Sustainable fashion has been a hot topic for some time now, especially because it promotes both environmental benefits and social justice. Unlike fast fashion brands (cough cough Forever 21), some sustainably produced clothing may be more expensive because it isn’t mass produced. As a fellow broke college student, I get that a $10 pair of jeans from Forever 21 may seem more feasible for your wallet compared to a $128 pair from Reformation.
I recently found out that Urban Outfitters, one of my go-to places to shop, is actually a fast fashion brand despite its high prices. It’s disheartening to know I’ve been spending $60 on fast fashion brand sweaters and BDG jeans.
Nevertheless, there is a way to shop sustainably without breaking your bank account. Thrift shopping, or the practice of buying used garments, shoes and accessories, is a great way to expand your closet without harming the environment. If you are a first-time thrifter or are just curious about the process, here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your next thrifting excursion.
- Always evaluate your closet before you set out to thrift
Too much of a good thing is never good. Just because thrifting promotes sustainability doesn’t give you the excuse to splurge and buy whatever your heart desires. Remove (but don’t throw away!) any articles of clothing — or shoes and accessories — you’ve grown out of, or no longer like to wear. Then, try to shop around for clothes you absolutely need.
Thrift stores will no longer seem so large and menacing once you have a good idea of the types of clothes you need; it will make your thrifting trip will be smoother and quicker. It’s always better to purchase the things you need at the moment rather than overstock.
- Seek out thrift shops that match your own sense of style
Is your style trendy and hip or classic and versatile? If you’re looking to score some unique vintage pieces, try hitting up your local Goodwill or The Salvation Army Family Store. ThredUP is also a great online thrift shop for those who would rather shop in the comfort of their own dorm, home or apartment.
For my fellow trendsetters and fashion hipsters, check out Uptown Cheapskate, a personal favorite of mine. Luckily, there’s one on Route 1 near the College Park Diner. Depop is also a great app to download if you prefer to thrift on your phone in between — and maybe during — classes.
- Find thrift stores that will reward you for donating used clothes
Most stores will reward you by providing a small tax cut, but not many will give out cash or store credit for clothing donations, which is a bummer. As college students, it’s always a plus when we can make a little extra cash by doing the bare minimum.
Luckily for us Uptown Cheapskate — I swear this place is gold — is probably the only thrift shop that understands us and will give cash for bringing in used clothes, shoes or accessories.
All you have to do is drop off your bundle of used clothes at the store and wait for an employee to evaluate it. Your clothes will be assessed for cleanliness and trendiness, so don’t be shocked if all of your clothes are not accepted.
- Always, always check your clothes before purchasing!
I’ll admit, I was excited when I first went thrifting. By the end of my shopping spree, I was carrying handfuls of shirts, pants and sweaters galore. The excitement took over and I didn’t even bother to double check my clothes for any tears, holes, marks or stains. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed two of my sweaters were adorned with small tiny holes, which soon became gaping after only two washes.
My tip is to always check your clothes before purchasing, especially because many thrift shops don’t have a return policy or will only reward back store credit. Thrift stores are supposed to check, wash and evaluate clothes prior to selling them, but it doesn’t hurt to double or even triple check them yourself before buying.
There’s a certain art associated with thrifting that I don’t think I’ve mastered yet. Some trips to my local thrift shop are quite successful, and I’m able to score some unique pieces that are all miraculously in my size. Other trips are failures, where I end up walking out of the store both disappointed and irritated.
For all my first time thrifters and thrifting enthusiasts, I hope these tips will come in handy sometime in the future. Shopping at a thrift store is quite an experience so remember to spend your money wisely, and most importantly, have fun!