Adventures in Thrifting

Adventures in Thrifting: Really Fugly Vests

This post is exactly what it sounds like: pictures of really fugly vests. As much as I celebrate the truly great items one can find in thrift stores, one also needs to celebrate the unintentionally awesomely ugly.

I went thrifting with some friends to find proper attire for a party, the theme to which was…well, vests. Yes, a vest party. My friend Jason dubbed it “Vestivus”.

We hit up a Goodwill, a Valu Village and a Savers — Savers was the motherload. I don’t know why, exactly, but while the other places were a bit of a wash, Savers really delivered.

It was odd to be a thrift store tourist; someone not there to shop seriously but just to exclaim. I think it might have freaked out a thrift store newbie I was shopping with (“Each place…has its own odor!” she exclaimed), as I’m pretty sure she remained unconvinced that there was great stuff to be found. Plus, she had the newbie’s soft-heartedness towards ugly items (“Somebody made this! And thought it was nice!” — such sympathy diminishes over time). Nevertheless, I think we had a fun thrifting expedition.

In a tragic turn of events,  I was unable to attend the vest party (stupid writing deadline!), but I remain convinced that I would have won he “best vest” award.

Look at this? How could this not have won ALL OF THE AWARDS??

[Note: I apologize for the slightly washed-out quality of some of the following pictures. I forgot to turn my flash off].

In fact, I also contemplated wearing this gem as well:

All me to emphasize that this vest occurs in THREE DIMENSIONS!

However, I ultimately selected TWO vests for my friend Jason to wear, one atop the other, and he ended up winning the contest, which I suppose is almost as good as me winning, since I can take full credit:

There are few Themes of Awful that we found. One is animal design. There’s the expected cartoon character vests:

And…the just regular ol’ animals. Like dogs!

(Even our dog-lover friend refused to wear this, even ironically). Also, pigs!:

And fishes!

There’s also the sub-category of Vests That Resemble Blankets:

And Southwestern homage:

Then there’s the magically, hideously unflattering vest. You know that item of clothing that possesses an unearthly ability to make anyone’s figure look terrible?

Then there’s the actually-maybe-this-is-kind-of-flattering vest:

But we began to wonder if maybe we’d look at too many vests by this point and were losing our ability to judge. You know, like when you smell too many perfumes and lose the ability to tell different scents apart?

For instance, we started questioning ourselves: is this a terrifyingly ugly genii-costume vest, or is it actually weirdly cute?



Yeah, maybe not so much with that last one. At a certain point, you just have to step away from the thrift store’s crazy vest section and leave with at least a little bit of your dignity intact.

I did non-ironically buy this number and intend to wear it. I’m pretty sure that this is what people in the ’90s thought people in the future were going to dress like:

Anyone else got any truly awesome ugly thrift store finds?

  • Amy Susanne

    Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many vests in one place. The one with the pigs is blowing my mind.

    I’ve been thrifting for most of my life and while I’m a pretty callous bitch about ugly clothing and ridiculous knick knacks, I’m a big ol’ sap when it comes to thrift store toys. The uglier and rattier the stuffed animal, the more I have to fight the urge to take it home with me. Poor little abandoned toys need homes too!!!

    • Laura Owen

      Oh, god. Toys! You’re right, even my callous heart softens for them. Also, books. Occasionally, I find personalized copies or old self-published books…and once I even found a signed copy of a Jennifer Egan book! Who gives those things away?? I remain callous re: clothes, however.

  • April Rider

    No doubt you would have dominated in that yellow vest. Two of my favorite activities on this planet combined, thrifting & theme parties. There truly is some talent in thrifting. I get tickled pink when I’m looking at a vintage item on the hanger and knowing I can wield it like Excalibur.

    Disclaimer: I will be borrowing “Vestivus”.

    • Laura Owen

      I’d never combined thrifting and a theme party before: it was truly excellent. I begrudgingly have to give my friend Jason credit for coming up with “Vestivus” — I think it’s going to catch on!

  • Nicole Carolina Ruminot Casanueva

    The first one kind of reminds me of Freddie Merury’s yellow jacket =)

  • Hannah Marie Seeger

    the yellow one looks like it belongs to micheal jackson

  • Amber Kirby

    To be honest, I would totally wear that yellow one. And I like the last one as well.

  • Asha Galindo

    I don’t thrift as much as I used to (even though all these posts make me want to), but as I remember it, half the fun was looking at the ugliest items of clothing, the biggest pieces of junk, and most outdated items (8 tracks!) and telling your friend you just found their new favorite thing.

  • Lauren Hollaway

    I think my sister had a looney toons one like that in the 90’s! (hopefully they only made 1)

  • Lynnie Trinh

    You were successful at pulling some bad vests but I do think the yellow one looks normal and, I’d totally rock the last one as well as the black/white geometric/Navajo-esque vest x)

  • Laura Owen

    I actually now own the yellow one and the last one and fully intend to wear them, non-ironically!

  • Alice Teeple

    The 90s were Vest Haven. I had three: one was a tapestry style with a satin back. I also had not one, but two Guatemalan vests that were handwoven with birds. In a scale of 1-10 in the taste range…I’d say a solid 5. These are gloriously hideous.

  • Audrey Leihser

    Wow, growing up in the Midwest in the 90s, I definitely remember some of those vests! Especially the cat ones… and the ones that look like they’re made out of the fabric that covers booth seats in some chain restaurants… lol

  • Savannah Kritzer

    I have some of that fish fabric, used it to design my 2 year olds room

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