September 13, 2005

Lost in Salvation

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From the outside, the Salvation Army, located on Route 13 in Ithaca, looks just like any other store you would find in a shopping center. It is full of clothes, accessories and assorted other items. The only difference is that everything is donated to the store by its previous owners. And although not everyone enjoys wearing someone’s old clothes, the vintage look is generally a great way to make a fashion statement. The biggest problem is trying to find stylish clothes hanging in between the racks of unattractive ones.

In my hometown there are two types of vintage stores: the Goodwill, which has a distinctive unpleasant smell and usually unattractive clothing, and the chic vintage stores of the city. Ithaca’s Salvation Army store seems to be a blend of these two types of store. On one hand the store seems clean and is thankfully missing the foul smell of used clothing, yet at first glance it is also lacking anything even remotely fashionable.

On my first walk around the store, the only redeeming quality that I could find for the store was that its prices were low; for the most part, no single article of the clothing cost more than $5.99, with most costing considerably less. The store even had a section of household appliances and furniture, some of which were also priced reasonably; there was a nice collection of couches ranging from $70 to $120, which seemed great for furnishing a new apartment.

Disappointed by the clothing selection, I was ready to leave the store until I saw two hip, college-aged girls trying on some of their finds in a mirror. One of the girls was trying on an adorable tweed blazer, a blazer that I would have loved to add to my collection. Not only was this blazer extremely stylish, but it also cost $5.99, less than my lunch cost that day! So I gave my search another try.

After seeing these girls, I began to dig through the racks, and I realized that my initial impressions were inaccurate. The Salvation Army store did in fact have some cute clothes; they were simply hidden among the faded styles of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

If you are planning to go shopping at the Salvation Army, it is important to keep your fashion sense in mind; people looking for brand-name clothes at lower prices will not enjoy the store. It is nothing like the Dump and Run sale that was held here during Freshman Orientation. While I did see a few Express pants and Abercrombie tops on the racks, there weren’t nearly enough to justify the 40 minutes that I spent on the bus to get to the store. The store is much more suited for people with an indie rock kind of style – people who love unique accessories and wear clothes that can’t be found in the Pyramid Mall.

Based on my digging through the racks and seeing what the other college students were buying, it seemed like the Salvation Army was a good place to buy inexpensive pants, shirts and sweaters with fun patterns, and random accessories like ties or purses. One downfall was that this store was lacking in cute, vintage t-shirts, a staple in most used clothing stores.

I do have one word of advice to anyone planning on shopping at the Salvation Army: try on the clothes that you plan to buy before leaving the store. I fell in love with a pair of Gap jeans that just happened to be my size, but upon trying them on, I found a lovely gaping hole in the crotch. In the excitement of finding cute clothes, it’s easy to forget that they are used, so keep this in mind when buying anything in the store and check for stains and holes.

Basically, if you feel like scouring through racks of ugly clothing in hopes of finding a hidden treasure, the Salvation Army is the place for you. It definitely had some worthwhile buys; they were simply hard to find. If you are looking for a unique find, or an outfit for an ’80s theme party, the it is open from 9 am to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 am to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Archived article by Tara Tavernia
Sun Contributor