Gettin’ thrifty

Shape your style without shrinking your savings

Photo by Rebecca Vanderkooi

In the age of fast fashion, trends disappear as spontaneously as they appear. Every five-dollar crop top ordered from Shein will spend far longer in a landfill than a closet.   

I understand the need to dress on a budget, but there is a price attached to these savings. Cheap trendy clothes are unethically mass produced, and never last more than a few months before falling apart and out of style.   

Photo by Rebecca Vander

Thrifting is how to save money, shop conscientiously and not have the same outfits as everyone else around you. I honestly think anyone who does not like to go thrifting has never learned the right way to do it.  

A lot of people, including friends of mine, are too used to the immediacy of online shopping. They show up to a Goodwill with one article of clothing in mind, and end up disappointed.   

To me, thrifting is a practice of open-mindedness. No two chains or branches are the same. Even at a single store, no two visits are the same. This makes each piece more special.  

It is the search that turns this shopping into a skill. I truly feel accomplished when I enter a Merchandise Outlet with the vague desire for some sweatpants but get swept up, sifting through every aisle. Then I leave with a turtleneck, a jacket, some rings and a jewelry box.  

I love thrifting for the storytelling. After years of it, I end up with outfits made of memories. A skirt from the first thrift store I loved in my hometown, a crewneck from the antique store by my dad’s house, and a belt from the shop near my mom in Florida.   

It is also nice to imagine the story of each piece before I found them. Buying used is my way of continuing the plot. With today’s fifteen-minute trends and extreme consumerism, too many things are thrown away in perfectly good condition.     

When looking up the best ways to donate used clothes, I stumbled upon a website called From there, I learned about a long-term research project about the secondhand clothing trade in Ghana.  

The phrase “dead white man’s clothes” is a translation of the Akan expression “Obroni Wawu.” This term is a testament to western abundance. It is the idea that someone must have died in order to part with so much clothing.  

Of course, that is often not the case. People live everyday with much more than we need, and then discard it as if it never served us. I think our nice possessions should be placed in a cycle of ownership, extending purpose as far as possible. 

Thrifting your new clothing and donating the old is a perfect way to do this. It is also a reminder that “new” and “old” are subjective.  

My last piece here will be admittedly self-centered. Thrifting has helped me develop an individual style in such a fulfilling way. All the stories come together in my closet to become mine. For now.  

To have a sense of style is to have a sense of self. I hope you find some time to take yourself and your friends to the Goodwill in town this weekend.