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Today I was on the prowl with the costume designer of a production of Little Shop of Horrors that I am soon to be appearing in. Since the setting is late 1950s, it makes perfect sense to shop for costumes rather than make them.

Our first stop was Revue, an appropriately hip retro store in the Westport district of Kansas City. We browsed for a while, finding pants in the range of fifteen dollars, dresses anywhere from twenty to forty-five dollars, and so on. Bear in mind, these were clothes that had been previously owned and worn, not clothes that were made to look like they had originated anywhere from the 1950s to the 1980s -- these were used clothes out of someone's wardrobe.

Eventually, we made our way to a local thrift store. No where near hip, no snazzy jazzy name like Revue, no jaded-looking twentysomethings working the register, no straight-from-the-Top 20 tunes playing. Instead, the look was no-nonsense, the name was Grand Street Thrift, the employees were in their forties, and AM radio was playing.

So what did Revue and Grand Street Thrift have in common? The type of clothes they were selling. Only there was one more difference between the two, the key difference: at Grand Street Thrift, none of the clothes we purchased were over two dollars in price.

As an experiment, when we got to rehearsal with clothes in hand, I invited castmates to decide which clothes were thrift store and which were retro store -- no one was able to do so; in fact, all commented that it was useless to try, as the clothes were so similar.

I found it quite interesting that two simple words -- "retro" and "thrift" -- allowed for such a gulf in pricing. The power of semantics never ceases to amaze me.

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