Why thrift shopping makes me feel good

At the end of 2018 I decided that 2019 would be my ‘no buy year’ – in terms of shop-bought clothes. I’d become disillusioned with the fast fashion industry, sickened by the greed of consumerism and watched one too many documentaries to be able to un-see the pain and suffering that goes on in countries on the other side of the world.

We’re all human beings and no-one should have to endure that kind of lifestyle and insane poverty and hardship just for a cheap $5 t-shirt.

Over recent years I’ve bought less and less items of clothing and tried to emphasise quality over quantity. Add to that a penchant for decluttering on a frequent basis and by December 2018 I was pretty much down to a minimal wardrobe, with only a handful of items I wore on a daily basis. It became a bit of an ongoing joke that I only had one ‘going out’ jumper and one pair of jeans – and when they finally wore thin and split around the inner thighs, it was time to invest.

I made a list of my ideal capsule wardrobe and decided that during my ‘no buy year’ I’d acquire clothes only through swapping with friends, buying locally at thrift stores (charity shops) or buying second-hand from online apps like Depop, except for a small list of items such as bras, pants and a specific brand of jeans that fit perfectly. (Second hand jeans might work well on a 21 year old Instagram model, but finding the right slim fitting, flattering pair on a curvy, 45 year-old body with a little too much muffin top, was never going to be easy!) 

Other than those few items, everything else needed to be sourced away from all the usual high street stores – which made our first few visits to town rather interesting … I ended up in the library and vegan cafe instead.

After effortlessly getting through January without buying anything except a pair of well made, Italian brown leather gloves from a ‘designer’ second hand store I found near my mum’s house,  it was time to step away from the fears and judgements I was holding on to and approach thrift shopping with a fresh new perspective.

At the start of February my teenage daughter and I headed to a large, local charity shop with a budget of £50. Having watched many YouTube videos beforehand, I was armed with top tips like checking labels for materials, looking at seams and carefully inspecting for any damage. Plus, my Pinterest boards were bulging with variations of all my favourite clothing styles, colours and materials. It was time to shop…

Here are a few things that have made me feel good about ‘pre-loved’ clothes shopping and why I’m already hooked:

  • Most charity shops are run by volunteers and they’re really friendly. When your shopping trip begins with smiles and hellos, it brightens the whole experience (fashion stores take note!).
  • When surrounded by an eclectic selection of clothes, you find yourself tuning into the fabrics and textures that most appeal to you, rather than being lured into buying this season’s latest trend. Shopping soon becomes about aligning to your core desires rather than being persuaded into buying an outfit you’d never previously imagined wearing (and we’ve all had plenty of those in our wardrobes, right?).
  • Second hand clothes in charity shops cost a fraction of their original RRP and when you take your time looking carefully, you’ll uncover some absolute bargains. Only today I found a Guess designer denim jacket for just £12 – original price would have been around £125! I’ve seen plenty of cashmere jumpers too and bought one gorgeous indigo blue linen shirt, again for about a tenth of its shop-bought price.
  • Brand new items with labels attached are also frequently found – which give you a real buzz when they’re exactly what you were looking for.

While it’s amazing to find new clothes that you can love for many years to come, ultimately the biggest high of pre-loved clothes shopping comes from knowing that the action you’re taking is helping to reduce the environmental impact of fast-fashion manufacturing methods all around the world.

We may not have to wash in polluted water or inhale toxic fumes from factories, but other people -human souls just like you and me – are living in inhumane, unsanitary conditions and I don’t want to contribute to that any more.

Will you join me in reducing your consumption of fast fashion?

Lorraine xx

If you’d like to learn more about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, watch these online documentaries: The True Cost and River Blue.

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