Ah, thrifting. I’m a late thrifting convert—honestly, I was never even a big shopper. I tended to wear the same outfits until—or even after—they fell apart, and I had to be dragged bodily to go shopping.
But I must have always been a closeted clothes fan, because I’ve always had friends with great taste and I’ve benefited from their occasional cast-offs or from them dragging me bodily to go shopping.
And so I’ve lately become a bona-fide thrifting fan. I’m still a bit of a newbie, however, and I make mistakes on the regular. So I’m going to share my Adventures in Thrifting with you all as I navigate the wilds of the secondhand with the help of my more fashion-experienced friends.
Let’s start with Pros and Cons:
Obvious Pro: Less spendy. I once got into a passive-aggressive fight with a friend in college because she wanted me to buy a shirt at United Colors of Benetton and it was $70 and I was like, I LITERALLY DON’T HAVE $70 IN MY BANK ACCOUNT RIGHT NOW and then she told another friend that I was “no fun” to go shopping with because instead of buying things and encouraging her to do the same, I just grouched.
And the thing is, she wasn’t wrong. That is a large part of what makes shopping fun: actually buying stuff. But if you don’t have money, shopping turns from an exercise in fun to an exercise in pointlessness. But because thrift stores are so inexpensive, you can afford to say, “Heck, I don’t really need that dress covered in plastic stars, but darned if I don’t want it,” or “I already have a billion purple shirts but what the heck? I like this one,” and you can just buy it, because instead of 70 dollars it’s seven dollars.
Con: You get way too used to amazingly low prices. And now, instead of someone who throws a hissy fit in United Colors of Benetton, I’m someone who throws a hissy fit in Target. “They want me to pay fourteen dollars for a shirt? Are they freaking insane? I literally don’t have fourteen dollar in my bank account right now!” Ha, ha, I am just kidding. I have more than fourteen dollars in my bank account. Usually.
Pro: Thrifting encourages fashion adventurousness. The prices are so low, thrifting enables you to take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise. Why not buy that weird belt or dress with plastic stars on it?
I, for example, used to be terrified of patterns and colors—for years, my closet consisted of varying hues of solid black, white and grey. If I was going to invest a sizable chunk of money in a piece of clothing, I wanted to be sure that it went with everything. But thrifting? Heck, it’s just a few bucks. Bring on the paisley and print and the plaid and the stripes and calico patterns—all in bright colors, baby.
Pro: Cheap high fashion! Even if you’re not in a big city! I’m still a newbie and tend to be easily distracted by stupid things like dresses with plastic stars on them. But if you look hard, you can find new and vintage designer clothing in thrift stores. I currently live in Tucson, Arizona, which is awesome for thrifting but hardly considered a fashion mecca. But my friend Megan of Bad Cholla vintage tells me she has an Alberta Ferretti dress, a Tocca blazer and a Trina Turk silk blouse—all thrifted in Tucson—and I’ll pretend that I know what those terms mean. I did find a pair of Theory pants in a thrift store once, and I was so happy that I wore them even when it was clear they did not really fit and they split while I was at a Subway in suburban Wisconsin. Which brings me to the my final con:
Con: The “I’ll Totally Wear This! I Just Need To Sew Back on All The Buttons and Wash Out This Stain and Take it in Five Inches” Phenomenon. Obviously, many things in thrift stores are so cheap because they are mildly damaged. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll make the necessary alterations, and then you end up with a huge pile of things to be mended that you never touch. So while it might be only a couple dollars to buy the item of clothing (see cheapness and lack of commitment above) and then maybe the investment of a only a few dollars more to clean and fix it, you have to weigh the investment of time, which is not inconsiderable. We’re all busy folks, and unless you really love a piece of clothing, are you going to bother to sew it? Or take it to a seamstress? Or guilt your friend that knows how to sew into altering it for you? Maybe. Maybe not.
Whew! That was a lot already. Feel free to weigh in with your own thrifting pro/cons below. I’ll be back next week with more!