The most fun thrift shopping experience in NYC is this drag auction at a gay bar

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Auction for the “Slut” hat, featuring (from left) Heidi Glüm, Untitled Queen, Alotta McGriddles. Photos by Gabrielle Westfield/Brokelyn.

As I blissfully watched a drag queen, a petite 20-something blond and my boyfriend aggressively trying to outbid each other for a satin Michael Jordan jacket, I knew I’d found NYC’s most lit thrift store and my new only-way-to-shop. This party/auction/drag show/event has everything I want from shopping (and life?): drag queens, celebrity drag queens, gorgeous cheap shit, disco balls and booze. Alotta Stuff Live Auction is celebrating its fifth-year anniversary this August and that means I’ve wasted five years of my life shopping alone in dingy thrift stores when I could have been partying with friends and letting smart, tasteful queens act as my stylists.

Alotta McGriddles is giving thrift store realness to the people of Williamsburg’s Metropolitan bar every third Thursday, and if you’re not eating up what she’s serving, then you too are shopping wrong. The auction offers a range of hand-selected thrift and vintage clothing. The event is sponsored by Out Of The Closet Thrift Stores and Life Boutique Thrift and is hosted by the inimitable Alotta McGriddles. And if you felt a way about Thorgy Thor’s gone-too-soon exit from Rupaul’s Drag Race, FEAR NOT! Thorgy, everyone’s favorite fashion clown, co-hosts and co-curates the auction. Items (personally selected by both hosts) come in all sizes, in “men’s, women’s and questioning’s” and bidding starts at $1 for most items. It also taught me the proper way to thrift shop finally (hint: it involves shots). 

“The whole idea of the party was centered around the fact that me and Thorgy are huge thrift and vintage enthusiasts, and we always came across stuff that was awesome, but didn’t fit us,” Alotta explained. “So we were like, What’s a way we can pay it forward and bring this item to light and have people gag on it and find it a good home? BOOM. Alotta Stuff Auction.”

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Audience member and nightlife personality Scarlet Envy was not in the show, but did bid on and win some items.

Audience member and nightlife personality Scarlet Envy was not in the show, but did bid on and win some items. Photo by Gabrielle Westfield/Brokelyn.

Metropolitan might not be the first venue that comes to mind when you think of classy AF vintage, but would any proper auction house have not one, but two fireplaces? And would a proper auction house have not one but seven disco balls? Would it have floor-to-ceiling black glitter paint?

Thankfully distant from the rusted racks of Goodwill and far from the silent and stuffy halls of Christie’s, Alotta and Thorgy have cut out the bullshit of both thrift shopping and auctioning and brought you an evening of, somehow, both, plus performance. Only the best kind of drag queens could come up with such a genius use of a stage and wigs. The party boasts a handful of gorgeous nightlife personalities modeling all the sickening wares. At the April 21 auction, we were treated to the thrift-modelling talents of Daphne Sumtimez, Ragamuffin and Untitled Queen (who, it should be noted, modeled FOR HER LIFE) while Thorgy’s understudy as co-host was Heidi Glüm (aka, “That Skeleton Over There,” as Alotta called her).

The auction takes place in three parts with 10 minute breaks between (or 20 minutes…whatever, this isn’t the fucking opera … it’s a cigarette-or-two length break). Round 1 gets the bidders acquainted with the process – which is:

1. See a piece of clothing
2. “Fucking bid on it.”
3. Pay the co-host (they do accept credit cards) and take your weird skirt (or whatever).

The hosts keep the profit — they used to donate a portion to charity, but “the amount was so low it was almost embarrassing,” Alotta said. It ends up being more of a gamble than a money-maker.

“I’ve bought things for $50 that sold for $5 and I’ve bought things for $5 that sold for $50,” she said. “We never know how the auction is going to turn out but who cares! We have fun.”

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This hat sold quickly. Photo by Gabrielle Westfield/Brokelyn.

Warming up with some less interesting items, Round 1 was still generously seasoned with a few real gems. We witnessed a beautiful “SLUT” hat (coupled inexplicably, yet somehow perfectly with a pair of tiny board shorts) sell for $3 right off the bat. After seeing a gorgeous sheer top be not sold, and a “THIS GIRL KNOWS HOW TO PARTY” t-shirt “stolen” for a dollar, we all retired to the back garden to spill some T and grab a drag (queen or smoke, either was appropriate). Retiring to a back garden is how shopping should happen. There should always be a back garden to which we can retire, as a rule.

Round 2 got a little crazier by starting bang-off with an equestrian-inspired Ralph Lauren blouse followed by a bizarre rhino t-shirt. Then we saw our first internal sale of the night when co-host Heidi bid on (and won) a hot pink halter dress for $2.

“There’s no shady bullshit here,” Alotta said. “All our models are allowed to bid on any item and they’ve never seen them before tonight.”

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The crowd at Metropolitan Lounge got bigger and more engaged as the night went on.

The crowd at Metropolitan Lounge got bigger and more engaged as the night went on. Photo by Gabrielle Westfield/Brokelyn.

The crowd, which began with about 15 people, by this point had at least tripled in size and engagement. A true testament to the gender-fluid movement, everyone was buying everything; these clothes and this crowd knew no gender norms (or knew them and had no fucks to give them). We were all queens at this auction and we all needed a GD SLUT hat. I didn’t even know I needed a slut hat, but it was so clear by this point. I’d lost my chance at that hat, but I was learning. I was finally learning how to shop.

By round 3, it was five minutes to 11pm and the next drag show (DRAG Net – check that shit out, Merrie Cherry is a Brooklyn institution and if you don’t know, now you know) was hot on our heels, so Alotta got right to it. The vibe was amped way higher now that the crowd was about 1/3 drag queens and people were feeling – it. Round 3 saw the first over $25 win of the night; if you spend over $25 you get a FREE SHOT!!!

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A model takes off clothing to hand off to the winning seller.

A model takes off clothing to hand off to the winning bidder.

We had a football-themed sweater (which I’m still despondent over not winning), a Golden Girls-inspired goin’out dress and a “green raincoat fantasy.” Heidi sold the bidders on one sheer dress for $16 by pointing out, “You can wear it all spring. You can get laid.” She’s a real saleslady. And finally we saw the highest bid of the night: $42 for a gorgeous, salmon-colored top with large sequins (AND A FREE SHOT). Free shots are how to shop!

Honestly, I was sad it had to end and I never want to shop any other way. You know when the Real Housewives shop by having people show them clothes while they sit on couches drinking champagne? This was that, except more drag queens and disco balls (well, more disco balls at least). I had two of Brooklyn’s hottest queens handpicking a wardrobe for me and letting me steal it from them for a dollar and a smile. It’s a party, it’s an auction, it’s a Moment and it’s going to forever change the way you shop.

Alotta Stuff Live Auction is every third Thursday at Metropolitan Bar in Williamsburg. Get your life and go shopping there. And thank god, we can all go see Alotta McGriddles rock the trivia game Kasbah weekly, Wednesdays from 9-11 at Metropolitan (trivia themes rotate thusly: Harry Potter, Disney, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, and the fourth week always changes), cover is $0.