Masks, but make it FASHION

May 23, 2020

I consider myself a Thrift Queen.  My family and I were always considered lower middle class.  My father bounced around a bit from one retail store to the next, until he found his niche, which he learned later on, was not retail.  My mother was a waitress for most of my life, on and off.  My parents were by no means rich, I never really had much, but what I had was what I needed.  I learned how to make do, to say the least.  Christmas stockings were stuffed with the essentials:  deodorant, socks, hair ties, fruit roll ups.  Ya know, the uge.

As an adult I definitely have learned that that is what makes the best kind of gift: What someone needs, but would never buy themselves, for whatever reason.  Anyway, given that my father worked at a retail store, the dude was pretty fly.  My father had an extensive wardrobe, please don’t even get me started with his tie collection.  My mother was very fashionable and thrifty.  I naturally gravitated towards expressing myself through my clothing.  I’m not sure what it is about my outfit, but you can tell my mood based on my fit.

Since I was young enough to care at all about what I wore, I can remember thrifting with my mom.  A part of me yearned to have the newest pair of Jordan’s, or Uptowns, of course.  But, we couldn’t afford that stuff.  It was okay, it forced me to be creative.  I found a love for vintage items, items I had never seen before.  My mom took us all over the tri-state area to thrift!  She knew her way around, and was super savvy.  You know, the type that would shop with all her coupons each week at ShopRite, and end up having them owe her.  A real genius that one.  Sometimes too smart for her own good.  We had managed to always find good deals at thrift stores, since they are inherently treasure troves.

I challenged myself through high school to always wear something that was unique.  I would dream about my outfit the night before, so I would not have to tear my room apart in the morning before my walk to school.  I drew inspiration from J.Lo, back when she was a fly girl.  Me and my best friend would run around the halls with our neon stockings and mix-matched socks, our layers upon layers regardless of the season.  We were known for that.  People ‘til this day still remind me that my outfits made them smile, or question my sanity.  Either way, I had an impact.  I have always been the proud friend that introduces others to the #thriftlife, until I met Ellyane , my kindred thrift spirit at HPAC.  She has all the hookups!  If there will be a quote on my tombstone when I pass, it should say “I got it at a thrift store”.

Lately my obsession has been with “Depop.”  This is an online application where you can buy, sell or trade vintage items of ALL KINDS.  I’m proud to be part of a generation of semi-young folk who value reusing materials for re-purposing.  Giving new life to old items.  This, was the purpose of HPAC’s annual “Swap NOT Shop!”  Clothing swap!  We created a space for people to trade pre-loved items.  Unfortunately due to COVID we did not have our swap this time around during Earth Day week.  We are cooking up a backup plan, so stay tuned.

I’m not gonna go all Marie Kondo, and thank my clothes, verbally anyway.  I will thank them and appreciate them by giving them a new life, and during this pandemic, I have found peace in re-purposing my vintage items to–get this–masks.  I had to make a few for my family, and of course, given my fashion history, my masks are far from basic.  Makers of all kinds are really doing their thing during this time inventing and innovating all types of PPE.  I was gifted a really fancy vintage sewing machine a few months prior to the COVID pandemic so I have been spending a lot of time with it!  I have fallen in love with making masks from my untouched clothing (and beyond) collection.  I have become addicted to mask making.  It seems like once I have started a specific mask, I am already dreaming about the next one.  The next combo of pattern, color, material.  So, if you need to find me, I’ll be in my front room with my son on my shoulders, sewing together masks.  This is how I am coping, by being creative while feeling useful and like I am contributing to the world.  We are in weird times my friends.
Stay Strong, Make Art.

-Dara Perlman