Fantastic Thrift--Rightfully Named
Even before I moved to Richmond, Virginia and the economy took a nosedive, my spending habits could only accurately be described as 'frugal.' I search for low prices but I'm not stingy to the point of grieving over every last penny handed to the cashier at check-out time. Otherwise I wouldn't be such a huge fan of Fantastic Thrift (1914 Main St.), where the prices are reasonable and sometimes even true bargains but they wouldn't excite someone who chose to put her last $5 or $10 towards clothes, either.Fantastic may not give anything away for practically free, as church and hospital run thrifts shops are famous for doing, yet their quality selection is very, very tempting---especially in a fashion-aware city at a time when the whole country's concerned about the economy. Trust me, you'll want to give Fantastic Thrift a try if you haven't already. Let me tell you about what I picked out during my latest visit:
JEANS: Any avid shopper knows how hard it is to find a nice pair of jeans for under $30 and certainly under $20 or $10. No, if you expect to snag decent $10 jeans without putting in the rummaging effort, then you're being far too optimistic. At Fantastic, however, you can find cute $10 jeans after a relatively short and easy hunting trip. In fact, you can even find cute $5, $2.98, and even $0.99 pairs every now and then. After roaming the store for an hour and a half with my visiting family, one of my discoveries included a $6.98 pair of Bisou Bisou jeans in surprisingly good condition. I know I probably would've paid $2 or $3 less for them at a yard sale or charity thrift shop but I wouldn't have necessarily found them at either one of those places, particularly not so well maintained. The jeans have pretty nature-inspired iron-ons and velveteen and seed bead appliqués (probably circa 2002-2003) that look practically new. Regular thrift shop goers know that many secondhand garments with embroidery of any kind show some sign of wear. But the jeans weren't torn up or stained (blood stains are, unfortunately, fairly common finds in less discriminating thrift shops.) Best of all, they fit perfectly.
The only downside was that the ladies' jean rack was totally disorganized; the pants weren't arranged by size, price, brand, or shade as they are in some thrift shops. This meant that I had to go through and check out everything before I found pairs that fit my body and my tastes. Thankfully, I wear a pretty common size (6T in most brands), but for women who don't, it can make the hunt a hassle. But have patience and you'll probably walk out happy.
TUBE TOP: When I saw an A. Byervelvet tube top (in eggplant, one of the season's most popular colors no less) for a mere $0.99,I was confident I hadn't wasted my early afternoon. The top is very feminine: fitted around the bust and then long and flowing so that it covers my hips in the most flattering way possible. I can layer it under a jacket or cardigan, or simply wear it plain on warmer days.
Fantastic has two racks of summery and evening tops, one right next to the vintage clothes and another in front of the women's shoes. One rack's marked "Camisoles" and the other, "Sleeveless Tops," but both are essentially the same. Virtually all of these smaller tops go for under $5 and range from casual to fancy. If you're into the bohemian look as I am, you'll rejoice in knowing that Fantastic has an especially large selection of hippie-inspired tank tops and sleeveless tunics.
DRESS PANTS: Remember how cool Mudd jeans were only five or ten years ago? When I was in 5thgrade and middle school, all of the cool girls (and even the non-cool ones like me!) craved a pair of authentic Mudd wear. Even if they're out of style now, I'm still in love with Mudd's body-conscious fit and hippie leanings. So when I stumbled across a pair of black satiny dress pants by Mudd for only $3.98, I leapt at them. They're very sleek and have draw strings at the hems so you can easily adjust the length of the pants for different occasions and types of weather.
Overall, I like the range of slacks, capris, and other non-jeans that Fantastic offers; they even have a rack of pants for $1.98 and under---including $0.99 ones. Some of the pants are very outdated and frumpy---you can thank anyone who cleaned out their circa 1986 closet and donated to Fantastic for that---but others still had their original department store tags attached to them. If you're observant, you'll even notice pants that are no more than a season old.
SPRING DRESS: Most of Fantastic's dresses, especially their casual ones, didn't impress me, in terms of style or prices.They're seemed to be a disproportionate number of formal dresses. Maybe if you're shopping for prom or an evening wedding, it's not a bad place to look but if you just want a plain dress for a spring picnic, cross your fingers. Many of the ones I saw struck me as more '90s school teacher than anything else.
Nonetheless, I spotted a dream. I was happy to find a ladylike baby doll dress (something that's been on my fashion wish list for a while) in my size for $2.98. It's from Mossismo and is light blue paisley with a hem that falls just at the knees. Based upon its design and condition, I'm guessing it's from the mid-2000s.
Fantastic Thrift may not have a fitting room and perky wait staff willing to clue you in on the latest trends and introduce you to new lines as your favorite department store does, but they do boast a great inventory for moderate, low, and, occasionally, really low prices. While I focused on women's clothing in this account, Fantastic also sells clothing for men, children, and teenagers in addition to furniture, toys, and brick-a-brack. You won't always find jaw-dropping prices but you will find items in good condition, either new or gently used. And for people who've never shopped secondhand before and are only exploring the option now due to the state of the economy, used items that don't look or feel used are especially comforting. Stop by the store with an open mind and you'll probably agree with me: Fantastic Thrift is (mostly) fantastic.