Biases Against Thrifting

biases against thrift shopping

I’ve been thrifting since high school. Buying used clothing has never bothered me one whit, and I encourage all stylish women to consider hitting the thrift stores virtually any time they need new duds. But I know there are many longstanding biases against thrifting, and I’m curious if any of you are loathe to thrift for these reasons:

The stigma of buying used

I’ve never experienced this one directly, but I’ve heard from many people who have. I feel like used clothing doesn’t carry the stigma it did years ago, but that could vary from region to region. I also get the impression that young people who are only just learning about money, clothing, and associated statuses might disdain used clothing. But it could be more prevalent than I realize.

Germs and personal residues

Most seasoned thrifters avoid buying used items that are renowned for hanging onto germs: Lingerie, tights, towels. Some also avoid hats and shoes for germ-related reasons. But many non-thrifters can’t get comfortable with the idea of wearing used garments because of germ potential, or even just the personal, energetic, or spiritual residues that may imbue a used item. Such concerns don’t seem to apply as often to used furniture, artworks, or cars, but since clothing is kept so close to the body, I can see how it might seem more residue- and germ-prone.

Hassle

Many fellow clotheshorses have said that they love the idea of thrifting, but in practice they just can’t take the hassle. Thrift stores are renowned for being crowded, badly organized, and difficult to navigate. Even smaller, more selective consignment stores can feel daunting. Shoppers who are easily overwhelmed would rather go to malls, boutiques, or shops that have fewer but clearer options.

Do you avoid thrifting for any of these reasons? Are there other biases against thrifting that I’m missing? Do you feel like some of these might be regional or generational?

Image via Voodoo Trend.

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  • Blume

    As a curvy petite, I have a rather particular body to fit, and I pretty much only shop at places that have petite lines. The amount of petite clothing that you can find at secondhand stores is usually not enough to make it worth my while. I am more likely to pop in the secondhand stores that I know do have their petite clothes separated out from the rest, but even then those sections are so small that I don’t often find things.

    • April

      I have a different body shape, but that’s pretty much my reasoning as well. It’s so disorganized it’s hard to find things to begin with, and then just frustrating when nothing fits. So it’s rarely worth my time.

    • Michelle

      I’m not petite, but do seem to be put together proportionally in a way that’s tough to fit (large bust, narrow shoulders and rib cage, low thicker waist, and a small belly). I shop at thrift stores and consignment shops because the variety of clothing styles and sizes makes it *more* likely that I’ll find something I like that also fits.

    • I am also a petite (size 12) and I will admit it is a challenge to find petite pants, but I find many nice tops and skirts that will work for me. The funny thing is the last couple times I actually found some petite dress pants that where my size. I would suggest to go for fun once in awhile to start out with. You may be surprised at what you find when you are not looking for a particular item, just for something that may work in your wardrobe. I love thrift shopping!

  • I have or do relate to each of these reasons! I used to simply not be a fan of used clothing, point. blank.period. However, now I love a great vintage find! I do still have a thing about thrifting shoes, but that may be because my mom always told me not to share shoes, even with my friends or cousins. While I love a great vintage/thrifted find, I do not have as much patience for the hustle and bustle of thrifting as some of my friends. So, while I do got to thrift stores, I am more of a rack scanner than the one who will go through each hanger (I’m the same way at all stores though).

    This is a great piece Sally!!

  • Rebecca

    I am an avid thrifter–probably more than 3/4 of my closet. For years my Mom found this off-putting, for an interesting reason: when I was a kid, we HAD to thrift. We were poor, we had no choice. Now that she is living more comfortably, so thrifting only reminds her of those days. She’s finally starting to come around now that she sees all the great stuff I bring home!

  • Anonymous

    I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothing. People used to give my family black garbage bags of funky smelling used clothes, which my sisters and I would sort through and try on. We didn’t have the money for new clothes. Being able to buy my own new clothes that fit well, in flattering styles and the fibers I prefer, is a luxury I don’t want to give up.

    Also thrifting takes more time and effort than I’m willing to put into my clothing. I usually only shop at one store in person because I’m used to how it’s laid out. (Otherwise I shop online.) I can’t deal with the chaos of a typical Salvation Army/Goodwill/whatever. There’s a Plato’s Closet nearby that I plan to visit, though. They organize their clothes by color, which appeals to me very much.

  • I guess I’ve said this before, but thrifting really depends on what size you are. My sister loves to thrift way more than I do and knows the ins and outs. She’s a size 12 or 14 and says that the only time she’s had lots of easy success thrifting is when she briefly worked her ass off to get skinnier. I’m a size 12 and found the same thing. Angie once posted an “insider tip” at YLF saying that stores actually stock fewer copies of an item in this size range than at smaller sizes (even though the lonely 0-2-4s are always what’s left on the rack en masse at sale time). So, put together fewer items ever stocked and sold new + average American woman is size 14 + people at our size hang onto clothing longer because there’s less good stuff available = lots of competition for fewer decent items.

    That goes to the hassle point, I guess. I have to search far and wide and often find only crap I wouldn’t want to wear, in my size. So I don’t, and luckily right now I’m fortunate to be able to afford to buy clothes new.

    • Anonymous

      Now see, I don’t particularly like thrift or TJ Maxx-style stores because where I live, those stores tend to have very little clothing in small sizes, and what there is seems to be mostly teenage hoochie wear. And there are definitely NOT masses of 0-2-4s left on the sales racks in retail stores! Region makes a difference; when I lived in the midwest, I could always find small sizes on sale, but out here on the east coast, not so much. I think people at both ends of the scale have it tough, I think stores tend to stock a lot of 6-8-10, but not so much 0-2-4 or 12-14-16.

      • Anna D.

        I got into a huge debate about this once; I am convinced that larger sizes are harder to find (anti-fat prejudice!), whereas some of the people I was talking to were convinced it was the smaller sizes that were harder to find. You’re probably right that it’s the extremes that suffer – because I agree with Cynthia, the size you wear makes a difference to what you’re going to be able to find.

        • Anonymous

          I think it is the extremes – plus with size inflation in some lines, women who were once a 6 might now be one of those more rare 2s, exacerbating the problem at the low end. And where you live has to play a role. I noticed immediately when I moved from Michigan to the DC area that I was no longer one of the shortest smallest women in line at the grocery store. It was a nice change to be able to actually see over some people’s heads instead of always looking at shoulder blades.

          • Katharine

            I will say that the main range of selection — in my town– is in my general size range, and I’m “average” — I have found things that fit me labelled with sizes ranging from 6 to 14, and am, in general, an 8-10-12 depending on cut and brand.

            However, the vast majority of that stuff is either too well-worn to be worth buying, or from one of the innumerable labels I think of as “fashion toilet paper” — fecking Joe Fresh or H&M or George or whatever else cheap stuff of the wear-once-and-dump variety (very often priced, at Value Village, for more than I would have paid for it had I in fact picked up that Joe Fresh t-shirt alongside my eggs one day at the grocery store).

            There’s not a bad AMOUNT of larger items, but it tends to be on the dowdy side. However, I’ve often been impressed with the quality; if one was a size 18-22 or so, and wanted conservative but decent quality office wear, one could do worse than shop the thrifts where I live.

            The really super cool stuff though? All teeny. This is partly, I suspect, because of our very heavy concentration of foreign, particularly Asian, students here — the things I used to find, when I was a scrawny thrift-shopping skeleton! Amazingly nifty items with indecipherable (to me) Asian labels and incredible detailing! Plus occasional designer-wear in near-mint condition. I just don’t find that in my size now, and feel very sad when I come across a piece in the size 2 section that would now fit, maybe, my forearm.

            The size thing is also very regional, though. I went to some thrifts in Vancouver when I was there, and boy, everything there was tiny! And in the trendy areas of Toronto, at thrifts and vintage stores, I’m lucky to find two or three pieces that might fit me.

        • LinB

          Different thrift stores in my town tend to stock different size ranges — the women who live in the “rich” neighborhoods donate smaller size ranges, and so stores nearest their neighborhoods stock smaller sizes (on the whole). I stay away from those locations, as I am not interested in size 2 women’s business suits. But women who are looking for that sort of clothing, in that size range, will not find a single thing to suit them in the locations I DO frequent — the stores I shop have mostly large sizes. My husband finds better menswear at a different location than I find decent womenswear.

    • Barbra

      Cynthia, this is really interesting, did YFL explain WHY less of certain sizes are stocked?

      • Candace

        It’s a practice used by wholesalers when deciding how many of what sizes to produce. They try to gauge the market need for each size range and avoid over or under production accordingly. A common formula is 2-4-2, which I think someone else mentioned. It just means they make twice as much of the medium or “average” sizes than they do of the small and large ranges.

        Over the years the retailers have started using the same practice to avoid over purchasing also. Since a retailer owns an item once they buy it from a wholesaler, they stand to loose money if they don’t try to judge what sizes sell to their client base.

        I used to work in production for a wholesaler so I learned to play this numbers game 🙂

    • Halo

      If anything plus is available in my local consignment shops, it’s horrible old sacks and worn-out stuff from low-end retailers. I do sell my old stuff at the consignments, and it all sells fast, probably because I buy nice quality, stylish things.

      In the 15 years I’ve been sized 16-20, I’ve found ONE dress to buy at a thrift/consignment and I’ve spent a lot of time looking.

  • Anat

    In my country, Israel, there is definitely a lot of stigma related to buying second hand. I definitely feel like some people stick there noses up on this, and somehow pity me for buying used clothing…. Kind of like I was confessing I was poor (even though one of the people I got this impression from is my boss, and he know exactly that I am far from it!).

    I think this may also be somehow holocaust related, though I find it difficult to pin down the exact connection. Just a hunch.

    I love my second hand finds and definitly feel like my most of my interesting “signature” pieces originate from thrifting. My wardrobe would have been much more mundane and mainstream if I had limited myself to just reatil shops.

    • Anat

      Just remembered another thing I heard, about thrifting shoes – that thrifting shoes is bad luck because you are “walking in someone elses shoes”, so you are getting their luck or something like that….

  • I do like to thrift shop, but I tend to have a lot of difficulty with it. Part of it comes from the fact that I much rather see a piece on a mannequin so I can see how it’s supposed to fit. If something is on a mannequin in a thrift store, odds are it’s the only one and it’s a size 0. I usually stick with jeans and graphic tees from thrift shops because those I can understand.

  • Miss T

    Attitudes towards “used” clothing depend on early personal experiences, I think. I’m the oldest girl in my family, so my little sister received 90% of her clothing from me. When she got married many years ago, so wore a vintage gown and her ring was made from “recycled” stones and metals. She felt quite comfortable with both. On the other hand, when I was 5, I remember being given some pretty dresses for school that someone had given my mother for me because her own daughter had outgrown them. I felt very. . .sad in them, for whatevever reason and did not want to wear them. They felt like they were not “me”. For years, I never encountered any used clothing after that, until I was a young adult and an older friend with a penchant for shopping at Saks gave me some exquisite “hand-me-downs”. I cherished those garments because I knew their “value”. As I got older, I began donating my own unused “nice” clothing — to both friends and to charities that have thrift shops, but I never thought of shopping at those same thrift shops as a consumer, only particpating at the other end as a donor. With the advent of Etsy, though, I really got into a sort of studied, careful vintage shopping. “Careful” in the sense that I only purchase things that resonate with me somehow, to avoid that distressing feeling of “otherness” I remember from those hand-me-down dresses I wore at age 5. But also — and I think this is the important point — as a DONOR of many, many beautiful garments over the years, I try to remember the spirit with which used clothing is given away, or put into the thrift “cycle”. I think the reasons are all good ones: allowing someone who can’t afford to pay full price to have nice clothes, allowing charities to make money for their causes, making sure that resources like clothes are not “hoarded” but accessible to those who need them, or even just the pleasure of sharing one’s wealth with others in a more personal way. So, it’s all good, I think.

  • hannah

    Among my friends, I’m known as the thrifter extraordinaire. I think that anyone of any size can find perfect items. I am 6 ft tall, and find too many items every time I go. I’m not bothered by perceived germs. I always wash every item before wearing it. I also use a bleach wipe on the inside of shoes before wearing them. I work with kids, so I’m not as germ-phobic as a lot of people. My attitude is that it’s unavoidable.

    • Miss T

      LOL — so true. The germs I’ve gotten from my 5-year-old are way more virulent than any I’ve purportedly gotten (or theoretically could get) from a thrifted item!

  • I never was a thrift shopper until a few years ago… partly because of the stigma and fear of germs, but mostly because I didn’t know any better. Blogging helped school me on the joys of thrifting, and now I love it. NYC has some great thrift shops, and you can find some real gems if you have the time and patience.

  • I have very little luck (or time) to thrift. Mostly because my body is tall and everything is too short by 3 inches. I look forward to a time when I might have an hour to browse through the racks. Even if things won’t fit right away, the garments are cheap enough that I can re-purpose them with my sewing machine. A cute and too short dress could be a cute shirt….etc. I never thought about the energetic residue that might linger…interesting thought!

  • Katharine

    I go through phases of thrifting, but I won’t thrift shoes any more (I got plantar warts that survived two years of repeated liquid nitrogen burnings from my doctor from a pair of thrifted Nine West wedges, and yes, I did disinfect them before wearing.

    The biggest trouble with thrifting, for me, is that it encourages my wardrobe choices to “spread”. Because things are not curated, and you may find something SUPER ULTRA COOL — but it won’t necessarily be exactly the kind of cool that meshes with the rest of your clothing. And you probably WON’T find exactly the things you need, while thrifting, the things that fill genuine gaps in your wardrobe.

    What I mean is, thrifting is a good way to acquire “closet orphans”, and items that ONLY work with one specific other item, or that somehow require another purchase in order to be worn because they don’t QUITE go with anything else you have… in short, encouraging closet sprawl.

    Which is fine, if you have the kind of eclectic style, and generous space, for closet sprawl. But personally, I’m kind of sick of it, and these days, I’m increasingly feeling that more stuff makes it less easy for me to get dressed. And spending hours in a thrift store (which I did just yesterday) and coming out with nothing because there were only a few “almost” items is super-frustrating and feels like an intense waste of time that could be better spent going, “okay, what I need right now is X,” and going on a hunt to the places where I know I’d have a decent chance of finding that thing.

    • Valentina

      Well said! I agree with many of your points, especially about having more stuff makes it less easy to dress. I don’t need more, I want better, you know?

    • I completely agree with this. I used to do some thrifting when I was in high school because it was cool, and frankly the stuff never fit right even then. These days I’m after a small, curated wardrobe and would prefer not to spend too much time to find the exact pieces I need.

    • Susan

      I’m afraid I’m NEVER going to get over having looked up ‘plantar wart’ in Wikipedia!

    • Michelle

      I can’t say thrifting works the same way for me.

      I’m a late bloomer, professionally speaking, and I currently volunteer full-time in my dream environment. I can get away with…business casual that’s more toward the business end than the casual end. With the help of an editing client of mine who is an image consultant, I recently donated/consigned bags and bags of clothing from my closet. Many of these pieces were, you guessed it, from thrift stores.

      I love having fewer pieces in my closet: It makes dressing nice much simpler. But many pieces that remain are still second-hand: consignment, thrift store, and garage sale pieces, even. I’m complementing them by selectively buying some accessories and only clothing that goes with them: new and on clearance, on ebay, or consignment or thrift. I don’t think thrift has to = clutter. It’s a matter of setting standards for your wardrobe/closet and sticking to those. IMO. I need to dress as though I’m making money, even though I’m not, and second-hand is the best way for me to do that.

      • Katharine

        It doesn’t have to, certainly, and I also have a lot of beautiful items that are staples in my closet that were either thrifted or bought on consignment. But the standards can be HARD… for me, anyway, when I see something totally unique, something I’ve never seen before and never will again, which is just SO CLOSE TO ALMOST being the most perfect thing for me, AND PLUS is so super cheap! Like… the silk eighties parachute jumpsuit, hanging in my closet, which I have never worn, because it’s this strange brown distressed finish…. but otherwise, it fits me beautifully, and looks gorgeous, and if it were black, or grey, I’d’ve worn the heck out of it already… but I just don’t have any shoes/boots that quite go. (I tried black boots, but then looked like a soldier from a totalitarian future.) Like the lovely Japanese sweatshirt dress which is super comfy, and has a nifty and unusual arrangement of racing stripes on the side, plus thumbholes in the sleeves… which is bright robins’ egg blue, a colour that goes with absolutely NOTHING that I own, including any of my tights options, and yet I can’t bear to get rid of it because I am convinced I will somehow figure out a way to wear it.

        That kind of thing. And that may just be me. But I resent those pieces, for being so ****ing close to almost perfect. Just like I resent the Autumn Cashmere sweater dress I bought on consignment recently (which, however, I do wear quite a bit) for being so bloody PURPLE. Why couldn’t it be black? Or grey? I’d wear it so much MORE. But no. And I’m not going to GET a black, or grey, Autumn Cashmere sweater dress for $50 anywhere else, so I’m kind of stuck.

  • Gail

    I live in a rural village (population @ 2000) that has an amazing thrift store that is donation only, with all profits going to the food pantry. There is great turnover, and an eclectic mix of everything–from new to vintage with everything in between. That said, because the area as a whole is sparsely populated, one does run the risk of being seen in the thrifted duds by whomever donated the clothing in the first (or even 2nd or 3rd) round. This gives me a bit of pause. To avoid this, some people I know drive quite a long way to buy from thrift stores where they’re less likely to know the donor, and even here in the village where I live, we often get shoppers who have come from an hour away.

    Even with all these limitations, thrifting is still the best bet to find something really cool. Local stores tend to be conservative or Walmart-style quality. So for me, it’s shop online or shop used.

  • I used to thrift often as a teen. I remember getting a kind of lecture from my dad about shopping at thrift stores, not based on any of the reasons you’ve listed. Like an earlier commenter, my dad came up poor and had little choice but to thrift when it came to buying clothes. He suggested that I not shop at thrift stores because there were people (like he had been) who could not afford to shop anywhere else. Though we weren’t rich by a long shot, we were fortunate enough to be able to buy new, so we should buy new, and not take from those who needed thrift stores as a resource for life. I’d never thought about it that way, that I was honing in on a resource that I maybe shouldn’t use because I had more financial freedom than others.
    As an adult, I don’t frequent the thrift stores the way I used to; I stop in occassionally–as often looking for select home items as for clothes–but it’s more just to browse. My financial situation is less flexible than it was growing up, and things are hard all over, but somehow I still can’t shake my dad’s admonition.

    • Valentina

      Wow, I never thought of it that way! I think your dad has a very valid point!

    • Trudy Blue

      This is an interesting idea—and certainly thoughtful of your dad—but I don’t think it’s correct in practice. For one thing, most thrift stores function as a fundraiser for a charity (Goodwill, food pantry, domestic violence shelter, etc.), so by shopping there, you are helping people in need. Also, a store with high turnover can keep their prices low since they don’t need to make as much off each sale. Obviously, in order to keep donations coming in, somebody has to be buying new stuff that will later be donated, but even in this economy, I don’t see any thrift stores closing for lack of merchandise.

      • LinB

        Agreed. The truly needy may find that they can only afford used clothing. And most towns also have some sort of nonprofit organization that will give away free clothing to those who have no other option. But at many thrifts, so very much used clothing is donated that “The Poor” cannot possibly buy it all! The money injected into a charity by selling clothing is often what the charity uses to pay their basic operating costs. Many thrift stores pay their workers, and/or operate their stores as on-the-job training in basic retail business skills. Money generated by used clothing/furniture sales may pay the workers, and the teachers.

        • Wendy

          On the same stride as Trudy Blue and LinB, I would like to add that thrifting is also a way to recycle clothes without contributing to new cheap fast fashion. After all that’s been written about, discussed and criticized about the abundance of cheap clothing being produced, there’s actually too much clothing in thrift stores. A lot of people these days don’t hesitate to donate bags and bags of used or never worn clothing so they can clean out their overflowing closets to buy new clothes again. It’s not like 25 years ago where people would donate a few pieces once in awhile. Fashion in this day and age is totally transient. Most people want what’s trendy and affordable and copious amounts of it. Then they purge it all when the trend is over and start all over again.

          I often see thrift store employees get overwhelmed with the amount that people donate. Huge garbage size bags of clothes waiting to be sorted and distributed. The last few times I donated clothes, the workers don’t even bother thanking me anymore. I don’t take any offense to it but rather feel bad for them for adding more work to the overwhelming amount of sorting they already have.

  • Bubu

    I like the idea of thrifting but don’t go as often as I’d like, for a few reasons: 1) as a petite, the selection is pretty narrow, 2) thrift stores don’t tend to be open as much in the evening and on weekends, and as a working mom my shopping hours are quite limited, 3) beacuse of 1 and 2, I have to make my shopping time really count and as productive as possible, so I tend to go straight to stores with a large, reliable petites section. The germ thing doesn’t phase me as much – I figure the new clothes in stores may well have been tried on by several people before me, so still could be germy – better to wash any “new” clothes you buy, whether new or thrifted. That said, I have my best luck thrifting skirts and I find it the least “euww” inducing because skirts touch the body in intimate places the least. When I do thrift shop, it’s at a very well organized shop near me (to which I also donate all my used clothes) that benefits the AIDS action committee – i like having that positive impact with my purchases as well.

  • Missey

    I find the germ-a-phobe bias against thrifting rather funny. I am the opposite of a germ-a-phobe. I have been known to wear my thrifted items straight off the rack- gasp! If it looks and smells clean, that’s good enough for me.

    To whit: I bought a beautiful blue wool vintage sweater at the thrift store and wore it to class the next day. The class was microbiology and we were growing cultures from things in our every day environment. I cultured my sweater and my neighbor’s sweater (she was a neatly dressed gal…I needed a “clean” comparison). Fast forward one month, the two agar plates I was growing my cultures on contained nearly the same microorganisms. All of the organisms on the plates were/are all around us all of the time and they were all benign (in this case…the drinking fountain didn’t fare so well…AVOID!).

    So, my take away from this experiment was thrifting is good and germs live on new and used clothing. End of story.

    • Miss T

      Thank you for this! In addition to drinking fountains, though, the seat cushions on public transit have significant harmful bacteria on them. San Francisco has to replace all the seats on its mass transit system because of it! Millions of dollars! (And I’d suggest laundering pants after ONE wearing after riding BART!).

      • Erika A

        It bears mentioning that BART seats are absorbent fabric cushions, unlike the vast majority of transit seats.

        It’s just as gross as it sounds, too.

    • Lisa W.

      Ha! I remember having a conversation with another girl in art school warning me to always wash my thrift finds before wearing them because her thrift-ed wool pants gave her the crabs. Still shake my head over that one.

    • Laura

      I did that experiment in high school. I remember the girl I sat with coughed all over hers, and she had a cold at the time. Other people licked them, left them inside their school bag for the lesson, whatever. All I remember is I won a prize for most developed culture a week later when we got them back from the teacher, & all I had done was put my hair tie in the agar plate & left it there for five minutes.

      I had worn that hair tie on my wrist or in my hair every day, including in the shower. My own body is far grottier than clean-looking, pleasant-smelling op-shop clothes.

  • Anna D.

    My problem is kind of the second one, germs/residue – not so much because of the actual germs/dirt (I am generally not particularly germ-phobic) but just the general feeling that it’s a little like wearing someone else’s skin. Clothing is just too personal for me to want to wear someone else’s used clothing.

    I also don’t like the (usual) thrift store shopping experience because I’m a total sucker for the staging in retail stores – I think I buy into the image the store uses to present the clothes just as much as I buy into a specific item. I have a hard time separating the experience of shopping in the store and what the store feels like from the item itself – I wish what weren’t so, but it is. So I associate thrifted items with dingy fluorescent-lit linoleum tiled piles of chaos (this is based on the thrift stores I’ve been to, not meaning to malign all thrift stores).

    This may come from my childhood, when my mother was an inveterate TJMaxx/Marshalls shopper, and I HATED it. My problem was I always went to these stores wanting something specific (black jeans, white mesh top, whatever) and of course that’s not really how they work, but I could never find anything I liked, and always came away from them feeling crappy. (I’d have probably come away from the department stores/regular retail places feeling crappy, but I didn’t realize that at the time, since we didn’t shop in them very often.)

    I wonder if people whose families shopped in thrift stores as a kid are more or less likely to like thrifting as adults?

    (I should add this is all connected to the actual experience of shopping. I’m quite sure my mom bought us stuff wherever and brought it home and I didn’t care where it came from if I liked it. It’s the shopping process that colors my attitude to thrift stores.)

    • I can relate about being influenced by a parent’s shopping process. My mom was/is a sucker for deals and would feverishly grab shirts of every color in her size (although she never tried them on so who knows) as long as it was marked down significantly. It was completely not about the clothes, it was about the deal. Her house is now stuffed full of cheap clothes she never wears. Some of the stuff is actually nice, but the overall effect is overwhelming and chaotic so that nothing feels special. So I actually find myself super wary of sales, thrift stores and cheap clothing because I don’t want to find myself buying things I don’t need simply to “save” (how you save by buying 10 shirts in all colors of the rainbow is beyond me). It’s funny how emotionally complex something like shopping can be! For me a lot of it is wrapped up with control issues, as much as pleasure and aesthetic appreciation.

  • Jennifer Pierce

    I’ve been thrifting/garage sale shopping for so long, that I feel uncomfortable receiving something with new tags on it. I always think, hmm, this is worth something, can I return it and use the money on several used things?

    I have friends that won’t thrift because of the smell of the stores. I’ve actually come to love that particular scent, it’s the smell of great finds!

    My kids have grown up on used clothes. We could afford new, but they see us deciding that it would be better to buy organic food and give money to our school than to spend the extra money on getting the same thing everyone else wears from the mall. We encourage them to wear what they feel fits them best, to feel being unique is a good thing. I’ll admit, it also helps that they go to a low income demographic school where everyone is in used clothes. I’m not sure it would be as easy if everyone was wearing high fashion.

  • For me it’s just one issue. The smell. Can’t get past it.

  • Stephanie

    I want to be a good thrifter, I really do. But I feel like I’m just bad at thrifting, or I’m doing it wrong or something… all of the stuff I usually see in my size (12-14) at thrift stores is often Walmart-Target-Dep’t store brand stuff that I could buy new for not much more if I wait for the sale, so what’s the point? Only very rarely do I actually see nice clothing at the thrift stores near me, and then it’s usually in a size that’s too small OR it’s an item of clothing I don’t really need. (Halston wool coat? Well, I already have a coat…)

    One thing that works for me, though, is using my mom as my own personal thrift closet… she’s a bit of a hoarder, and has saved most of her clothing from when she was in her 20’s and about my size. So that means loads of fabulous 80’s sweaters and a neon turquoise swimsuit for me!

    • The thrift stores here also mainly sell clothes from Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Why would I buy a used, stained (Goodwill does sell stained items) t-shirt for $2 more than I could buy it brand new on sale? Being a hard-to-fit size, the chances of finding my size in a thrift store or on sale are about equal, so I may as well buy new for cheaper.

    • Molly

      I think our thrifting discussions often overlook this point: The community and the individual store can make a huge difference in whether most of us will feel successful at thrifting.

      I thrift constantly, but that frequency has a lot to do with how great my local thrift store is–selection, turnover, organization, display appeal, fitting rooms, everything. I’ve been to many small charity shops with just a few, tired items and large Goodwills whose vast, messy array of mostly cheapies wasn’t worth wading through. If that’s all that was available, my wardrobe wouldn’t be nearly as full of thrifted items as it is.

  • I’ve had some decent luck with thrifting over the years (I was also a teenager in the 1990’s when that was just what you did), but I stick to higher-end consignment now. My personal problem has to do with the fact that I tend to like everything a little bit, so I can get unfocused and overwhelmed. My favorite places to shop are well-edited boutiques because I can’t veer off track too badly when my options are narrowed.

    Also, I’m a less-is-more person, and I tend to have a few good things that I wear to death, so I’m cool with spending a little more if it’s the right thing. I’ll wear it often and for years.

  • Anne

    I started shopping in thrift stores when I was in college. I would go in to buy things for Halloween costumes but I always managed to work those items into my wardrobe afterward. I don’t do much thrifting anymore largely because we have few thrift stores in my immediate area. You really have to have big chunks of time to adequately sift through thrift stores. By the time I drive 30-45 minutes to find a good thrift store, I don’t have the time to really pour through and find those little thrift store gems. Another problem is that I am tempted to buy clothes that aren’t perfect, but have possibilities. I buy them reasoning that they are cheap and they just need a tweek or two to make them wearable. Only I never fix them and these unwearable clothes end up sitting around my house, taking up space until I take them right back to the thrift store again.

    The used aspect doesn’t bother me. I buy consignment clothes all the time. If something looks icky I’m not going to buy it no matter what the price.

    I think the stigma surrounding thrift store shopping is fading away, at least in my circle of friends. These days we are all saving money where ever we can and we are always impressed by a bargain.

    • Valentina

      “Another problem is that I am tempted to buy clothes that aren’t perfect, but have possibilities. I buy them reasoning that they are cheap and they just need a tweek or two to make them wearable. Only I never fix them and these unwearable clothes end up sitting around my house, taking up space until I take them right back to the thrift store again.” Aha! My suspicion is confirmed!

  • I’m not a big thrifter mostly bc I’ve never had a great find. I do go to my local consignment shop sometimes though and have found some lovely items there. They are not thrift store prices but still much less then retail. I still try from time too time but just haven’t found the love and it feels like a lot of hassle to leave with nothing most of the time.

  • Jen

    As someone who has bought used cloth diapers, I think the germ issue is weird. You wash the clothes, people. It’s that simple. Germs are gone. The class stigma is just offensive.

    Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible not to search for used goods first and then new if you can’t find what you need. The world can’t just keep on producing new stuff indefinitely to please fickle Western societies.

    • I think if everyone bought far fewer things than they currently do at the moment and actually wear them out, the way people used to do when clothing in general was expensive, this would not be a problem.

    • Amy

      Love this. Yes. Easily 90-95% of my clothing is thrifted, in part for this reason. And I really, really don’t get the germ thing–do people really think they’re not coming into intimate contact with “germs” in their everyday lives? Folks, I hate to break it to you, but there are a kabillion bacteria right in your own homes, all the time. There’s nothing in a pair of thrift shop jeans that a good laundering won’t take care of.

      I also feel like thrifting is a way more fun and creative way for me to shop–especially since I *do* actually re-fashion a good number of the things I find, or use them for fabric. Old sweaters that I’ve felted/fulled in the washer often become new sweaters–and since they’re my own designs, they are far more individual and creative pieces than I could possibly find in a store.

      I don’t find thrift shopping particularly inconvenient, though you certainly need to check your favorite stores frequently to really succeed at it, and for sure you need to know where to go–thrift shops are not all created equal, and some of the criticisms people seem to have of them are not, in my experience, valid criticisms of thrift shops in general. They don’t all smell, for instance! In fact, none of the thrift shops I frequent (and I have quite a number I stop into on a regular basis) smell at all, and they’re all quite well organized, and they have a wide range of sizes (I have great luck shopping both for myself and for my mom, and we are at opposite ends of the size spectrum). I also have fantastic luck finding shoes–like, brand new shoes, often brands like Dansko or Frye (two pairs of Frye boots over the years) or Doc Marten.

      I would also challenge the idea that you “can’t find what you really need” at thrift shops. I do, all the time–in fact, if I’m looking for something particular, it takes me very little time to turn it up. I think this is partly luck, but it’s also that I’ve developed a pretty finely tuned sense of what might exist in which shops. And of course, good, targeted thrift finds don’t necessarily happen instantly, so you sort of need to be patient and keep looking. If you need something right away, you might need to look elsewhere–but I don’t tend to have pressing clothing needs. It’s also true that you need to be able to pass by all the dreck–because there will inevitably be dreck. If you’re the sort of person who might be inclined to buy things simply because they’re cheap, well, thrifting may be a bad influence on you.

      Also? I mostly hate shopping in real stores, and malls just kind of make me want to cry if I spend more than 30 minutes in them.

      • Trudy Blue

        Amen and hallelujah. What you said!

    • Emily

      I absolutely agree. There are so many things in thrift stores that are perfectly good. Just because something isn’t 100% what you’d want it to be isn’t a good reason not to buy it over something from a mall.

      Watching any documentary on consumption waste makes me cringe far more than the percieved germs from thrift stores.

      I’ve worn hand-me-downs from my brothers, my girl friends, and my mother’s friends my entire life. Its common sense and it has never made me feel poor or less-than.

  • rb

    I don’t thrift because of moths, mainly. I do not with to invite them into my home and closet. I also get no joy out of sorting through mostly junk. I don’t even like jumbled clearance racks at department stores. Last, as the owner of a relatively minimal, streamlined wardrobe, I dont really want to add a bunch of random stuff to it.

    • Chelsea

      When my sister gets wool yarn at thrift stores she puts it in the oven to kill any moths/moth eggs that may be hanging out on it. I forget the temperature, but I’m sure it’s goole-able, just in case anyone finds a gorgeous non-washable wool item and is afraid of bringing moths home.

  • Susan, the one in Berkeley

    I’m also unfazed by the germ factor- as mentioned above, clothing can be worn and returned then sold again as “new.” I wash or dry-clean everything I bring home, thrifted or not. I only buy undergarments (I include t-shirts) and shoes brand new. Everything thrifted and not dry-cleaned spends a week in the freezer to kill off any moth larvae.

    For me, I find I get better value when I thrift. I can find affordable cashmere and merino wool at the thrift store while new stores only seem to offer acrylic and synthetic blends. I am petite, so new or used clothing both need to be altered. That cost is proportional when I thrift. I’d rather have a tailor-fitted designer outfit that will last me a longer time than saggy, ill-fitting synthetic clothes doomed to pilling and a closet cull.

    • I also won’t wear anything without first washing. Even when new clothing isn’t worn and returned, the clothing that you bring home from a regular retail store could have been tried on by dozens of sweaty customers before you get to the dressing room. Also, new clothing and fabric is subjected to many, many manufacturing processes, most of which involve embedding the fiber with chemicals. In his book about the cotton industry that’s called Big Cotton, Stephen Yafa writes that “three-quarters of a pound of chemicals goes into every pair of jeans…”. I certainly don’t want those chemicals next to my skin. I also don’t want to support the clothing manufacturers that use those chemicals, so I buy used.

  • I love thrifting and find it less of a hassle in some ways since it is so easy to see the good from the bad when there are a bunch of different quality items thrown together. But I have stayed with friends in various cities where good thrift stores seem nonexistent – locale may be a big component of the experience.

  • Lorena

    I am totally comfortable with thrifting – although I do stay away from shoes, hoisery and such.
    I think I am comfortable as when I was growing up I got hand me downs either from people I knew or someone my parents knew. So, i had zero stress wearing used clothes.
    Where I live (Central America) thrifting is not common. In fact there are very few thrift shops, which is why when I thrift it’s usually when I am traveling.
    Here if you thrift people look at you odd and think you are poor. It’s a shame, they don’t know what they are missing. I always try to enlighten them but it has not worked… yet.

  • Nice post, Sally!

    I do not thrift at all. Years of time wasted have negatively reinforced me against this past time. I have literally never found anything in my size that I like. My size is extremely thrift-store sparse as it is, and to find a gem is not worth the time and effort at this point. I have no real desire to add pukka vintage pieces to my wardrobe either so I am not willing to expend the extra energy.

    That being said, if I happened to find something killer in a thrift store completely by accident because I happened to have walked by and taken a peek, that would be fab! I have absolutely nothing against thrifting if it yielded more effective results for my style.

    • Mar

      Completely agree with you, I don’t thrift because I feel I’d rather buy fewer items or spend extra few bucks than lose hours of my time weekly to try to unearth good finds in a thrift store. I, too, have nothing in principle against thrifting, I used to visit thrift stores rather often. Looking back, while I did find some gems, I think most of my purchases were random items out of sheer frustration for not finding anything better and because they were cheap and they kind of worked. Now it’s only rarely that I will step in one. For the very small number of things I would typically find in a thrift store for my size and style, if any at all, after exhaustive browsing, I simply can’t justify spending the time. I’d much rather buy fewer things from sellers I know cater to my style.

  • Ana

    I loathe thrifting and can’t believe it is so widely popular. I have many reasons why for this, first being the germs issue.. dry cleaned or not *someone* still wore the item and left his sweat in it, and you have no chance of knowing who. How does that not bother people? Especially if we are talking about underwear, shoes or anything that touches ones body really.
    Maaaaybe a jacket would be acceptable… but probably not, it’s still disguisting.
    The second major reason I can’t believe thrifting has become so popular is that in all honesty the clothes just look.. thrifted. It looks old, used and worn. I would rather have one quality new item, than 5 shitty thrifted ones. Most of the times it just looks bad, no matter how it’s styled you can’t get pass the fact that the item is old and worn out, and most often it smells oh so bad!
    I’m poor and my wardrobe is pretty limited, but like I said the germophob in me just loathes thrifting:) Having said that I happily take free clothing from my sister… but strangers? No thanks.

    • Shaye

      Oh, goodness. While there is certainly plenty of worn out looking clothing to be found in thrift stores, I’ve only ever thrifted clothing that looked as though it had never been worn, and I have mountains of thrifted stuff. I’d bet you see a lot of people wearing thrifted duds that you’d never guess.

  • Debs

    I come from a long line of thrifting and vintage wearers! Plus hand me downs are a must. Sometimes I wonder if it depends on were you grew up, or how your parents grew up. Mine grew up poor, during the depression, with big families, so they learned to thrift, and passed it on to us girls.

    As a matter of fact we went antiquing this weekend to get dishes, and I looked for table linens.

    There are very few items that are considered a no buy… but underwear is one of them. Never buy thrifted underwear…. just seems to intimate to wear someone elses!

  • Peg

    I have no bias against thrifting. In fact, I love the washing and, sometimes ironing, of my ‘new’ clothes. It is much more economical and easier on the planet. That said, – thank heaven for those who like to buy new and then donate!
    Peg

  • Rena

    I always bought clothes at garage sales when I was little (pretty much had to with a family of 10 kids). I go to consignment/thrift stores all the time now because I love the thrill of a good deal — so much so that my neighbor and I started a consignment stores a couple of years ago. I also started a website that directs people to locally-owned only consignment/resale stores in their area (www.twincitiesconsignment.com). So if The Hanger in Chanhassen (trendy clothing) is too far — there are LOTS of great stores to choose from! Consignment stores get hundreds of new items weekly — so always something new to find:)

  • pope suburban

    I think I would thrift more if I lived somewhere else. Where I am now, the vast majority of the stuff in thrift stores is either in pretty poor shape, part of truly hideous trends, or both. Maybe someone, somewhere could make an oversized, funky (and not in a style sense) Super Bowl sweatshirt from the 80s work, but that someone is not me. The stores that try to accept more stylish clothing do okay at that, but frequently the clothing is unmistakably very worn, so it either looks shabby or has fitted itself to one person’s body so it fits really funky unless you have the same measurements and figure. I’ve had great luck with thrift stores in other places, so I think this is just a local phenomenon.

  • I’ve been thrifting since high school and I’m totally comfortable with it and telling people about it if they ask where an item is from. If I lived in NYC, I guess I’d be a little more hesitant because of worry over bed bugs, but they aren’t too common here in MN yet. I understand the whole “needle in a haystack” problem of thrift stores though and why some people don’t think it’s worth it. But to me, digging for a hour or two is fun and I usually find at least one thing that fits and I love!

  • Lain

    So many ladies have already expressed similar thoughts on the difficulties of thrifting over a size 12 – options, brands available, price for Wal Mart items, etc. So, let me add a few more:

    I have been shopping thrift stores for year. I enjoy doing it and have found some real gems. However, due to what I can only assume is a combination of a rough economy and the explosion of blogs, magazines, and movie stars all extolling the virtues of thrifting, suddenly, the good stuff is gone. The prices of thrifted clothing have increased, and the quality, options have shrunk. I have not found anything worth thrifting in about two years and finally just gave up.

    Keep in mind, I live in Houston, TX and have a huge abundance so small, large and chain thrift stores available. And, still nothing buy old Walmart, Target and occasional Woman Within clothing on the racks in my size. Le Sigh…

  • God, I love thrifting. Because yesterday? I scored a BCBG dress that appears hardly worn for $2.25. Hello! And a Tahari skirt of $3.50. Oh! Annnnnd a Free People tunic thing for $6.50.

    I prefer cheap-o thrift stores like Goodwill and my local CA favorite: Out of the Closet (proceeds go towards HIV treatment and prevention, yo!) since each item costs significantly less than at a nicer consignment shop. I thrift about once a month maybe, and spend about $30 and come home with a BUNCH of stuff. It’s the best.

    My only hassle with thrifting? Having to wash everything, which for me requires a visit to the laundromat. But, I can totally deal with that 🙂

  • Rachel

    My family of four buys all clothing except underwear, swimsuits, and socks secondhand. It’s how we take ourselves at least somewhat out of the sweatshop economy. Talk about spiritual residue! How about wearing something made by a child in a dark factory in a country with terrible labor/environmenal regulations? That’s some bad residue for you.

    Besides, I figure that if people can go to restaurants and stick something (silverware) inside their mouths that strangers have put inside their mouths, they can wash and wear second-hand clothing on the outside of their bodies.

  • I’m not concerned about spiritual residues and not too concerned about germs because I know most of them die after a few hours out in the dry or can be killed by heat. So I will mostly thrift stuff that can be washed at a sufficiently high temperature – I’ve even picked up a quilt from the roadside one damp spring morning when people were putting out their bulky trash because I knew I could boil it in the washing machine. With shoes, I tend to stick to those that I will only wear with socks, but if they look new enough even sandals and pumps will come with me. And recently I couldn’t resist a fake fur collar even though I have no idea if it’s washable, but it was doused in naphthalene so I suppose it’s at least parasite-free 🙂 With non-clothing items, I avoid those that aren’t properly washable or could house bedbugs, so I’ll basically only take metal, porcelain and glass items.

  • QuiteLight

    I would LIKE to thrift, but am traumatized by years of hideous used clothing bestowed upon me by my completely fashion illiterate mother & aunt. (“You don’t like it!??! But it was only $3!” “It’s a butter-yellow one-piece aviator jumpsuit.”) Also, I am 5’10”, so pickings are slim in any store.

    That being said, I have just started going with my BFF who is a thrifting glamour star. This is her secret, & it will be mine! Well, that & she has amazing taste & is a size 2 hourglass.

  • It’s the “ewww, somebody else wore this” factor for me, which I know is completely irrational. Like someone’s already said, when you buy something new at the store, you have no idea if someone’s worn and returned it or how many people have tried it on. But just because feelings are irrational doesn’t mean you can make ’em stop 🙂 I do have two late 70s vintage dresses and I joke around that the reason I could buy those is that I’m sure the cooties from 1978 have worn off.

    Also? I do have a good friend who likes consignment shops and so I’ll look in them with her sometimes, and I really rarely even see anything I’d be interested in anyway. Maybe that’s just bad luck/bad timing.

  • Sarah

    I love to thrift. When I was growing up, I was given $50 in the fall and $50 in the spring to buy my school clothes (starting in pre-K). I learned by 2nd or 3rd grade that I could get a lot more clothes for $50 at the thrift store than at Caldor’s or Merry-Go-Round or K-mart. Once I started working, I wanted to stretch my dollar further, so I kept on thrifting,

    In the 9th grade, I brought a friend to the local thrift store with me. She seemed genuinely excited abotu it and even spent more money than me. When we went to school the next day, she told the entire homeroom class that I shopped for used, smelly clothes that homeless people wore because I was poor. Ouch!! I was teased about it pretty much non-stop through high school. It bothered me but I was never cool anyway, and I still wanted to get as much clothing as possible for $50, so I never stopped thrifting.

    Currently, thrifting allows me to afford a much higher quality of clothing and stay within my relatively small budget. If you are going to thrift stores and buying a stained Wal-Mart T-shirt for $6, then you are not doing it right!! I have purchased designer clothes (Ralph Lauren button-ups, a Vera Wang dress, a White & Warren cashmere cardigan, an Hermes Kelly bag in pristine condition, a LV cashmere scarf, Prada & LV pumps, the list goes on and on!!), not to mention lower-end brands like L.L Bean, GAP, Banana, United Colors, Lane Bryant, Jones New York, and Dana Buchman. I am a size 16/18 and I have found some of my favorite pairs of jeans at a thrift store, including Sevens and NYDJs. I do commit to a large chunk of time to dig through the racks, and I only go on deal days when I can save 30%-50% (yes, I am really that cheap!). Sometimes I don’t find anything at all, other times I strike pay-dirt (My heart still races when I remember spotting the Hermes Kelly bag for $15!!).

    As for the germ thing…next time you shop at a retail store, take a good long moment to think about how likely it is that someone already tried on the shirt you are buying. They may not have worn proper undergarments. They may have just worked all day and have a touch of the B.O. They may leave deoderant stains or makeup residue or dandruff flakes. There’s also a chance they took it home, washed it, wore it, and returned it (happens ALL THE TIME in retail!!). And if that isn’t enough to gross you out, I used to work for a clothing store and unpack boxes sent directly from our factories in Asia. We would open boxes and find giant dead bugs, dead mice, weird leaves/plants/vines, hairs, and one time, a piece of packing tape with what looked like a toupee attached to it – like someone got scalped. And this was not a cheap retail store. I will take my chances at the thrift store. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I’m with Blume on this one. I’m petite, but I have my own body shape issues just like everyone else. So not only do I have to shop for my height, I also shop for my shape, which while smaller in comparison to most other people, is not merely a more “skinny” shape. Most petite lines have problems getting petite sizing right because they assume petites are skinny all over. If you throw in the possibility of having to shop second hand, there will be almost zero chance that I can find anything to fit me right. I am more likely to shop in vintage stores for unique items like belts, scarves, bags, or jewelry… or even a small jacket (if it’s small enough), than I am to shop at the Salvation Army. I can never find anything suitable to my taste or body type in the Salvation Army. Being petite is expensive and I think, a little unfair. I have nothing against thrifting and would love to have the time and money and body type to be able to do it. I don’t have any of those things.

  • I do not thrift because of hassle: as a wheelchair user, I have yet to find a thrift store that is really accessible. Many (if not most) thrift stores are run by charitable organizations, and staffed by poorly educated volunteers. The prevailing attitude of these folks tends to be something along the line of “What do you expect? We’re performing a public service and don’t have to adhere to these pesky accessibility laws”. This isn’t true, but it’s not worth my while to argue with them.

  • Mel

    I love thrifting….but it took a while to get into it. Growing up was tough….I was pretty thoroughly bullied about my lack of clothes back then (none of them new), so I’m pretty touchy about having a lot of well-fitting clothes now.

    On the other hand, I’m inherently frugal. I don’t pay full price for ANYTHING! Thrifting totally fits that need. 🙂

    Germs? Eh. Whatever. Guess I hadn’t given that much thought. I don’t buy lingerie, tights, or other personal items. Generally not household items either. Although it’s really fun to check the dishes and every once in a while find a piece in my set. Shoes? I’ll wear those right out of the store. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    My latest obsession is purses and scarves. I’ve had a lot of fun looking for just the right size colorful purses, and 100% silk colorful scarves.

    Being a curvy plus-size, it’s hard to find things. I hate the Goodwill cuz they’re not sorted by size. I really like the thrift shops that sort by size. I can get in an out fairly quickly and not waste time looking at a bunch of things that aren’t my size anyway.

    Since I got a smart phone I keep a list on it of things I’m in the market for. When I’m getting dressed and I find myself thinking…oh I need a xxx to go with this…I put it in the phone along with a photo of what I’m wearing, to remind myself of the look I want. This keeps me from buying random things so much. Not that I’m not open to whatever I happen to see…..

    I used to buy anything I even remotely liked, but I realized that that was leading to the closet sprawl that the above poster mentioned. So now I use Sal’s tip about only buying an item if it goes with 3 other things in my closet. It has to be in fabulously good shape and pretty stylish, and pretty much has to fit me just right. If I can’t see how to tailor it myself, I don’t buy it.

    It seems like right now you can find new things on sale (or using a coupon, or both) for not a whole lot more than the thrift store price of something that is an older style or silhouette. It seems like the thrift stores things are more of a classic style, and I already have a lot of classic things. Now I want fun things.

  • Lynn

    I wish I could thrift, but in my small town, other than for little children, the stores carry clothes for teens (think low rider jeans, tiny shorts and crop tops), old, faded items or really strange looking things that no one would wear (macrame sweaters and polyester suits). We also have few good retail stores, so I usually have to travel to shop. I envy those who can thrift designer clothes!

  • I can’t do thrifting for many of the reasons you cited, although I’m not opposed to vintage accessories and designer consignment clothing in excellent condition.

  • I used to thrift a lot more than I do now, simply bec. of time. I buy a lot of clothes online these days bec. I can browse for a few minutes during my lunch break or before bed & bookmark items to buy later. So if I buy online second-hand, it’s just eBay or Etsy, & the deals aren’t as good as offline (tho’ the selection can be much wider).

    It’s kind of sad, bec. there’s a huge thrift store a few blocks from my house, plus a more upscale consignment store & a vintage clothing store both within a mile! I just can’t seem to get to any of them when they’re open.

    • Same dilemma here. Growing up, some of my clothes were second hand (I was a tomboy and we lived on a farm, so that means boys/mens jeans and moleskins, flannel shirts and elastic sided workboots). School clothes were generally second hand as well.

      At uni I made my own or bought it from a charity shop. One pair of jeans that I dearly loved had over 100 patches to keep them decent. So more of a work of art 🙂 I was also lucky enough to fit into some of the clothes my mother and grandmother had kept.

      When I started working, I bought new for a while (novelty value, really), but with good internet access, I’m back to buying predominantly secondhand. Pretty much everything except knickers, bras, socks and nylons. I’ll happily buy a vintage slip or petticoat – the quality is so good!

      There’s a great consignment store about half an hour from home that’s open on Saturdays – I generally make it there a few times a year. But otherwise, I’m generally working when the thrift stores are open, so that’s no longer an option.

      Hassle factor is probably the main one – not because of what is available (I’m just as likely to go into a store and not like anything), but because of time.

      Germs – that’s what an immune systems for. Also the washing machine.
      Social stigma – say what? Really? I’d rather spend any spare cash on books or music.
      Quality – I can generally afford better quality buying secondhand. Running repairs aren’t an issue as I can sew and don’t have a hangup about wearing mended.

  • I live in an area where the thrift store selection is terrible, and professional vintage pickers end up curating all the good stuff. To make matters worse, we’re in a warm climate. I think that winter things (wool, denim, corduroy) hold up better than summer things with the end result that I can buy nicer items on sale than I can in the thrifts — and they’re often cheaper.

    I also don’t like the risk of germs or the smell, although I’m sensible enough to realize that washing will take care of both. Thrifting for kids? Forget it. When they need clothes, they need something specific like jeans in a certain size and there will be none on the racks that day.

    I’m ok with used books and art, but less ok with almost anything else unless I know the person. If I know the person, I’m happy to take their cast offs. Anything that doesn’t work goes to the thrift, where I get a receipt that I can claim for tax purposes.

  • lauren

    my biggest deterrent is the smell. the thrift stores i have been too have such a strong, unpleasant fragrance that it makes me want to leave quickly… and everything inside not very appealing.

  • Aziraphale

    I never thrift. I violently dislike thrift stores and it has nothing to do with reasons one and two, but quite a lot to do with reason three.

    Let me be clear that I absolutely do not look down on the practice of thrifting, and I fully recognize that there are some GREAT deals to be had. Thrift stores offer a huge variety of styles at very good prices, if you’re willing to put in the work. But that’s exactly the problem. I’m just not willing. While I love acquiring lovely new clothes, I don’t much like shopping for them, even at the best of times. Thrift stores represent my worst nightmare of a shopping experience. The delight that accompanies finding a fantastic item for a song does not come close to making up for the long slog of wading through racks of garments in a riot of textures and colours. It’s an assault to my senses as well as an awful lot of work.

    When it comes down to it, I’m much happier buying fewer clothes — probably far fewer! — from small stores where everything is arranged beautifully and where each item comes in more than one size. That way, if I find something I like, they might have one that actually fits me, and I might leave thinking ‘hey, that wasn’t so bad, it was actually kind of fun’ rather than feeling flustered and irritable.

  • eek

    What prevents me from thrifting is the time it takes – I think you need to do it a lot and often to find the best stuff. And I just don’t have the desire or energy to shop all that much so when I really need something, I go online to see what such-and-such store has and then go to the brick-and-mortar to try it on and buy. I did go thrifting with some friends last weekend and came back empty handed, but it was fun. Just gotta motivate myself to do it more.

  • What I’ve noticed is that mall stores have become more like thrift stores in the past couple decades – chaotic, limited staff with no time to help you, you have to search for your size. So I figure that if I’m going to have to do it anyway, I might as well save some money and help a charity while I’m at it.

    Thrift and secondhand stores seem to vary a lot by region. We didn’t have any in my rural area growing up, but my mom did drive us to the “big city” (ha) and shopped a lot at places like Burlington Coat Factory and other discount options. The thrift store in my college town was what I think of as a typical midwestern charity shop, and it was time-consuming to go through everything and there was a lot of crap that should have just been thrown away. Here (the SF Bay area) there are a lot of thrift stores that are not run directly by a charity, and secondhand and consignment stores, all of which I find better run and organized than the traditional Goodwill/Salvation Army stores. The prices can be a little higher but the experience is worth it.

    I’ve thought of Jess’s dad’s point occasionally myself; I could afford to buy all new clothes, though probably less of them than I have since I thrift as well as I buy new, and I wonder whether I’m taking clothes away from someone less fortunate. But in my area the secondhand stores of all types are chock full – they don’t seem to suffer a lack of clothes in any way. I think the approach to donating clothes has changed – when I was growing up people wore their clothes until they wore out or were hopelessly out of style (70s doubleknit leisure suits in the mid80s, say). Now more people seem to donate things they never wore much either because their style changed or their body changed or they just need the space. That and several of the thrift stores in our area get deadstock from retail clothing stores that never sold, so it’s brand new.

    I think thrifting is a good way to extend the life of garments that will otherwise be recycled into fiber or shipped overseas, and in that way it’s green. I also have more time than money at this point in my life, so I don’t mind putting the time in to search out bargains, whether thrifting or discount shopping or whatever. If that ever changes my priorities will likely change as well.

    • “What I’ve noticed is that mall stores have become more like thrift stores in the past couple decades – chaotic, limited staff with no time to help you, you have to search for your size. So I figure that if I’m going to have to do it anyway, I might as well save some money and help a charity while I’m at it.”

      So true!!! Going to Old Navy or Target is just as crazy & crowded & as much of a hassle as going to the neighborhood thrift.

  • I’ve been at least a little put off by each of those reasons (and others in the comments here — the smell of used clothes, for one), but for me it comes down to how many great pieces I can get in a given time frame. It’s the same reason I don’t shop in department stores, either. It feels like I spend hours sorting through racks and racks of clothing going “who would wear this?!” only to come away empty handed after all that effort. When I do buy ready-to-wear, I usually buy online or at a very few stores that have a good track record for providing more than one or two things I like in a given trip. But when it comes right down to it, I would rather spend four hours on a Saturday sewing something that’s exactly what I want and that I’ll absolutely love when it’s done, than four hours digging through badly organized, funky smelling used clothing to maybe find one thingI could add to my wardrobe, even if I don’t really love it.

  • Like others, I don’t thrift often because of the time it takes. My free time is so limited, I just don’t have what it takes to return time after time looking for a good find.

    My 10-year-old daughter has been with me the few times I have thrifted, and she ALWAYS complains about the smell. I have to admit she’s right–there always seems to be a funny smell in thrift and consignment shops.

    • Katharine

      All the thrift and consignment shops I frequent, these days, smell of what I can only assume is industrial-strength Febreze. I hate it. I almost prefer the strange stank of old sweat, distant mothballs, and mould that haunted the thrifts of my increasingly-distant youth. Occasionally when I get up close and personal with an individual garment I’ll get a hit of the former owner’s overly strong perfume, or sweat, or stale cigarette smoke, but mostly, now, it’s just that numbing “deodorizer” chemical stink.

      • Celeste

        That ‘smell’ is actually the collective odor of the laundry chemicals that most people use these days. That’s why it’s always the same ‘smell’ no matter which thrift shop you go in to. Scary but true.

  • ily

    A good portion of my clothes are thrifted, or from clothing swaps or other second-hand stores like Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange. It can be hard to find things that fit, but the same holds true for me in retail stores. My main issue is that often I can’t stay long enough to adequately comb through the racks, since my allergy to dust will start acting up. Also, I ALWAYS find better things when I thrift in other towns/states, versus my own area.

  • linnet

    I do like poking about in consignment shops, and have scored some excellent finds, but lately I’ve been paranoid about bedbugs (becoming a widespread issue in our city) so that’s been that. No icky feelings about germs, but I can’t even think about bedbugs without shuddering…maybe totally groundless but it’s not something I ever want to deal with.

  • Like you, I have been thrifting since early high school days and I think we’re around the same age. I still do frequent thrift stores but not with the same frequency and not with the same focus (my interest in butterfly collar poly shirts has faded and they’re not work appropriate anyway, much less a comfortable wear). So I go less often and I do find that I fill in the blanks with resale places, like Beacon’s Closet/Buffalo Exchange, etc. Since their stock is edited by their buyers, it does make it a little easier to sort through if you’re short on time and it’s easier to find something relevant to my wardrobe (plus I am always selling them something and taking the credit).

    But I do still thrift shop about once every two months. I try to be a lot pickier nowadays and only get things I’ll really use. Also I do notice that there’s less and less quality at thrift stores – a lot of it ends up being Old Navy or Forever 21 or other items that didn’t really have that many “best days” to begin with.

  • Ah, so – to clarify, since my comment was windbagging: thrifting is sometimes more overwhelming than the patience I have for it (compared to prior days), the stock is sometimes less relevant to me for various reasons (see above) and there are now re-sale shops that sort of take on the same role but are easier to shop.

  • I don’t thrift, ever. But I do buy some things on ebay. When it’s New With Tags and I’m sure it’s the correct item (for ex., in the size and style of jeans I’ve worn before). There are some decent deals out there.

  • I buy most of my clothing through thrifting. I think the thrill of the hunt is awesome. Sometimes I get a little skived out about it, but the finds are worth more to me than the germ factor. This is coming from someone with OCD.

    I still buy new items to supplement and bridge the style gap, since thrifting is always a gamble. I primarily don’t thrift shoes, but I always check. I found Sheila a brand spanking new pair of Tsubos for $6. I found the Hubs a pair of new Chuck Taylors for the same price. I’ve yet to really find such a great deal for my size foot, but I always keep a look out because if the shoe is really *right* I have no problems with that.

    Then again, I ebay most of my shoes. Granted a lot of them are brand new, but I’ve bought and worn the occasional used pair.

    People funk is everywhere. You touch doorknobs, telephones, desks, pens, tables, silverware – not to mention all those people who possibly tried on those “new clothes” before you. I figure it’ll wash. I won’t wear it before I wash or disinfect it in some way, shape or form.

    I grew up thrifting. I think it just made me a more effective thrifter.

  • virago

    My sister does a lot of thrifting for her two daughters, ages 5 and 7.5, because there’s just not much of a point in buying new for people who are going to outgrow the clothes relatively quickly. Not to mention that the selection is good. They live in a middle- to upper-middle-class area where there are plenty of parents who *don’t* balk at paying retail to clothe their kids (or themselves).

    My nieces also happily wear hand-me-downs from a cousin on their dad’s side. Funny how history repeats itself! My sister and I wore our city cousin’s outgrown clothes with pride, though our classmates — definitely not a “fashion-forward” bunch in our small town –often didn’t *get* what we were wearing. (Maybe that’s why, as I got older, I haven’t minded being out of step, style-wise, with my peers.)

    Re:thrifting: My sister has a hard time a) finding time to shop for herself and b) finding thrifted goods in her petite size (she’s barely 5 feet tall). She’s always looking for trousers that don’t drag on the ground and skirts that don’t make her look like “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

    I like thrifting, and am an average size (6-8-10, depending on the labrl) that shows up a lot in thrift stores. But like a lot of other commenters on this post, I’m not bowled over by the H&M/Old Navy/JC Penney selection I find in our local Goodwills and Salvation Armys. (If only I looked better in preppie fashion — I live 20 minutes from LL Bean, and we see a lot of used LL Bean and factory seconds at Goodwill and the Sally in these parts.)

    I’m more interested in what turns up at independent local thrift stores (i.e., ones that raise money for a hospital or a local charity) or a consignment store. However, I’m easily swayed by the quality of an item, so much so that I overlook small details … such as, say, whether it fits, or whether a Pucci-esque halter dress makes sense, considering that going braless is not an option for me and that summer in New England lasts about three weeks! I guess you could call me a slowly recovering thrfting addict …

  • I like to go thrifting sometimes, but the reason I don’t go more often is because it’s so overwhelming. Like you mentioned, boutiques and department stores are better organized, and I’m a girl who is very easily overwhelmed by too many options. My head basically implodes.

    When I do have a block of time and a non-crowded thrift store, I do end up having fun and I usually find something I like, but I also tend to justify impulse buys with the low price. I think thrifting is sort of a minefield. Definitely something you get better at with experience and time.

  • I’m sooooooooooo excited that I’ve found another MN blogger 🙂 Love your blog…full of fun style and great info. Really happy new follower here…

    I definitely thrift a lot. A LOT. In fact, I’m going tonight. Honestly, there is still a stigma sometimes…at least here in my financial industry workplace and previously at my private college and when I was a professional ballet dancer. Maybe it’s more taboo in those communities? I know that my friends and I have had an absolute blast thrifting together!

    I do def always wash my hands…and the clothes before I wear them! I feel like you can tell when a garment or shoe has been worn so much that it’s just plain “gross”…otherwise, I figure soap and hot water makes ’em harmless.

    <3 Cambria
    jupefashion.blogspot.com

  • Olivia

    I like the idea of thrifting, but as a plus-sized person (women’s 22-24) it’s really hard to find good pieces. And, since I don’t shop often, it’s usually easier to buy new than spend time hunting the second-hand stores. My husband, on the other hand, finds lots of good second-hand stuff, and I have also have good luck finding things for my young daughter.

  • Kris10

    I don’t have an issue with used clothing and occasionally visit our local Goodwills…BUT, I live in a working-class town in central Nebraska. People spend money on cars and cell phones, but apparently not clothing. What I find is usually very worn Walmart or Sears items from maybe 3 years ago–not high quality pieces or even fun, low-quality pieces. They don’t have any jewelry, either. I can find a few gems in the rough by looking through skirts (some lady in town has been hoarding Pendleton wool skirts) and coats (vintage faux fur), but I rarely buy. There aren’t even any consignment shops in town. It’s probably time to check out thrifting in Lincoln or Omaha, and we’re moving this year, so hopefully it will be better there!

    Come to think of it, though, I have found some really awesome decorative items for our house!

    • Courtney

      Omaha thrifting is good! The Goodwills here are pretty clean, well-organized, and have good stuff.

      • Celeste

        Omaha Goodwill’s rock. Clean, well stocked, well organized, high quality and well priced. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

  • I thrift a lot (hmm, too much, I mean), and don’t see anything off-putting about it. I have friends who are grossed out by second hand clothes, and often times they can’t quite explain it rationally, it’s more of an emotional response, and we just agree to disagree.

    One thing about the germs associated with other people’s clothing… I think a lot of people don’t realize (or don’t like to think about the fact) that the clothes they buy new have been worn by quite a few people who’ve tried them on. Having worked in clothing retail I’ve seen how it works, especially in smaller stores, where they don’t have a huge amount of items in stock. People try shoes on without socks (even if you tell them not to), walk around in them, people try on tank tops and t-shirts, and then put them back on the racks after they’ve worn them for half an hour in the store. And a lot of times you get returns that you can clearly see have been worn, but if you can’t prove it, you have to take the item back and re-sell it. Just sayin’ that buying new doesn’t guarantee that the clothes haven’t been exposed to other people’s germs. (And yes, there is a breed of customer I’ve come across who will only buy clothes if she sees them being unpacked from plastic!)

  • Jen

    I hate shopping in physical stores, but I’ve recently discovered thrifting on eBay. I’ve gotten some beautiful, hardly worn pieces at a fraction of the in-store sale price. Plus, I can search by size, color, petites (since I am 5 feet tall), etc.

    I never thrifted until recently because in my house, we bought new clothing and hand-me-downs went to poor relatives. I don’t know if it’s because both of my parents grew up among the youngest children in large poorer families that they wanted to only buy new things, or if it was due to the community in which we lived (people could be rather snobbish, especially at our church). Interesting thought to ponder.

  • Lydia

    My family never really thrifed clothing, although they did often buy antiques at auctions and flea markets, — though not of the clothing variety.

    I always liked vintage purses and hats, and I have some thrifted 1940s hats and 1930s evening bags. I occasionally thrifted as a teen, and used to go to value village with my husband early on when we met, 16 years ago. I used to find gorgeous vintage dresses, and even an unworn faux fur coat that is amazing — I still have it. We stopped going there not because we disliked buying used, but because the quality (likely affected by ‘fast fashion’) deteriorated. We both work now, and we simply do not have the time to search for specific items.

    I guess at this point in my life, I rarely thrift, unless it is an amazing item. I simply do not want to have a ton of clothes, and I want the clothes I buy to be useful and relvant right away. This weekend I bought a striped sweater dress on sale — I will wear it right away. I enjoy the convenience of buying new clothes when I need them, and the items I have previously thrifted 16 years ago, are still part of my collection. The one thing I miss about thrifting is the good quality items — my husband has some amazing suits, and as I mentioned, I have some true vintage finds — these treasures are now harder to find, which is why I guess I stopped thrifting altogether.

  • Kenzie

    I feel like as a college student in hippieville, Oregon, there is far more of a stigma against non-thrifters than thrifters.

    I started thrifting on accident my sophomore year of high school when I was looking for crazy clothing of various themes for homecoming spirit days. Before then I’d never been drawn to thrift stores not for hygienic reasons, but simply because I assumed the Value Village near my house would just have a bunch of “outdated old lady clothes”. I shopped at places like Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet if I was shopping secondhand because I wanted to find things that were “trendy”.

    But when I was at Value Village trying to just find silly stuff, I ended up coming across stuff I actually liked, and from then on I warmed up to Value Village and by now I’m a hooked thrifter.

    Another good way to acquire secondhand clothing if you don’t like buying stuff from strangers is to get together with some girlfriends and hold a clothing swap. We do it on campus a few times a year and it’s great if you prefer to know where your clothing comes from and would rather that not be a sweatshop in Asia.

    Save for tights and shoes, I’m wearing an entirely secondhand outfit today and I feel sexy as can be 🙂

  • I definitely think that thrifting can be a hassle. I like clothes, but shopping isn’t a lot of fun for me, so spending hours shopping for clothes isn’t how I usually spend my time off. I also find that I am more likely to buy things I won’t wear often when they are super cheap, and it is probably better for me to just save my money to buy one thing I will wear frequently, than a few cheaper things that won’t get much use.

  • Michelle

    I LOVE to thrift. I like to shop often and rummage through the crap to find the one great piece, take it home, wash it up and wear it. I’m a special ed. teacher so if I have to chase a kid on the playground and end in a mud puddle or get Elmer’s glue all over my outfit it’s nice to not have to worry about it! Not to fear, I dress very stylishly unique and in a variety of ways thanks to all the cool stuff I find. I’d never be able to try some of the quirky things I wear, especially funky colored things, if I had to pay full price.
    Sal, I LOVE your website and praise you for your encouragement to accept ourselves as we are and to be creative with what we have and can find at prices we can afford. I’ve been very inspired by your work – keep it up!

  • Mailee

    Yes! Your third point explains my exact problem with thrifting. I think it’s awesome and all my friends who do it look fabulous, but I really just absolutely hate the process. Although, full disclosure, I hate shopping in general. My ideal situation is to find exactly what I want online, learn which store has it, try it on and then buy it if it looks great. I hate browsing, and I hate it even more if the store is disorganized.

    I’ve also found that thrifting doesn’t tend to match my aesthetic; I don’t really do the twee vintage/hipster thing, and I have difficulties imagining clothes styled in creative ways outside of their original historical context (or outside of the cute eclectic thing a lot of ladies rock).

  • Kitty

    I like the idea of thrifting but I find it difficult to find time to do it with a small child in tow. Of course all shopping is difficult with a small child in tow but the very nature of thrift stores – all small pokey corners with stuff all over the place waiting to be pulled down and destroyed….that’s a minefield. Often they are hard to access with a pram too – narrow aisles and tiny change areas where there is no room to take your child in with you.

    I can get someone to watch my child but then the pressure is on to find some things in that timeframe and the uncertain nature of thrifting doesn’t lend itself well to that process.

  • I like thrifting. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite place to shop–but it’s great when you feel like a shopping ‘pick me up’ but don’t have a lot of money.
    It does vary by city. I have some luck in my area but walk out a lot of times empty handed. There is a city up north which I believe has a higher population of old people LOL–and I find great things up there! Vintage abounds! Some vintage with tags on!

    Like a lot of people stated it does take time. I like shopping–I could shop every day if I had the time/money. It’s no problem for me to spend a whole day going from store to store thrifting–it’s fun!

  • Wendy

    Since my son is allergic to cats, I don’t thrift clothing, although I would like to. The allergen is quite sticky so it won’t easily wash out, and it will stick to anything it touches – other clothing, furniture, etc. I would be interested to know if anyone else has this problem or can suggest a solution.

    • Sal

      Oh Wendy, that is a tough one. I know cat dander has incredible staying power. I’m yet to find a foolproof way to eradicate it – I assume dry cleaning doesn’t work and/or is so expensive it mitigates the point of thrifting? Anyone else have suggestions?

      • a. marie

        You can try this formula. I would recommend hand washing the clothes TWICE. Note that this may not work for every fabric as you need to use HOT water to get the sticky substance of cat dander out. First soak in a solution of: 3 quarts hot water, 1 cup vinegar and 2 teaspoons castile or dish soap, then rinse with clean HOT water.

      • Wendy

        Hmm… dry cleaning might be an option for some garments:) I would love to hear anyone else’s suggestions too.

      • Marie

        I have really bad allergies, to cats and other things. I immediatately wash my thrifted items with a gentle liquid detergent, a sprinkle of Borax and hot water. Then a tumble in the dryer if shinkage is not a concern. I have never noticed an allergic reaction caused by thrifted clothing with possible fur/dander on it. Your son might still react if he’s more sensitive than me, though.

        • Wendy

          A. Marie and Marie, thanks so much for your ideas. I will try them both and see what happens. I guess hot water is key so maybe I could dry clean more delicate items and use the home treatments for the rest.

          Yay! I’m off to the thrift store tomorrow!

  • Hassle would be the prime reason for me. I get overwhelmed at Winners never mind at a thrift store where I won’t find the same thing a size up. I’m not a big clothing shopper any more, I don’t really feel the draw to thrifting.

  • Marie

    My work outfit today is thrifted (long-sleeved shirt under a sweater dress), except for the tights. A superior in a nice suit told me I looked great today!
    I always try second-hand before looking for something new when there is something I need. I especially love thrifting cashmere and wool items. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at only taking home items that are in excellent shape. My high school days of taking home faded jeans and t-shirts from the kid’s section are over, but man, I was so cool back then. 🙂

  • Sara

    My dad once told me that if he seems something like a good pair of work boots in his size, he won’t buy them because he feels like there’s someone out there who’s not as well off that could use the boots more. After working in a thrift store I know that thrift stores are healthier when more people shop them. They can’t take in new stock if they’re filled with old. If customers see the same old stock there all the time, they stop coming in. No one should feel that they should buy new because they can afford it.

    • Sal

      Makes total sense, but I’d never thought of it that way. Thanks, Sara!

  • While there are minuses to thrift store shopping, like not finding full sets of legos,sneaky family of pick pockets, bored and whiny children, the pluses win in my book. I love many things about thrift stores, the thrill of the hunt, the adventure, the organization by color, all seasons, all eras, diverse cultures represented in clothing (house dress with Cyrillic writing on tag, diaphonous saris, the element of surprise and delight (ie, finding a Hermes scarf for $3), friendly and surly cashiers alike making up a price for an article that has lost its tag, out of production toys, like Ferbies, out of circulation Disney films not sold in stores, introduction to new authors, new and like new and vintage books for gifting, melmac, naked Barbies, sad scrapbooks, boots for fighting zombies, photos tucked away, coins in pockets, silver, thick robes, flannels with tags, winter jackets, uniform pants, blue jeans, hats and scarves for growing children, assembled Bionicals, plastic food, tarnished, silver jewelry, people watching.

  • When I was a size 12-14? Could never find anything thrift shopping. I’m also an hour-glass, so it’s not easy to find clothes that fit me anyway.

    Now that I’m a size 6-8? I find TONS of stuff thrift shopping. I don’t go to thrift stores for wardrobe staples. I go there for fun skirts, dresses and blouses. NEVER jeans (I’m too hard to fit/the racks are so disorganized it’s not worth it).

    Thrifting IS work–it’s not always fun or easy. But I’ve found some amazing pieces at amazing prices. And my thrift store finds tend to be the clothing items I get the most compliments on.

    The Goodwills in Southern California are pretty awesome. Lots of selection (especially in certain neighborhoods) organized by size AND color.

    I’ve never thought about the negative connotations of thrifting. If it looks good and I get compliments–who cares? I love it when people compliment me on my clothes and I tell them it’s Goodwill.

  • Heather

    I love thrift stores! I have to go to thrift stores alot for costume shopping- still looking for one to replace my favorite that closed.

    I find you get the best luck if you go in with an open mind- if you’re trying to find something specific you tend to strike out.

  • Daisy

    I am not opposed to thrifting, but it does not work for me. I have a pretty complete wardrobe, so most of my purchases are things like replacements for white t shirts that have gotten dingy, and the ones in thrift stores don’t look any better than what I am replacing! Or, I am buying a “trendy” item to supplement my wardrobe-for example, I wanted a pair of pink skinny jeans for spring, so I searched on line to narrow down my choices, then called a local boutique that carried the brand I am interested in to make sure they had my size, then made a quick trip to try on and buy. I think I would have been very frustrated trying to find them in a thrift store. Plus, I hate searching thru racks of disorganized stuff; I want to walk in, see what the store has, pick up my size, and go.

  • I think there’s still a huge stigma to buying used clothes, and not just with the younger generations. I’m a working professional, with a college diploma and a full time office career, and I thrift nearly all my clothing. I’ve found however, that most people I tell about my thrifted clothes react as if I’m seeking sympathy, and I get something along the lines of : “It’s okay, they still look good!” or “Well, you’d never be able to tell, so it doesn’t matter!” Meanwhile I’m proud of being thrifty hah. I also actually find that going to the mall is a far bigger hassle than thrifting. You do have to spend more time in the thrift store, but you only go to the one store (at least I do, and then stay for hours) instead of going to a dozen in a mall. Plus malls tend to be crazy packed whenever I go too so hah, that’s no better. I think the main reason for the stigma, beyond what you’ve pointed out, is just that we’re a consumer society for the most part, and that means buying new is natural and ‘right’ to people.

  • Alli

    I haven’t read any other comments, so I hope I’m not repeating, but I actually find department stores MORE overwhelming than thrift stores. At a thrift store I know exactly what I need to do: look at every piece on the rack, pull out the ones that look close to my size and a style, shape or color that interests me, try them on, buy the ones I like. Even though it takes more digging, the fact that I’m limited by the available sizes helps me narrow my options down fast. In a department store, where I can potentially buy any of the available styles in my size, I freeze up and I have no idea how to proceed. How can I decide which pieces are worth my money? And I can’t help but think that the $30-40 I’m about to drop on ONE item could buy me almost a whole new wardrobe at Goodwill. And at least from a thrift store if I’ve goofed up and decide I don’t like something later it only costs me a couple bucks.

  • Celeste

    So much was discussed here with respect to thrifting, but none seemed to deal with it’s green aspects, which is what initially fueled my interest. Shopping in a thrift store means the dollars you spend aren’t funding off-shore manufacturing, questionable labor practices AND keeps your dollars in your own community. On top of all that, you can get top quality designer goods for pennies on the dollar. Most thrift stores don’t exist to provide affordable clothing for those that can’t afford new, but rather to fund various charitable activities (for Goodwill, it’s job training) others, it provides funding for the local hospital, Junior League activities, etc.. Win, win.

  • Michelle

    I have a closet full of thrifted clothes mostly due to the fact I have been staying at home several years with my son and I needed to save money. The problem I run into is that I love the items in the stores but then when I get them home and actually wear them I am always thinking – “I know why they got rid of this.” It seems like there is always something awkward about the way the garment lays, or a zipper doesn’t stay closed or something rides up. It is enough to make me go back to new. I haven’t seen anyone else mention this so I’m wondering if I’m just a bad shopper 🙂

  • Jerrie

    I adore thrifting–to the extent that my wardrobe has far outgrown my storage capacity–so time to edit. I buy almost exclusively classic styles in size 22/24, often new or nearly so, labels like Liz Claiborne, Lane Bryant, Jones New York, and other reliable brands. I’ve found $200 bags and other accessories selling retail for twenty times what I paid for them. Finding real gems and spending next to nothing for them never gets old. I fill in the blanks with carefully-chosen items from discounters like TJ Maxx. I rarely pay full retail–or have to.