One of the great joys for a frugal person is an upcoming holiday, especially a lesser one, such as Presidents’ Day or Columbus Day. I become giddy with delight because I know that’s when my local thrift store will offer 50 percent off almost everything!
I didn’t always feel this way. For years, my mom (Diana) tried to entice me to go thrift-store shopping with her but to no avail. The concept of used clothing didn’t bother me. (Isn’t all the clothing in my closet “used,” as well as anything I borrow from a friend or relative?) It was the smell. I was a scent snob.
But that changed the day we found The Dress.
I was home from college, my aunt Jennifer was in town, and her visit happened to fall on Labor Day. In order to spend as much time with her as possible, I accompanied her and my mom to the local thrift store. Trying to hold my breath, I wandered aimlessly through the aisles until they called me over to look at a wedding dress. I had given little thought to what kind of wedding dress I wanted. I had other details to iron out first, such as the name of the groom. But I was fairly certain of two things:
1. I would most likely get married.
2. I wanted a cream-colored dress. (With my unique coloring, a white dress would have made me look more like the bride of Frankenstein than a blushing bride.)
The dress was tailor-made from cream-colored silk, not too revealing for our tastes, and it boasted a $30 price tag. Since we were shopping on a holiday, the dress was only $15.
Now you may be wondering why a girl with no husband in sight would need a wedding dress. This is a good time to point out that there can be a fine line between a frugal person and a pack rat. Whenever I find a wonderful price on something I don’t happen to need at the moment but may need eventually, I have to decide if it’s worth the cost of storage. This cost may not be a rented storage unit, but every item stored in your home costs space that could be used for other purposes.
But back to the dress . . . .
We stored it at my mom’s house until my husband-to-be came along. At that point, we had the dress dry-cleaned. Jennifer offered to make a few needed alterations and fancy it up a bit.
She cut lace medallions from a tattered veil and a prom-dress overlay, both thrift-store purchases. She added fabric-store lace she’d bought at a 40-percent discount. Then she attached costume pearls and sequins my great-grandmother had collected. I would have been happy with the original dress, but her work, which was part of her wedding gift, made it much more stunning.
A lot of other people also thought it turned out beautifully. In fact, an acquaintance borrowed it some time later when she got married.
You may not need a wedding dress, but let me share some useful things my amazing find taught me:
1. If you need a normally expensive item, don’t forget to check avenues you may not usually search. Freecycle.org, craigslist.org, and eBay.com are good starting places to learn more about an item’s availability and pricing. When you find what you want, you will have a better idea whether its condition and price are within reasonable limits. Also, Internet searches can mine a wealth of information.
2. Just because something is not generally purchased secondhand does not mean it isn’t worth considering. Some people are turned off by the idea of a used wedding dress. But any daughter who wears her mother’s wedding dress is wearing a used gown, and most people think that’s a touching idea. Since so many of us are trying to be better stewards of our resources, something such as wearing a pre-worn wedding dress should be high on our list. This is one of the highest cost-per-use items any woman will ever purchase. Why not change that?
3. While being careful not to become pack rats, we can make note of items we know we will eventually need and then buy them when they come along at the right prices.
So as the next holiday approaches, join me in heading to the local thrift store and breathing deeply of the aroma of savings.
Written by Honorary Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Aimee
© 2009, The Savage Sisters
I’m jealous!!! $15 is amazing, especially when it looked so beautiful on you 🙂 I can’t even find white shoes for that price.
Loved your story, Aimee. Keep writing.
Your dress is beautiful! I also purchased my dressed used. Many years ago when searching for a dress, I saw an ad in the newspaper that read “Designer Wedding Dress For Sale – worn once by mistake”. LOL! I sold it after I was married for about half what I paid for it and since I have two boys (married 20+ years now) it worked out well not storing it.