by Ann Rosenquist Fee
I’ll say this first and I’ll be really clear about it. I have no problem with virtue. In regular life I’m virtuous as a routine and I appreciate it in other people as well. Right now, for instance, I’m drinking coffee with coconut oil and I tipped the barista a dollar, and it was a paper dollar, not a bunch of change. I’m doing all this before 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Do you see what I’m saying? Temperance, charity, diligence. Those are three of the seven official virtues and I’m not even thinking about it.
But it’s not as if I have some kind of hyper-virtue problem, like I need you to join me in condemning bad behavior so we both know that’s not how we operate. For example. I’m not inviting you to freak out at the news that a bunch of French women were killing their infants and hiding the corpses in plastic bags in the garage, the garden, the trash, the foundation of the house. (Women, plural. Like it was a thing in that particular town, a thing to do.) This was a landing-page story a while ago on CNN.com, and you have to assume it got that placement because CNN knows people like to read that kind of thing and say, oh my God, who would do that? Who would do that? In this way, the reader makes clear that they wouldn’t do it. They can’t even comprehend. They can’t even. To read a thing like that, your silent reading voice taking on a shocked tone, and then to tell other people about the story you just read, in a shocked tone, you can feel ok then because everyone understands you wouldn’t do a thing like that. It’s understood.
I’m not asking you to do anything like that. I also don’t need you to do the opposite, to join in doing bad things with me so I’ll feel better about myself. As stated, I’m comfortable with virtue. What I’m trying to propose here, what I feel strongly about and want to share with you, is that when the seven deadly sins are applied with intention, when they’re committed in the interest of successful thrift shopping, virtue results. Virtue and great style. Which, together, are super-hot.
Postulate 1: Avarice is next to thriftiness.
(Avarice means greed. I had to look it up.) Without this, you can’t even walk into the Goodwill. You’re not ready. You might as well go to Nordstrom where you can afford only one thing, or two if they’re on clearance, because who cares. If that satisfies you, if that’s who you are, then you’re not right for the Goodwill. No, for proper thrifting you need to crave luxuries beyond your means. You need to want what you can’t afford in quantities your closet can’t accommodate. You must desire quality and quantities only available to a person of your means via the Goodwill. Once that’s your mindset, once you yield to that, you may enter.
Postulate 2: Lust trumps whatever makes your ass look fat.
When you move through the Goodwill guided by lust, you choose your try-ons based on texture-color-fringe-vibe. Your choices may or may not be advisable for your bust size, hip-waist ratio, day job, whatever. Don’t waver. Don’t give thought to those rules or you’ll never ever dress any more interestingly than you’re dressed this second. You’ll just keep wearing boring flattering things versus things that give you pleasure. On the other hand, if you buy what you want and wear it like you mean it, it doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t, whether it matches or fits or anything else. If you shop from lust, you’ll look good because you’ll feel pleased and triumphant and oblivious to your ass size. Your posture will improve. If people think it’s some kind of feminist or postfeminist rejection of fashion industry edicts, whatever-whatever, that’s fine. Let them think that. Lust has a long history of working better when it’s secret.
Postulate 3: Slothfulness actually equals efficiency.
There are no escalators at the Goodwill. There are no separate levels or rooms of alcoves, no one-brand-of-t-shirt-here and another-brand-of-t-shirt-over-there. Everything is exactly right in front of you, all things of one kind are grouped together, often quite close. Often color coded, which makes it so easy. Very little effort is required to yield an impressive variety of head-to-toe outfit items, all of which are within swatting distance of each other if you were to spread your arms and twirl in the Women’s half of the store, giddy with the lack of exertion required to knock over shoes and a bag and a scarf and a dress from the Quality Clothing rack. And due to this, due to everything being literally within arm’s reach, you can look at just about everything on every rack in the time it would take you to locate each of the separate t-shirt alcoves at an energy-sucking lust-stifling upscale department store.
This is stuff from other people you’re buying, used clothes with perfume and deodorant still clinging to the insides. Not fresh fabric that smells like a store. This stuff has lived. It’s been places. It’s possible that you’re drawn to a piece because of who wears that kind of thing. You know damn well who wears wrap dresses, and it’s never been you. And by God starting today it’s going to be you. Wrap up in her life, her smell. She gave it up for some reason. Possibly for you. Go ahead and buy it, be that woman, and if you like the smell don’t have it dry cleaned right away. (This is lust and envy working together. Are you seeing this synergy? OH WAIT I think I mean sinergy. Oh my God.) If you stay focused, stay with the fragrance and the possibility of a new-to-you life, you can pull this off. You just might be mistaken for a wrap-dress woman. Ultimately with all the right accessories and a hand-crafted messenger bag and whatnot, but right now just take it one piece at a time.
Postulate 5: Gluttony benefits the greater good.
In the situation of Goodwill, it’s most logical to buy overstuffed bags full of clothing in order to 1) limit the amount of times you need to get in your car to travel to the store within a given period; 2) give discarded clothing an appreciative home; and 3) usually, if it’s indeed a Goodwill or Salvation Army or something like that, help fund social services for people in need. Do you see this? The more excessive your binge, the greater the goodness. Yield to the bag sale. Yield and feel your carbon footprint shrink, your karma improve and the operating budgets of your local nonprofits swell as you load your trunk with one, maybe two, reused grocery sacks of goodness.
Postulate 6: Pride spreads the love.
Get home and dump it all out on the floor and know that you are fabulous. Thrifty, efficient, not beholden to restrictive style conventions. And it’s not enough to know this for yourself, you have to tell people. You have to. No $2.99 platform boots, no bag-sale velvet blazer realizes its full emotional or fashion value until somebody compliments you and you go, oh my God I know, these were $2.99! The praise, then, goes beyond the superficial. It’s not about the boots. It’s about the fact that you did this. You’re not just wearing this stuff, you accomplished it, you in the smart smart thrifty hot smart boots. When you share your pride undiluted, it helps ignite avarice and envy in others, and then voila. A self-sustaining cycle is established.
Postulate 7: Wrath is inevitable.
It’s included. It just is, and you can’t avoid it even if you think you can because everything looked great in the store. That’s just part of the cycle you’re now trapped inside. It’s a particular risk in places without a try-on room. Wrath happens, right away or eventually, because you start wearing this stuff, these bold choices, and you realize you were frenzied. You were high on texture and color, high on your own brain imagining yourself as some kind of wrap-dress wearer. So you made some choices that turn out to be not the best. Honestly, to be honest, they look really bad on you. Worse than a lot of things you already own, in fact, the stuff you thought you were replacing. And now here they are in your house, in the closet or still on your bedroom floor or whatever, looking back at you in a mocking way, as if you were ever, ever, ever going to be that woman or anything like her. Ever. And since you are a buyer of full bags at the Goodwill Thrift, really full bags to be efficient, it’s not like you can go back tomorrow to give back these few items and try again. You can’t. It would be awkward, it would be a failure. These things have to stay in your possession until you can justify another trip. And based on when Goodwill turns over their inventory, and based on the fact that you went through just about every hanger on every single rack on that last trip, you are stuck, stuck with this load of ill-fitting off-brand crap and you can’t even think about passing it off to anyone else, because you already know no friend wants any of this. If you’d had a friend along with you, in fact, she would have saved you from yourself, she would have said, um, I don’t think that works for you. But you didn’t ask. This is your doing, your stash, your closet for a good six weeks. So I hope you’re happy.
Frustrating, yes. But it’s wrath that completes the cycle and sends us back to the beginning. One by one, the mistakes go into a small shopping bag and then later a larger bag, then two, and then they sit there on the floor of the closet for a while, and at some point the bags make it out to the car. When that happens, it’s time. Time to want what you can’t afford, want what feels good to touch, want it all within reach, want to dress like-look like-be like someone else, want more and more and more, want the world to know. Time to take your bag of bad choices to the Goodwill — the source, the mandala, the mountain — and deliver them to the back door, where offerings are accepted between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and then walk back around to the entry and begin anew.
Ann Rosenquist Fee blogs about transgression and fashion annrosenquistfee.com.