Paperbackswap, Polyester, and Polynesia

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Paperbackswap.com is an amazing invention for cheapskates like me. It lets complete strangers post lists of their books, and then trade them with other complete strangers, all for the low low price of a media mail postage rate. To ship a book under a pound is $2.38 and a book 1-2 pounds is $2.77. If you found a used book on Amazon that was the lowest price available, 1 penny, you’d still have to pay an additional $3.99 for shipping. $4.00 is the absolute cheapest you can get away with on Amazon. So with Paperbackswap.com, you’re saving a minimum of $1.23 per book, and possibly up to $1.62! Ok, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I read at least 1 book a week, so my potential savings are, well, do the math, a lot! Not as much as I’m saving every week by buying organic milk at Whole Foods for $6.59 a gallon versus $4.99 for a half gallon at the deli (which happens to be the only other store in the neighborhood that sells the milk Dan likes), but it’s enough savings to indulge my paperback addiction. Ok, there’s some downsides to the Swap. They don’t have everything. And the really hot titles, you have to join a long waiting list for, and the obscure titles you have to wait until someone posts it. But the wish and waiting lists are actually pretty cool, because eventually, you actually move to the top of the list, or some other weirdo is actually interested in the same obscure book you are and is done with his copy, and then bingo! it arrives in the mail! It’s magical.

Case in point. After approximately 1.5 years of being on the waiting list, last week I finally received The Girl Who Played with Fire. On Amazon a used copy is going for $3.65. Add $3.99 for shipping to that and you’ve got a pretty hefty price tag. AND! Now that I have my very own copy of Stieg v.2, that I only paid $2.38-$2.77 for, I don’t have to re-post it on PBS. I can sell it on Amazon! I think that qualifies me for bad citizen anti-brownie points though. However, every $3.65 I earn goes towards the funding of Vintrowear, my online vintage clothing store scheduled to launch this Spring 2011! My very first purchase will be a mannequin. Whoo hoo! Then a postage scale. Then some mailing labels. Then some vintage clothes at wholesale prices from Sazz Bulk Vintage! I am very excited.

In the mean time, what am I doing you ask? Reading up! For all PBS’s merits, and all my complaints about Amazon’s $3.99 shipping, PBS has not been an ideal venue for obtaining vintage fashion guides. I’ve used the PBS Wish List feature to put my name down for every single fashion-related book I could find on the site. Every once in a while I receive one in the mail, but they’ve been few and far between. I’ve actually had better luck getting some cheapies on Amazon. I’d like to share them with you.

My fave thus far has been Tomorrow’s Heirlooms: Fashions of the 60s and 70s by Trina Robbins.

I thought I’d already formed an opinion about polyester: doesn’t breath, retains body odours, sports garish colors. But I think this book has changed my mind. It focuses almost exclusively on polyester, dacron, and other unnatural fibers. But Robbins is so enamored with synthetic fabrics that it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype:

Polyester, like the plastic it comes from, doesn’t decay…. And of course, moths don’t eat it. The human race may eventually become extinct, but cockroaches and polyester will remain on this planet forever.

Charming, right? Robbins does discuss how well brightly colored dyes saturate polyester and hold their color, century after century without fading. And when you think of their longevity as their most admirable quality, garish colors stop seeming painful on the eyes and instead start seeming quaint, all-American, steadfast, stalwart, courageous brave and true! Seriously, after reading this book I started feeling much more fondly towards polyester. The book is chock-a-block with full color photos, although the photos are sort of weird looking. I don’t think she used professional models, which isn’t the problem, it’s that they look like regular girls from the 90’s hangin’ out in present day San Francisco wearing clothes from the way back machine. It was just incongruous. And the models look kindof uncomfortable too. Maybe they don’t like polyester?

I found interesting her chapter on Hawaiian dresses. Whenever I think of my mother as she existed before I was born, I picture her in this dress:

Hawaii, circa 1969-71

I think this might have been taken while she was visiting my dad in Hawaii during R&R from Vietnam.  But I could have the whole story completely wrong.  (If my mother is reading this, perhaps she could chime in.)  In my mind, I think I always considered the Hawaiian dress the quintessential 60s dress, in part I think because of this picture and the real estate it occupies in my memory.  Incidentally, for years this blond wig lived in a wigbox under the bathroom sink, and my sister and I would try it on whenever we played dress up.  My mom is naturally a redhead, but I love this Mad Men blond buffont.  Anyways, Robbins has a whole chapter with many awesome photos of Hawaiian dresses, which lead me on this walk down memory lane.

And speaking of used books.  Many of my friends are authors, and they may have strong feelings about the used book industry, whether for cash or swap.  I understand completely.  Which is why whenever one of my friends writes a book, I buy multiple brand new copies and hand them out to all my other friends and family members for Christmas.  But let me do my bit for the book industry and urge all 7 of my blog readers to buy something by Trina Robbins.  Her love of polyester and Polynesia has inspired me!

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