Inspired by a pair of pink ballet flats and leggings in her closet, Alex Dennett ’12 finished off her outfit for tonight’s Safety Dance with a billowy blue velvet shirt, complete with a faux leopard print motif.

Dennett, who scavenged the shirt in the Salvation Army store on Crown Street, emphasized that such eccentric wear could only be found at this unique institution. Apparently other students agree.

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Salvo — as the thrift store is commonly deemed — is a regular stop for students before themed parties on the weekend, as well as for everyday wear. In preparation for tonight’s 1980s-reminiscent event, at least 15 Yale students filtered through the store on Thursday evening in search of the appropriate attire. Many more students are anticipated to rush in a last-minute frenzy before the store closes at 5 p.m. tonight. But the front door is not slammed in their faces at the closing hour.

“You guys have themed parties every weekend,” the store cashier said. “It is very good for us.”

And therein lies the relationship between students and the Salvation Army. While larger events such as Halloween and the Safety Dance draw more students, these are not the only times, employees said, that students patronize the store. They said students enter in droves constantly throughout the academic year in search of costumes, jewelry, shoes and overcoats — as well as furniture during the opening days of the school term.

Andrew Davis ’12 described second-hand shopping as his regular Wednesday lunch break activity.

“It is a wild and crazy experience,” he said. “Thrift store shopping is a great break. The only disappointing thing is that scarves are never half-off!” Davis, who missed his weekly lunch break on Wednesday, was sifting through a pile of colorful sweaters this Thursday afternoon.

The scarves, he explained, are one of the few items not placed on sale on weekly “Family Wednesdays,” when the store’s entire clothing selection is 50 percent off.

The sale is meant to underscore the Salvation Army’s charitable nature. All proceeds from clothing sales go to The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers, which are self-sufficient because of these profits. All goods at the stores are tax-deductible donations from individuals in the community. Traditionally, the Salvation Army collects items by distributing bins around the neighborhood and by arranging home pick-ups with their signature trucks.

While affluent Yale students may not be stereotypical regulars, the cashier said their contribution is welcomed as it supports the rehabilitation programs.

In search of a tacky ’80s outfit, Katie Giaccone ’12 found her way to the Salvation Army on Thursday. She said the relatively cheap prices — the majority of garments cost roughly $5.00 — and the selection of knits made the store her first, and only, stop.

But finding the perfect outfit among mountains of clothes hangers, frumpy floral prints and Santa sweaters requires attention.

“It took some digging, but within a half hour I was successful and had a full outfit,” Giaccone said.

With a flourish, she emerged from the dressing room sporting an aquamarine, oversized sweatshirt cinched at the waist with a 99 cent, black bejeweled belt. She turned to her friend for a thumbs-up, and the two proceeded to discuss the minor alterations that had to be made in preparation for the dance.

Though Giaccone succeeded in her Flashdance-inspired purchase, some other students — turned off by the gaudy outfits — said they were more interested in buying contemporary clothes for casual wear.

Holly Rippon-Butler ’12 initially entered the thrift store in search of a ’80s costume like Giaccone’s but left with a cocktail dress.

“It is a classy little black dress,” Butler said. “As far as I can tell its in great shape.”

Given few alternatives for cheap clothing, several students said the allure of finding these hidden treasures keep them coming back to Salvation Army. But “Fashionista Vintage and Variety,” which opened in March 2008 on Church Street, may be a higher- end competitor for those who are more concerned with well-known vintage labels.