Why Thrift?

If the words “thrift store” conjure up musty smells and images of stained family reunion tees or jewel-toned windbreakers from the 90s, you may be wondering “why thrift” at all?


You know the kind…

My whole purpose with this blog is to convince you it’s fun, feasible, and even worth it, but here are the basic “whys” behind thrifting:

It’s a more ethical choice in a world fraught with consumerism.  Fast fashion is unsustainable for your wallet, for the planet, and for the workers who make the clothing you buy every week at big box or high street stores (see Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion for a quick read on the ramifications of cheap, plentiful, ever-on-trend clothing).  While thrift store selection obviously benefits from fast fashion’s high volume, shopping at stores that resell donated clothing doesn’t create new demand–although the existence of secondhand stores might assuage the consciences of folks addicted to fast fashion who then turn around and donate what they no longer wear to “a good cause.”  (If you are concerned that not shopping retail at all deprives workers employed by the fashion industry of the jobs they need to survive, you may want to consider supporting retailers who manufacture in countries with decent labor laws or who document their supply chains.  Continuing to patronize certain retailers and letting them know you want ethically sourced, fairly traded clothing is also a good option.  EFF is an industry hub for ethical fashion.  Please post other resources in the comments!)

-Speaking of a good cause, many thrift stores exist to benefit local non-profit organizations–animal shelters, addiction centers, hospitals, religious communities, job training centers, etc.  Do your homework if you care about where your dollars are going–some thrift stores might support a cause you don’t agree with; others are for-profit but donate what they can’t sell to a non-profit that then sells the cast-offs to a recycler, using the proceeds to further their non-profit work.

-The hand-me-down effect.  Clothing that’s pre-owned (is that the luxury way of saying secondhand?) and therefore pre-washed, pre-worn, pre-crumpled-in-a-ball-at-the-bottom-of-the-clothes-hamper, etc. will give you a sense of how well something wears.  Thrift store wares are somewhat filtered through this quality test–of course some things are worn only lightly or not at all before donation, but generally the $5 mall top will show its true colors, pilling, snags, holes, etc. by the time it makes it to the thrift racks, whereas higher quality duds will still be in decent condition.

-Thrifting, done right, promotes contentment with having enough in a culture that tells us we always need more.  A deliberate, thoughtful approach to thrifting reminds us that we don’t need to shop to be happy and that a stylish, chic wardrobe is often the result of less, not more, clothing.  (Click here for minimalist/capsule wardrobe resources.)

-Speaking of chic, it’s stylish!  Thrifting promotes creating your own personal style: you end up with unique pieces that other folks aren’t likely to have; and once you’ve figured out the colors/styles/cuts you love, you’re more likely to find them more consistently at the thrift store than at the mall, where trends (even ones you love) are short-lived.


What are YOUR reasons for embracing the thrift?


4 thoughts on “Why Thrift?

  1. I like it because I’m cheap. I have a very hard time paying $70 for a pair of pants, no matter how well they fit or how well they wear.

    1. We share that gene :)
      A friend pointed out the other day that if you, like us, have a hard time paying $70 for jeans and are looking for the $25 version at Old Navy or Marshall’s, you’re probably buying pants that were made in sweatshops (not that the $70 ones weren’t as well!)–the economics don’t add up, otherwise. So putting $5-$7 towards a pair of secondhand pants at the thrift store also means your money is going to the cause that thrift store supports and not fueling exploitative labor practices.

  2. Because I am a bit of a fabric snob. I like linen, heavy cotton, cashmere, merino, wool, and sometime silk. I’m experimenting a bit with TravelSmith types of clothes as well.

    We are a very small town (< 20,000 people), and I'm plus-sized.

    Yet, in our thrift store (little local charity), I've found all of my winter sweaters (1 cashmere, 1 cashmere/silk blend, 1 merino).

    I've got 2 TravelSmith dresses. One was $1.50. I think the other was 3 or 4 dollars. My dressy winter coat is boiled wool from Austria. ($5 thrifted). My 5 favorite skirts, thrifted, all have side POCKETS. (Sadly, 3 of the skirts are synthetic blends). I can't find thick cotton tees in the retail stores these days, so I'm taking good care of my thrifted tees.

    I have worn thrifted clothes to work, to family events, and even to job interviews.

    I've had a number of thrift fails as well. But I just donate those back.

    1. Well done, Jora! Those are some excellent finds and all the more fun to cherish since you found them amidst a limited selection.

      I wear thrifted clothes every day to work, church, weddings, leisure…I find following your mantra of looking for quality (which, as you imply, is often easier to find in clothing of yore or better quality pieces donated), no one knows the difference! (Except for the fact that I have a big mouth about thrifting everything…trying to get more folks on board.)

      LOVE skirts with pockets!!

      Thanks for stopping by :)

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