Flea Markets, Thrift Stores & More

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Why Costumers LOVE Flea Markets

We were all magpies in a former or future life--we love sparklies, glitter, jewelry, rich textures. I also love Victorian photographs, vintage stuff, and things like leather, feathers, antlers......I have had my best success finding these things at Flea Markets and in the past few years, have found a few that have since become mainstays.

Harpers Ferry Flea Market

The Harpers Ferry Flea Market is easy to get to, and is open from April to Thanksgiving, every weekend, Saturday and Sunday. The dealers pay per weekend and pretty much just show up; so it is never the same twice. There are also a snack shack and restrooms. At the main entrance they have a very nice produce stand, although the prices are not especially cheap, the produce is lovely. Dealers open quite early in the morning in the summer; if the weather isn't great, many start packing up by noon, but I have been there into the afternoon. I have had extremely good luck at this flea market for the past two years (when I discovered it). If you google "Harpers Ferry Flea Market" you will find it immediately, along with directions. Many dealers have vintage stuff, some have mostly books and printed material. I have one guy I see regularly who sells old books (and sewing machines and accessories) who sold me a VERY COOL book from 1898 called "Manners, Culture & Dress". Although the front cover is off, the book itself is intact and priceless. He wanted $2 for it, and it is the cornerstone for my Victorian collection. I've also found a 1930's government issued "Community Songbook". This past summer of 2009, there was a lady there several times who had over 100 big boxes of fabric, mostly quilters fabric but also some yardage. For $40 I bought two huge boxes of various quilting fabrics, some periwinkle heavy jacquard (about 3 yds), quilting notions and tools. Later this summer I found a 6 drawer plastic wheeled storage unit (practically new) and paid $4 for it. Also, my final visit before Philcon, when I needed a vintage appearing lantern for a costume, I found the exact right thing---for $1. I took a friend up to this Flea Market one Sunday morning in September, and she adored it. She collects frog items, and found at least four things she loved.

Trader Jack's Flea Market

Trader Jack's is a large indoor and outdoor Flea Market, south east of Pittsburgh, which is a great combination with a trip to Castle Blood. This is how I discovered it, from locals who mentioned it as I went to Saturday morning yard sales in that area. It's a HUGE one, spread out over an old parking lot. There is a permanent building, with indoor vendors year round; but most fun on summer and fall weekends. I began my collection of authentic Victorian photo cards at this Flea; many dealers bring boxes of old paper items, including photos and postcards, and will let you stand and go through everything, and will generally negotiate if you buy in bulk. That is almost always the key to negotiating--have a pile of things, figure out what you would be willing to pay for each item, and offer the dealer a rounded off amount for the whole pile. Trader Jack's also has rest rooms in the building, a GREAT Italian grocer in there, and outside has a fantastic produce section. We have bought a bag of 10 lemons for $1, and bouth 5 of the biggest green peppers I ever saw, also for $1. Early inthe fall, we found a mushroom dealer, who had Creminis and shitake mushrooms at excellent prices and stocked up. I have also found a dealer with vintage Czech glass buttons in many colors (the colored ones are rarer than black ones) who was willing to deal. This Flea is well worth going to, and usually doesn't have all the same dealers each time.

Thrift Stores & Yard Sales

Here is a great way to start your costuming--look for a local thrift store and check it out--look for fabric and notions, and items of clothing that can be modified or even cut up for the fabric, especially good for velvets and silks. Also old wedding gowns--can often be dyed or painted and otherwise modified for costumes. Many of us, myself included, started costuming this way. One of my early costumes was an alien in a wedding dress, and the dress was a thrift store gown that was altered, had silver lame appliques put on, tentacle-like additions and beadwork. Thrift stores are also a great place for shoes and boots to costume with that will be cheap. Vintage items can often be found for very little money. Same idea with yard sales. You can cruise around your own neighborhood, and it's a great way to get to know your own area with very little time and money. And it's always okay to negotiate, even if a price is marked, people often just want to get rid of things and not have to lug them back in the house. I have gotten some real vintage hats and gold watch chains and fobs that way for very little money. Last summer I got a big bag of almost-new neckties for my son (now in law school and getting ready to dress nicer) from an older gentleman who had just retired from the government, and said he never wanted to wear a tie again. They were gorgeous--some of them were designer ties that still had the tags on them!