Executive Wardrobe: $62.50

  • Posted on: 17 January 2009
  • By: Amanda Fritz

I spent the morning planting trees with Friends of Trees in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of SE Portland. It's east of I-205, north of Foster Road. We met at Zenger Farm, a working urban farm with many interesting sustainability features such as solar panels for the building's porch, and vegetated swales taking stormwater runoff from the parking lot. The tree planting was COLD. Usually, before the first tree is sitting at the proper height in its hole, surrounded by rich brown mulch, I've shed several layers due to the exertion of hauling and digging. Not today. I hurried back to the carpool car after installing the last tree at the Gilbert Hydropark, anxious to get out of the wind.

Still, it is always fun and rewarding, volunteering with Friends of Trees. I met a sweet couple from Bridgeton in North Portland who came over to help, and learned more about the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood from chair Mark White and tree-planting leader/land use chair John McDonald. We drove along SE 136th, a busy transit street with literally hundreds of new homes being built along it.... and no sidewalks. This area had huge increases in density zoned in the Outer SE Plan,with no plan for providing the infrastructure necessary to support it and make it livable. "20 minute neighborhood"? Not so much, when you have to walk in the middle of the street to get out of the mud, and the nearest grocery store is a couple of miles away. I will keep looking for ways to fix this problem. At the very least, I would like to see the sidewalk built in front of a new home, before the "For Sale" sign is allowed to have a "SOLD" sticker placed.

So what does this have to do with the title of this post? It relates to how I rewarded myself for getting up early on a Saturday. Once I thawed out after returning home, I headed out to Value Village. I love those stores. I love getting designer clothes at pennies on the dollar, I love the friendly attitude of the employees, I love the way the stuff is laid out the same easy-to-find sections in each store. I love that I can donate and shop, and in both, help mentally-challenged people. And I especially love that I didn't have to spend a fortune (cough, Sarah Palin), to buy clothes more suited to Portland City Hall than those I wear for planting trees. On Veterans' Day (one of the four annual Value Village everything-half-price days), I purchased seven skirt suits, two jackets, one silk dress (Retail price: $350, Value Village: $3.50) and one winter coat, all designer brands, for $62.50. Even though it cost twice that much to get them all dry cleaned, a bargain. On another expedition, I bought the red Tahari suit I wore for my swearing-in ceremony, for $12.50. According to eBay, it retails for around $400. I wasn't quite so fortunate today, but I did find a new-with-tags-saying-$88 skirt for $4.99. And across Pacific Highway, at the Salvation Army "Boutique Store", a new-with-tags-saying-$288 suit, for $17.50. Plus perhaps the most important score, a sparkly jacket to wear to Mayor Adams's Gala party at the end of the month (information, and buy tickets, here) . It's hard to find glittery clothes, except at thrift stores. And call me old-fashioned if you will, but I think the return of the Mayor's Ball calls for sequins.

There were many more people thrift-store shopping today, than I've ever seen except on Value Village sale days. Although I like saving money and reusing/recycling, I recognize that fewer people are employed with my purchases than if I bought new. Since I've been making even more effort to buy local over the past few years, I have been dismayed to find how few products available in stores are made in the USA, let alone in Oregon. I don't have mugs for guests in my office yet, because all the Portland/Oregon ones I've looked at are made in China or Thailand. I found precisely one mug made in the USA, in the dozens at Value Village today. No, actually there were two. I decided not to buy the Hilo Hattie's one, so we don't have to be reminded on a daily basis of how much warmer it would be in Hawaii.