Before I go any further, I’d just like to state that I am not going to start this post with a Macklemore reference. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue: I recently found out how few students at my college have gone thrift shopping. Naturally, I was shocked once I realized that they were missing out on one of my favourite pastimes.
I grew up in Papua New Guinea, where there were literally no new clothes stores; so, the only way we could acquire clothing was to either bring it with us from the States or go secondhand shopping. Needless to say, I’m kind of a pro at the thrift store scene. So, I have decided that it is my job—nay, duty—to convince everyone in the world of the advantages of thrift shopping.
I went to my local Goodwill a few days ago and, as usual, had some great finds: an oversized, mustard Banana Republic sweater; a fitted, cream-coloured Anne Taylor blouse; an acid-washed, denim backpack; a vegan-sloganed tee; a short, floral dress; a Roxy tank top and various books.The final price? About $20. Um, you KNOW that’s right.
Thanks to our friends Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (there’s my slight reference, but it’s as far as I will go), many people assume that you can only go thrift shopping at Goodwill. I am here to tell you that that is not so! Salvation Army is another viable option as are many other small, locally-owned thrift stores; however, if you get really grossed out by the atmosphere at these low-priced places, there are other options, too.
For instance, ever head of Plato’s Closet? Yeah, me too. It’s kind of my favourite. Everything in Plato’s Closet is secondhand, but the clothes are also better quality, so the prices will naturally be higher. Clothes Mentor is another favourite of mine. A great aspect of these two stores is that you can sell them your old clothes and actually make money. How 'bout that!
"But, Becca, what about fancy consignment shops?" you ask. Yeah, those qualify, too. Those will be even higher on the price range, but the quality will be that much better. So keep in mind that when someone says “secondhand,” it could have a slew of different meanings. And if you don’t know where to start, here’s a website that will help you out. Just type in your ZIP, and the secondhand stores in the area will show up. It’s like magic, no?
However, just because you want to go to Goodwill doesn’t mean you have to go to the sketchiest one in town. In fact, it’s better to go to secondhand stores in richer areas because the clothes donated there will be of a higher quality. And if you are completely new to the secondhand scene, here are a few tips:
1. Don’t go alone. Yeah, sometimes there are shifty people in thrift stores. For that reason—and also the fact that it’s just not fun to go shopping by yourself—take a friend with you.
2. Be prepared to try stuff on. Just because it looks great on the rack doesn’t mean it will look so awesome on you. Wear clothes that are easy to take off or even a shirt that you can pull clothes over easily.
3. Go in with an open mind. It’s silly to go into a thrift store thinking you are going to buy a specific thing. You’re looking for pumps to match a specific dress? I mean, the best of luck to you, but the chances are you’re not going to find exactly what you’re looking for. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to come across the most amazing, vintage pair of Doc Martens or a name brand dress in mint condition with the original tag still attached.
4. Bring hand sanitizer. Just because the prices are low doesn’t mean the amount of germs are, too.
5. Take your smartphone. You just might be able to take a photo like this:
6. Set aside an ample amount of time. You can’t breeze in and out of a secondhand store in 10 minutes. Take at least an hour per store and patiently go down each aisle. Some of the best items can be overlooked with fast browsing.
7. Bring cash just in case. They probably accept cards, but you never want to go up to the register just to discover that you can't buy anything you've acquired over the last hour and a half.
8. Look for more than just clothes. My roommates and I have found quality pillows to furnish our apartment with that we just had to throw in the wash before using. There's also often great furniture, plates, mugs, books, records and shoes. Just remember to either wash everything or wipe it down with a bleach wipe once you buy it.
9. NEVER buy underwear secondhand. Yeah, most things are fine once you wash them, but there are certain things that you should never buy secondhand. Underwear is definitely one of them. I hope this is obvious to everyone.
10. Don’t be embarrassed. Seriously, going thrifting can mean you’re hipster, vintage or adventurous. Don’t believe me? Check out these thrift store runway contests.
So basically, thrift shopping is cool. I am also a penny-pinching college student, so there's that, too. And here's one other bonus: if you're paranoid about the conditions of the factories that make the clothes you buy new, you don't have to worry about that with secondhand clothes. By buying from thrift stores, you aren't financially supporting any of those corporations who exploit factory workers in third-world countries. So, really, what is there to lose? Money, face, pride, fashion? Literally none of those things!
In fact, even celebrities love to hit up the thrift shops. No one can deny that Janelle Monae has swag. Well, guess what? According to the Columbia Tribune, she loves to go second hand shopping, too. "I like one-of-a-kind pieces," Monae says in the article. "I don't like everybody walking around in stuff that I have on."