She discovered the sweater's rich history and learned that it was part of Ralph Lauren's collection inspired by American folk art.
Natalie Miller is a passionate 37-year-old woman who proudly embraces the title of an "avid thrifter." With a keen eye for hidden gems and a knack for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, Miller has elevated the art of thrift shopping to a whole new level. On a regular Friday afternoon in Portland, Oregon, Natalie—who goes by @nataliejoyjewelry on TikTok—set out for another exciting thrift shopping spree. Little did she realize, amidst the clothes at a local estate sale in August, a remarkable find was about to add to her collection of thrifted treasures.
It seemed like quilts at the bottom of the box of sweaters. At a closer look, she realized that this handmade sweater wasn't an average piece. She told Insider, "I was digging through a box of sweaters and saw what I thought was an old quilt at the bottom of the box. I love quilts and always have my eye out for them at sales. But I was thrilled when I saw it was actually a sweater with a quilted front." While figuring out that the sweater was created by hand was quite easy for Miller, the difficult part was not being able to fathom that it had a designer label, none other than Ralph Lauren's.
She further said, "I unbuttoned the sweater and saw another label in the inside lining. It explained that this piece was made from an antique quilt, with very specific care instructions. At that point, I was ecstatic." So she did what any sane person would do - she paid $10 for the sweater and rushed home to do some research. To her surprise, she came across a lot of viable information. She learned the sweater was a handmade piece from Ralph Lauren's Fall/Winter 1982 collection. She also got to know that the designs were inspired by American folk art.
The label explains that the heirloom-quality sweater should be handled with extreme care. The tag further mentioned, "Modern dry cleaning and washing methods may cause permanent damage to the delicate fabrics and dyes. Therefore, we recommend gently airing in the traditional nineteenth-century manner. If cleaning should become necessary, please consult an expert in antique textiles, such as the textile conservatory in South Salem, NY."
The label suggests that the fragile threads shouldn't be a victim of stress and that the sweater needs to be stored in a cool, moisture-free environment. In conversation with Insider, Miller said that she is a jewelry designer and a slow-fashion enthusiast, and hence appreciates the things made by hand. She also has her own store called "Natalie Joy Jewelry" (@nataliejoyjewelry). "Finding this one-of-a-kind piece from such a well-known American designer is thrilling. I want to make sure this piece of fashion ends up in the right hands," she added. Miller mentioned in her Tiktok video that neither the sweater was perfect nor fit her the way she'd wanted it to.
View this post on Instagram
Speaking to Insider, she mentioned she was a little torn as to what she should do. "At first, I wanted to keep it, but after learning about the history of the piece, I know it can't just sit in my closet. I would love to see it go to a museum or somewhere it will be preserved and appreciated." She's also hoping to get the piece appraised in the near future and learn its worth. What goes around, comes around. Who would have thought that Miller's random thrifting day out would lead to her something so precious?