Better World Shopper is an interesting site. I can’t comment at all regarding the quality or validity of their research methodology, but their conclusions are certainly worthy of consideration.
And I think it’s about time that we all come to grips with the understanding that there’s nothing inferior, or particularly sinister or distasteful, about used clothing. For one thing, it’s not like the clothing you buy at retail is particularly pristine, unworn or sanitary. Anybody who’s ever worked in retail can tell horror stories about what is done to clothing before it’s purchased and leaves the store as a “new” garment.
Secondly, I suspect that each and every one of us has access to laundry facilities and/or a dry cleaner. No matter what a garment might have been through before you purchase it, you can restore that item to a state probably cleaner than it was at the time of manufacture.
Of course, clothing does NOT have a memory. No conscious presence at all. It carries no karma, no good luck, or bad luck, or any other kind of sensibility. Clothing is an inanimate tool that we need for decency and protection, and that we like for our personal adornment, and for the pleasure it can bring to us.
Lastly, let’s de-stigmatized this whole “second-hand” business once and for all. You wouldn’t scorn someone for owning antiques. We need to expand that range of thinking to all kinds of items. ANYTHING that still has utility and wear in it should be allowed to be used, and worn, and enjoyed, until it’s worn out. If it takes more than 1 person to wear out a garment, then so be it.
Let’s quit being snobs about this, shall we?
Mrs. Jenner says
I agree! I buy most of my clothes from ebay or consignment shops. The fabric is so much better and the sewing and lining is amazing! I can get a Calvin Klein Collections skirt for $70.00 and take it to a tailor. For $40 my tailor makes it fit perfectly. I have never purchased a sweater used or a white blouse and those tend to show wear quickly.
Pam @ over50feeling40 says
Absolutely correct!! I actually blog for Goodwill and often find designer, and top retail, brand new items there. I go straight to the dry cleaners after I purchase. Unless someone is a reader of my blog, they never know the difference. It just makes good sense if you love fashion creativity and changing up your looks. Good post!
I have never in my life bought second hand clothes, and yes, I do live in a house filled with antiques. Never thought of myself as a snob either, though. I guess my only explanation is that I do not really enjoy hours of shopping or browsing which I suppose to be required to find the right thing when shopping second hand. My tendency is (as my husband so nicely puts it) to go only for the kill, i.e., I go to the best department store I can afford, buy what I need or want and that's usually it for the year.
Cornelia, if you shop once a year, you're probably not part of the problem! I get a lot of my second-hand clothes through ebay, which doesn't require quite the hunter/gatherer instincts of a lot of thrift stores. I decide what I want, I search 'til someone offers it up, I decide what I'm willing to pay, I bid, and I either get it or I don't. Although I've found Hermes scarves, and Ferragamo lizard pumps in thrift stores…
Location, location… I live in a small town in North Central Arkansas no chances of finding either of those brands here. ;))
I agree with Cornelia, location is key. We have nothing here that offers high end items and, although I do cruise the consignment shops, I have only come away with scarves, jewelry and household items. I have stopped in to Second Time Around in Boston which does have great quality items, but I haven't been lucky as yet.
I've been using the ideas on Vivienne files to guide my second hand shopping for the past two years. I'm fortunate to live near a large Salvation Army that groups like items by color and type. For instance, if you're looking for a blue sleeveless tank, there might be 32 different shades to choose from, and usually 3 or 4 in your size. So you can go in with the idea of finding a core of four and an expansion four, or a common wardrobe, spend the afternoon, and walk out with a coordinated capsule. About 10 % of what I find has never been worn. Everything else has been pre-shrunk, so there's no guess work about the fit. Happily, I can afford everything thing I want–most items are $5.00 or less, $10.00 or less for coats. Many of them have well respected labels that would send me into sticker shock if I bought them in a department store. Before Vivienne files, there was more danger of coming home with closet orphans. Now, it's easier to focus–thanks!
It is a win/win situation. You save money and the charity such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill profits too. Besides..No one would know you were wearing used if you didn't tell them.
Some of my favorite clothes are second-hand. And, when I do a clean out of my closets, I give friends and family first dibs, then it goes to St. Vincent DePaw Society that supports our local humane society or the Esperanza Center for battered and abused women. That way the clothes keep cycling around. Someone I met recently who was donating used magazines to the library called that "up-cycling". Interesting phrase.
I don't understand why people wouldn't want to buy used clothes. When you try clothes on at the store, they have probably been tried on by someone else.
I have no problems buying used, but I rarely do so anymore. After finding your blog I have been trying to cut down what I buy. Finding my size in the the right color/neutral has been impossible for me at a thrift store or consignment store. In my smaller town, I'm better off shopping for higher end brands at TJ Maxx. I don't understand why it would have gotten an F, but I'll have to investigate.
I haven't commented before, but I just want to thank you for your fabulous blog! I've passed your site name onto several people. I've never had very many clothes before, but my closet wasn't cohesive AT ALL. After reading in your archives I'm starting to understand why. I love the simple outfits with amazing shoes. I do have a few scarves, but find that they often get in my way as I hustle and bustle around my home.
Thank you for all the time and effort you put into your blog.
hostess of the humble bungalow says
I love hunting for a bargain in the charity shops.
Of course I launder garments before wearing but that's a no brainer.
We have several quality shops here in town, one is the Hospice Thrift Shop and the other is the one that benefits abused women and children. I feel wonderful handing over my cash to these organizations.
Many people think there is a stigma with used clothing but I had hand me downs from a wealthy cousin and was dressed well as a child as a result. Besides if you are trying to save money and dress well these are the paces to look first.
I love thrift store shopping, although I'm more discriminating now after reading this blog for awhile! One of the real benefits of visiting my MIL in the Atlanta area is visiting "my" thrift store, where I seem to be guaranteed to find linen shirts. No, I'm not saying which store it is!
Joyce in Wisconsin
I totally agree with you. But my 60-something year old mother is absolutely horrified that I buy secondhand garments, even though I have said garments cleaned thoroughly before wearing.
And that dry cleaning does NOTHING to remove body odor is okay with you. Plus dry cleaning is so good for the environment. And clothing that no amount of washing will remove said odors. I nearly choke on the hypocrisy of your name calling.
I'm really sorry that your experiences with used clothing have been so negative. Certainly, none of us who are trying to wear more 2nd hand clothing are interested in wearing things that are unclean or have odors. If you ever come to Chicago, let me know and I will take you to a couple of really lovely consignment stores where the choices are lovely, and the quality every bit as good as the finest retail.
You always have a soft answer. I wish I had that skill set.
I write this blog to try to help people, not hurt anybody, or make anybody unhappy. If someone has a negative reaction to something I've written, I feel bad about it, and would like to understand why. I don't want to be misunderstood, or to have anyone assume that my motives are selfish, mean, or heartless…
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Goddess Mel says
Note also that Janice said drycleaning OR laundering Anonymous – the choice is yours. And yes, some items might be too nasty for that to help but the same can be said of the clothing in some department stores once a few people have tried them on…
There are lovely, lovely treasures to be found 2ndhand!
Just today, I found a small alabaster box and a linen shirt. Last week, I picked up an Eileen Fisher wool dress for DD.
A lot of thrifters don't want 'hand wash' items; you might find an Irish wool sweater sitting for weeks, while 'easy care' acrylic flies off the shelves.
And, I have successfully laundered wool, silk, and even cashmere using Eucalan or Kookaburra wool wash.
Julia Karr says
I shop thrift and consignment stores almost exclusively and find wonderful items. I do my best to cull through my closet and donate before I go out to shop – that way I keep plenty of room for new favorites!
Debbie Roes / Recovering Shopaholic says
Great post, Janice! It's amazing how many people resist buying "used clothes," but you make some excellent points. It's rare that clothes one buys in a store (or even online given the frequency of returns) hasn't been tried on by someone else. Even clothes that haven't been on another person's body are not pristine given the chemicals used in processing and the dust/debris which is present during shipment, etc.
I actually started to lean MORE toward buying secondhand in recent years. Older clothing is often of higher quality because things used to be made better. Case in point, some workout t-shirts I bought from Eddie Bauer 5 years ago lasted longer than the shirts I bought there last year. The fabric these days is often thin and the workmanship shoddy.
I am in the process of reading the book "Overdressed" and it's enlightening me tremendously about the fashion industry. It's really a must-read for anyone who loves to shop, especially those of us who shop too much. "Fast fashion" is creating a lot of problems for our society and our environment.
One caveat about consignment/thrift shopping, however. People have a tendency to "settle" when purchasing from such stores because there price is low and there is only one size available. Make sure to still be picky about whether an item fits your body, lifestyle, and personality. I have made MANY purchase mistakes at consignment stores because I considered something "good enough." No matter how cheap something is, it's too expensive if you won't wear it!
Lee Carroll says
I have made many mistakes too, sometimes I wonder if I'm really ahead. It's true that there are good values out there and I have brought some myself. Self control and the ability not to get sidetracked helps. I don't go out of my way anymore to go to any particular store because it's all a matter of luck.
"No matter how cheap something is, it's too expensive if you won't wear it!"
Well, said, Debbie.
As a child I was a link in a vital chain that passed clothing from cousin to cousin or friend to friend. We got a few new items (underwear, jammies, etc.) but a lot of our clothes were gently worn stuff that someone else had outgrown. It never bothered me EXCEPT when a much-loved garment moved down the line. My sister and I still exchange clothes this way — fortunately we are the same size. We were not poor as children — but we had well-made clothing that lasted through several kids. It's unlikely that kids' clothing these days could last out a cousin or two.
Jen on the Edge says
I buy both new and secondhand. I lovelovelove eBay for hunting down particular items that I want and have been known to wait patiently for years (no exaggeration) for the right thing to pop up on eBay. My favorite pair of ballet flats — I tracked listings on eBay for more than a year. My favorite pair of boots — three or four years.
Both of my daughters are in middle school and will happily shop consignment shops and eBay if it means that they don't have the same clothes that their peers have.
Lee Carroll says
What a provocative post. Interesting chart too.
I try to buy at Goodwill or thrift shops but often I come home with a flaw I couldn't see.
What I notice is that they are spraying the clothes with something before they put them out for sale. Sometimes the odor does not come out. Why they spray them I don't know. I brought this matter up with the clerks and they tell me they don't spray but it isn't true because every Goodwill store in my area must do it. It always smells the same, sometimes it is so powerful it hard to take.
You have to be real, real careful have good lighting and think about your plan. I am rethinking about doing thrift shopping as apposed to buying retail. My time is valuable too.
I wonder if they spray for bed bugs–a big problem in some cities. A friend said she wouldn't shop at thrift stores for that reason. Thankfully, have never run across that problem, most of our clothggn is second hand,
Hear! Hear! I just dropped $90 at Goodwill last week. My 10-year old daughter got a cashmere sweater she wears to bed, plus a few other sweaters and jeans. I bought myself some season-transition pieces. It's cold outside here in Cleveland but hot in my office and I need to layer. A few of my finds were brand new Ann Taylor. 10 years ago, I found a silk Ann Taylor wrap cardigan for $8. I wear it weekly. Thank you for pointing out the virtues of second-hand treasures!
I shop at thrift stores all the time and I have nabbed some great buys, including many brand new items with tags from Banana Republic and Chicos still attached. And for everything I buy, I make sure to donate something else. I get to enjoy new things, and so does someone else.
Hi Janice, I'm a long time reader of your blog and this is actually my first comment.
Your post and reasoning is very thoughtful and I share a similar view regarding second-hand shopping.
My motivation lies mainly with a restricted budget and the pleasure of finding "the one that got away"…
For instance, just yesterday, I found in a Paris consingnment store a few seasons old Isabel Marant knit that was soldout in a heartbeat after its release and that I since searched to no avail. It's used but in pristine condition, at the price of a brand new(!) Zara sweater (with a so-so durability) and I'm delighted by the find!
As I often browse through the city's consingnment stores, I happen to catch from time to time bribs of conversations usually from Americans tourists (though a few French can also be thrown in) who are surprised and express a twinge of confusion to discover that the clothes racks they're perusing in lovely boutiques located in high end le Marais or Saint-Germain are preowned…
I live for thrifting and have no problem telling people that the skirt, blouse or scarf they just admired cost $4.00 from the Goodwill. Having lost a substantial amount of weight and developing an obsession for blogs like this one, the thrift stores are my best friends. As my sister is fond of saying, we spend more on drying cleaning and altering our finds than we do in buying them. Plus, I will never ever buy a new pair of jeans now that I have found several favorites already broken in and soft at the thrift store.
Good post ! I buy second hand Chanel and YSL because I could never justify paying the full prices. I am horrified by how much money people must waste buying clothes that they never/ seldom wear. For me, it is a sort of hobby – it is fun to find things on ebay or at my local shop.
Excellent post! I totally agree with you. I shop at my local charity thrift store all the time. I haven't bought any 'brand new' items at the mall for a long time. My local thrift store has lots of almost new clothing, shoes, toys and books. I find that I'm able to afford really good quality clothing (pure silk, 100% merino wool, pure cashmere, well-constructed garments) for a fraction of the price of the 'brand new', man-made fabrics and cheaply made items in the mall. I only buy stuff that I can wash in my washing machine so I don't have to pay the hefty prices for dry cleaning. Plus it's fun to find interesting and quality stuff in the thrift store!
Jhennifer Hudson says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about used clothing. I totally agree with everything you say here. I am a mom of 3 and my kids clothes were either hand me downs or bought second hand.
Douglas Roper says
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