I Finally Tried ThredUp and Here’s What I Think

lifestyle, Vintage

So I’m not the official authority on thrifted clothing but I know a thing or two about the whole process. I’ve been trying to make the conscious effort to shop ethically and sustainably which sometimes means shelling out a bit of money for something well made and ethically sourced, or sifting through racks of second hand clothing at my nearest Goodwill or Savers. Personally, I like visiting thrift stores and spending time finding a piece that speaks to me. Without an agenda, a sense of “oh I really NEED a new black dress,” and instead a sense of “what treasures can I find today,” I find the hunt exciting. It’s an activity. However, what happens when you want something specific and don’t want to shell out the money for a high quality version because it’s just not the “worth it” sort of item? That’s when you use ThredUp.

Disclaimer: I don’t want my opinions to deter anyone from using ThredUp. I think any move towards more sustainable options (that may be more accessible due to price point and online fulfillment) is a good move. These are just some questions/concerns/stipulations I had before ordering, and my experiences. Spoiler alert: I would shop at ThredUp again.

I placed my first order on ThredUp on a slow Thursday at work. Honestly, ThredUp can be akin to a thrift store when you surpass the filters and search options, making it a great source for afternoon scrolling. This time, however, I was looking for two specific things: a pair of khakis and a sundress. My first praise to ThredUp comes here: I found both items easily through the filters. I could sort by my size, brands that I like and colors I prefer. I landing on a pair of Uniqlo khakis (a brand that makes pants that actually fit my weird body) and a grey linen Tahari dress.

While I found what I was looking for, now would be a good time to mention some critiques. While I understand that these items are second hand and the site might have a high turn-over rate, clothing often looks a bit disheveled in the photos. The descriptions offer some assistance (both items were classified as “like new”) but when the photo looks one way and the caption says another thing, you get weary. This was actually a deterrent from me ordering clothing sooner. But with enough assurance from other people, I gave it a shot. My other critique: price point. Yes, I know the designer brands and expensive name brands see a high markdown from traditional retail price, that discount diminishes when it comes to other brands. For example, you can probably find Old Navy items in the actual store on clearance for the same price they are listed for on ThredUp, and if you’re shopping second hand due to budget, this isn’t quite the discount you may need. You can probably find some mid-tier brand items even cheaper at actual brick and mortar thrift stores, however without the luxury of pre-sorting items and browsing online.

Nevertheless, I placed my two item order: $29.75. Definitely more than what I’d pay in a traditional thrift store for two items. I actually paid $3 for a pair of pants at a thrift store one week later. Shipping was $5.99 – another critique but something inevitable for an online retailer, I guess. I was STOKED to get a package in the mail, though. It’s like giving a present to yourself. A treat!

Yet, I waited a week for my items to arrive. No big deal, I wasn’t in a rush, but I was less than excited to get two separate packages for only two items. I’m all for sustainability, which is why I shop second hand in the first place, but part of the sustainability process is minimizing both packaging and shipping frequency. Aside from the plastic outer packaging, the inside only had a paper sticker and tissue paper, which was nice because it was recyclable.

Upon receiving both items, I was pleasantly surprised to find them in better condition than they appeared online – a shock as almost everyone looks better online. Good job, ThredUp. The dress was virtually wrinkle free (although that changed once I gave it the requisite wash) and the pants looked as if they had never been worn. I can foresee myself wearing both items regularly and for quite some time, an advantage considering the prices. In addition, both items fit, and while I’m not sure if that’s attributed to good luck or accurate sizing, I’m happy with that fact.

So what is the final verdict? I may not shop on ThredUp frequently. For the higher prices, lengthy shipping time and ambiguous quality, I would rather partake in my favorite pastime and sort through musty racks of clothing. However, for the times when I need a new black cardigan or a specific party dress I can happily turn to ThredUp knowing my purchase will still fit this part of my sustainable lifestyle. When I’m in the mood to spend money and shop online, I’d rather turn to ThredUp.

Vintage Amaro

Wipe Off the Dust and Drink the Old Amaro

drink, Vintage

Infatuated with the bittersweet, syrupy allure of the Aperol spritz, Americans have rediscovered a taste for aperitivo and digestivo bitters. Enter amaro. While Campari is the ruby red king of bitter aperitivi, other darker, herbaceous digestivi have resurrected in it’s wake, ready to tackle cocktail menus and bar carts across the country.

But the history of amaro goes back. Waaaay back. And in cleaning my great grandma’s house my grandma found a cardboard box of amaro from yesteryear. You see, my great grandma didn’t drink. Her amaro stash grew from generous house guests who graciously brought a bottle upon each visit. Stubborn enough to not indulge in a drop but kind enough to hold on to each bottle, my great grandma unknowingly bestowed a treasure trove of flavors unto me. Thanks Grandma Maria.

Now normally I would not condone eating old food. Don’t eat the candy you found in your closet from a Halloween of yore. But properly stored vintage alcohol? Dive in. A barrel aged bourbon develops its unique flavor because of age. A vintage red wine has subtleties that a younger wine has not yet developed. Not to say all old alcohol remains drinkable, proceed with sensible caution.

What’s in amaro?

I realize I’ve been drinking this stuff for a while and have no idea what’s in it. Oops. Each one is different, ranging from sweet like caramel to bitter like licorice, with unique secret recipes like mystical potions. Some even taste medicinal.

I’m lucky to have two vintage amari in my house: Amaro dell’Etna and Cynar. Amaro dell’Etna‘s ingredient list contains orange peel, licorice and vanilla. The recipe dates back to 1901, but is still available new in sores today. Cynar, a name derived from the latin botanical name for artichoke, is surprise surprise made of artichoke along with 13 other herbs and plants. Younger than Amaro dell’Etna, Cynar debuted in Italy in 1952.

The bitterness makes them adequate swaps for bitters in classic cocktails. Each unique blend also can suffice as the base for a contact and/or enjoyed on it’s own or with seltzer. The versatility alone makes a no-brainer case for keeping amaro in your home bar. Don’t worry, there’s one for everyone.

Is old amaro safe to drink?

Short answer, yes. Finding a bottle of Campari from 1950 is an incredible feat for negroni aficionados. But proper storage can make or break a vintage. Like Campari and Cynar, liqueurs don’t need to be refrigerated due to the sugar content. Approach vintage vermouth, lillet and any other fortified wines with caution. Opened or unopened, when exposed to light and heat, fortified wines can lose umf.

Where to store vintage amaro?

To reiterate, amaro’s sugar content keeps it shelf stable. So room temperature storage should not be a problem. However, take caution when drinking an old amaro that’s already been open. While oxidation won’t harm you, it will impact the thickness as the sugars turn into glycerin. It’s just a recipe for meh amaro experience. Best to keep vintage amaro unopened and out of direct sunlight until ready to drink.

What happens to the flavor?

The resulting flavor of aged amari varies greatly between styles. Additionally, due to changes in machinery and ownership, while ingredients might be the same every time, amari can vary between decades as well. Flavor can become sweeter and more syrupy or mellow as the bitter herbs meld together further. It’s an adventurous way to taste beyond switching between styles of amaro. Trying today’s version of Cynar, for example, alongside my beloved found bottle can showcase how the flavors evolved over time.

Let’s talk labels

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had an infatuation with vintage alcohol labels for a very long time: the art nouveau styles of absinthe ads to the futurism era Campari posters shaped my appreciation for the liqueurs. The text and colors of these labels tell so much about when they were conceived. The Amaro dell’Etna, with an older formula, uses embellished text and a painted landscape paying homage to a classic style, while the Cynar label uses block text and a modern design ringing in the 1950’s idea of the future. While both labels now reflect the past, each exists in its own era forever, reflecting the art and sentiment of each era.

Cocktail connoisseurs and vintage collectors can appreciate the impact these liqueurs have had on the culinary and advertising worlds. If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit a dusty cardboard box of amaro, you can taste older bottles at specialty wine shops and cocktail bars. If you’re curious to try an amaro at all, the next time you’re interested in an Aperol spritz at the bar, ask for one with a different bitter liqueur instead.

Beaded Woven Purse

Thrifting Threes: Clothing I Look For

Vintage

I love thrift stores: the pre-loved clothing crowded on racks rich with past lives and probably dust, mismatched flatware and commemorative beer mugs so you can fondly recall the Stella you drank in Florida last winter, and the smell, a combination of attic-ridden Christmas decorations and your grandma’s closet (the one with the Danish cookie tin full of sewing supplies). Thrifting and buying second hand is on the rise as vintage styles undergo a renaissance and sustainability becomes essential to young people. I know I can’t resist a trip to the nearest thrift store. It’s an adventure that exercises creativity and allows anyone to push the bounds of personal style and expression. I personally go into thrift stores with no expectation so as to keep an open mind. What do I buy? When it comes to clothing, I typically shop within three main categories.

Basics

Your closet needs a solid foundation of neutral and practical articles that you can seamlessly accessorize and pair with just about anything. Here is not the time to harp on designer names. Second hand basics can come from anywhere, but it is nice to find higher quality pieces that will last longer. Beige, brown, black, white and grey items as well as denim are valuable finds at any thrift store. Also, staples that you have difficulty finding in your size at other retail shops. I’m 5ft tall (5ft short, rather) and can never find maxi skirts and dresses that don’t drag on the floor. With the range of styles, sizes and decades represented at most thrift stores, it’s easy to find size and shape outliers. It may take digging, but it’s worth it.

Quirky Statement Pieces

Thrift stores are treasures troves for weird and unusual clothing. Of my statement pieces, silly embroidered chambray shirts are my favorites. This is the time to bring retro patterns and colors into your wardrobe. It’s also the perfect place to find ugly sweaters and comical t shirts previously worn by cool dads and 80’s nerds alike. These pieces bring out your personality, and offer an inexpensive way to push your own wardrobe’s boundaries and have some fun. This is an opportunity to go wild in the accessory section and find the beaded bag or dad hat of your dreams. It’s an opportunity to look through all sections of the store, men’s, women’s, pajamas, to find the piece that suits you. It’s these pieces that rightfully garner the most attention from friends and colleagues, even if sometimes that attention is in the form of “what is that?”

Designer Labels and Luxury Pieces

Here is when the label matters. If you’re reading this, you definitely don’t get paid enough to drop cash on luxury brands or premium fabrics. Smaller local thrift stores or consignment shops typically offer a more curated selection, but sometimes increase the price knowing the value of what they’re carrying. No matter, it will still be less expensive and more eco-friendly than buying something brand new. I’ve been fortunate enough to find cashmere turtleneck sweaters and a brand new (tags! still! on!) Michael Kors pencil skirt for less than $10. My boyfriend scored with a full Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece navy blue suit (retailed at a few thousand dollars) for less than $15. Here is where you maybe want to also consider shelling out extra money for alterations if the piece is valuable and right.

Alternatives

Now I’m aware that not everyone can shop for new items at environmentally friendly, ethically made clothing stores. Some people may not even be able to shop at higher end consignment shops depending on tier, or even thrift stores due to travel. This doesn’t mean you can’t still wear sustainable clothes AND be fashionable. Swapping clothes with friends and family is an environmentally friendly and FREE way to refresh your wardrobe, especially when it comes to formal wear and highly seasonal or specific pieces. Cull your closet and invite friends to do the same. Dump your clothes out and swap.

The Vintage Market, Santo Spirito

Photography, Travel, Vintage

My spirit and soul yearn for one single place: Florence, Italy. Every morning I sprang out of bed to the sound of Santa Maria Del Fiore’s bells, sometimes with a grand plan and other times with the desire to just explore. One Sunday I found myself in my favorite corner of the city, Piazza Santo Spirito. Brunelleschi’s austere church facade loomed over the sun drenched square, demanding attention and reverence despite the hustle and bustle below.

Every second Sunday vendors lined the square with vintage knick knacks, clothes and furniture. I encountered a smiling man selling brass kitchen wares (a bottle opener shaped like a woman’s legs, decorative cabinet hardware, interesting stuff), women picking through vintage clothing and tables cluttered with photos and trinkets emblematic of the past. I saw real communist pins next to embroidered cloth panels. And, of course, there would be no market without food in Italy. Next to the old vases you could pick up a hot porchetta sandwich. Ideal.

While anything and everything seemed available, clothing stalls expressed the most stark dichotomy of all. Some stalls featured clothing racks with vintage and restored pieces costing over 25 euro while others had piles of weathered and worn garments all costing 5 euro, no more and no less. I approached the table with hope and started picking through pieces with local nonnas.

I finally found it. THE shirt. A white embroidered linen blouse, slightly too big for my frame, but utterly perfect. Vertical vines dropped from the shoulders to the mid-torso. This white blouse embodied summer in Italy and I knew I had to have it.

Quanto costo?

Cinque euro.

Yes, 5 euro later and I toted home my favorite blouse in the Florentine sun.

This shirt feels gorgeous and vintage. I think it’s a men’s shirt but it has a feminine quality that I love. I remember wearing it during the firsts few days of my first internship. I remember wearing it with my great grandma’s silk scarf tied around my neck. It just feels right on my skin.

Not to mention, Santo Spirito is one of the most gorgeous and underrated parts of Florence, in my opinion. Sure, I’m a typical American student and flocked to Gusta Pizza a few too many times for heart shaped pizza and a plastic cup of wine (“per porta in via” means you can take your wine to go which is magical when you find yourself drinking wine in a bank vestibule at 9pm), but I made sure to walk beyond the square into the artists’ quarter of the Oltrarno. Papier-mâché clowns and vintage jewelry took over storefront windows. Wisteria grew atop the old city walls. Hidden aperitivo joints came to life at night. To not visit Santo Spirito while in Florence would be to not see the soul of the citizens. It’s as if the oldest and youngest parts meet in this one square.

This white linen shirt brings memories of Santo Spirito to life. The texture of the cloth on my skin conjures memories of sunny days eating berries at the market or getting sucked into the oldest streets of the city completely unsupervised. Reflected in the stitches I see the cobblestone streets and treasure chests of wonder.

Vintage Milk Glass

Vintage

Among the trinkets and tools in my kitchen are five (not four, not six) milk glass espresso cups and saucers. The aptly named glass cups have almost laughably small handles, and the saucers are an embellishment from years past. Still, they’re classic and feel dainty and regal in my hands. I feel like a queen sipping tea as I slurp hot espresso while wearing a plush blue bathrobe at 5:30am. They’re from my great grandmothers house, which is why I only have five and not a practical number (however, any number greater than 1 is impractical for me I guess). They were free, convenient and stylish. They serve a purpose for me, a daily espresso drinker.

However, when milk glass originated in the 16th century in Venice, it was priceless. Imagine the purity and creaminess of milk cupped in your hand like a solid cloud. Almost a dead ringer for porcelain at the time, milk glass not only appeared in white but various colors with the same opaque thickness. However priceless in appearance, not priceless in cost. Milk glass was more affordable than porcelain and much of today’s existing milk glass is from the 17th century and later.

Milk glass then appeared in France in the 19th century at a pivotal time for France and Western Europe. The turn of the century saw the birth of modernism and expressionism in art and music as the western world flourished. In my mind there’s a soft glow in these turn of the century scenes, as if the period was shrouded in a milky haze of tan and taupe tones. I picture a woman lifting a cup just like mine to her lips and laughing coyly at a joke that was not too funny. I imagine opulence and delicacy—a pinky out sort of affair.

The Gilded Age in America gave rise to milk glass as decorative vases, jewelry and architectural elements including marquees and clock faces. The ostentatious clock perched atop the information desk in Grand Central terminal has a face made of milk glass. Until the 1930s and 1940s, milk glass was sturdy but the Great Depression caused a drop in quality.

My milk glass is likely from the milk glass craze of the 1950’s when Fenton was producing milk glass items that would’ve topped wedding registries. Think of it as that era’s rose gold. Anything from practical flatware to lanterns made of milk glass became trendy and appealing for young couples in the 50s and 60s. The style became so popular, it nearly saved the Fenton company and became the company’s claim to fame despite existing for decades prior.

How to identify true milk glass? I’m glad no one asked. Held up to the light, milk glass refracts slight opalization, therefore proving it is not fully opaque and can instead allow some light through. The light that passes through illuminates an orangey iridescence unseen unless purposely held up to the light. Despite my espresso cups being fairly thick, I did not expect any light to shine through and yet I was wrong. The opal glow isn’t striking but flecks of orange and even a little red reveal themselves in the light. Beautiful.

Sadly, these cups see everything but a pinky out affair. Daily use and constant clanking against other mugs, pans and dishes definitely don’t scream opulence but it does attest to milk glass’ longevity, and wasn’t that the point to begin with? A delicate appearance with highly practical usage.