Anne always worked with had good seamstresses, one of whom, Tracey, is shown above left, because Anne's sewing skills were lacking, even before her fingers became less dexterous. Anne and Tracey were good friends. As well, beginning in 2014, Anne became good friends with Robin Jay, the costumer for the Our Town Theater Group out of North Creek, NY.

Anne’s personal wardrobe was acquired mainly from thrift stores. She could be called a clothes horse, but, again, it was accomplished on a budget. Underwear was purchased new, but even her massive collection of hats, over 3 dozen, was drawn mainly from thrift stores. Sweaters, skirts, pants, and blazers; all were from thrift stores. I can recall more than once Anne responding to someone who sheepishly and apologetically admitted that an item of clothing was purchased second-hand, to which Anne would reply that most of her clothes were second-hand. As more than one woman friend said, Anne had a good eye, not only for herself, but also her companions, and of course, for costuming a play.

In fact, creating play costumes was another expression of Anne’s creativity. Costuming was an art medium. That’s why Anne wanted to be involved in all phases of a play production. She even had a show in the Edison art gallery of a selection of costumes from numerous plays.