Monday, November 30, 2009

Toronto Vintage Costume Jewellery Club

Yesterday I went to the first ever sale by the Toronto Vintage Costume Jewellery Club.

There was heaps of vintage and retro bling there, but my eye caught this 1970s carpet bag the moment I walked in the room, and it was love at first site.

I'm showing it to you here sideways so you can see the texture.

Yes, it matches my couch.

I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of one of my fave shops in Toronto, Bead Goes On (see my Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops below) - funnily enough where I bought my first carpet bag. She and I and her pal went for brunch after and had a great time.

I'm thinking of joining this jewellery club, btw. It's only a $30 annual membership and they have monthly events. I'd like to learn how to value all the signed pieces I find at thrift shops!

They don't have a website but you can always email them at

Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ultra feminine look

I have to admit it: sometimes I buy new.

My latest look is girly chic and I love it: a stretch lace top found at a Mendocino outlet for $38. I'm wearing it here under my Theory blazer thrifted for $6.99.

It's a sexy look, yet one I can pull off at work.

I'm wearing the lacy top with another item I bought new by Forest Hill artisan Joan Kreitzer (sorry no webite). Joan makes beautiful necklaces with crystal and semi-precious stones and retails in some Toronto shops like French Connection on Eglinton Ave. West near Avenue Rd.

I love the combo of the lace and the lace-like work of the necklace.

I'm wearing the top with a vest for a romantic dinner, and just happened to dig up a pair of off-white DIM nylons with pretty tone-on-tone flowers over top that go with the top exactly. Believe it or not the look is not lace overkill, just feminine all the way.

It feels good to sometimes buy new things, especially when they're artisan crafted and you know you have an original. And when the piece is a staple - this lace top will see me through holiday functions and can serve as a nice little wardrobe basic - then I don't mind paying more than I normally would.

Happy Saturday! I have to do a shopping column but I may do some thrifting on the way!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New pillow, thrift outfit

Yesterday's post mentioning pillows was inspired in part by my dream pillow, pictured here with moi at an event I attended last week in the Beach at Jane Hall Design.

Jane is a creative colour guru and interior designer who works magic with fabric and rooms. This silk pillow, $88, is just the teeniest example of her decorating verve. I love it, but will have to leave it on my Santa wishlist for now. Besides I bagged a wonderful used pillow for $30, as you'll see from a post earlier this week.

Though I'm hating the way my hair looks in this pic (I'm trying to grow it, arg), I got a lot of compliments on my outfit that night, the entire ensemble being thrift.

The statement piece wool jacket made in Toronto by Miranda Lumley was only $3.99 at a 50 percent off sale at Goodwill - the Friday before last my date and I were on our way home from dinner and we saw the sign and ran in 5 minutes before close ... I found this in 2 minutes and I sure think he's a keeper if he can get off on hitting Goodwill after dinner....

The wool turtleneck was $5 or so, the Jones New York lined wool skirt I can't recall how much I paid for, and the chunky retro chain I bought for $15 at Bead Goes On in Toronto (see my Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops below as that store is one of 'em). Even the blue beret and black cashmere cape (not pictured here) were thrift!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Retro bling x 3 for under 2 bucks!

I woke up the other morning with this phrase in my head: wonderful pillows are to couches as great jewellery is to an outfit.

In other words, I can't afford a new couch or a new outfit, but I sure can jazz things up with a new pillow (ok, used, see post from two days ago) and new (used) bling.

So, after unloading a bunch of necklaces at my Grunge Queen Stuff Sale a few weeks ago, I stocked up on retro costume jewellery the other day at my no. 1 neighborhood thrift store, Stretch Thrift (see Top 10 Toronto Thrift Stores posts from last week).

How could I leave this retro silver tone choker necklace by Coro that Mary in the shop let me have ... for .50 cents??

Or this gold-tone retro choker by Monet, again for .50 cents?

The segments look like little fishies, don't they?

I love the weight of this piece - a trait I always look for when buying retro bling. The more substantial, the older, I find, and more expensive looking.

Mary upped the ante when she told me she wanted .69 cents for this three-tier gold tone strand necklace by D'Orlan.

But I took a deep breath and decided to go for it.

Three fab pieces to make countless outfits even better, all for $1.69!

Maybe one or two will be holiday gifts ....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Petals on my paws: boho bear

Please meet Mr. Boho Bear.

He's my latest crush.

I picked him up at an artisan show this weekend.

He was a steal: only $25.

Best part: he was made by a lady in London, Ontario from recycled wool coats. An older lady who works with her sews silk flowers on his torso, ears and paws.

Ain't he adorable?

Wish I could say you can find him online, or in a shop near you, but that's the nature of the biz with some artisans: they sell at shows only or out of their home, and have no website.

Still, I love this little guy so much, and the fuzzy bears made out of recycled fur coats, that I may just see if we can get these bears into some shops in T.O. Boho Bear needs a pal, bigtime.

I have the lady's card and email, so if you love what you see and want your own Boho Bear please email me and I'll pass on her phone no.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boho pillow, late Victorian fabric?

Here's THE pillow, purchased at Around the Block in Toronto (see yesterday's post) for a mere $30.

It's green velvet - not surprising considering my decor fetish for blue and green velvet.

Warren, the shop owner, told me the fabric was early century and that the owner has someone make it into a pillow. The pillow is huge, sturdy and firm and has these lovely tassles that have been sewn all around it - so boho pretty.

Something like this would have been BIG bucks new at a decor or custom design shop. I've seen handmade pillows for over a hundred bucks!

Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops, Finale!

Ok fellow grungers, so these last two listings aren't thrift shops per se, but they're pretty fab place to pick up some thrifty-type finds, and I haven't really covered the midtown area in Toronto (there are a couple thrift shops here, like Sally Ann and Goodwill on St. Clair Ave. West, but since I've already covered those I'm not writing them up.). Here's 9 and 10:


9). Bead Goes On
256 Soudan Ave. (just off Mt. Pleasant Rd).

This is one of the teeniest shops I've ever seen but every time I hit Mt. Pleasant I check it out. Owner Cyndi is a blast and her collection of vintage and retro handbags, jewellery and some clothing and accessories is to die for. You can find every style and era from Victorian to Art Deco, everything from vintage croc bags for a couple hundred bucks to Hermes scarves for $150. Natch, I eke out the inexpensive costume jewellery, like the Sarah Coventry ring pictured here, bagged for $15, or the 1970s carpet clutch also pictured here, about $40.

10). Around the Block
1903 Avenue Rd.,

I hit Avenue Rd.north of Lawrence Ave. West every few months and always find something in this fab decor and accessory consignment shop - the prices have been around the block too! There's everything from original art to Persian carpets and dining room sets, and the bonus is the decorative accessories like vases and lamps are super well-priced. There's also some good costume jewellery with more expensive baubles under glass. You can see a full review I did as a shopping columnist if you go to their website ....

Recent finds: Uber worn Persian style runner rug, in rare blue tones, for $95 (pictured here: can you spot the kitty?). My cats can scratch away on it all they like! Just the other day I found a WONDERFUL boho Victorian pillow here ... that I'm saving to show you in tomorrow's post!

Night night!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Grunge Queen in Toronto Star Weekend Living today!

I love Rita Zekas from the Toronto Star newspaper - she writes a quirky shopping column (like moi) called Store Gazing (makes sense; she was the Star's former entertainment writer) and another fab decor column called DecoRita.

I pitched Rita on a fun concept: Men don't bring me flowers; they bring me trash!

Check out the link below for Rita's visit to the apartment of yours truly (and no, my cat's name is not Bag - it's Dag, though come to think of it, Bag is kinda cute ... I suppose the name would make a certain amount of sense given my trashy tendencies and shopping!), and thanks to Rita for a really fun afternoon:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Top 10 Toronto Thrift Stores, part 4

I'm winding down my Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops today and tomorrow. Lest you think I shop solely in the east end, the next two days I'm listing west end thrift shops and midtown consignment and retail shops with a thrifty edge ....

(Apologies btw, that the links to stores aren't working - Blogger seems to be showing everything in html coding when I create a post, including links --- help??).

My 7th and 8th picks:

7). Salvation Army Thrift Store
1219 Bloor Street

It's a smaller store by Sally Ann standards, but it rocks. There's not a ton of furniture but I've found great jewellery, brand new lampshades, and lots of wonderful clothing. The trick, of course, is going regularly. The Sally Ann, you may know, is an international Christian organization that provides social services to vulnerable people. The thrift stores rely on donations and proceeds from the store go back into funding SA programs. SA is 125 this year!

Best finds: Theory red cashmere ladies' sweater for $6.99 (brand new and still had Holt Renfrew tag on it read $299.00!!); Matt & Nat handbag in mint condition, $4.99; tons of great 1970s costume jewellery bling such as a beautiful mood ring with a patent number stamped on the back and another fab gold-tone ring (pictured up top), $3.99 each; and (pictured here) a Tara Jarmon Made in France blazer (dug up at the Parkdale store, a close second)for $4.99 that would retail for $500-600!!

8). Eldorado Second Hand Store
482 Roncesvalles Ave.,

A Polish lady and her kitty preside in this second-hand shop, where you can pick up items for .50 cents to a buck. I've never found any designer pieces here but it's a good place to pick up basics. There's a back jean room where jeans are heaped into a big pile; I haven't had luck in that room but I keep hoping. I did find a MEXX rain jacket for a buck and a cool 1970s skirt for .50 cents. My absolute finito best find: a HUGE reversible wool are rug for $5 pictured here - a fiver, I kid you not!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops, part 3

Sorry I missed yesterday; here's part 3 of my Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops, starting with number 5 ....


5). Value Village
2119 Danforth Avenue

It’s more expensive than Stretch Thrift or Sally Ann, but the selection is there and let’s put it this way: VV is a for-profit enterprise and it’s its job to get you good stuff. Still, I'd shop carefully ... Bongo Jeans can be close to $20 here where I’ve found them for $5.99 at other places.

Best deals: I always raid the jewellery cases as I’ve found some gorgeous retro and even vintage pins for a couple bucks – these tend to be underpriced compared to the sterling stuff (though the pin pictured above IS sterling and was bagged for a few bucks at VV). Often – and like many other thrift shops – the pricing gods at VV will underprice a well-made designer piece as they don’t know its value – meanwhile the mass market stuff is overpriced.

Best finds: 1970s boho velvet & paisley blazer, $7.99; scads of fab, mostly retro costume jewellery for $5-10 each; two Oriental style lamps for $24.99 each; Nine West booties in mint condition for about $14.99. Bonus: donate a substantial bag of stuff and you get 20 percent off.

6).Neat Things
1126 Queen St. East,

This shop is jammed packed with furniture, decorative accessories, art, and other baubles. Leave the kids at home as there's too much bric-a-brac precariously balanced, and make sure you call first as owner Ellen's hours aren't always stringent. I love this place, though, and have spent good quality time rooting through everything. The prices are really reasonable, and there's no telling what you could find. My best finds: Liberty of London scarf - beautiful - for a couple bucks; retro Italian suede bag with red leather interior, for about a fiver if memory serves. P.S. There's a string of antique shops along this block with heaps of furniture and decorative accessories...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops, part 2

Yesterday I started my Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops; here are my second and thrift picks:


2). Pegasus Thrift Store
931 Kingston Rd., 416-422-0999

This shop is part of the Pegasus Community Project, a registered charity that helps developmentally challenged adults by giving them community-based day care opportunities and employment.

The hours are a bit wacky (call before you go), but I love this thrift shop, especially since it's moved into its new home. It has more of a boutique vibe and there are tons of treasures to be found, mostly in the accessories, book, and knick-knac categories.

I found this suede made in Canada purse with saucy buckle for $9.99. The blue lamp from a few posts ago was also found here.

3). Goodwill
60 Overlea Blvd., 416-422-0998

This is the best Goodwill in Toronto in my opinion. It's a huge store and always packed with heaps of clothing, shoes, furniture, books, art and fab bric-a-brac. Whether I go for a full-on dig or pop in for a few minutes I always leave with a steal. Prices not marked unless they're higher end; there are price caps on end of racks with general price range (blazers, $7.99 and up, etc), which I sometimes find frustrating: how am I to know if it's "and up"? The pricing seems to be at the whim of the cashier - still, deals are too good to complain about and Goodwill helps people in your community find and train for jobs.

Some fab finds recently: jackets galore! A DKNY blue silk jacket for $9.99; a 1980s cropped boil wool blazer made in Toronto by Miranda Lumley ($3.99 as it was 50 percent off day!); a TeenFlo little black dress for $6.99.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Top 10 Toronto Thrift Shops, part 1

I've had some requests for my top 10 thrift shops in Toronto, so I'm starting with my absolute fave today and will be wrapping up by week's end. Here ya go!


1). Stretch Thrift, 974 Pape Ave., 416-425-0024

I buy most of my wardrobe at this place, along with the majority of the art on my walls and some furniture too.The prices can’t be beat and rival Sally Ann: jeans starting at $4.99; jewellery for a buck or two; leather belts for a buck. The store relies on donations – and donates a portion of its profits to the East York General Hospital – so items are arriving on a constant basis. I go regularly and always find something. They know me now so when an item isn't priced I get a good deal.

Some of my best finds: blue suede Italian boots in great shape, $14.99; Theory blazer in perfect condition for $6.99; retro brown suede Alfredo Picchi bag handmade in Italy for a twoonie! Also found a German crystal lamp for $29.99 and a huge solid wood dining table for the same price. Oh, can’t forget the Bill Blass yellow 1980s swing coat, $14.99 and the green velvet and faux fur jacket made in Canada by Irving Posluns for the same price!


Check out the Stretch Thrift label to the right to see the rest of my finds from this store.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sun on desk

If I were a true blue photographer, I wouldn't be a storm chaser: I'd be a sun chaser.

After a media photo shoot in my pad (SO excited - will link to article when it comes out this weekend!), I caught the sun sliding across my desk, as you see here.

I had to catch it quickly, though, as it was moving fast.

I love my desk area now, by the way.

I took a dining room table from the trash and covered it with dollar store wall paper by Ralph Lauren.

The lamps are thrift, and the spanky new phone is my recent thrift score. The desk chair was found in the trash, as was the chair to the left of the desk.

The green Toronto Harbour prints were found at Value Village for a few bucks each.

The blue head vase by the white lamp was one of my very first trades - I saw it in a junk store window when I was a starving student and traded a bunch of my jewellery with the owners - they were happy as they gave the bling to their daughter, and I was thrilled to have my first head vase.

See the finial on the top of the blue lamp? It's actually a tortoise shell drawer pull from an old vanity.

And before I knew it, the sun was gone ....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hanging magic lamps

Sorry for spotty posts this week; I'm working with some killer deadlines.

But I have to show you these inexpensive lights my beau was sweet enough to install for me recently (Grunge Queen is not handy in the least).

I picked this one up at Consumer's Lighting at 2482 Dufferin St. in Toronto - for $15!

It had a hole in the bottom that presumably some hardware was supposed to fit into, but it was missing. So I whipped out some glue and stuck a sparkly blue drawer pull to the bottom - doesn't it look great?

I'm not big on overhead lamps but this one is ambient - I put a lower wattage bulb in, and the cracked glass feature creates a softer look - don't you love the patterns it throws on the ceiling? So magical ....

My best friend gave me this one. It's a 1960s light fixture that her Dad had in the house he designed and built. When she bought the house she renovated and gave the lamp to me as she knew I loved it.

This one also casts neat patterns on the ceiling.

I have thank my man for putting this one up too; it was tricky and took a while.

Like the other one this one isn't in-your-face like a lot of other hanging lamps and chandeliers - I like the understated bling of both of them.

By the way I am working on my list of Top Ten Thrift Shops in Toronto for you, by reader request - will post next week!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Italian made retro bag for a twoonie

I think the guy at the thrift shop has a crush on me.

Why else would he charge me $2 for this Italian-made retro suede and leather bag I'm pretty sure is handmade?

Ok, maybe he didn't know much about the designer Alfredo Picchi, a Florentine designer who was in his heydey in the 1950s and 60s.

I can't find a ton of info online so I'm making the assumption the company is no longer around.

Picchi was known for using interesting materials like straw, and for his handmade details.

Just look at the detailing on the strap.

All I can find are vintage bags by the same designer online on Ebay.

I have a feeling it's worth way more than a twoonie!

Just below the tag you can see some gold print on the fabric. It's in French, interestingly enough - "Fabrique en Italie" - wonder why?

Maybe some groovy 1970s chick in Paris picked it up at some chic boutique.

It has a tassle hangining out the back but it's a bit overkill so I've tucked it inside.

This bag is my new BFF.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grunge Queen Stuff Sale success

Ever had a garage sale in your apartment?

I did this past weekend.

I donate a lot of stuff to charity and hold an annual clothing swap for the gals, the leftovers of which are also donated. But I wanted to clear out a whack of nice stuff so I invited my gal pals over and sold my hoard at rock bottom prices.

I gotta say, it took hours to set and clean this up, but it was fun and worth it.

The jewellery, which I sorted into categories on my dining room table of $2, $5 and $10 (I separated each by a ribbon) was a real hit.

Some surprises: the $2 bag chair, pictured here, didn't have any takers. And I had gorgeous new BCBC and Jones New York leather purses for $10 and no one bagged 'em!

And no one was enlightened by a $5 lamp shade (do you know how expensive lamp shades are?).

The clothes were a real hit.

My gal pal Andrea happened to look fab in all the dresses that have never worked on me, like this 100 percent silk Planet dress I paid $300 for and wore once!

Next time I may do a few things differently: forget about the loonie ($1) and twoonie ( $2) knic-knac table - people looked but didn't really buy and I thought that would bring value, but I was wrong.

I also had a pile of free stuff - not as nice items, true enough - but not too many took advantage of that either.

Here's my sis trying on some Essex Made in Canada costume jewellery peals that someone else snagged! She ended up getting a fab silver-tone necklace instead, though.

My pal Parm, who took all these great photos, bagged this $2 'gold and ruby' ring that looks great with her skin tone!

All in all I think every one walked away happy, and I made a couple hundred bucks (good for the low prices I was selling stuff at) to pay down my painting (see post below).

Exhausting, but I'll definitely do again. I've even had some gals who couldn't make it ask me if there's any jewellery left!


I believe in good Karma so I don't sell gifts given to me, nor do I over price thrift shop goods I picked up for a few bucks.

New items that are in mint condition and still in style I priced more. My Planet dress was $60 and one suit was $20, but those were the priciest items.

In truth most of the clothing went for $5 a piece.

My man dropped off a French cake (the sweetie) and I served that with sparkling mineral water - easy peasy! Every one just wanted to shop so don't worry about feeding people much; just make sure they stay hydrated!

I scheduled it for 4 hours from 1-4. Every one came at the beginning and no one stayed or arrived past 3:30. Next time I'd make it 2-3 hours tops.

Let me know if you try this!