Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thrift gift scores for the holidays

I have to finish showing you some of the thrift gifts I gave to family members this holiday season. First there was the Mark Foreman wrap dress for my sis (see post from last week).

Then there was this darling studded BCBG Girls purse for my tweenie niece, thrifted for a few bucks.

The lining has these darling little butterflies all over. I swear, the purse hadn't even been used! I bought this months ago and just put it aside, knowing it wasn't for me and that I'd find the perfect person to give it to.

And she LOVED it! Thrift gift score!!

And who is this? It's my Dad, the man in my life who is so hard to buy for, who rarely gets excited over the socks and CDs I've thrown his way over the years in the form of gifts.

Wait, doesn't he look completely absorbed here? It's Christmas morning and he has his nose in a book?

Enter thrift gift score number two:

A hard cover book on movie musicals with amazing photos of the movie stars who starred in them. The book was $3.99 at my local thrift shop.

Yes, he loved it. And so do I - flipping through it and looking at the pics reminded me of watching all those movies with Dad while I was growing up. He got me hooked on Saturday Night at the Movies on TVO as a teen, and as a family we watched many of the old flics together.

It was a truly successful thrift gift, and I'm so thrilled he liked it.

Meanwhile: the cashmere sweater for my other sis? Not the best fit. I'm keeping it instead and am looking for another thrift gift for her.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yesterday's steal: lamp & shade

So I ended up going into work to an empty office yesterday, forgetting it was a Stat holiday.

With nothing better to do, I left work and - what else? - shopped. On my way home, I found this festive red lampshade at my fave lamp and lighting store, Consumers Lighting, on Dufferin St. Then I popped into a Salvation Army Thrift Store on the way home, only to find it was 50 percent off day. I picked up a Ports vest for $1.50 and a sassy green Nygard trench coat for $3.50. I also found a pretty mauve Louben blazer for $3.50 that will be perfect for my Mom, and a pretty silk boho pillow for $1.50.

But this lamp, $12.99 regular price, was the keeper.

I had to fight to get it.

First I waited in line to get to the cash, only to be told it was final sale. When a lightbulb couldn't be found for me to test it, I found an employee in the back room who procured one, tested the lamp, then waited in the line all over again - only to be told the lamp wasn't part of the sale.

The cashier let me have it for 50 off in the end.

I just love it. What a statement piece. What texture. What a steal! The shade and base were made for eachother.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Glam holiday table, part Grunge

I hope you all had (and are still having) a lovely holiday season. As I head back to work today after a short (but sweet) holiday home, I'm already reminiscing about the wonderful family gatherings. A little tradition we started a few years ago is to have me set the table. The constant: Mom's white and gold china. But the tablecloth and accessories change every year.

I decided to use a blue tablecloth I gave Mom recently - it made the white plates pop and ended up looking very 18th century. I accessorized with Mom's new gold napkins, which I bound with gold ribbon that was hanging around the house. The centrepiece: a crystal bowl filled with gold and blue balls from the tree (very Grunge Queen, so easy peasy). The handle of the bowl is plastic so I wrapped it in some fabric ribbon I found. The table looked magical.

Next year: I want a hot pink and black table - wonder if Mom will go for it?

Have a great Monday. I'm off to work!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Retro Christmas ornaments from my past

Happy Christmas to all!

Hers's a pic of my parents' tree, with a much beloved teardrop ornament from the 1970s that we grew up with - there are only three or so left.

I loved these teardrops as a kid, and I still do.

It still has the old string on it, can you imagine? And it looks like the top bit is rusted!

There are only two left of this teardrop, this one and a red one, both faves.

Behind you can see a big red ball with white icing-sugar like designs on it. My Mom bought a box of those balls, in solid red and solid blue, when she was 21 and wasn't able to make it to her home for Christmas because of bad weather.

There are maybe half a dozen of these balls left, and we all love them as much as Mom does.

Speaking of being 21 and Moms, my Mom started a holiday ornament tradition when we were about 20. She gives all her girls, and now her grandchildren, a holiday tree ornament every year. It's such a nice tradition. Though I have never not gone home for the holidays, if ever I don't I know I can look at my ornaments and feel a sense of home ... and Mom, natch.

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Designer dress thrifted for my sis

Here's my sis in a dress I thrifted for her for Christmas, $9.99 at Value Village!!

Doesn't it look great on her?

I was SO pleased to find this dress. It's made by a Toronto designer Mark Foreman, who makes THE most flattering wrap dresses in wonderful mircrofibre fabric using the coolest patterns.

His label, Bionic Woman, can be found in hip T.O. boutiques like Eight on Danforth Ave. and Over the Rainbow in Yorkville and average $150-$200. Though I have bought one on sale at Eight I've found a few at Value Village in mint condition under $15.

My sis loved the dress. We figured it would rock in the summer with sexy strappy shoes and a tan.

I normally bag gifts as I believe in reusing, but this year I used paper - with three young nieces and nephews I didn't want to spoil the fun of tearing off the paper! I like the old-fashioned look of my sis's wrapped gift, pictured here. The matte golden paper with a light green bow I had saved from some press kit looks very eighteenth century, doesn't it? Like it was wrapped haphazardly in some market and parceled home in a carriage or something ....

For some fab tips on thrift gifts, and on eco chic and thrifty wrapping tips, take a peep at the new blog I just discovered called The Thrift Monster (great name!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My holiday dress: retro Go-Go meets modern chic

I was going to show you the thrift dress I bought for my sis for Christmas, but I still have to figure out how to download pics from my NEW Blackberry to my mom's computer.

This post, btw, is late tonight as I was in transit today, going home for the holidays. Tonight I went out for dinner with Mom and Dad and wore my fave new dress (newer than the one a few posts below!) that I picked up at Goodwill while doing a shopping column there about shopping in January when you're broke.

Don't you just love it? It's a vintage double knit wool dress by Butte Knit, a US company that was a mega clothing manufacturer in the 1960s and 70s. I researched the label and apparently this was from the early 1970s.

It fits me like a glove, and feels so sleek and chic - and yet it's toasty warm and a perfect dress for the cold winter night it is here in ole Ottawa.

It cost me $8.99. The value of buying vintage clothing such as this is that so often the pieces are so well made that they stand the test of time, in more ways than one. With the exception of some wear on the navy velvet stripe on the pocket, the dress looks new. And the style? Retro vibe, yes, but timeless nevertheless.

I'm wearing it here with some simple silver jewellery, navy tights, and my thrifted Kenneth Cole Reaction boots.

It's kinda retro Go-Go meets airline stewardess meets modern chic, yes?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Elf: Thrifty holiday fashion disaster

Have you ever bought something just because it was well-priced, only to wonder later if you were in some thrift haze when you bought it? I was at a discount shop a few weeks ago and saw this new Esprit courdoroy jumper for $4. I bagged it.

Got it home, tried it on again, and gasped. It's so short I can't even stand in it without revealing part of my bootie. So tight around the bodice I can't sit down. I remember thinking when I bought it that I could wear it as a tunic --- what?

I used to make mistakes like this all the time in my early thrifting days; now I employ an almost steely logic if I start getting a little flighty: will I wear this? With what? Does this fit into my style, my life???

Alas, I think the "new" factor clouded my judgement, momentarily.

I could wear the jumper with this green velvet scarf with black fringe, found at Goodwill for a twoonie a few weeks ago while on a desperate thrift dig. I was in a crappy mood and needed to find salvation, and we all know: when we're mad to find salvation in the thrift store, we always fail.

The scarf is only passable on its own. But with the jumper, it morphs into an outfit I will always try to think about when I'm in some store and considering buying, say, a pair of purple stretch pants. Wearing this outfit I could be a poster child for the thrift-shop-gone-bad, a crazed holiday Elf fashion disaster reminding you all what can happen when you're desperate to buy, but lacking in thrift smarts if only for the moment.

Think of my outfit if you ever waiver, thrifty pals, and I think you'll be O.K. Happy thrifting!

Tomorrow: I gave my sister a wonder thrift holiday gift last night - and she loved it! Pic and story coming!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pink Christmas

I don't have a lot going in the holiday decor department in my pad right now, since I'm going home soon and my tree is still in storage in Ottawa, alas.

And I don't have the creativity of of some of my fellow bloggers - I'm thinking of Sonya from Dime Store Thrift in particular - when it comes to crafty holiday decorations, so I have to wing it, a la Grunge Queen way.

When I saw these mirrored pink candelsticks at the dollar store for $1.99, I picked them up and then glammed them up with some black candles, also found at the dollar store.

There were some blue ones too. I bought some for gifts because the price was right and they look chic and expensive.

Dollar stores don't just carry cheap plastic stuff. I've found items by Rolodex and Yardley, French glasswear to candlesticks made in New York. I don't know if they're oversell or defective but I have yet to find anything wrong with these items.

Check on Sonya's holiday tree and wreaths at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cell Bella

I had intended to show you some thrift gifts and the thrift outfit that makes me look like an elf this week (will do next week), but I had to show you what I look like in my $9.99 designer dress found at VV (see previous posts from this week).

Cute isn't it? You can't really tell but I'm wearing it with a gorgeous pair of Kenneth Cole Reaction boots, also dug up at Value Village. The pearl multi-tier chain is also thrift.

The hair cut is new too, $25 from my local gal.

Why am I posing in front of a mall kiosk with a Blackberry, you ask? Because I finally caved and bought my first mobile device EVER yesterday.

The price was very Grunge Queen. The Blackberry Curve (not the latest one but that's ok) was free. I had to sign up for a 3-year contact but there are no hidden fees with Virgin Mobile. Plus they waived the set up fee, gave me 100 free minutes every month for 3 years, the first month free, and threw in a $75 Mastercard gift card! And if the phone isn't doing it for me I can return it within 30 days (with the gift card, of course). I went to the Yorkdale mall kiosk and manager Paulo was great.

Now that I'm mobile I may be able to give you GQ updates in real time!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I love this coat. It's a down-filled Hilary Radley I bought new maybe 5 years ago (on sale, natch). I'm bringing it to a local shopping centre with me thi, where I'm doing a shopping column. I'm hoping to find Ruth, a homeless person I've been seeing and chatting with for a year or so. I saw her a few weeks ago at the mall and she was wearing a yoga suit - no coat, scarf or mitts. I want to give Ruth the jacket, aling with some mitts and a cute dollar store toque with faux rhinestones on it. Maybe I'll find some dollar store socks for her along the way.

I keep bumping into Ruth. Sometimes she leaves town when she finds a job, but she always ends up back here. She's my age. She appears to have had a bad run. She's alone, too. If I see her I'm asking her out for a coffee.

I hope I find Ruth today.

Easy peasy holiday centrepiece

Sorry for the late post tonight. As I sit and do my holiday cards tonight I'm basking in the glow of this grungy-glam makeshift centrepiece.

I found these Williams Sonoma green pear-scented tea lights at my neighborhood dollar store (where I also got the cards). I plopped them on a silver tray I've had for years, picked up at a thrift store (silver trays are always in abundance for super cheap at places like Value Village), and voila, instant centrepiece.

Simple, elegant and all in five minutes - the Grunge Queen way! Now I must finish my cards. This week I'll also show some thrift gifts and a MISTAKE thrift outfit that is rather elf-like in its appearance! Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blue silk dress for holiday tea, $9.99

I rarely thrift shop when I'm feeling down. It usually means I'm in search of something to make me feel better, and truth be told it more often than not results in a horrible experience. If your Karma is off, thrift shop Karma just doesn't, well engage.

So yesterday, a very grey icky day, with a seasonal flu and a dash of seasonal stress thrown in, I headed to Value Village on the way home. I hadn't done a VV dig in a long time. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Danforth and Woodbine location (and all other VVs in the city) had had a little refresh - new paint, new signs, new changeroom doors.

Lo and behold, my thrifting Karma kicked in in spite of my blue mood: the very first thing I picked out was a 100 percent silk blue dress by Lauren Moffatt ... for $9.99!

Moffatt is known for her vintage inspired looks, and this boho chic frock really revved me up ... and fit me perfectly. Mint condition! I was wondering what I would wear to tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel with my beau -- now I have my dress!

By the way, Value Village was uncharacteristically deadsville last night. I was told biz dies after Halloween and doesn't pick up for the new year - a great opportunity for us deal divas! Speaking of deals I was surpised this dress was $9.99, as 'good' dresses at this VV location tend to be $14.99. I saw a gorgeous wrap dress by Toronto designer Marc Foreman of the 'Bionic' label - it was $9.99 as well, where the Bionic dress I bought several years ago at the same location was $14.99.

Just goes to show the pricing gods aren't consistent even at good 'ole VV. This experience has made me want to shop VV more than I have been in the last 6 mos.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trash tales: grey chair found but left there

Grunge Queen has been feeling a tad under the weather lately, and this grey chair spied in the trash the other day is not only a perfect embodiment of her mood of late, but very possibly an apt symbol for this very grey Monday afternoon we're experiencing in Toronto the good.

I would never dream of being critical of other peoples' decor choices - perhaps this was a very comfortable and beloved chair for someone, much like the much-maligned chair Fraser's Dad loved in the well-known sitcom, Frazer. But this one is definitely not my style. It's so big, it must have taken up half the living room. Still, I can appreciate that nod to good design in the curved underbelly of the chair. Maybe if the whole design was scaled down a little bit, and the poufiness deflated a bit, the chair would have been worthy of a GQ haul. As it is I left it there. Happy Monday to all you fellow garbage pickers out there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shoes in Little India ... maybe for moi?

While doing a shopping column today in Toronto's Little India, I saw these pink and blue paisley brocade (?) shoes in the window of a shop that was closed. Most shops in the area don't open until noon, some even 4 p.m., I discovered.

Wah. I want these shoes. They're not the typical beaded Indian shoes that aren't my style (like the ones sitting below them in the window). I can see myself wearing them for a special holiday function. I wonder if they're my size? They look pretty big. Think I'll have to go back one night after work. I hear a lot of the shops on the Gerrard St. East near Coxwell strip are open until 9 or 10 every night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Party pics and partial outfit peek

On readers' request (see yesterday's post), here are the holiday party pics with a partial peek at my thrifty outfit.

They'll have to do until I can get better pics from another party in a few weeks.

You can't really see the outfit that well, just the strap and lower part of the purse, and the necklace poking out over the dress. I may change the jacket to a winter white brocade next time; we'll see!

This is a bit of a personal postscript as I have some room left, but it's so refreshing and satisfying to be dating a man who dresses really, like really, well. It's not just expensive clothes part; it's also his way of putting pieces together, with a scarf thrown over his shoulder for panache and some fab vintage cufflinks for quirky class. We both love and appreciate that about eachother. And we both have a thing for statement piece jackets - - except mine are from the thrift shop and his are from Neiman Marcus!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Silver sparkle for the holidays

Silver is hot this holiday season, and I love the cool elegance of it. For my first Christmas party the other night I put together a thrifty outfit in a jiff. I bought a silver shift dress (Made in Canada, yah!) at a closing out sale on St. Clair Ave. West for $10.

Then I threw on some vintage crystal-esque beads, a three-tier strand, I found at a thrift store for a few bucks.

To add some contrast, on went a black quilted short jacket by Bergdorf Goodman, dug up for a great price at a 50 percent off sale at a resale boutique. Silver shoes picked up for $20 at Winners went on too.

My best find: a silver sequin handbag (by Danier Leather and in mint shape) found for $1.99 at my local thrift shop, Stretch Thrift, that very day!!

To add a bit of spice to the winter cool I donned a pair of handpainted stockings by DIM, found at a sample sale in the northern Fashion District last year (six pair for $20 if memory serves).

I'd been saving them for the perfect occasion and I found it. My date sure liked them! The outfit looked so classy and pretty!

My date wore a Neiman Marcus black velvet blazer (not thrift!), a red scarf, plaid vest and white shirt with black pants.

I'd say we look like quite the festive couple and our outfits complemented each other: he had a pop of colour to offset my glittery silver!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Which hat is thrift? answered

Last week's post about which hat was thrifted generated some fun comments, but Eyeliah of and guessed correctly - this navy Kangol hat was found for a buck at my local thrift shop, Stretch Thrift, while the black one was new and recently gifted to me (cost $45 I happen to know). Great eye, Eyeliah, and thanks to all who guessed or commented!

Speaking of outerwear I found my fave winter gloves, a pair of navy leather with Thinsulate lining, at Stretch Thrift last year for $2.99 or so --- only to lose one, arg.

The other day I found these, though, a pair of bronze-brown leather gloves lined in silk for $1.99.

They're not winter gloves but they'll be perfect for going to holiday parties in - in fact I wore them on the weekend to a Christmas party with a fab thrift outfit I'll show you this week!

I don't imagine these are too old or retro, but the stamp inside on the lining does have a retro vibe to it - the writing, in case you can't see it, says "Pure silk lined Hand cut Washable" and the size (which is 7 and a half, slightly too small for me but I can manage them in a pinch).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lavishy lavishes vintage sparkle

Yesterday I visited one of my fave jewellery stores in TO, Lavishy, which has just opened a second location at Yonge and Eglinton.

Owner Leo designs and sells mostly new jewellery, but lately he's been picking up vintage pieces at New York flea markets and the like on his travels. Not only that, he and his talented staff use vintage pieces to display their lovely wares. I just love the way these floral enamel pins sparkle in this old silver candy dish.

Here, retro clip earrings and a vintage bracelet repose on a pretty vintage plate.

Nearby, a teacup and saucer, a pretty plate and a tiny retro dish hold pretty baubles.

I really respect and admire retailers who think this way, who produce new items but who revere and incorporate the past into their work.

How about this?

This necklace is new (and only about $30; Lavishy's prices rock). The vintage-inspired baubles on it like the keys and the cameo are just darling aren't they?

Lavishy is located at 2525 Yonge St. or in the Junction (west Toronto) at 3095 Dundas St. West, main phone is 416-767-7472

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Grunge Queen shares thrifting tips with

This is an old pic of me taken outside my fave Goodwill in Toronto, wearing the made in Scotland coat I bought there for under $20.

Now I know most of you readers don't need any thrifting tips, but I just have to share a recent interview with a new online resource called 20-something. (I know, I'm not 20-something but thrifting is becoming cool to young hipsters now!).

I share my 'shop-high-on-the-food-chain' philosophy and more!

Please check it out by following the link

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New or thrift? A tale of two berets

I love doing these posts and you dear readers seem to love 'em too, so here we are again:

Which beret is thrift?

One is new; the other was picked up at a thrift shop for a buck. Both are wool.

I've never really done berets before. Last year my look was grungy-glam with a tight beaded toque I have now lost.

But the beret, worn not as a pancake on the head but rather pulled over the head as I'm wearing it here - well, it just seems to say, "I have style oozing out of me, and I may just have heaps of cash too." The latter part is fantasy in my case but hey, if the beret keeps 'em guessing, why not indulge in the falsehood?

Casts your votes for the heck of it. Feel free to tell me which look you like best!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thrift gift: yellow shoes

I found these handmade in Spain Arnold Churgin shoes for $5.99 months and months ago (see prior post on shoes & decor under the Arnold Churgin label to the right).

I loved that they were in mint condition, and that jolt of colour - so 1980s. Alas I knew my tender tootsies would never wear them. They're a very small size 8. So I used them as decor.

Until I learned that my pal and colleague Alexis had a thing for 1980s pumps. I brought them in to work and not only did they fit her perfectly but they also looked fab with her outfit that day!

The shoes are a summer style pump, but Alexis shows us how you can make 'em more season appropriate by pairing them with a thicker cotton stocking.

I love the look Alexis! Wear them in good health.

Speaking of thrift gifts I will be giving a number of them to the women in my family this holiday season. It's the only way I can afford to give them quality designer clothing, and some of the pieces I just wouldn't be able to find new in the stores.