A Year (and a half) in Review: Reflecting on my Secondhand Shopping Experience

Hello all, it’s been a while!

This has been a crazy, wonderful semester of new experiences and lots of change, but I am very happy to get back to blogging. Although the future of Ecouturier is still in the works, I would like to share some of the incredible things I’ve learned in the last year and a half of buying exclusively secondhand clothing. I set off on my mission in order to boycott the wastefulness of the ready-to-wear market, but I have discovered some wonderful benefits to shopping secondhand that I did not expect.

The first of these is perhaps the most obvious: the budget-friendliness of secondhand shopping. If you shop wisely, a thrift store can become an upscale boutique where everything is on sale. Most secondhand stores thoroughly check garments before they are sold to make sure they are of the same or similar quality as when they were first purchased, yet because they were previously owned, they are sold at fractions of the original price.  Thus, your dollar can stretch farther for the same clothes you would find at the mall, but without the mall price tag.

Because of this, shopping secondhand has made it easier for me to obtain high-quality garments and accessories. Before making the switch, I often could not afford luxury items and typically spent what money I had on garments that would last for a season or two, or that would fall apart before their time was up. Now, quality is accessible. When clothing of varying levels of quality are reduced to a more similar price range, there is simply no contest between the Urban Outfitters tops I used to buy and shirts from Nordstrom. Being able to compare garment quality side by side without price influencing my buying habits has both made me more aware of quality and more adept at identifying it, but has also increased the quality and longevity of my wardrobe overall. Because of this, I can shop less because my clothing lasts longer, reducing my footprint in the long run.

Although I have reached these fantastic conclusions, there are some differences in the secondhand shopping experience that I needed to adjust to. One of which is the fact that you cannot go secondhand shopping for anything specific. At first, this simple truth was infuriating. Before, I knew I could pop into H&M and find a perfect-fitting pair of jeans or a wear-with-everything cardigan and finish shopping in minimal time. However, if you go thrifting with the same expectations, you will be disappointed. Most of the time, you will not find exactly what you’re looking for. However, if you keep an open mind, you can find something that fills a need. In my own excursions, I have been forced to be creative, and as a result, my closet has become more diverse, experimental and unique.

For the times that I need something specific and can’t find it, I create. Many times this happens when I am trying to find trends that have barely hit the markets: at the moment I am struggling to find velvet elements and items in Pantone’s color of the year, “Radiant Orchid”. However, orchid and velvet aren’t new. Somewhere in the depths of my closet are the remnants of their last glory days, waiting to be resurrected in today’s fashion scene. The latest trends don’t have to be purchased, they can be created with what you already have, which is what I have been promoting through my past posts and projects. If anything, shopping secondhand has pushed my creativity further while simultaneously being good to our environment.

I hope that this post sheds some light on the awesomeness that is shopping secondhand. Personally, I have found this shift so beneficial that I have extended my original goal of a year without new clothes to just over a year and a half, even while adjusting to life in a new city. Buying secondhand has certainly served me well as a penny-pinching college student who still wants to dress impeccably for art school each day. Although I started this journey with an end date in mind, I see no need to stop now.

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