Yet More Reasons to Thrift

Three great reasons to shop at thrift and secondhand stores

So. You already know that when you thrift, you’re saving money, doing something great for the environment, and supporting your favorite charities. But here are some less obvious reasons why thrifting ROCKS:

Unique takes on trends

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it … well, three or four times. At least. Nothing is truly new, and the best place to get trendy garments and accessories is your local thrift emporium. But what makes this trend-tracking technique even more appealing is that it can grant you access to sartorial uniqueness. Sixty bajillion people will have that same striped boatneck from Target. But the one you thrifted with the button details at the collar and sleeves? It’ll set you apart while keeping you current.

Fit variety

It’s true that thrift stores have a notoriously narrow range of sizes for sale. At least, most of them do. But they frequently offer fit variety that malls lack. Whenever trends come up around here, a few folks always mention that trends have an infuriating way of eclipsing the styles that preceded them. And it’s true. In the early 90s, it seemed like no mall store in America was selling anything but scandalously low-rise jeans. My impression is that mass retailers are attempting to offer variety more consistently, but they can’t keep everything in rotation at all times. Thrift stores, however, can. More variety is present because more eras of clothing production are represented. If you like a really high rise or low hemline, if you prefer longer blazers or boxy sweaters, they are ALL represented. Next time you are scouring a mall store for a fit they no longer sell, consider thrifting as an alternative.

Better quality than new

Plenty of brand new garments, shoes, and accessories are beautifully made and will last for decades. Plenty more are cheaply constructed and monstrously overpriced. All it takes is a spin through a thrift store handling older goods to see how manufacturing policies and practices have changed over time. Clothes from bygone eras are heavier, better designed, crafted from better materials, and built to last. When you buy a used garment from a thrift store, you may end up with a more durable, quality product than you would if you bought new. (Emphasis on “may,” especially if you’re buying recent goods … but still!)

Image via weheartit.

Originally posted 2012-02-22 06:39:07.

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30 Responses to “Yet More Reasons to Thrift”

  1. amanda

    I love thrifting, though I haven’t been doing much of it since moving to this town (i’m out in the burbs without a car. ’nuff said). I love finding unique pieces, or even non-unique pieces for far less than retail. I have a hard time finding thrifted clothing that fit (don’t we all though?) and should really learn to sew because it’s less easy on the wallet when you’re paying for alteration 😉 I’ve been meaning to hit up the only place in walking distance, maybe I’ll do so today.

    well said 🙂

  2. Olivia

    It’s definitely true that finding well made, quality pieces can be more affordable in thrift stores.

    One quibble, In the early 90s, it seemed like no mall store in America was selling anything but scandalously low-rise jeans.

    I was in high school in the early 90s and the jeans were not low-rise then. That trend didn’t start until the late 90s somewhere around ’97/’98.

    • Ruby

      I was going to comment on that, too. I lived in CA at the time (Los Angeles) and my experience was that it began there in 1993 (paired with cropped tops!). I hated it!!!! And most jeans are still too low-rise for me. I stopped wearing pants altogether then. I look about 20 lbs heavier and there was no way to avoid having even low rise thongs show. Thank god fashion changes, but it seems to me that it is taking low-rise jeans a long time to finally die out.

      • Katharine

        Oh, no, they can’t die out! I never WORE a pair of jeans, ever, that fit me without bucketing at the back and cutting into my ribs when I sat down until the advent of low-rise jeans (and other pants) which were the sliced bread of leg coverings to me. (They didn’t hit round here in a mainstream way until at least the mid-late 90s.)

        What I’d say about thrifting is less that thrifting is a fabulous way to stay _fashionable_ , and more that it’s a good way to stay _stylish_ in your own way.

    • Velma

      That’s right. Lowrise jeans hit my town in 1996 or 1997, as I remember very well! We had crop tops before that (oh, joy), but the girls who wanted to pair them with lowrise jeans had to buy men’s 501s!

  3. Mel

    I love thrifting….but it’s hard to find decent plus sizes. It can be a bonanza when you do though! You’re right about thrifted clothes often being better quality than what you could afford new. And I like the variety of styling that you can find at a thrift store, as opposed to Target where they have two whole racks of uply polyester plus size items.

  4. Susan, the one in Berkeley

    If a certain style suits my body type, say empire-waist dresses, what else can I do when designers aren’t producing it because they decide that style is no longer trendy?

    Thrift stores can offer styles no longer on-trend. I can also try out new and different styles at an affordable price. I love thrift stores!

  5. Sheila (of Ephemera)

    You know I love thrifting, Sal! I love the amazing – and often like-new – unique items I find. I find it a great resource for (surprisingly) local-made designer items, or things that are a little on the quirky side (like me!). I find the items that are scary or more difficult to wear for the majority of women – things I would NEVER find if I went hunting at the mall.

    Today, I’ll be in a gorgeous Danier Leather black leather shirt – I paid $40 in a thrift store for it (ouch, pretty pricey but it went to a good cause, at least), but I would have easily paid over $150 for it new. And mine had never been worn!

  6. chrissandra

    I am a third generation thrift shopper in the tradtion of my mother and her mother. I thrift for materials, lines, colors. I personally do not thrift for labels, as I find this is a good way to end up with designer clothes that have just passed their fashion peak and are at the very beginning of the long downhill slide into dated and I’m not prepared to hang on to them long enough for them to become retro. My biggest problem with thrifting is also the fit question. I am a pretty standard size but 5’8″ so that finding thrifted pants is almost impossible as anything in my size already seems to have been hemmed for a shorter woman and can’t be let out.

  7. BrokeElizabeth

    Oh, I love thrifting! These reasons are brilliant, of course… I should send them to my friend who absolutely refuses to buy second hand clothes.

  8. Jennifer Pierce

    LOVE thrifting. For all of the above reasons, plus…. I will admit shopping can be therapeutic for me, although I don’t think this is necessarily healthy. When I’m emotional, I generally don’t head for the chocolate first – I head to Goodwill or Value Village. Fortunately, this doesn’t backfire as far as my shopping acuity goes; I tend to be able to focus on what I will actually use and need even more so than usual. Plus, I can feel like I had a big splurge and only spent $25-50. I’d be in trouble if I was a mall shopper!

  9. Bee

    I used to enjoy thrift shopping, but the stores in my area now are a massive waste of time.

    Most of the items are pilly and stretched out and because we have no higher end retailers in town (who am I kidding, we don’t even have an Old Navy within a 4 hour radius…) there is nothing interesting or of decent quality to look at.

    Add to this the fact that they tend to be extremely disorganized – ALL the sizes are mixed up together (and yes, I get that sizing can vary dramatically, but at 5’3″ 105lb, I am rarely going to find a large or xl item or even a medium that fits and like a sensible starting point from browsing as I don’t have heaps of time…)

  10. Anneesha

    Currently wearing an Eileen Fisher charcoal knit pencil skirt – $1, with tags still on. THRIFT STORES ROCK (and consignment too, for the same reasons). When I worked at a consignment store, so many women brought in impulse purchases from global vacations, so there was always plenty of unique items. The point about finding various “rises” is a very good one. AND they’re a great place to buy white/light colored items that can then be made into Rit Dye experiments!

  11. Kaffesoester

    I love thrift shopping too. Since my country is so small we don’t have enough old clothes here, therefore many thrift shops are importing from America. Not good for the environment but great if you’re looking for something unique to wear. On new Years Eve I actually wore an American vintage dress bought in Copenhagen.

  12. Tamera the Menopaausel Supermodel

    I LOVE thrifting. I am lucky enough to have 6 Goodwills, 2 Salvation Armys, 1 Rescue Mission, 2 Hospital Thrifts and multiple consigment shops nearby. And I don’t live in a metropolitan area!! Pretty much everything I wear (aside from underclothes, some accessories/jewelry and some shoes) is thrifted. I don’t look cookie-cutter, and I have a wide variety of things to choose from. Plus, as I am SLOWLY losing weight–once it gets too big and I can’t alter it (I can sew) no big deal if it gets recycled back to the thrift.
    Just yesterday I scored a gorgeous CJBanks jacket for $3 and a darling Charter Club red bandana print denim jacket for $4. And I’m a plus size!!! I find more selection at the Goodwill then at the mall!

  13. spuffyduds

    One thing I love about thrifting that doesn’t get brought up often is that, without having to do any research on a particular brand’s ethics, you KNOW you’re not supporting sweatshops.

  14. Rachel W.

    Thrifting is more fun than shopping at the mall! When I shop retail, I get bored so fast. By the third shop in, you can predict what styles and colors you’ll see, and if you don’t fancy one or the other, you’re sunk. (Those years earlier in the 2000s when only black and fuschia were available? Ach.) Thrift shopping is less predictable, and while that doesn’t always turn into ‘hooray, I bought some clothing,’ it’s always entertaining. And I would always rather go on an entertaining wild-goose-chase than order out of a catalogue. 😉

    Thrifting also scrambles some of my brand habits. It would never occur to me to set foot in Talbot’s, since I’m just not their their target demographic, but I’m wearing a gorgeous (and well-made) Talbot’s sundress from Goodwill today. My silk brand-new-looking blouse is thrifted H&M, I rejoice in that Boden skirt, bought on consignment for $7. I wouldn’t have thought to look at the website of any of those brands had I not acquired one of their pieces secondhand. Broadened horizons through thrifting!

  15. sigourney

    I love thrifting, mostly jewellery, but also clothes. I love finding old/ethnic/dated cloth patterns.

    I find thrifting keeps you creative and schools your decisionmaking, there’s so many choices to be made when assessing a garment. And it’s relaxed and sociable, you’re more likely to start conversations with vendors and/or strangers. So it’s much more of an experience than “ordinary” shopping.

  16. Celynne

    I thrift nearly all of my clothing now, and only buy new if I’ve got a coupon or there’s a sale on or it’s a basic I can’t be bothered to find thrifted. Funnily enough, I met another young woman with the same skirt as me, and we’d both thrifted it from the same store haha…

  17. Megan Mae

    Even more great reasons to thrift. I can hardly consider buying anything retail. Between goodwill and ebay, my shopping habit is taken care of.

    Although, my Goodwill just raised their prices, and my closet is bursting. So I’m off the thrift train for awhile, but any time I want to shop, I will most likely wind up back in a thrift store.

  18. Lynn

    I wish I could thrift, but like Bee, in my area the quality is terrible. Old, out of shape, faded clothes that are nothing like the others have described.

  19. Allison

    I absolutely love thrift shopping!! I see it as a scavenger hunt – sometimes I win, other times I don’t, but it’s always an adventure. I’ve learned which stores are best for clothing, which ones have great shoes, who’s got the best accessories. My rule for thrift shopping is to approach it the same way I would if shopping at a department store – it has to be well made, in good condition and flattering regardless of the price. No more buying something just because it’s cheap.

  20. JoAnn, Sidewalk Chic

    Since I’ve moved to my town, I haven’t done as much thrifting because it’s picked over in the stores around here (we have amazing vintage shops though). I do agree that you can find some quality pieces at thrift stores, especially if the stores are picky about what they bring in. One of the trends I’ve been seeing around the blogosphere are silk button-down shirts, and there are so many quality ones at thrift stores for oh so cheap. 🙂

  21. Shaye

    Not to mention the amazing finds that you’d never have even looked at to pay full price for. I just thrifted a vintage Chanel sweater for $15.

    Another thing about the variety of fit in thrift stores is that garments in the same size will be cut differently depending on the brand. At retail, I sometimes find myself in a place where nothing fits because I’m between sizes. With so many different brands, I find it can sometimes be easier to find something that fits and looks good.

  22. Molly

    Why is thrifting great? Because yesterday I found this (linked above) at my local thrift store. I would never have taken that chance for $200, but for $10, I’m excited to see what I can do with it!


    Amazing trips! I wholeheartedly agree with them, even though I hadn’t truly thought about them before. I do adore thrifting and would love to do it more often!

  24. Terri

    The quality aspect is right on! I have far better quality–lined skirts, silk blouses, good wools than I would have if I shopped retail. And twice this week colleagues asked where I found an item, even though it is common knowledge that I thrift all my clothes. Now, they’re asking which thrift stores to patronize!

  25. Ellie

    One of the things I love about thrifting is finding things with union-made labels–not only are the clothes better made (and often draw lots of compliments!), but it’s a good reminder of how bigger economic changes come home to my very own closet.