Thrifting as Identity

A few weeks ago reader Ginna shared some thoughts with me about thrifting that got me thinking about how thrifting shapes my identity.  Here’s what she said:

I’m wondering to what extent thrifting clothing represents identity for me. I grew up super conservative in baggy t-shirts and ill-fitting jeans, so being able to have nice clothes feels incredible. Not to mention being able to play with more styles other than ‘plain and sensible’ ones.

I’d never thought about it this way before, but I also grew up wearing mostly baggy t-shirts and loose pants, to the point where a fellow student late in high school had to point out that my pants were two sizes too big for me.  Not that I wore things I thought were uncool, but my style just wasn’t super current because I interpreted trendy fitted clothing as “tight” and spaghetti straps as “revealing”; friends who started wearing such things had simultaneously started doing things I wasn’t yet comfortable doing.  (And yes that gets into a whole other conversation about what women’s clothing represents and the virgin/whore dichotomy perpetuated by how society perceives and portrays women’s bodies…including the time my mom told me that the fitted sparkly pants I wanted to wear to school were fit for a “streetwalker.”)
Anyway.  When I realized I could wear clothing that fitted properly, it was a revelation.  Likewise was the revelation in grad school that I could dress up for class – instead of wearing a t-shirt and scruffy jeans I could put a little thought and style into my outfits.  This let me have fun with my clothes and feel a little more grown up to counterbalance the embryonic state of perpetual studenthood.
Thrifting made both of these shifts more achievable – thanks both to price point and variety of styles.  And as Ginna pointed out, it’s enabled me to afford “nice” clothes that I would hesitate to spend $$ on in retail life.  (I’m campaigning to make that the next meaning of IRL. Yes?)  I have a soft spot in my heart for thrifting in part because it has seen me from awkward young adult to a professional with her own sense of style.
And as you’ve probably figured out from reading this blog, I am proud that I am now known, in part, for being the woman with the thrifted (yet stylish) wardrobe.  Building an entire wardrobe out of secondhand stuff I love is a fun, perpetual challenge always humming along in the background of my life – kind of like being the lone vegetarian or the person training for the marathon.  It’s something funky people know about me without me having to scream it in their faces.  Likewise it’s a great way to champion values I hold dear – human rights in the garment industry, environmental care, reducing consumerism, and the value of reusing/repurposing discarded things (which is very theological in my opinion).
What about you?  What does thrifting say about who you are?  Is it wrapped up in your identity or is it just a practical way to clothe yourself without spending oodles of moola?  Scroll down to comment!
And thanks, Ginna, for the ongoing conversation about our passion for thrifting!

2 thoughts on “Thrifting as Identity

  1. I consider my wardrobe super fluid. (Not to be confused with a superfluid.)
    It is about 90% thrifted. Most of the items thrifted are of better quality and design than I used to buy new. Thrifted items may not be cutting edge or the hot new color, but I feel confident in wearing them. I don’t tell people unless they ask. I find also new shoes, boots, handbags, scarves, jewelry, cold weather gear etc. I love finding a Tory Butch ring for $1 or cashmere scarves for $2. It’s become a sort of sport. I’ve started keeping track of my thrifted items and hope I can come up with a budget for them. Again, the budget is very fluid. Sometimes, when the shoes/boots are half off I may buy six pairs.

    1. Ha. Science jokes!
      I like the idea of thinking of it as a sport, or a challenge. Sometimes I also think of it as me time/self-care, or creative expression, or an adventure. And now I sound like even more of a thrift geek :)
      Thanks for commenting, Lana!

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