The Case For Shopping Secondhand

I started this post intending to write a guide for secondhand shopping (thrift, consignment, eBay). I quickly realized there is a lot to say on this subject.

Instead, I am going to write a weekly series,  outlining general tips for finding wonderful, unique, and jaw-dropping wardrobe items, outside of traditional retail venues, as well as more specialized tips on secondhand venues.  I am also planning a post on what I like to call "TLC Salvaging" for secondhand clothes and shoes.

Today I am going to talk about the "why" of secondhand shopping.

People often compliment me on my outfit, or a particular pair of shoes. This is almost always followed by, "where did you get it?!?"

My friends inevitably know my answer, and will chime in. People I don't know, aka, strangers, will stand there, in slack-jawed amazement. Because about 95% of the time, the answer is:

1. eBay
2. Goodwill
3. <fill-in-the-name> "upscale" consignment store.

And I frequently hear the same response, whether the object of adoration is my Tom Ford tassel pumps (eBay), or one of my collection of buttery-soft leather skirts (consignment) or my favorite, avant-garde Tahari jacket that looks like something Thiery Mugler designed (Goodwill)...

"I could never shop there". This is almost ALWAYS the response, to which I reply "Why not?"

This is inevitably The Reason:  Secondhand clothes are disgusting and filthy, and for poor people, and I'm better than that.  Although nobody ever uses such baldly clear language, tip-toe-ing around this implied snobbery instead.  In truth, I don't judge.  If second-hand isn't your thing, it isn't your thing.

But Know Ye This: if you believe The Reason, you are missing out on some uh-mazing things out there.

So let me give you some food for thought, about The Reason..

1. All clothing, whether retail or second-hand, is potentially filthy and disgusting. "Brand new" doesn't guarantee that the person who sewed it, or tried it on before you, hasn't had sex without showering that morning, or just came over from the gym after a sweaty workout, or ate a plate of buffalo wings and licked their fingers clean, or stopped to wash their hands after using the toilet - and then handled your "brand new" garment that you cut the tags off and wore before washing.  Chances are, in your lifetime, you have bought a "brand new" garment previously handled by someone who meets some or all of these criteria.

2. Shopping second-hand doesn't make you a poor person. Buying things you cannot afford, whatever the price, will, however, will make you a poorer person.   Shopping secondhand makes you a person who wants to pay less money, or find something not available in retail stores.

3.  To my knowledge, nobody ever became a more noble human be ing, or even "better than that", because they went to the mall to buy their new dress. 

Here are the reasons I shop secondhand:

1.   I could never afford my little collection of Italian designer pieces, if I had paid full retail.
Not even close. I have a cropped Missoni cardigan in Caribbean blues and greens. I have a Roberto Cavalli skirt (currently in my fall capsule wardrobe) that has a divinely celestial print. My Versace boots and bag? From Goodwill and eBay, respectively.  I have several skirts and tops by Dolce & kGabbana, Armani, and Gucci, that I paid a fraction of the original retail for,. All found in thrift and consignment stores. Nearly all of these pieces appeared unworn.  A few appear to have been worn once.

Secondhand stores are full of the expensive mistakes of others: hand-crafted Italian leather shoes that pinched after an hour of wear.   Upscale clothing that no longer fit after the baby came.  Fancy designer pieces bought and hoarded for a fantasy life that never happened.  Gorgeous, glorious items that are never reached for, inevitably corralled and dropped off at a consignment store, donated, or listed online.

2.  If I paid full retail for a thousand-dollar pair of shoes or bag, I would be a nervous wreck about actually wearing them.  But because I paid a fraction of the price, I'm all like, "Hell yeah, I'm wearing those Cavalli pumps on the uneven downtown sidewalks and decorative cobblestones in this pouring rain".

Actually.. No. I don't wear any fancy shoes in the pouring rain. But you get my drift.

3.  I'm less inclined to dry-clean a second-hand garment. Especially if I paid less than $10 for it. Which is great for the environment, and even better for my wallet.  I carefully hand-or delicate-wash used dry-clean items, and I can objectively say that 9 out of 10 items turn out great.

It seems to me that buying second-hand should, in theory, have less impact on the environment.  I don't know it this happens in real life.  My guess is that there will always be people stepping up to buy cheap fast fashion that I take a pass on.

4.  Buying secondhand instead of new saves me money that I can use towards other things I love. If I dressed the way I like to, but paid retail, I would not be able to afford dance classes, and acting lessons.

5.  When I walk into the room, I know I'm not going to see anyone else in the same outfit.  And I rarely see someone in an outfit I like better than what I have one.

And that, my friends, is the real magic of secondhand shopping:  having one-of-a-kind pieces you love, that you wear fearlessly.


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