When it's 80 degrees in mid-October, it's hard to deny that climate change is for real. But did you know that our shopping habits are a huge contributing factor? Fast fashion — the industry responsible for keeping us on trend for cheap — actually generates an appalling amount of toxic, non-biodegradable waste, which is extremely damaging to the environment.
One ever-more common way to shop sustainably and avoid contributing to fast fashion is to buy clothes secondhand. Buying secondhand clothing is great for the environment because it extends the life of existing clothes before they end up in a landfill. That being said, shopping thrift can be daunting for many of us who are overwhelmed by the disorganized and unpredictable nature of used clothing stores. So here are five handy tips for tackling a secondhand shop and leaving with purchases you can feel good about — and not only because you got 5 items for $20.
1. BE SPECIFIC BUT NOT TOO SPECIFIC
Heading in with a general idea of the type of clothing you want is helpful, so if you know you want a sweater, you can limit yourself to the sweater section and you’re likely to find at least one great option. But if you go in wanting a salmon pink cashmere sweater covered in pom-poms, you are less likely to be successful.
2. SPEED READ
Speed readers skim the whole page and pick out only the important parts of the text. This technique is also helpful when going through a rack stuffed with hangers. Scanning the whole rack and only pulling out materials, colors or styles that appeal to you reduces the amount of time you spend pulling items out only to discover that they’re heinous. In the pants section, rifle through the legs of the jeans and only pull out the style you like (ie. straight or skinny jeans) and avoid bell-bottoms/bootcuts/bermuda shorts. This also works for quality — a brief glance at the material can usually indicate how worn or old it is.
3. BE OPENMINDED AND TRY ON
If something caught your attention but looks kind of weird now that you’re holding it out at arm's length, try it on anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised. It also helps to be flexible with sizing. There's likely only one of anything, so if you like it but it's not your size, try it on anyway, it could be your next favorite oversized shirt. Going to the dressing room with more increases the odds of finding good stuff.
4. A LITTLE PATIENCE GOES A LONG WAY
There are always gems. Vintage gems. New-with-tags gems. Barely worn gems. Originally-cost-$500-but-is-now-$5.99 gems, etc. Don’t let the occasional weird/ancient/stained/holey thing convince you that everything must be damaged goods.
5. HAVE FUN
There are always ridiculous clothes that leave you wondering who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to design and make such a bizarre thing and then who in their right mind actually bought it before coming to their senses and donating it to Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange. A trip to a used clothing store is always good for a few laughs at the very least.
Do you have other thrifting tips? Let us know!