There are twelve items in my recycled garbage bag: a couple of heavy sweaters and several long-sleeved tees–all of them wool, cashmere, cotton, or silk. All of them bearing brand names that even I am familiar with. I hand the gray-haired lady $30. She gives me change, looks into my eyes, says \”thank you so much for coming.\”
Before I came to Vermont, I had never darkened the door of a vintage shop, much less attended a rummage sale. But–blame the apocalyptic Zeitgeist, or the Vermont ethos, or the fact that the chicken shed has replaced the office as my early-morning destination–I now attend the Dorset Church bi-annual rummage sale religiously.
So does everybody else. In Vermont you can normally drive right to the front door of your venue and park. But for this particular occasion, you sometimes have to park the equivalent of two blocks (there are no blocks in Dorset) away. That tells you something.
It\’s usually brisk on the morning of the fall sale, and the wily church ladies have set up the tent with the coats, heavy sweaters and ski-wear right next to the (Vermont marble) sidewalk. Indoors there is the \”designer room,\” where cashmere and pristine labels abound; the coat room, the shoe room, the children\’s room, and a huge room where you can buy dresses, skirts, pants, tops, sheets, blankets, comforters, not to mention clothes for guys, for practically pennies.
The place is so crowded that reflective shopping is out of the question. This is a relief for me, who tend to go into existential crises in a mall. Here the rule is: buy first, think later. For some reason, I don\’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds, but oddly serene, and wealthy. Though we barely stop to talk, I run into several people I know. One friend is buying wool sweaters that she will \”felt\” by washing them in hot water and then cut up and sew together into a vest of many colors. Another friend carries her purchases in her arms. \”I won\’t let them give me a bag,\” she says, referring to the recycled paper or plastic bags that shoppers are offered. Awed by her environmental conscientiousness, I vow to bring my own canvas bags next year.
And there you have the first of my reasons for shopping at the rummage sale: it\’s environmentally friendly. I\’m recycling all that cotton, all those dyes, all that labor. It saves my own resources: I\’m keeping myself warm and satisfying the remains of my feminine vanity for a fraction of what I would pay at a regular store. I\’m contributing (albeit not a lot, given the prices) to a local charity. I am helping in a small way to make our region self-sufficient.
Finally, there is the issue of who makes the clothes we buy in the stores. My husband\’s sister, Jodi Cobb, an intrepid photographer for National Geographic, shot a powerful story about slavery in the 21st century. (You can read her post on the subject by clicking: http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2011/archives/21940#more-21940 ) There is nothing I can do about young girls being sold as prostitutes in Eastern Europe. But by limiting my purchase of new goods of uncertain provenance (and aren\’t all those \”made in…\” labels inside our sweaters signs of uncertain provenance?) I can minimize the profits of someone who makes his or her living off the skinny backs of six-year-olds. It\’s a golden opportunity to do a little good in this sad old world.