How I Learned to Love Thrifting
This is about how I got over my shit about second hand clothing.
I was recently asked by a friend to explain how I sort of got to where I am today with all things second-hand/thrift/pre-loved/vintage/etc. I’ll start at the beginning.
I do want to say this off the top: With both my kids, we were so very lucky to get nearly all their clothes passed down to us, anything new was graciously purchased by grandparents. Before having kids, I remember having an entitled feeling of needing everything new. I still gave thanks for all the stuff given to us second-hand from friends/family/acquaintances, but I still wanted and felt like we 'deserved' everything shiny and new. I admit this attitude was shit. The reality was that we couldn't afford to get EVERYTHING new. It didn't take long to realize just how lucky we were, and how valuable everything given secondhand to us actually was. How much we ended up using it, needing it, and loving it all. And how lucky we were that we didn't have to buy it in the end. How I got to feeling happy and confident shopping second hand for myself is a different story.
Growing up, I got hand-me-downs from my neighbours. I remember wanting a silver Gap puffy vest in grade 3, but my mom said no because it was too expensive. I think I associated the feeling of getting pre-owned clothes at the time with the inability to afford new ones - which was a somewhat negative association as a kid who wanted something shiny and new.
In my late teen years I would go to Value Village or second hand stores mostly out of novelty, and not as a way to find the majority of things I needed. In my mind at the time, thrift stores were for people in dire need or poverty - another negative association in terms of not relating myself to that group - I was not in dire need or poverty, I liked new and brand name things. I didn't question this preconception for years. Until age 24, the second hand things I had ever purchased that were a sequin butterfly top, halloween clothes, some records, and a necklace or two. At this point I had worked at Aritzia and lululemon - both Canadian retail stores with beautiful, high quality and expensive clothes. I was lucky to work there, and also to purchase those clothes at discounted rates. My wardrobe was made up of my time working at those stores, as well as Joe fresh - which I thought was a great place to buy bright cheap clothing - more on this in a bit.
Fast forward to living in Fernie for a while. I had gone up a couple clothes sizes after having Elliot. I didn't fit in my old clothes, and a lot of them were too fancy for Fernie even if I did fit them. My lulu's were getting their share of wear, but the summers get hot af here. I didn't want to spend a lot of money with the hopes of returning back to my previous size, so I figured I should pop in the Sally Ann (thrift store). I was stoked to get a couple casual cotton summer dresses, each for only a few dollars, but it didn't change my life.
A year and a bit go by and I decide to check the Sally Ann again - I thought it would be sweet to find a long down winter jacket and not spend hundreds of dollars on a new one. I went to the women's jacket aisle and there I saw it. Fur poked out of a bunch of black and grey and beige jackets. I pulled it off the rack and was starstruck! It was a burnt orange, long, down, fox fur lined beautiful winter parka. I couldn't believe it. I unzipped the coat and saw the tag "PIONEER - PRODUCT OF CANADA". Product of Canada? Are you for real? Being born in 1991, I had only heard rumours of a short period of time where lululemon was made in Canada. I honestly didn't think it had ever actually happened. I read further, another tag had the downtown Vancouver address where it was stitched by someone here, in this country. And they did such a beautiful job, that this jacket lived for decades and decades. Still so puffy, so colourful, so strong and warm. I couldn't believe my luck. A long down jacket, just as I had hoped for, but so much more special. I thought about the adventures this jacket had seen. The person who stitched it. The person who stayed warm in Canadian winters in it. My heart sparkled. I'm emotional thinking about it now still.
Similar to thinking about meat, where it comes from and the life it lived before arriving there, I had always shut my brain off when I read tags like "MADE IN BANGLADESH", "MADE IN CHINA", "MADE IN INDIA". I had heard stories, but really didn't want to actually think about it or research it because 'this top is so cute and it's only $15'. It's really only been in the last handful of months after watching "The True Cost"* and reading about the state of our planet have I really had a deep paradigm shift.
*The True Cost is on Netflix. It's a great look into fast fashion, where our clothes come from and what's happening*
So now that I realized that I could actually find something cool, valuable, beautiful and/or interesting, I jumped in. I realized that if something was made in Canada or in the USA, it was before the late 90s when NAFTA had an affect on manufacturing - it made it way cheaper for companies to get cheap asian labourers and materials. I learned to read tags, fabric composition, to feel the thickness and quality in the piece, and began to recognize the styles from different eras. Being a 90s child - the last golden era before the internet and phones and social media - I frigging love the 90s. The style is wild, distinctive, and fun. Not to mention trending af. The older something is, the rarer it is too. It has to withstand time, moves, laundry - to make it to 2019. Most things that people have ever discarded are in dumps. So to see something from the 90s or earlier is really exciting. And telling of the quality, too. When I thrift, I get to time travel and treasure hunt at the same time. I know usually what I am looking for or looking at, other people don't see, or aren't looking for. On top of that, for a town of 5000, the one thrift store has amazing turnover. So many people here use it as their 'Chinook Centre'. I do!
If you have preconceptions about second-hand clothes, I get it. I had them too. At one time I thought it was dirty and gross and only for very poor people - all of this is bs. Firstly, they won't sell dirty or gross clothes. If something is donated dirty, it's thrown out. I also wash everything I bring home right away. Dirty and gross clothes won't sell - so they don't put them up. Secondly, it is considerably less money yes! This is fantastic. No complaints over here.
I said on my instagram I wished I had been more open to a secondhand wedding dress. A couple things: apparently a lot of women buy two (or more) dresses - they get pregnant, gain/lose weight, change their mind, whatever - so that dress is often never actually worn. If it is the dress they wore - it was worn one time. For a handful of hours. Then washed. If you still need more, sage it, sandalwood that thang and tadaa! Clear, clean, yours.
I'll finish with the reasons I love second hand / pre-loved / pre-owned / thrift / vintage clothes (and anything):
1. One less item had to take more resources, be unethically laboured for, shipped it across continents, and thrown out.
2. It's more affordable.
3. It's sometimes a time machine back to a really special beautiful time! One that could mean something important to you.
4. It's unique. Especially if its made in the 90s or older. It's only getting more rare by the day, as others like it have disappeared into landfills.
5. It's fun! It's a kindersuprise - you never know what you will find!! And when you do - it'll be so much less than when you go to the mall!
6. Because it's more affordable, I feel like I can take bigger risks - fashion wise. I get to try different styles and not feel scared because it's only a few dollars. I feel empowered and more confident in what I wear now, more than I ever have.
1. Find a thrift store closer (it's cheapest, but consignment is still second-hand, just be prepared to pay more.) close to you. One you can check out a few times.
2. Maybe think about something you're looking for (ahem manifesting****), but have zero expectations when you go. Anything you find is a bonus. It might take a few months, but I really think you will find what you're seeking (this happened for overalls and I found denim and black ones in the same week - woo!)
3. Check labels and read where it was made - this can help you find out what era it's from, and if it's high quality.
4. Don't give up. I really do think everything we need is already here. It might take time, but you will find what you are looking for. Next time you need a new dress - try second hand. Borrow from a friend. Next time you are looking for baby clothes - go to a thrift store.
5. Don't forget to check garage sales and stores you visit out of town. I found a cool 90s Michael Jordan tshirt at the Wasa Lake Flea Market. Cool shit is everywhere.
Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about this! It's something I am so passionate about, and eager to share. I wouldn't want you guys to miss out.
Happy thrifting yall!