Confession: I was not always an avid thrifter. For a long time, I, like many other shoppers, was intimidated and turned off by the process of thrifting. It’s hard to find the motivation to sift through your local consignment store when Zara makes it so easy to see the latest collection drop. But there came a point where I looked at my closet and realized it was filled with disposable pieces I didn’t love, so I decided to change the way I shopped. My solution was to start buying quality secondhand pieces over fast-fashion buys. The transition wasn’t easy, but I can honestly say it’s been for the best. Read on to discover the unexpected benefits of thrift shopping and how it’s made me happier…
I’m just going to say something you’re not supposed to say here… I used to think thrifting was gross. (Yes, I know I was a snob and a half.) But to be fair, thrifting was part of my childhood, so I found pleasure in shopping for items that were brand-new. There’s a level of reckoning with privilege when you’re reassessing how you shop; being able to choose between buying new clothing and going thrifting is a privilege in and of itself. And unfortunately society places value on having the latest styles over seeking out sustainable pieces. But for me, thrifting flipped that narrative: It taught me to not only love the hunt but to ditch the guilt around not being able to afford the trendiest bag. As it turns out, great style doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny.
Don’t @ me for the following statement: I’m over the way everyone seems to dress the same. While I love that Instagram has democratized fashion, it’s also made it that much easier to find yourself wearing the same bag as everyone else—and I’m not about that life. If you, too, find yourself wanting to stand out in a sea of style influencers, thrifting is for you. In general, wherever you choose to shop, I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy pieces that are worth the investment and represent your personal style. Bonus: If you choose to thrift, you may score a secondhand I Am Gia leather duster that is not only practical and unique, but can also be worn for years to come. (True story.)
If you live for getting those “I love your outfit” compliments, it’s time you take thrifting seriously. I’ve never gotten more compliments in my life than when I started thrifting (my secondhand Rebecca Minkoff dress is a compliment magnet). There’s something magical about wearing something you love—you just glow in a different way.
I was definitely sleeping on the consignment life—but I’m awake now. The majority of my designer pieces have been found digging through the trenches of a consignment store. But how do you know you’re saving money? I suggest doing some research on your favorite brands. I always try to find the original price of a piece (unless it’s true vintage) before purchasing it.
In addition to looking for the original retail value, I compare prices on consignment sites like The Real Real, Versatile Collective, and eBay to get an idea of how much I’m saving, because some pieces are actually worth buying new. I also try to find pieces priced at 50% (or less) off the original price; this ratio won’t always apply to collectible pieces or a newer designer piece, but it can be a great way to keep track of your savings.
Honestly, there’s no feeling that really rivals scoring a designer piece at a third of the price. Some of my best secondhand finds include my body-con YSL dress and my Cult Gaia ark bag. I'll admit, however, that it takes some work: I frequently spend my weekends knee-deep in the racks at consignment shops looking for my next gem.
If you don’t have the time or the patience, let me introduce you to… the internet. Sarcasm aside, thrifting has been made easier thanks to the wonders of Wi-Fi. Not only can you find some of the best online consignment stores and online vintage shops, but by using specific search terms, you can also set up notifications for the pieces you’re looking for. (In other words, that Fendi Baguette you’ve been eyeing will soon be yours.)
Of all the reasons to abstain from fast fashion, this is the most important. The fast-fashion industry produces over 15.1 million tons of textile waste every year. Because rather than donating or recycling unsold sale items, fast-fashion brands often burn or toss them, and the debris can end up in the ocean where the plastic microfibers are being consumed by fish and subsequently humans. Terrifying, right? But you don’t need to feel powerless; in addition to voting for politicians and policies that help ensure ethical and environmental practices, you can personally adopt sustainable shopping practices. Because in truth, that affordable fast-fashion piece costs a lot more than you think.
There are so many reasons I love thrifting, but maybe the simplest one is the joy it has brought into my life. And while that may seem trivial, your wardrobe should make you look and feel your best, and if you do happen to find the pieces you love most at Goodwill, well, even better.