Two or three times a year, Value Village (http://www.valuevillage.ca) - the GAP of the boho set - holds a half-price sale. You just missed yesterday's. Women the city over know all about the Village and regularly strip its racks bare of inexpensive borderline vintage gear. Men still haven't cottoned on that you can sometimes find - with a lot of digging - designer clobber like a Kenneth Cole dress shirt for $3.99. OK, it's been worn, it's an extra large, and it likely needs regular dry cleaning, but on half-price day, that shmancy NYC shmata (retail $85) is two bucks!
The Value Village at Queen and Carlaw in what's now poshly known as Leslieville has always been the cheapest one in town. To prepare for half-price day there, one almost needs knee and shoulder pads as well as a stun gun to deal with the crowd. Since the store only has a half dozen or so shopping carts and another 20-some baskets, my best plan of attack is to bring my laundry bag to stash my swag.
It helps to be organized. Half-price day is so busy, you don't have time to second-guess anything. See a sweater that looks remotely OK, grab it immediately or else it won't be there when you go back. And lose the plastic hangers immediately. Twenty pairs of pants AND hangers can be a tad cumbersome.
Once you've got an armful of clothes, take them over into a corner, and quickly edit the treasure. Try them on over your clothes - that's why you only wear a close-fitting T-shirt and shorts to half-price day - and, channeling your inner Stacey and Clinton, ditch anything that doesn't fit. Besides, you more than likely own too many over-sized Hawaiian shirts as it is. And don't bother putting the cast-offs back on the rack. That's why the staff get paid minimum wage.
Last winter was my third half-price day, so I came prepared. Besides the large swag bag, I had a game plan. I'll start with the smalls - T-shirts, shorts - then move on to dress shirts and pants (no pleats!) and end up with jackets, coats and shoes. Who wants a factory sample fluorescent orange snowboarding parka getting in the way of bargain hunting even if it is only 20 bucks (half-price $10!).
So, I started in men's underwear. The first thing I spotted was a vintage pair of red Stanfield Y-fronts marked 69 cents - 35 cents half-price - and stashed them in my bag. Almost immediately, I was accosted by an under-age security guard and accused of shoplifting.
After pointing out that in order to be charged with shoplifting one needs to actually shoplift something, I was allowed to continue shopping but only after the security guard brought me a shopping basket with two broken handles. Isn't that why I brought my own bag in the first place?
"Besides," I told him indignantly, "if I was going to start shoplifting, I wouldn't begin at Value Village with a 35 cent pair of underpants."
I swore I'd never return. But yesterday morning, I felt that familiar irresistible pulI and dashed over to the Carlaw VV. Instead of the usual mob scene, I found the place virtually empty. Am I dreaming? Seems the sale was originally planned for the long weekend, but got switched to Monday with short notice. So, I worked my way methodically up and down the aisles, carefully reading labels and singing along with Big Girls Don't Cry by the Four Seasons. I lingered over a six dollar pair of shiny black DKNY jeans but reluctantly put them back on the rack when I realized I'd look like an over-stuffed sausage in them. I ended up only buying two T-shirts at a buck a piece, more than double what they would have been a year ago. In fact, everything I looked at was more expensive than it used to be. I guess the east side isn't where the poor people live anymore.
The death knell for Queen West was said to have been when the Goodwill turned into a Le Chateau. Now that the Leslieville Value Village has gone upmarket, is old Queen Street East officially gone forever?