To others, the thrift store sells used clothes and a high-risk of bed bugs to low-income individuals.
To me, thrifting brings excitement of new, affordable clothing with the potential of creating a gorgeous outfit with original pieces.
I started my thrift career at the beginning of high school.
A few friends and I would go mostly as a joke. We hoped to find weird t-shirts or sweat shirts to maybe get a few laughs. It was also one of the only stores selling clothes within our budget. I mean, shirts can sell for as low as a dollar. A steal if you ask me.
So every few months we’d ask our parents to drop us off at the local thrift store. They would reluctantly agree, thinking that the thrift store was a place for people who could only afford cheap clothing, not children.
But 30 minutes later we would all walk out, bag in hand, feverishly giggling about the rainbow t-shirt or some weird sweatshirt that said, “Bye Felicia.”
We found these trips very amusing, but it wasn’t until the end of high school that I started venturing out of the t-shirt aisle and into the women’s trousers. My friends and I thought we could find decent jeans to cut into jean shorts for the summer.
We all brought home a pair of 99 cent jeans to chop up. It quickly became a competition between us all to see who could make the best jean shorts. Caroline perfected fraying, so her jean shorts looked like they came straight out of Forever 21. Then Gillian and I stepped up our game by watching hundreds of YouTube videos to discover a method to cut each pair to the right length.We used scissors to fray the ends and cheese graters to create a distressed look. The obsession continued as we bought new jeans. However, we eventually got tired of making them after we each owned about 20 pairs.
It was time to venture even further into the endless racks of clothing, which changed our thrift game forever.
We were shocked to see brands we recognized on the racks at a fourth of the retail price. They had Nike sweatpants, Calvin Klein sweaters and GAP sweatshirts. Crop tops were sold at Forever 21 for $10, but we bought ours for only $2.
Now thrifting became a game. Who could find the coolest piece at the thrift store? Who could find the best brand at the lowest price? Who could crop their shirt or sweater to make it trendy? And now that we could drive ourselves, our visits became weekly. My mom still was not thrilled about the risks associated with wearing used clothing, so she had me wash each item as soon as I returned. You can never be too careful.
To this day, I probably thrift every two weeks. I come home with long jean skirts or old sweaters only to cut and rip them up so no one ever suspects my clothes come from the thrift store. My mom even thought about buying me clothes for Christmas but opted out, thinking I would probably just cut them up.
As a college student who only has money for food and beer, I find majority of my clothes at the thrift store and style them into something new.
Going to different stores and searching the racks helps me create a style of my own. I’ve gotten many of my college friends to love it too. I introduced them to my hobby by showing them my finds. For example, I bought a long dressed with an elastic top. I cut the long skirt off and now have a crop top to wear with jean shorts or skirts during the summer. The hunt and potential of finding a cute piece keeps me coming back.
Some people may argue that thrift stores should only be for low-income families and that shopping there takes clothes from them. But I see it differently. The intent of the store is to provide low-cost options to the whole public. Thrifting helps the community because it keeps the store in business. The environment benefits too because thrifting keeps unwanted clothes out of landfills and into the hands of new owners.
Sustainable fashion never popped upon my radar until I began thrifting.
I realized how much clothing is thrown out because people don’t know what to do with a piece once it doesn’t fit or is not their style anymore. On average, Americans generate 11 billion pounds of clothing waste each year, all of which can be donated. Thrifting keeps clothing from polluting the Earth and you come out with low-cost clothing.
Call me Macklemore, but thrifting and up-cycling are two of my favorite hobbies. Every time I make a trip to the thrift, I come home with clothing that has the potential to resemble current trends but isn’t mass produced in factories for stores like H&M. If you are a broke college student like me looking for affordable clothing, I highly recommend you hit up your local thrift. It helps the community and you walk out with one-of-a-kind outfit. All the piece needs is a little inspiration from Pinterest and a few cuts and stitches.