the perfect score

Veteran thrifter and rabble-rouser Charlie Lucas on that rarest of things - the perfect score.

I first met perfection in 1993. Jo was exquisite. Poker-straight hair framed indigo eyes, twinklewhite teeth and freckles like angeldust. It was snowing and she wore a black bobble-hat with fake daisies pinned all over it. The snow glittered in her hair and disappeared into the plush white pile of her furry coat. I gazed transfixed at her shoulders where her hair ran in dark rivers over the jacket's velvety down, longing to smooth my hand over it, as once I'd longed for a Sindy house with a swimming pool, or a doll that cried real tears.

Jo was beautiful, but it was her coat that stole my heart. Delicate as an angel's wing and fluffy like a kitten, I wanted to strip off my clothes and wrap it round my body. I wanted its softness across my thighs and over the tips of my nipples. I wanted to thrust my face into it and stroke it with my eyelashes; to loop it round my neck like a scarf and bury my chin in it. And I knew that one day I would. That its softness was my destiny. My kismet. My karma.

Sometimes you know. Maybe it's written in the stars or inscribed on the planets, but sometimes it hits you in the stomach and you know, just as you know the coolness of sheets or the taste of honey, that everything you're imagining will come true. I knew that one day I would rub against it; spread it across my pillow and caress it with my fingertips; that one day that shimmering, glimmering furball of a coat would be all mine.

Waiting heightens the senses. I could have rushed off to the Emporium in Greenwich there and then: Jo said she'd seen an identical coat there the day before. But I know Emporium prices. I may have been in love, but I knew I could get that white coat for 15 or less. I avoided the shop and averted my eyes when I saw a similar coat at Portobello for 35. When my friend Sarah bought the Emporium coat and wore it like an ice-queen, so white-blonde you couldn't tell where the coat ended and she began, I didn't even blink. I waited. And waited. In the end, I waited five years. And every year, that coat just got sweeter.


Three things in life are certain. Thrifting is cheaper than therapy. It leaves you with a wardrobe of pretty things. And the worse you feel, the better the score. One wintry day in 1998, I felt awful. Sky and concrete were smudgy, sludgy, dishcloth grey. My kitten had died and an evil friend had got a job on a magazine - a job I thought I wanted - and was standing before me boasting. I watched her shiny, candypink mouth open and close. I longed to stuff her new purchase - a miniskirt from French Connection for 60 - into it, smudging her lipstick. Mainly because she had 'stolen' my job, but also because for 60 I could have bought HUNDREDS of dresses and still had money left over for champagne. Scowling, I sought refuge in a nearby Scope.



By now the coat was no longer a huge part of my consciousness. Wanting the coat had become like wanting to kiss a boy who's with someone else. I refused to make any moves towards the object of my yearning. I wanted it on my terms only. I put it to the back of my mind and ignored my desire so often that after a while, I no longer felt it. Sometimes, though, you meet the boy again. And he no longer has a partner. And your desire springs, intense as ever, to the forefront of your mind.




Desire is never pure. It's dirty. You value your boyfriend more if you know other girls want him too. And thrifting is fairer than love. Thrifting is finders keepers.

I entered Scope and almost instantly saw the coat nestling among the white blouses. Two trendy art students were flicking through the coat rail but my coat wasn't on that rail; I don't know why. The girls began to turn towards the blouses but I was already there. I stretched out my arms; I took it in my hands; I fumbled for its label. 9.95. The waiting was over.

I love my coat. I hold it in my arms and there it will stay for as long as I want it to. My coat will never run off with another girl. It will never grow bored of me. It will never want to wrap itself around someone else's skin just to feel the newness. And it will never complain if I walk all over it. And that is perfection.


What was your perfect score? Your dream buy, the most bargainous bargain, the thing you'd fantasised finding for your whole thrift life? Send your stories, with photos if possible, to Prize if we feature your tale!







W H E R E ?
Scope, Camberwell.
W H E N ?
Late 98.
W H A T ?
I'm just about to try on a silver frock. 'Please don't go in the changing room', the manager says. 'Why not?' I ask. Silence. Finally he whispers 'A woman hung herself in there this morning. With the curtain.' I leave the shop, never to return.

Everyone's got a thrift trauma... what's yours? Tell us!




Wonderful Walworth Road
AMP checks out one of London's thrifting hotspots.

The Wierd World of Men's Thrifting
'Do not look at the records.
Do not look
at the records.' Andy K fills us in on the bizarre boy/thrifting interface situation.

The Perfect Score
Obsession, desire, and the perfect white fur coat.

I Believe In Goth

Eyeliner, Baudelaire, cloaks = action. Claudia Conway on the fatal attraction of the disaffected gothic teenboy.



Then again, there's always BARTERING. Have a clothes swap in your front room and give the leftovers to charity. No cash involved. Revolution!!!!






Madge Chazzes!
Yup. It's true. Spotted in Oxfam in Goodge Street buying a 7 quid blue jumper and dropping off a big bag of old stuff. Respect!