“Shopping secondhand gives clothing new life.”
Americans toss out around 25 billion pounds of textiles each year (that’s close to 80 pounds per person). The reality is that we have all become accustomed to fast fashion: we impulse buy from sales racks, we continue to purchase cheaply made clothing that falls apart within weeks, and we think that we could not possibly make a difference. That is why I want to discuss why we should all change the way we think about our shopping habits– from our wardrobes to the items we use to decorate our homes. Because we can make a difference.
In high school, I started to believe that secondhand shopping was weird because I was wearing someone else’s clothing, and that if I did not have the newest and most popular style of clothing… I wouldn’t fit in. Maybe that was you in high school or maybe you are still thinking about this issue– but who taught us to the think this way?
After a lot of thought and research on the matter, it appears that these ideas are placed in our heads by major marketing companies in the fast fashion industry. Just think about it– we are told consistently through marketing campaigns that we need more items that are specifically on trend to stay relevant. And on top of it all, acquiring these items seems normal to consumers because the prices are cheaper than ever. But, it is time to combat this ideology and see that fast fashion is not sustainable for our wallets, the planet, or human life.
On the other hand, Secondhand Shopping is sustainable and it can come in many different forms: vintage, consignment, hand-me-downs, yard sales, thrifting, or even swapping out clothes and decor with your friends. According to Fashion Revolution magazine, it provides an opportunity to “recreate your favorite looks for a fraction of the price by buying from local charity shops. This keeps perfectly good clothes out of landfill and supports charitable causes too. Win-win!” By shopping secondhand, we are choosing to obtain clothing that has already been produced and no longer worn by the original owner of the item, which “makes one man’s trash another man’s treasure!” So, here are some reasons why secondhand shopping is more responsible than shopping in fast fashion.
Every item you purchase secondhand, you are adding to the story of that item and giving it a longer life. For example, who owned the item before? Why did they get rid of it? How did it come into your possession? And what kind of unique style does it add to your wardrobe or home?
1- It offers more room for uniqueness: Like a treasure hunt, the quality, one-of-a-kind gems are always found buried under something or hidden away, but in this case, you will be searching through piles of dusty garments and stuffed clothing racks. You also never know what you are going to find, which is part of the fun. Not all thrift store merchandise is created equal, but that’s okay because when you do find a piece you love… you have struck GOLD.
2- Being green while saving your GREEN: This is most people’s favorite reason why they love secondhand shopping. You will definitely feel rewarded after you buy a dress originally worth $200 at the price of $20, or a $300 Le Creuset dutch oven for $30. And honestly, secondhand clothes are often higher quality than fast fashion clothing pieces. This means you are contributing less to landfills, but it also means less frustration like when your shoe breaks the first time you wear it. So, you can see that participating in fast fashion will actually end up costing you more money because you are purchasing a larger amount of cheap products that don’t last.
Also, a note on ethical fashion brands: ethical fashion brands can be much more expensive than what you are used to because we are so conditioned in our consumer habits. Shopping ethical fashion brands is all about investing money into an item– meaning that these are core items in our wardrobe that we have the intention to wear for the long haul. The beauty of shopping secondhand is that it allows you to shop for those unique statement pieces at a lower price tag. These are usually your more colorful and fun pieces to jazz up your investment pieces! SO, be green and save your GREEN by shopping secondhand!
Pro tip: If you’re on a budget and looking for ways to save money on clothes, one way to evaluate the price of an item is to calculate the cost per wear for each item.
3- Give your house a vintage feel with actual vintage items: Decor styles always have this beautiful way of recycling themselves. For example, do you remember that mid-century modern bowl your mom used to mix cookies in when you were younger? Well, suddenly it will get mass produced at Crate & Barrel and sold at a price of $50. But honestly, you can find so many retro home goods and furniture that is authentic, rather than just some fancy schmancy reproduction.
4- Thrift shopping allows for more creativity: There I said it. Thrift shopping actually shows just how stylish you are because it allows for you to reinvent clothing in your own way. We live in a culture that is OBSESSED with “their image” and style, and that’s not going away any time soon. Plus, you will never have to go through the embarrassment of wearing the same shirt to a party as someone else ever again! We all know there are some wacky pieces at thrift stores, but reimagining the piece shows off your creativity. For some, this may mean that you simply need to add the right accessories, but others may want to completely reconstruct the piece in a contemporary way! Either way, this moves people away from just simply mimicking a mannequin in a window display.
1- Charity: Not all thrift stores are connected to charity, but a whole lot of ’em are! This is a win-win-win! People are able to get rid of things they do not want anymore, other people get to purchase things for super cheap, and charities get to earn some cash! It is no coincidence that in Ireland, they refer to thrift shops as “charity shops”. In America, the best known shops are Goodwill and the Salvation Army. But smaller shops also do special partnerships with charities to raise money like taking donations at the check out counter! Just ask your local thrift shop!
2- You know where your money is going: Our purchases for second hand shopping extend the life of our clothes. And with that purchase, we are choosing not to support the fast fashion brand that created the garment, but a message that we want slower style and consumption. By shopping at these secondhand stores, your money can go from supporting Third World child labor to supporting Third World children’s education. And the magic is that you only have to focus on the store right in front of you, rather than tracking down the whole chain of production for an item you purchase at a commercial store!
1- Re-wearing clothes reduces waste and pollution: Why is buying used clothes for sale a better use of textile waste? Second hand clothing encourages and develops a recycling community. Re-wearing clothes extends the lifespan of the garment or household item! For example, producing synthetic fibers requires a lot of energy, and the byproducts include toxic gas and chemicals are being released into the environment in the forms of air and water pollution.
“Globally 20% of textiles are recycled, meaning the other 80% are lost to landfill or incineration.” – Alden Wicker, Fashion Revolution
2- Waste Diversion: The cheaper the quality of the item, the likelihood of it ripping, tearing, or unraveling and ending up in the trashcan is even greater. On the other hand, for a thrifted item to go through its previous owner(s), and make it into your hands in good condition means the item is probably pretty tough. So now, more and more consumers are beginning to grow in disillusionment towards the fast fashion industry because they are realizing that they must be more responsible in the ways they care the environment and make a statement for the workers that are exploited over seas.