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About Three Takes on Only Buying Second Hand

Three Takes on Only Buying Second Hand

Over the past few months, there has been an undeniable rise in thrift culture. Individuals of all ages are buying their clothes, books, and décor from thrift stores. With this comes the “buy nothing new” challenge. For a period of time, an individual can challenge themselves only to buy secondhand. It’s an interesting challenge that, as a thrift store, we wanted to dive into.

So, we asked three avid thrifters about their experience with shopping primarily second-hand to get their take on thrifting and see if we could do it ourselves.

Why have you decided to shop primarily thrift?

Alexandra- “Thrifting is much more exciting than buying clothes from a regular store. When you find them, it feels like you've uncovered buried treasure!”

My 2022 New Year's Resolution was to not buy a single new piece of clothing, [pair of] shoes, or accessories. Shopping at retail stores is so expensive and wasteful, and you can get better items for a fraction of the price at thrift stores. The thrill you get from finding a fantastic and unique piece that fits you perfectly, I have never felt that exciting feeling shopping at a retail store. It's just an entirely different experience. I'm not shopping; I'm exploring and love it so much. I did this as a New year's resolution, but I honestly don't know how to go back to shopping in a store. It all just seems so wasteful now.

Emilie- “It’s a way of being; it’s a way of approaching the world, it’s a perspective, it’s a way that I portray myself in the world, it’s how I interact with people, it’s the way I connect with things and people.”

When I was 27, I completely overhauled my life, became vegan, and started hiking. I did a bunch of things that were going to help me -especially with my mental health. I wanted to get healthy in all aspects, including my relationship with how I treated the environment. That’s where fashion really started coming into my life. I decided to look into a more sustainable way of dressing myself. I was getting uninspired by the fashion space, by what I was seeing in the mall, or on the runways even.

Then I turned to my love of antiques, and I started educating myself. It was really in 2019/2020 that I started really thinking about going second-hand only. That coincided with the pandemic; thrifting just became the thing that was most accessible and also gave me the most joy. I just love the thrill of the find, but it’s also this idea of exploring creativity in a non-judgmental way. It’s just rethinking how pieces can be worn and how pieces can make people happy in very different ways.

Now everything I wear is thrifted. It expanded my mind in terms of my creativity, and I really equate my start of shopping sustainability, making my own clothes, and thrifting to my creative expansion. For me preloved pieces, especially when I find a vintage piece, you feel it, you touch it, you make up this story behind it in your mind, and that’s what fascinates me. It shows your perspective on the world. To me, that’s what it did, and that’s creative me. Creativity is a huge theme in my life, and that’s important to me, and that’s thrifting to me, that ultimate idea of inspiration.

Nanum- “I think it was -when I first started- the matter of price.”

I was an international student here in Calgary and couldn’t really afford new clothing -it was pretty expensive for me. I think someone told me, “you should try Goodwill. They sell used stuff for a lower price.” I think that’s why I started thrifting to purchase stuff that was in my budget.

What is the biggest challenge when primarily thrifting?

Alexandra- “The biggest challenge is that sometimes you don't find what you're looking for.”

For example, I've been looking for a pair of white pumps for a few months now, and I haven't found them. But it's not really a challenge in a bad way. It's a challenge and a good way because I know when I finally find them, it's going to be so exciting.

Emilie- “The challenges I have are all positive. You got to be patient, and it will come to you.”

The biggest challenge is to make choices at the thrift store. The fun of thrifting is to find a bunch of different pieces and putting them together and make cool outfits. That’s what I love to do, but not everyone has that, and I see why one of the big challenges for shopping second-hand only is how to style the piece of clothing. There is such a huge amount – an overwhelming amount- of clothing it is hard to picture how things will fit into your wardrobe and incorporate into it. I think the trend cycle doesn’t help with that. There are so many vintage lovers that are here to inspire and showcase how we can incorporate second-hand clothing into our wardrobe in a sustainable, fun, creative way that will reflect who you are and your style. I can see why it can be challenging for people to go through all these things and find inspiration, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Every now and then, you find the most incredible deal! And you're not just thrifting low-quality brands, and you were thrifting designer labels for under $20. I found my first-ever fur coat for $250, and I love it so much! The coat was probably worth a few thousand when it was first purchased, and I got it for $250! You find all of the best brands for the absolute best price. I have so many stunning formal gowns, and because I know how to sew and can make my own clothes, I don't need to be too confined by size. If I am in love with it, I can make it fit.

What has surprised you the most on this journey?

Alexandra – “I am rather surprised how much I fell in love with it.”

Every now and then, you find the most incredible deal! And you're not just thrifting low-quality brands, and you were thrifting designer labels for under $20. I found my first-ever fur coat for $250, and I love it so much! The coat was probably worth a few thousand when it was first purchased, and I got it for $250! You find all of the best brands for the absolute best price. I have so many stunning formal gowns, and because I know how to sew and can make my own clothes, I don't need to be too confined by size. If I am in love with it, I can make it fit.

Emilie – “What’s surprising to me is the number of incredible pieces that you can find at the thrift store every time it surprises you.”

Like today it was the five fringe leather jackets that I found. I’m like, “how and where did these people get these?” And the stories behind it, the surprises that you can find. What’s a surprise is the number of incredible pieces that you can actually find. I love being surprised by tags, where they were from, how they were made, and the seam work. Those are things that surprise me.

Nanum – “I am surprised by how much I can find.”

You know, I remember thinking, “I really want that orange skirt,” and then I go thrifting a week later and find the perfect piece I wanted. It fits me perfectly, is good quality, and just my style. I’m surprisingly finding the pieces that I am looking for, and all my clothes are pieces that I love are thrifted. It’s really weird. I needed a really specific chair that I can’t find in the store but guess what? I found it at Goodwill for like $5!

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their thrift journey?

Alexandra – “Keep looking, keep digging through the racks, check out all of the sections, and never miss the sale section.”

My advice is to just get started! One day you are going to find a life-changing piece of clothing, and it is going to make you feel so confident, so trendy, and so beautiful. You will never want to take it off! And you don't have to worry about being wasteful, because everything is in a cycle! You buy the clothes from a second-hand store, and once you no longer wear it, you just donate it back to the same store for the next lucky girl! And all along the way, you are helping various charities! So, you can feel good about treating yourself because you know you were going to return it to the store at the end of its use, and you were helping various charities. Women in need, people with disabilities, animal shelters, overseas missions and more! So, you can feel good about shopping. My only caution is that you will fall in love with this, so get excited for that.

Emilie – “I would say you want to start by going with people that you trust and that know you because they can help bounce ideas off of."

It’s important to go with a wide-open mind, all the while having very clear boundaries to what you’re looking for. [It] makes it easy for your eye to go through the rack. If you’re looking for a maxi dress, just look at the bottom of the rack and the length of the dress. Just know the kind of pieces you want to experiment with and the kind of pieces you’ll wear. If you like to wear black, have 50% of your cart be black then the rest – if you want to experiment- you can feed it a little more. If you go without an idea of what you want and you’re just starting out, you can either leave with nothing or leave with way too much. Make sure you can exchange things, so keep your receipt.

Nanum – “I would advise you to look for something you actually need or want.”

I realized that I am being more environmentally responsible because I’m shopping at Goodwill or thrift shops. Still, I realize that I don’t necessarily need all these items that I’m purchasing. I was stuck with that thought, “oh, it’s okay because I am buying used. I am doing good.” Sometimes I end up with a huge bag of clothing that I actually didn’t need. All I needed was sweat pants, but I ended up with a skirt. Have a specific shape or colour that you want. I started bringing my measuring tape. You know your size, measure the pants that you like, measure the T-shirt you like because sometimes it looks like it will fit on you but when you try it on it doesn’t look good. So, if you have a pair of pants that you like, just measure them “this is what I like about them.”

How have you found this journey has impacted shopping outside of thrift?

Alexandra – “I don't shop outside of thrift anymore! I believe the last thing I bought was a shelf in February 2022.”

Everything I get, clothes, kitchenware, shoes, accessories, furniture, decorations, storage, luggage, absolutely everything, has come from thrift stores! People absolutely adore my clothes, and I can't go anywhere without getting a compliment [or] people asking me where I got them. Because of the things circulating in thrift stores, many of them are timeless items. Items that will come back into fashion year after year. Including the stunning vintage luggage set that I absolutely adore. One of my co-workers took a picture of it so she could try and find it for herself online. Another thing that I've noticed is my perception of value has really changed. Because I know I can get something at the thrift store for $10, somebody else would spend $250 firsthand. When I see advertisements for clothes I like, my first thought is, "I can't wait to find that at the thrift." And my bank account is eternally grateful for this choice. I have my own company, so I often work full days, seven days a week, and thrifting is the one thing I do for myself. It brings me so much joy, it brings me so much peace, and it allows me to escape a busy, busy life for just a couple of hours. 

Emilie – “Now that I go thrifting, I get so inspired by these pieces that complement my wardrobe in different ways that make me expand my wardrobe.”

Oh my god, has it ever! Here’s the thing, some people go into a mall and say, “I want these things, but I want them sustainable. So, I’m going to go thrifting.” If you like contemporary fashion, go into a mall, go online and find [it] at the thrift store. You can use that inspiration to really drill down what you need and want. [It] makes me expand my style and the experimental aspect of fashion. Then I go to a mall, and I’m like, “everything looks the same.” Every thrifted piece you wear more than three times will impact the environment than if you buy 15 million things at the thrift store and never wear. It makes it feel accessible when you can see that someone like you can do this, you can do this too. It’s cool to see that people can create with very diverse things, and that’s what the thrift store offers. I think thrifting and second-hand shopping have become so popular because people are getting creative with how they are styling. Individuality has become such a powerful statement people are indulging in it, and I am loving it! In places like Goodwill -in comparison to others in the way [they lay it out]- you find more inspiration there than any other thrift store.

Nanum – “I used to spend a lot of money on new trendy clothing every single season, but ever since I got into thrift, I keep more pieces.”

I definitely don’t buy new clothing anymore unless I am really into a certain type of clothing that I can’t find at Goodwill. I don’t go to the mall anymore. When my friends were like, “Nanum, we want to go buy a swimming suit,” we went to the mall together, and I realized that swimming suits can be quite expensive. For me, swimming suits need to be under $10. I’m used to thrift pricing, so if anything is over $20, I am like, “that’s quite expensive.” I spend so much less money shopping for my appearance and more money on my hobbies, better-quality food, or going on a vacation. I remember every summer, I would be like, “where’s all my summer clothing? I need summer clothing,” and every winter, “I need to buy these to fit in.” I definitely changed from every season buying new clothing and how I style differently with pieces I have. [I do] try to buy pieces that can go with pieces that I already have, so that’s something that shifted a lot.

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