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Thrifty Shopper

Kiley Jacques

Boutique-style thrift and consignment shops appeal to the conscientious fashionista.

Shopping at thrift shops like Goodwill is all the rage—shoppers find endless racks to assemble a highly individualized,“curated” look.

Nowadays, secondhand is chic and vintage is all the rage. It’s downright trendy to fashion an identity from mash-up ensembles. Both recycled and “up-cycled” clothes—items that have been given a new life through some sort of customization— have gained in popularity over the last decade. Once a generic term that took root in the 1920s, “vintage” is now synonymous with counter-cultural hip.

“There is a sense of empowerment in shopping secondhand that I just don’t ever feel when I am sifting through a department store,” says DC Goodwill Fashionista, fashion blogger for the nonprofit. “The excitement and anticipation that accompanies this market is unlike any other shopping experience. You truly never know what you may come across and that gives shoppers the power to be their own style maven. If you’re into vintage, you’ll find it. If you’re into contemporary high fashion, you’ll find that too.”

Beyond fashion, however, lies something with real political charge. By opening our minds to the possibility of donning gently used clothes, we take a step toward abolishing what has been termed “disposable fashion.” The fact is, what we wear has global consequences, including environmental pollution and social injustice. The good news is our buying habits yield power to effect change.

When it comes time to make a “new” purchase, consider the already worn. Many consignment shop owners have their finger on the pulse of what’s hot in the fashion industry and carefully choose which lines to carry. Retail buyers tend to have very high standards for what they allow into their stores (as anyone who has brought items in for resale knows). In fact, they often house designer labels that show very little to no sign of wear.

Aside from keeping in step with the trend (and, of course, saving money), there are other good reasons to bargain hunt in thrift shops. By buying used items, we help reduce the amount of waste associated with both purchasing new clothes and throwing away used items. According to Eco Fashion Week, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year—these materials often end up in landfills and are slow to decompose. Additionally, buying used clothing cuts overseas manufacturing demands and costs and supports the local economy.

“Last year, donations to Goodwill of Greater Washington kept almost 25 million pounds of material out of area landfills,” says Brendan Hurley, Goodwill Chief Marketing Officer. “Not only were those donated goods reused, re-purposed and recycled, but they also made a positive impact on our local economy by funding free job training and employment services for people with disabilities and disadvantages. Thrifting is not just stylish; it’s good for our community.”

“Recycled” does not necessarily refer only to the fact that an item has been formerly owned, it can also reference the materials of which it is made. By seeking items that have been reworked and refashioned into something new, save energy, limit waste, and take a social stand. Also, buying custom-made or “demicouture” articles favors quality artisanship and craft production over the mass manufacturing of disposable goods and accessories—something every conscientious thrift and consignment store shopper can support.

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