Thrifting For Newbies
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
If you're into living green or documentaries, you've probably seen a lot on the downsides of fast-fashion. Creating materials by growing non-organic cotton or making synthetic fibers requires a lot of resources and generates tons of waste. Chemical dyes create toxic fumes and run-off, putting workers and the environments down-stream in danger. Working conditions are generally inhuman, with little if any compensation or safety measures taken to protect the people making our clothes. Then, after all the harm that went into making a piece, the industry strives to make trends so short lived and clothing so cheaply made, you buy more every season, generating thousands of pounds of tossed clothes a year.
How do you fight back against the fast-fashion industry? You can buy sustainably made clothing or avoid buying new all together. Buying new products that fit your ethos is ideal, but eco-conscious stores can be so expensive, they seem more like luxury brands than earth-friendly ones, leaving most of us with the second option: thrifting.
Shopping at thrift stores is a bit different than shopping at traditional ones. Thrifting takes longer because stores don't follow fast-fashion's formulas. Clothing is usually organized by type (dress, pants, sweaters, ect) not style, so you need to spend more time weeding out styles you don't like.
On top of that, you probably won't find multiple sizes of that shirt you really like. Since all clothing is brought, everything is semi-one of a kind, which makes your style more unique and shopping a little more of an adventure. It also makes trying things on very important since there's no option to exchange for a better size.
Since thrift stores aren't stocked the same as traditional stores, you'll want to go in with an open mind and cast a wide net. If you're only looking for a black skirt, your selection will be limited and you may have to visit multiple stores. However, if you're looking for something to wear this weekend, you're chances of finding a piece you really like are a lot higher.
Didn't find that black skirt today? Unlike traditional stores, thrift stores don't operate on a seasonal-basis. They get new clothes all the time, so you should go back in a week or two to try again. You just might get lucky the second or third time.
That being said, each thrift store has their own guidelines for accepting clothing. They store down the street from you may not have a lot of the styles you like, but keep looking at other stores so see which ones fit your look a better.
If you're having a hard time finding a store you really like, think about where you're thrifting. Wealthier neighborhoods tend to have nicer thrift stores. The pieces usually follow more recent trends, the items are typically less worn, and the selection is often better at these stores. Sometimes you can even find something with the tags still on, which lets you get brand new clothing without paying the price of fast-fashion.
Try on a lot of things! You never really know if you really like something until you try it on. Thrift stores have some bold pieces you might love, if you give them a chance. That's how I found the jean jumpsuit above.
Personally, I've had the best luck thrifting dresses and sweaters, but everyone and every store is different. Take advantage of that by thrifting when you travel. It let's you get waste-free souvenirs and make yourself a more exciting, eco-friendly wardrobe. Just remember to wash what you thrift before wearing it.