Compliment me on any outfit and I am sure to excitedly tell you exactly where I got the items and for what cost. There’s a certain pride that comes from finding cute clothes at a thrift store, and I am vocal about this. It’s validation that my patience and numerous trips have paid off.
In recent years, thrift stores have entered the mainstream, popularized as an eco-friendly and reasonably priced alternative to the fast fashion world we live in. Companies such as Shein and Zaful that embody fast fashion practices capitalize on using cheaper materials and faster production times to increase profit and maintain cheap prices, but at the expense of quality and our surroundings.
By buying from thrift stores instead of these companies, you’re not only doing yourself a favor, but the environment. One example of how fast fashion production damages our world is the materials used. Over the years, fashion companies have turned away from natural fabrics and towards cheap, manmade textiles such as polyester. As one of the most popular materials for fast fashion, polyester is an inexpensive and quick fabric to produce, but notably is a non-biodegradable material, and is water and energy intensive.
Buying from companies such as these feeds into the continuation of their processes and the overall decline of the environment. I myself am definitely guilty of previously buying from companies such as these, but as I have learned more about the consequences of their practices I have tried to stay away completely. From a financial point of view, I realized I was spending the same amount of money, if not more, to buy a shirt from Shein that would last me maybe two to three wears when I could find something similar at a thrift store for much better quality.
My introduction to the world of secondhand clothes began as a child when my mom would curate my wardrobe from a mix of new clothes and consignment clothes. Back then, I disliked going with her to pop-up consignment events where I would follow her around for hours while she shopped. But in middle school, I began to enjoy thrifting, a fact that coincidentally coincided with the popularity of the song “Thrift Shop” (thanks Macklemore for making me feel cool then).
Since that point, I have been an avid supporter of thrift stores and regularly force my friends and sister to go with me. Some of my friends have asked me how I do it, (small humble brag) and so here are the tips I give them.
- Look through EVERYTHING
- In middle school, I stuck to just looking at women’s T-shirts and tank tops, but over time I realized the best way to find stuff is to look everywhere. Perusing the men’s section has given me some of my favorite comfy oversized tees, while the kids section has led me to some cute (and cheaper) basic pieces. I tend to stick to going through every piece of the women’s section (tank tops, T-shirts, sweaters, dresses, shorts and skirts), the men’s T-shirt section, the athletic section and the kids section in the large and extra large sizes to find anything I can squeeze into.
- Be patient
- Seriously. Thrifting takes a lot of time. Coming from someone who doesn’t watch movies because they’re too long for my attention span, thrifting was a bit of a challenge at first, but I promise your patience will be rewarded.
- Consider where you are shopping
- I live in the middle of Maryland so the stuff I come across seems meek in comparison to the thrift hauls I watch of YouTubers living in LA. While I would love to travel to LA for the sole purpose of shopping, the closest I can come to that is going to a thrift store in a more affluent area. Look at towns near you to find a more boujee area to shop in, or try a Plato’s Closet in a college town nearby. The clothes in these places are more likely to be on trend and newer.
- Check out discounts
- My local Goodwill offers 50 percent off on items with a “color of the week tag.” Each item has a different small colored tag on it, and each week a new color is picked to receive the discount. If I’m not in a big spending mood, I browse through racks by looking at the color tag sticking out and keep an eye out for the color of the week, and then decide if I like the item.
- Consider when you are shopping
- Not talking about the time of day here, but rather seasons. Think of when you clean out your closet. People tend to do so at the end of each season and donate the stuff they didn’t wear as much, so it’s good to check out the coats, sweaters, and other wintery items during the spring.
- Watch thrifting hauls
- Recently, I have been watching Ruby Lyn, a college-aged Canadian YouTuber who primarily focuses her content on thrift hauls and recording the curation of her Depop style bundles. Her style is different from mine, but I found myself liking some of the pieces she picked out. This made me rethink the way I look at clothes when I shop. I find that in-store, I’ll glaze over pieces, but then when I see someone showing something similar off in a haul, I’ll think to myself how I wish my local stores had similar stuff. Watching other people’s finds can help you maintain an open mind when shopping as well as provide inspiration for outfits and items.
- Go in regularly
- Consignment stores are constantly receiving new inventory, so it’s important to visit often to get a first look at what they put out on the racks. If possible, ask an employee what day of the week the store puts out clothes. For me, the Goodwill I shop at puts out new items on Sundays, so I usually try to go at the beginning of the week before things have been picked over.
Thrifting is a great opportunity for one to reinvent their style with unique pieces while simultaneously minimizing the environmental impact. Whether you have gone to consignment stores in the past, or are looking to start going, I hope these tips help!