I grew up getting my clothes exclusively from three sources: my older cousin, yard sales, and thrift stores. (Underwear was the one exception.) I didn’t get my first pair of new jeans until I was thirteen. I used my own money and bought them from a trendy store at the mall. I was very proud.
I love thrift stores to this day because they’re very cost-effective and environmentally responsible. Until recently, I’ve always gotten almost all my clothes from second-hand stores.
So before I go on, I want to make one thing clear: I am very pro thrift-stores.
I shop them all the time for things like books and housewares, and particularly my kids’ clothes. In fact, in the absence of hand-me-downs (yay free!), I think thrift stores are the perfect place to get kids’ clothes. Since children outgrow their clothes so quickly, it only makes sense to use items more than once. Most of the clothing on the children’s racks are in excellent condition because they’ve hardly been worn. And they’re so cheap! Even at the nicest consignment shops I rarely pay more than $5 for an item.
I just don’t go to thrift stores for my own clothes anymore. Here’s why:
I realized recently that when I shop for clothes (for myself) at thrift stores, I tend to make poor choices.
Because they’re inexpensive, I’m more impulsive with thrift-store purchases. I end up with pieces that are nice . . . but not perfect. They’re not exactly what I was looking for, or sometimes not what I was looking for at all.
Some common problems with my thrift store purchases:
- They often don’t fit that great. In the moment I love the piece so much that I figure it’s no big deal that it’s a large size, but then I never end up wearing it.
- They often don’t go with the rest of my wardrobe. A cool skirt doesn’t do me much good if I don’t have any tops that match.
- They aren’t a great fit for my lifestyle. For example, as a stay-at-home mom I need very few dressy items. And hoodies don’t work for me since I’m always running from one thing to the next — I need easy-to-remove layers.
So they just hang in my closet for years at a time.
When I shop at thrift stores, I end up with way too many items in my wardrobe that never get worn. This contributes to clutter and is a waste of space and money. Sure, I only spent $3 on that top; but $3 is too much money to spend on something that will just take up room in my closet.
I’ve discovered that I’m much better off when I’m very intentional about my purchases — if I decided ahead of time exactly what I want, and then go out and find it in my exact size. That is a very unlikely scenario heading into a thrift store.
Turns out, being intentional about my wardrobe usually means going out and buying things new. Even if I end up paying much more for each item, I save money (and time and closet space) in the long run for a few killer items that get worn over and over again rather than a closet full of duds.
So my new approach to clothes shopping? I strive for a minimalist wardrobe made up of intentional, quality pieces.
(Image courtesy of Emily May via Flickr.)
My Intentional, Minimalist Wardrobe
Despite their popularity and allure, I don’t have an official “capsule wardrobe.” I’m overwhelmed at the prospect of creating an elaborately pre-planned mix-and-match wardrobe. And honestly, thirty-three items seems kind of extravagant. Do most people have a lot more than that?!
Instead, my wardrobe has built up more organically. Here’s how it looks:
After purging my closets every so often, I’ll notice some gaps in my wardrobe (i.e. “I have, like, no nice skirts.”). So I’ll spend some time thinking about what kinds of skirts I would like. I’ll go on Pinterest to get some ideas, keeping in mind what kinds of tops/shoes I already have.
In a few weeks I’ll go shopping for nice skirts and buy one, maybe two. Then I’m good for skirts for the next few years.
Benefits of a Minimalist Wardrobe
- Less decision fatigue. I know that when I go out, I have three or so nice tops and three pairs of jeans to choose from. (I always wear jeans on weekdays. Even in summer. Makes things easier.) Makes getting ready quick and brainless.
- Less clutter in my closets. Less clutter = a calmer brain.
- Easier to organize. (Basic categories: at-home clothes vs going-out clothes.)
- Getting dressed is more enjoyable, because everything in my closet fits me, goes with my other clothes, is decent quality, and suits my taste. (If not, it gets removed during my annual purge.)
- Less waste. I don’t waste money or closet space on clothes I never wear.
- I can get a few really trendy pieces and just wear them to death. I can be eco-conscious without having to stick to classics that will last eight years. For example, three years ago, I got a pair of kelly-green skinny jeans. I wore them virtually every time I went out, year-round (and still wear them frequently). If I had six pairs of jeans, that likely wouldn’t have happened, and I would have had to decide what to do with them in five years when they were no longer stylish. This way, they’ll likely be holey and worn out before I have to worry about that.
(I’ve written about Minimalism from a Christian perspective before.)
- Thrift-store clothes shopping might be realistic for me if I had plenty of time to make lots of trips to search the racks. But with two little munchkins in the house, I just don’t. Maybe you do, in which case I applaud your thrifty efforts!
- This doesn’t mean I’ll never browse through the women’s section at the local thrift shop. It just means I no longer go to St. Vincent’s or Value Village for the bulk of my clothing needs.
- I’ll probably continue to go to thrift stores for things like t-shirts and yoga pants for at home. I’ll still buy nice ones — I don’t like feeling like a bum — but they don’t have to be perfect. So second-hand is fine.
How about you? Do you still find thrift stores a worthwhile place to get your clothes? Do tell!
Thrift store image courtesy of Laura Billings via Flickr.