After a Year Off — 3 Incredible Finds!

A Vintage James Galanos Dress

We have not stepped into a thrift store since March 2020, due to the pandemic. Now, two weeks after we were fully vaccinated, we had two very surprising experiences in thrift stores this week. First was at Goodwill, where we went to drop off some household goods. Sorry, we were told, the store was so full that it wasn’t accepting donations. We learned that due to Goodwill’s strict COVID-19 safety protocols, its donation centers sometimes reach capacity and need to close for a few hours until they can make space for additional donations. 

We made plans to donate later. We also decided that we could safely visit a resale store if wore our masks, kept socially distant when inside, and went to a store that required masks and limited the number of customers. At the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop in Rancho Mirage, CA, we made a beeline to the “Designer” rounder, and happened on a label we had never before seen in a resale shop — vintage James Galanos. In the same rounder, we found an early Milly wool dress, Helmut Lang pants, a vintage Carolyn Roehm evening gown, along with the newer Milly items and St. John items that are usually there.

First, the Galanos. James Galanos, who retired in 1998 and died in 2016, created America’s version of haute couture for the rich and famous for more than half a century. He was known for personally selecting all his fabrics, often in international travels. The Galanos dress we found was in a vibrant African-looking silk print and had a underskirt hanging nearby. The cuffs on the dress and the underskirt both were of a different, but matching, print. The cuffs and the underskirt were shirred, giving them a unique, puffy look. The dress also had an I.Magnin label inside, which means the dress could be no later than the mid-1990s, which is when the last I. Magnin department stores ceased to exist. So the youngest the outfit could be is 31 years old. Believe it or not, we got both items for a total of $54. The dress was $60, and the skirt was $25, but the clerk recognized that they belonged together, and charged us just the $60. Since it happened to be Tuesday, which is when everything is 10 percent off for seniors, the total was $54. What a true find — and a true bargain. On 1stDibs, vintage Galanos dresses range from $720 to $1,200.

Our Galanos find went to Reise’s closet. As you can see from the photos, the pieces fit her perfectly.

Reise also snagged the vintage Milly sleeveless wool dress. Although the Milly label began in 2000 in New York City by Michelle Smith and Andrew Oshrin, this dress, with its large gold buckle, is a throwback look to the 70s or 80s. It must be one of the label’s early designs, because the label is an earlier version than the current one (see photos). In excellent condition, it was bargain priced at $39.

The Carolyn Roehm short evening gown also is in vintage territory, as the designer’s fashion line existed only from 1985-1991. (She did an exclusive line for Saks after that, but this dress has an I. Magnin label sewn inside.) In mint condition, the dress has an off-the-shoulder top of brown silk chiffon, long sleeves with covered buttons and fabric loops at the wrists, a plunging back, hidden side zipper and a darker brown silk charmeuse skirt. It was $95. (The color in the lower left image is sort of wonky – the true color is medium brown on top and darker brown on the bottom.) We might be selling it – it’s a size 4, too small for any of us. We’ll be looking into the benefits/deficits of selling on eBay, etsy, 1stDibs, the Real Real or ReSee. With all our thrift shop buying, we frankly haven’t done very much selling.

Our takeaway? After a year of no in-person sales and people cleaning out their closets at home, resale shops are stuffed. Safer days for shopping should mean thrifters will find larger inventories and choice items.

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