Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shopping Sense on the Outer Cape: Got Fleece?

Simplify, simplify, simplify has become my mantra. When Sven and I left France, several suitcases of elegant clothing crossed the ocean with us. Sven had a favorite Dior jacket, picked up at Réciproque, an exclusive second-hand store, rue de la Pompe. He wore that jacket to holiday events, dinners with parents at the International School, outings to the Paris Opera. My husband looked quite fancy, too fancy, in fact, for rural Wellfleet. We have not given the jacket away. It sits at the back of the closet and got pulled out recently for my daughter’s wedding. However, most of our fashionable clothing, collected over twenty years and adorned with Made in France labels, became prized items in other people’s closets after our donation to Mass Appeal. How often does one go to the opera on Cape Cod, I ask you? In Wellfleet, casual has long been the new chic. I've become addicted to comfortable jeans and fleece, which I often find at our local thrift shop. Pickings are even better in Provincetown and Orleans. January is the perfect month for cheap fleece because people receive new fleece as gifts at Christmas and donate old fleece to charity. (Used fleece has already out-gassed its noxious fumes, so I'm hoping it's not bad for health because I could no longer go without.)

People say the recession has sent crowds pouring into thrift stores. Perhaps that’s true in some parts of the country, but not here. Racks still overflow with clothing. My favorite new place is The Hope Chest in Orleans, which has a Filene’s Basement system of discount by the week. This shop also offers what we called, in France, brocante, that is, nice but a bit shabby furniture that does not quite qualify as antique. You never know what’s going to turn up. The last time I peeked in there was a kayak for sale.

Cape Codders may not be thrift-shopping en masse, but people are hurting, and some clerks have resorted to short-changing customers. It happened to me in Hyannis. It happened to Sven in Wellfleet. It happened to a friend in Orleans. And, I fear we are not alone. So, when out shopping, check your change ...