Over the past several years, a new trend of shopping for clothes has emerged: thrifting. People are gravitating toward second-hand stores to reduce carbon emissions, support local communities and buy fashionable clothes for low prices.
Thrift stores sell gently used clothes, furniture and other household items at discounted costs. Unlike typical retailers with dedicated inventory stock and delivery days, thrift stores exclusively rely on donations on any given day. Typically, thrift shoppers go to garage sales, flea markets and other places that sell second-hand items. The idea of thrifting encourages individuals to celebrate older pieces and find a new purpose for them.
Rebecca Lim, an avid thrifter from New York and a sophomore studying biology, explained her passion for both donating to and shopping at thrift stores.
“By donating [clothes] to a Goodwill or local thrift store, [they] can get reused or reworn by others,” Lim said.
For some, the environmental impacts of buying at retail stores are off-putting, and thrifting provides an alternative means to get new clothes without generating pounds of waste. The fashion industry is one of the most pollutive industries in the world and significantly contributes to the current dangerously high carbon emission rates. Thus, thrifting provides a way to recycle old clothes while doing less damage to the Earth.
Maddie Flynn, a first-year in the SMFA dual degree program, explained the environmental benefits of thrifting.
“Instead of the clothes going into a landfill, people will wear them and …won’t buy new clothes,” Flynn said. “The clothing industry is so bad for the environment. Thousands of pounds of clothes go into landfills every year. It’s very sad actually.”
Thrifting also provides a cheap and nuanced way to shop for clothes. Especially as a young person going to college, money is often limited.
“My parents always don’t want to buy me new clothing, so [thrifting] is a great way for me to shop and still have money to do other things, like eat dinner with my friends and go out to the movies or whatever,” Lim said.
Thrifting is a smarter way to shop because it allows students to buy a range of clothes for a low cost.
“The last big thrift I did, I probably brought about five outfits for around $30,” Flynn said.
When shopping for a family, the prices can add up, and thrift stores can help decrease that cost. Joy Bedford, an employee at the Buffalo Exchange in Davis Square and a sophomore studying fine arts at the SMFA, explained their story with thrifting.
“I’ve been going to Goodwill since I was a kid because I grew up in a not-so-wealthy area and that’s what you did,” Bedford said. “That’s how you got new clothes … It was $3 for a shirt and that was in my price range.”
In addition to being cheap, one of the reasons thrifting is so desirable is the fact that the clothes are of good quality.
“I got a brand-new, tags-on Athleta top,” Flynn said. “[The] tags said it was $50. I got it for [$3]. You can get some good brands if you just look. You just have to know what you are looking for.”
In order to find hidden gems, thrifting can take more effort than traditional retail. Due to its reliance on donations, which come at unreliable times and often consist of a wide variety of items, the shopper never knows what to expect.
“You have to look through a lot of stuff and it takes a lot of time,” Flynn said. “You have to kind of be dedicated.”
Rather than going to a thrift store looking for one particular item, thrifters may spend hours searching through products and find one item they like — or none at all.
“It’s like a roll of the dice,” Bedford said. “Sometimes you go there and you find cute things and you feel really good because you spent like [$15] on a bunch of cute stuff. And sometimes you go and you just don’t get anything good. They are both equally possible, but that’s what I like about it.”
For many, the time spent rummaging through bins to find the perfect piece is worth it. Thrifting is a way for individuals to create their own sense of style and express themselves through clothing.
“What makes thrifting appealing, at least for me, is that I’m super into DIY and remaking old clothes and DIY clothes,” Bedford said. “I love finding things that are kind of ugly and then taking them home and turning them into something that is cute and fashionable.”
Thrifted items are often ones that are not found in a typical retail store.
“Most of the clothes I find are trendy and so stylish,” Lim said. “I actually prefer my clothes thrifted because they are usually one of a kind and I don’t see them on 100 other people.”
Thrift stores are not like typical stores in that their stock is not seasonal and will often contain a wide variety of clothes for all purposes.
“One of the great things about thrifting is that it has clothes for all seasons — winter coats, summer dresses, fall sweaters,” Lim said. “It has everything you are looking for and more. There really is never a need to go to a retailer unless I’m looking for a very specific item that I may not be able to find in the thrift store.”
Thrifting serves as an enjoyable way to shop for eco-friendly, affordable and sustainable clothes.
“Honestly, thrifting is the bomb,” Flynn said. “Everyone should try it. It’s the best thing ever.”
Thrifting is about even more than getting the best deal or vintage find. Lim explained how it also brings the community together.
“[Thrifting] clothes also kind of promotes cultural sharing because people of all different backgrounds donate their own personal clothes, and no one knows who they came from,” Lim said. “They are just looking at the piece of clothing … I think it’s a cool way to promote sharing and inclusion of everyone — all genders and races.”