Nan Kempner: Thrift Store Chic


Thrift stores just may be my absolute favorite places on earth. The amount of hours I’ve logged in ill-lit musty smelling rooms, coffee in hand, tirelessly riffling through racks of other people’s stuff is practically obscene. It’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps me going, and the amazing bargains I’ve scored throughout the years don’t hurt either. That said, you could imagine my excitement when I heard that recently deceased New York socialite/clotheshorse Nan Kempner had donated boxes of clothes and accessories to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Thrift Store, a favorite charity of hers. Figuring that if Nan’s vast wardrobe was good enough for the Met’s Costume Institute (3,000 items in their “Nan Kempner: American Chic” exhibit, 200 permanent), it was certainly good enough for me, I headed uptown to check it out.


I won’t lie; I seriously considered putting myself even further into debt with these $175 sequined Valentino pants. Pictures cannot do justice to how fabulously ridiculous they really were. Paired with a big white tee-shirt, I would’ve sported their shiny goodness all around town; grocery shopping, to the laundromat, you name it. I’m like a fashion raccoon.


Kempner was known for her obsession with and crazy collection of Yves Saint Laurent, and is credited as one of the French designer’s muses. The sale featured tons of YSL suits and blazers, but at $200 a pop, they were still out of my price range.


As I was taking a picture of this $95 Pucci gem, a woman walked up me and loudly pointed out the many tiny holes and generally distressed look of the super-soft cotton blouse. I turned to her and calmly stated that Nan must’ve really loved this piece and that I did too. That shut her right up.


Another item Nan obviously wore into the ground was this classic Henri Bendel cashmere cardigan. Beat-up and missing its belt, out of the hundreds she owned, this sweater must have been a favorite. At $50, I feel a fool for not scooping it up and showing it the kind of love it’s used to receiving. It fit me perfectly. Live and learn.


Nan Kemper was one of the few women in the world willing and able to spend vast sums of money on couture. Here, a beaded Valentino vest for the bargain price of $185.


I loved the cuffs on this $185 silk Chanel blouse.


A real steal, this Emanuel Ungaro couture blouse was only $50.


Love shoulder pads? Then you would have swooned over this $85 Armani blouse!


I’m an accessories fiend, so this is the table I went straight for. Unfortunately for me, someone else went straight for the weirdly feathered beret right after my flash went off. The injustice!

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