Cheap Thrills

The Garment District in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA, gives new meaning to the phrase “rummage sale:”

garment district

It’s not the greatest photo in the world, but you don’t need a Nikon to figure out the gist of the place. This huge, two-story warehouse, located near MIT, is best known for its crazy selection of Halloween and costume gear, as well as nice vintage clothes. Its “clothes by the pound” setup on the ground floor, however, is a draw for most bargain shoppers who come here to find a steal–and a point of notoriety for germaphobic, hyperallergic shoppers who’d rather blind themselves with Purell than rifle through a pile of dirty clothes on the floor.

The concept sounds cool enough for a vintage/secondhand clothing buyer such as myself. You get a big plastic bag and you fill it up with stylish garments (admittedly of dubious origin), then you weigh the bag on a scale and pay $1 a pound. Not bad, right? I thought so myself, so I tried it one night during the Halloween costume rush.

At first, as I gingerly picked through the clothes, fearing that I’d come across some poop-stained pants (as one Yelper described in her experience at the Garment District), find some lice-ridden, moth-eaten sweater, or at the very least catch pinkeye from a jacket that had been passing through the Goodwill/Salvation Army/homeless shelter circuit since 1954. I tried not to think about what might be lurking underneath the mountain of clothes, or how long they’d been there, and instead focused on the task at hand: finding something, anything, that is remotely cute to make the experience–and risking catching a disease–all worth it.

After about fifteen minutes, I finally found an adorable cream secretary blouse in what looked to be my size. Score! Spurred on by the excitement of the find, I renewed my search for more clothes, digging a little more confidently and actually stepping into the middle of the mess to see if I’d missed anything.

Here’s the part where you’d expect a twist and I tell you I ended up finding a decomposing rat in a shoe, or a fellow shopper was struck dead by a massive asthma attack brought on by an ancient faux fur coat, or I that I really did catch pinkeye (it would serve me right, wouldn’t it?). No such luck, my friends. (I did, however, see several unfortunate Christmas sweaters, ill-fitting elastic-waist pants and more polyester than you could shake a stick at. That alone is tragic.)

My story has a rather mundane ending: I basically lost my nerve and took my slim pickings to the cash register. The grand total? 30 cents. While I couldn’t shake the feeling I had creepy crawlies on my clothes and hands when I walked out of the Garment District, I think I’ll be back again for round 2. Only maybe next time I’ll bring some latex gloves and maybe a face mask and goggles.

P.S. I’d show you a picture of what I bought, but I haven’t gotten around to irradiating the thing.

What: The Garment District
Where: 200 Broadway, Cambridge (Kendall Square); (617) 876-5230

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