Digging in knick-knack gold mines

The recent clothing sales in Paresky provided a refreshing opportunity for those of us who love digging through racks of used clothes to unearth pieces to complement our wardrobes: an embroidered shirt, a red belt, a coral necklace. But at Williams, it’s easy to miss the actual hunt for vintage clothes that entails searching for stores, meeting eclectic store owners and smelling the musty fusion of decades. For anyone suffering serious thrift store withdrawal, never fear. A while ago we were in your place, and after a tour of a few thrift stores close to Williamstown, we were pleasantly surprised by a pretty successful venture.

Mimi’s Closet, at 534 Tyler St. in Pittsfield, is definitely a neighborhood spot. Walking into a small room crowded with colorful clothes, we were instantly greeted by a sweet white-haired lady. She was clearly somewhat company-starved, as she chattered on about how her daughter-in-law owns the store, which opened in July and has a separate room for children’s clothing, toys and accessories. Inside Mimi’s Closet were a plethora of grandma sweaters, some pants from Delia’s and the Gap, an old Notre Dame sweatshirt, a handful of eclectic necklaces and a rack full of hospital scrubs. The saleswoman noted that her daughter-in-law “keeps the prices low for the neighborhood.” We didn’t see any prices over five dollars, and people who donate their old clothing receive 50 percent of the profit. Most of the clothing was pretty old-fashioned, but we definitely wouldn’t put it past an ambitious shopper to find something cute.

A small hallway connecting the adults’ and the kids’ rooms shouted with the holiday cheer of Christmas mugs, hanging Santa dolls and strings of bells cluttered a little table. Entering the kids’ room, we were impressed by racks of miniature shorts and shirts; clothes suddenly seem cuter when they fit in the palm of your hand. The room also had an array of miscellaneous childhood items: roller blades, Yahtzee, a crib. Reportedly, a woman expecting twins essentially furnished her entire house from this room and has given the saleswomen a list of more wanted items to look out for. More of a gold mine for families than students, this place didn’t boast much use for us, but if you have little cousins, want some comfy scrubs to wear to Schow, or just want the challenge of digging to find a treasure, check it out.

Upon entering the Pittsfield Goodwill, located at 440 Merrill Rd., shoppers are greeted by hundreds of baskets of all shapes and sizes sitting atop racks of color-coded clothing. Amidst the racks are several pairs of gigantic red plaid shorts, silly patterned pants, 80s-style windbreakers and overalls. However, there is also some more useful attire: men’s flannel shirts, cute tank-tops, fitted sweaters and Under Armor shirts and fleeces in good condition. Virtually everything costs $3.50. Magically, it seemed that regardless of how shapeless the clothes seemed on the hanger, they fit perfectly The take included a tank-top, a flannel shirt, a loose black Masimo blouse and some red Old Navy shorts. The four pieces cost only $9.50.
Yours, Mine, and Ours at 140 South St. in Pittsfield looks and smells like an antique store. The bottom floor is stuffed with old furniture, some rickety but some beautiful, ranging from $10 wooden chairs to far more expensive pieces. Fake flowers and food fill each nook and cranny: bunches of grapes, delicate pastries, purple and red bouquets, presumably for decoration and not for sale. Up a creaky staircase draped with dusty rugs, we entered crowded unheated hallways filled with mirrors, light fixtures, vacuums, brooms, floor lamps, 1956 National Geographic magazines, old shed tools, more fake fruit and jewelry cases. The mirrors stared up at us from unexpected places (a corner, behind a drawer), adding to the sense of distorted space imbued by the overwhelming clutter. The knick-knacks and artifacts everywhere all seemed to have some whimsical, enigmatic story. If you’re down with the rustic, antique motif, this is the perfect place for all of your decorating  needs.

Finally, the Women’s Exchange on Cole Avenue in Williamstown is a place known on campus as a the go-to store for ridiculous holiday sweaters and Queer Bash garb. While the store will rarely fail in that regard, it also has practical clothing in good condition: turtle necks, good-quality jeans and black dresses. Discarding a flannel coat with unflattering shoulder pads and purple zebra-print pants that were hardly warranted by the dearth of themed parties at Williams, the purchase of the day was a soft gray sweater with blue and pink embroidery, which went on to receive numerous compliments at Winter Carnival ice skating.