If you don’t count the odd trip to Kohl’s to help the Spouse buy pants, I haven’t been in a retail clothing store in probably…15 years.* I’ve gotten so used to thrift stores as my primary source of clothing that it doesn’t even occur to me to look in retail stores, let alone lust after the clothing therein. Don’t get me wrong – when I first went off of retail cold turkey, it was hard to walk into a Target for some other shopping need and just pass by the clothing section. They had cuuuute stuff, and even on a tight budget I felt like some of it was affordable. (Isn’t that how people end up with overflowing shopping carts at Target? Their stuff is all affordable – even $150 worth of it!) I had to learn to peel my eyes away from the racks and content myself with the occasional underwear or sock purchase (both items that are hard to find – at least hygienically – at thrift stores).
I still shop at Target (Tar-zhay, yes?) for laundry detergent, toilet paper, art supplies for my kid, etc. And while I now find some of the clothing on their racks to be in the fugly zone (cold shoulder tops – why? cheap lace in blah muted palettes that look like the 70s threw up – why?), they definitely have upped the chic factor with some of their newer brands. Evidence: see the Queer Eye episode where Tan France takes a dad on a budget to Target to spruce up his wardrobe. I generally still walk on past the clothing sections – mostly out of habit, but also out of the knowledge that it’s just easier not to have to talk myself out of something attractive.
But a few months ago a top just happened to catch my eye – it was the most gorgeous emerald green color, with gloriously large pink poppies scattered jauntily throughout. And lo and behold, it was a perfect match for my Light Summer color palette. (Yes, I tend to carry my color swatches around with me – you never know when the opportunity to thrift will present itself!) Instead of trying to justify a retail purchase (or two), I tried on both a top and a dress to see which size fit me, and mentally committed to tracking them down secondhand, once someone else had bought and then decided to resell them.
So I saved a few searches on eBay and checked in regularly with Poshmark. I kept seeing the longer-sleeved top show up, and both the tank and the dress in not-my-size; but after a few months the dress popped up in my size on eBay and I hit “buy now.”
Slightly less dorky pose:
It’s very… ladylike? I feel like I could be off to a garden party, or tea. The tie at the waist makes it look pulled together, while the collarless neck balances out the ruffled shoulders, keeping the froufy- to-chic ratio in check. And the whole thing, made out of nice-ish quality polyester, feels light and floaty in this hot weather. I am a fan.
I’m still on the hunt for the longline tank, as it will go great with white or pink bottoms and look fab under my white blazer when it starts to cool down a bit. This is it from the back (yes this comes in a skirt, too, but as I haven’t (yet) gotten on the midi skirt wagon I feel safe saying no to that part):
So here’s what I’ve been chewing on with all of this spotting-a-retail-find-then-stalking-it-online business:
Is it really that different from buying something retail?
I was sort of shocked by how quickly items from this collection turned up in secondhand online sites – maybe just a few weeks after I saw them in store? – with “brand new” or “worn once” on the listings.
(I don’t quite get it – why did the original purchaser (OP) not just return the item if it was still for sale in stores? Had this collection already been marked down and OP figured they’d get more money by selling online? Did they not live near a Target, ordered online, and then not want to pay return shipping – or maybe Target doesn’t take online returns? Or was the OP just really honest and, after having worn it out once but not loving it, they didn’t feel they could rightly return it to the store? Anyone out there who’s done a quick turnaround, retail-to-online secondhand please enlighten us!)
Whatever the case, buying something that fresh from the retail racks, for almost retail price (once you pay shipping), and calling it “thrifting” feels a little disingenuous.
I suppose it would help if I knew the piece I was buying had had a nice long life with someone else first – although in a sense I’m still saving it from a landfill or from sitting unworn in the back of someone’s closet for years. After all, plenty of people who decide to make the transition to a slimmed-down wardrobe give away brand-new-with-tags items and I definitely want reselling to be a more attractive option than dumping them.
But if I can go buy fast fashion at a big box store and turn right around and sell it for (almost) as much as I paid for it, doesn’t that just fuel the fast fashion cycle – the sense that I can continue to buy clothing I don’t really love or won’t really wear because I know there’s enough of a market for it to keep me in the habit? (You could probably make the argument that any online secondhand shopping, where the OP gets paid instead of merely receiving a tax-deductible receipt, fuels this cycle.)
I should note that I don’t feel bad about this particular purchase because the wait to find my size gave me ample time to confirm I loved and would wear this piece for many years to come, instead of trying to talk myself into something cheaper but mediocre at the thrift store. (That’s one of the pros/cons about secondhand shopping online – you pay more, but you can find exactly what you want, thus increasing the chance you’ll end up with a juicy cost-per-wear ratio and really getting the most out of your find.)
I don’t particularly want to make a habit out of spotting retail items and stalking them online – I guess it just feels more desire- and consumption-driven than need-driven. (“Need” being relative – filling a wardrobe hole here in the first world is much more often a want than a true need.)
What do you all think? Do you ever buy things secondhand that are still hot off the retail racks? Do you stay away from it for a particular reason?
*Wait – there was that one time I went to Old Navy to see in person if a new color of their Pixie Pant was in my color palette – so I could try to find it secondhand online, of course.