Get Your Thrift On

 · September 29, 2021

photo By Charles Etoroma (Unsplash)

photo By Charles Etoroma (Unsplash)

By Isabelle Shi

Thrifting is much like an archaeological dig—sifting through motley fashion trends, searching for something of value. A simple white sleeveless dress for frolicking in the green fields of spring hangs on one rack, while on the next, an elegant gown with a deep neckline and cascading hem awaits, ready to shine at the swankiest celebration. 

Secondhand September” is a relatively recent awareness campaign drawing attention to the benefits of avoiding fast fashion. Let’s dive into what you need to know..

Why thrift?

For many young people, thrifting combines the benefits of sustainability, the excitement of the search, and the unparalleled elation from good finds. For Lael S, a high school junior in the Bay Area, the range of apparel and unique quality of each piece is her favorite part of thrifting.

“What you find is much more limited when you normally go shopping,” Lael said. “You never know what you’ll find at a thrift store.”

Thrift fashion has become increasingly popular—especially among younger generations. Generation Z has embraced secondhand fashion faster than any other age group and accounts for over 40% of global consumers. Thrifting has transformed into a viable, $28 billion industry expected to eclipse fast fashion by 2029.

“Good physical stores are a dying breed, but thrift stores are only expanding,” said Coco L., another Bay Area high school junior. “Thrifting is one of the only ways to find good quality clothes and reconcile the harm the fashion industry causes the environment. To parrot about 50,000 Instagram users: overconsumption is the problem here, and thrifting combats that like nothing else.”

The search for clothes is also gratifying—and the range of styles allows your closet to be more ever-changing and fluid than ever. Coco’s personal favorite thrifted item: a blue-grey-cheetah-print-corduroy-Nanette-Lepore coat—with iridescent blue-green lining as well—from Goodwill for $15. Lael can’t pick just one favorite thrift find: “I actually can’t pick my favorite item I’ve thrifted because I love them all so much.”

Photo by isabelle shi

Photo by isabelle shi

Where to Go?

Scattered around the Bay Area are multiple thrift and consignment stores, including a Palo Alto Goodwill on El Camino Way. Inside the cream and blue exterior are racks bursting with clothes and shelves stocked from shoes to tea sets. Palo Alto also features Fillmore & 5th, a consignment store for women’s clothing. Over in the East Bay, you’ll find Crossroads Trading, 2nd Street, and Out of the Closet. San Francisco dominates as the area’s thrifting mecca, boasting a wide variety of unique outlets including ReLove, Buffalo Exchange, and more.

Reuse, Reuse, and Reuse Again

Although fast fashion is undoubtedly terrible for the planet, most other aspects of the fashion industry—including the top fashion houses and luxury brands—also damage the environment.

“Sell [your clothes] again. Give them away. Buy them second hand. Wear high quality clothes and wear them to death,” Coco said. “As someone who loves clothes: if fashion is going to keep messing with our planet, we better make it worth our while.”

“When you decide you don’t like something you can donate it back to where you got it so somebody else can find the same joy you did,” said Lael.

Though Septemer is drawing to a close, the lessons learned from Secondhand September should continue. Since learning about the amount of pollution generated and the unethical labor conditions of the workers behind the flashy facade of fast fashion, I, among many other young shoppers, have gravitated towards thrift stores. Convenience shouldn’t be everything. It is crucial to consider the people and the planet behind our clothes.

Isabelle Shi is an 11th grade student at The Nueva School. In addition to having a deep passion for the environment, Isabelle loves both the visual and performing arts and writing articles for her school paper.

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