Why I Only Shop at Thrift Stores

It used to be my biggest shame, but now it’s my favorite hobby

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When I was a kid, I always kicked off a new school year by revamping my wardrobe. I threw out the old jeans that had ripped in the crotch area and donated the “babyish” t-shirts decorated with glitter and ponies to the Goodwill.

Afterward, I always went shopping for new back-to-school outfits with my mom. Except, these outfits weren’t really new — they were someone else’s unwanted clothes. They came from dim, carpeted thrift stores, not the fluorescent lights of Macy’s.

Throughout my childhood, I only ever shopped at thrift stores.

While my friends prided themselves on their designer outfits they’d plucked off the mannequin, I was sifting through the racks of the nearest thrift store. I won’t lie and say I didn’t also want designer clothes, but I didn’t have a choice. My parents lived on a shoe-string budget for most of my childhood, and they didn’t have the money to spend hundreds of dollars on clothing.

If I wanted more than a t-shirt from JCPenney, I had to get creative. I spent a lot of time scouring the local Goodwill for a diamond in the rough. I learned how to put an outfit together — what colors complemented each other, and which ones clashed.

I was a thrift-store diva — the ultimate bargain shopper. If a Prada purse or Burberry blouse managed to find its way to the Goodwill, I knew it. It was in my hands and paid for before anyone else could see it.

As an adult who can finally (sometimes) afford the $30 tops I see in the window, I haven’t been able to kick the habit of shopping at thrift stores. At the end of the day, I still end up at the Goodwill.

But, despite the embarrassment I might’ve had as a pre-teen who didn’t want to be caught dead in someone else’s hand-me-downs, I’ve since realized there are a lot of upsides to shopping in thrift stores.

You never know what you might find

People tend to associate thrift stores with old, unwanted clothing that nobody or their grandmother would be caught dead in. The Goodwill is supposed to be the place that people go when they’ve given up on caring about their appearance.

This isn’t true. Although there is plenty of junk lying around, you’d be surprised just how many designer labels end up on those racks too. The issue isn’t whether or not fashionable thrift store clothing exists, it’s how to find it.

As a kid, I could spend hours in a thrift store searching through racks. Finding a cute designer top took some effort, but it was worth it. I got to wear expensive brands without worrying about the price tag.

As an adult, I still get that same rush. Spotting a $100 dress and paying $8 for it is like finding abandoned money in a parking lot. Not only is the experience satisfying, but there’s no guilt involved.

The only downside is that it does take some effort. You’ll have to sort through a lot of unwanted, stored-in-the-back-of-closets junk before you find something you actually want. Some thrift stores may attempt to organize their haul, but other places will grab everything, put it on the rack, and leave it for you to sift through.

I don’t mind, though — the hunt for hidden treasure is what makes it fun.

Thrifting makes you fashionable

Most people would like to assume they’re fashionable. They can go into a store and pick out a cute outfit easily. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that our favorite designer stores tend to do the shopping for us.

They arrange the store so that complementary items are close together. It isn’t a coincidence that a purple blouse is right next to a matching pencil skirt. Most of the time, even if you’re picking out the ensemble yourself, the store is still doing half the work.

You might not even realize how undeveloped your fashion sense actually is until you walk into the disarray of a thrift shop. Nobody is going to help you out there.

When you have to sift through unorganized, outdated clothing, you quickly learn what goes well together and what doesn’t. You don’t have a choice — the layout of the store forces you to think for yourself. You realize what items can pass as vintage chic and which ones should be left in the past. You learn which patterns complement each other, and which ones clash.

Thrift stores allowed me to invent my own wacky style. I’m not sure you would call it fashionable, but it works for me. Regardless of what kind of clothing store I’m in, I always know what works for me and what doesn’t.

There’s no shame in thrifting

When I was a teenager, I used to dread the question: “Where did you get that top?”

My friends had good intentions. They expected me to answer with the respectable Macy’s or JCPenney’s. Regardless of how cute my outfit was, I was always too ashamed to admit I’d gotten it from a thrift store. I usually blew them off with the vague, “Oh, this? I’ve had it in my closet for a while.”

To say I got it from a thrift store felt like an admission that I was poor. Well, technically, I wasn’t poor so much as I was lower middle-class (at least, that’s what my mother called it).

Nowadays, when people ask where I acquired my leopard print skirt, I have no shame in admitting it came from a thrift store. Not everyone has the budget or the desire to wear fresh designer garb. Thrift stores allow you to purchase clothing — outdated or fashionable — at bargain prices. That’s something to celebrate, not look down upon.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I occasionally popped into a traditional clothing store. There are some items you just can’t find in a thrift store. However, for the most part, I’m a thrifter. I’ll scour the racks of Goodwill and every local second-hand store I can find for a diamond in the rough — and I won’t be ashamed of it. What once was a source of shame for me has since become a way to save money and even have fun as an adult.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats. pricelindy@gmail.com

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