Let's face it: giving a shit about where your clothes are made and the environment is trending right now. I'm not complaining, per say. Giving something commercial viability is just avenue for change. However, I am worried about a pendulum swing in the other direction once the market has been oversaturated with capsule wardrobes and minimal fashion designers. If #minimalism pictures didn't garner as many likes on Instagram as they do right now, would so many people be on the bandwagon?
Regardless of some of my misgivings about the current trend landscape, I am nonetheless happy to see a change of heart affecting the fashion community. I think seeing the Rana Plaza collapse nearly three years ago was an image that no one will soon forget. With millennials having a huge amount of buying power right now, the fact that fashion we can feel good about is at the forefront of the next wave is extremely important. Therein lies the power to actually shift away from the mistakes of consumer culture and the fashion industry.
All that being said, there are multiple levels of good when it comes to where your money goes. This handy little Buyarchy of Needs graphic from Renaissance woman Sarah Lazarovic sums up my feelings well. The pyramid references the idea that using what you have is the most morally thought out, self-actualized idea when it comes to consuming goods.
The first thing on the pyramid where you actually spend money is a pastime that is near and dear to my heart: thrifting. The same goes for antiquing, scouring eBay, scrolling through Poshmark or checking out consignment shops and luxury resale websites. What could be better: you're getting something that has barely been worn that someone else no longer wants. Personally, I love the the thrill of the hunt when it comes to secondhand. However, there are several other reasons to give it a try if you haven't yet. For the first installment of my Secondhand Series, I explore just a few of my motives behind buying things other people owned before me.
You will save a LOT of money.
One of my favorite eBay finds was a Barbour jacket for about half of what I would have spent at full retail. Since these jackets rarely go on sale, I knew I didn't want to wait for the mercy of a retailer to have a jacket I'll use all winter. However, this goes for less big ticket items as well. Button downs at thrift stores are usually around $3 in stores around Knoxville. That's compared to easily $90 for some of the higher quality shirts marked up to full retail. If you are on a budget or trying to rebuild a wardrobe from the ground up, it just makes sense to utilize your local thrift shops or online stores like Thred Up to make your dollar stretch as far as possible. Shopping secondhand really proves that you don't need a ton of money to find your style.
You have more unique and likely better quality clothes.
Before we got accustomed to the idea of having endless outfit combinations and what essentially equates to disposable clothing, people only had far fewer outfits. According to the NPR affiliated blog KQED news, the average person in the 1960s in America bought fewer than 25 garments a year for around 10 percent of their income, or about $4000. For comparison's sake, the average number of garments purchased today is closer to 70 pieces of clothing per person and each person spends around $1800. Those costs had to be cut somewhere, whether it is quality or human rights.
There are of course notable exceptions within modern brands, but I am a firm believer that having less clothes meant that the articles in the past had to be better quality. Furthermore, many families were equipped with the skill set to mend what they did have. That creative and frugal spirit also lent itself to making clothing rather than buying mass purchased items that may have been out of budget for some anyways. That being said, a ton of those precisely tailored pieces with great fabrics are still hanging out in our thrift and antique stores. I love the idea of having an item of clothing that you can't find in the local mall or online.
You support those in need.
Your neighbor is having a yard sale to raise money for their vacation. The antique and vintage store down the road is run by the most darling old couple you've ever met. Your thrift store supports a local or national charity. This money isn't going into the overflowing coffers of a company that you don't know a lot about. Even if you're buying something from a seller on eBay or at a consignment store, that will help an individual have a little bit more income than they were expecting. A lot of these same principles are the same reasons for shopping at small businesses as well, but this way you're also getting joy from something that someone imbued with their own story.
You will lessen your environmental impact.
According to the EPA, an estimated 12.4 million tons of "footwear, clothing, and other non-durable textiles" were thrown away in 2013. About 14.8 percent of that was able to be recovered, but the rest goes into the landfill or the incinerator. Instead of contributing to that waste, wearing what you already have or saving old textiles from the trash through clothing swaps or purchasing secondhand helps. It's easy to feel like your impact is too small to be noticed; but once you start spreading the idea that shopping secondhand is the bomb, the environment will thank you.
You will have fun!
You know that rush you get when you find the perfect pair of boots or a dress that fits like a glove? When you're shopping secondhand, that feeling is multiplied. It doesn't take a whole lot of patience or creativity to find a specific pair of boots these days with the endless catalog of stores available on the Internet. But finding a great pair of old Levi's that is exactly your size at a local thrift shop feels like fate. Shopping secondhand is a great solution for those wanting to lead a more conscious lifestyle but don't want to give up on buying clothing entirely. There's also something really great about getting a group of friends together to head to the vintage store or hold a clothing swap.
Once you get the hang of the quirks of secondhand shopping like shoving hangers on overcrowded racks at thrift stores or obsessing over your latest eBay bid, I hope you will be as hooked as I am. I still try to buy less overall, but I don't feel like I have to sacrifice any of my style when I buy used. In fact, I usually find things that are more in line with my classic leaning style. Be warned, though. After you start buying secondhand clothing, you may also start incorporating the tendency into other categories and never stop.