Adulting with Erin: Second chance clothes

By Erin Bothwell | October 7, 2017 6:19pm
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

Shopping secondhand is like swiping through Tinder. You have to sort through a bunch of randos just to find a couple that you might take home with you. But only if they have no signs of wear and are machine washable. 

Buying secondhand makes sense economically (it’s less expensive and supports local business), socially (it’s not directly supporting companies with bad labor practices) and environmentally (reduces waste). 

It also is a better use of time than Tinder because meeting strangers online is something people do in horror movies. Will a gently used wool coat murder you in your sleep? No. 

Besides, who are you to demand all your clothes are untouched and virginal when you buy them? DO YOU THINK YAH BETTA THAN ME? Or worse, do you think you’re better than five-dollar jeans? Do you? That’s only $2.50 a leg! 

You may be afraid to shop secondhand because of the distinct odor that permeates the air in many a decent thrift store. You know how some people talk about acquired tastes? Well, this is an acquired smell. Your nostrils will get used to it.

You might be a germaphobe and scared to touch the items who have been who knows where. I recommend you repeat the mantra ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to yourself. Can you see the germs? No. Then they aren’t there. Bam. Science. 

Beyond the smell and nonexistent germs, secondhand stores are beautiful havens of cluttered organized disorder. You can truly be yourself there. Let your inner id out. Touch everything. Look at everything. Grab a cart and pile it with the things you want to try on. 

In my experience, employees at secondhand stores are way less pushy than salespeople at department stores. They don’t hover or pander. So you are TRULY FREE to run around like a (polite and considerate) shopping maniac without disruption. 

Generally, consignment stores (Buffalo Exchange, Button, etc.) are better organized and more likely to carry expensive brands than thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army). 

Thrift stores are filled with bargain finds and other items besides clothes, like furniture and books, but may feel grimier than some consignment stores. Vintage stores have the prices of consignment stores, carry clothes from the past and smell like old books. 

Regardless of where you shop — consignment, thrift, or vintage — you can’t shop stupid. Because otherwise you won’t recognize treasures when you see them. 

Before you shop: Study styles and trends online. This is the most fun type of studying you’ll ever do. Feel free to scroll through the websites of stores you definitely cannot afford. You are a shopping artist, and the internet is your muse. 

The morning of your shopping expedition, eat a filling meal and pack a bottle of water. Shopping is exhausting, but rewarding, like birthing a child. Actually, shopping is a lot easier than birthing a child, but you know what I mean. 

During the shopping trip: 

  • Bring your own shopping bags if you want to be extra friendly to the environment. Some stores do charge for bags. 
  • Wear a dress and easy-to-remove shoes for trying on clothes. Men, if dresses aren’t your thing, I suggest wearing kilts. 
  • Shop with a friend who is at at least two feet taller or shorter than you. Because if you browse with a friend who is your body double, you will have to arrange custody of the clothes when the inevitable happens — you both fall in love with the same sweater. 
  • Look at everything. And I mean everything. Because hidden treasures are often, well, hidden. 
  • If you don’t love something, don’t buy it. Don’t settle. 
  • If you do love something and it isn’t in style, buy it anyway. If you can pull it on, you are pulling it off. 
  • The ratio of trying things on to things you actually buy will probably be 12:1. You may get shopping fatigue. This is normal. Treatment for shopping fatigue includes eating and napping. 
  • Used shoes can be a great bargain. They also can be really uncomfortable if they’ve already been broken in to someone else’s feet and gait. Purchase at your own risk. 

After the shopping expedition:

When you get home, wash everything. You know those germs I said weren’t there because you can’t see them? I fibbed. They were there the whole time. Shhhhhh. Don’t cry now. Cry in the shower. Go on. Lather all those cooties away. 

Clothes deserve second chances. Does the scumbag you swiped right on who did *insert scumbaggy thing*? Probably not. Many clothes have a lot of life left in them when they’re donated or consigned. They might not be ready for the trash heap

So go on, breathe in the weird smells and dive into deals. Your new wardrobe is already out there, waiting to meet you.