My Thrift Manifesto

At first when I saw that today's Style Me April prompt was "Borrowed or Thrifted," I scoffed. Since that describes the majority of my wardrobe (well, the "thrifted" part, anyway), this one would be a piece of cake!

One of my favorite all-thrifted outfits

Sadly, real life intervened and I was not able to get any photos of my outfit today (which is honestly nothing special, although you can check out my Instagram for a slightly embarrassing bathroom selfie). So instead I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about thrift store shopping with you.

Why thrift? It's a question I have been asked many times, from people who are envious ("I can never find stuff I like at thrift stores!") to people who are snobbish ("Thrift stores are for poor people!") to people who are disgusted by the idea ("Ew, that's gross!"). So here are a few of my reasons:

This elegant outfit cost me less than $20

1. It's economical. 

This is the first and most obvious reason, which needs little explaining. Technically I can afford to buy clothing at retail prices, but there are several reasons I rarely do this. For one thing, I reeeeally love shopping. I consider it a hobby, and it's one that I like to participate in often. Buying clothing at thrift stores enables me to do this without breaking the bank. More importantly, it is just in my nature to be frugal. The first place I go in any store is the sale or clearance section. If I'm at a thrift store, I want to find the items that are marked down to 50 percent off. If I'm at a rummage sale, I look for the "free" pile! I just like getting bargains.

This combo is not my usual style, but for a few bucks I felt empowered to give it a whirl. 

2. It's adventurous. 

Who hasn't been disappointed, bored or confounded at times by the styles that seem to permeate department stores in a given season? Sometimes the predominant look is just not one that resonates for each of us at that given time. Thrift shopping offers me the unexpected; things I might not have sought out, but that strike my fancy for one reason or another. And it usually gives me a low-risk way to try out different trends, looks or other ideas.

I was happy to pick these vintage boots up at a sale to benefit my local United Methodist church

3. It can benefit others. 

This is a tricky one. I shop at the Salvation Army regularly, and I was uncomfortable to read several references in recent years to a Salvation Army official's statement that suggested a strong bias against homosexuality. I am an ardent supporter of gay rights, and I questioned whether I would want to continue supporting an organization if it is not in turn supportive of gay, lesbian and transgendered people. But the more I read about what had actually been said and what the organization's policies are, the more I came to believe that this was a bit of a tempest in a teapot and that the Salvation Army organization, on balance, is not discriminatory toward homosexuals on an institutional level. And I know that my local Salvation Army does a lot of good to help people who are the victims of natural disaster — regardless of those people's sexual orientations. And this mission is one I'm proud to support. I have drawn the line in other instances when I have seen sales being held to fund causes that I don't support. But I am proud to give my money to organizations such as Hospice and the local SPCA, whose missions I can firmly stand behind. I don't want to alienate anyone by sharing my personal views, but I encourage all of us to think about what we're supporting when we spend money. I spend a fair amount of cash in my local economy, both for my own closet and for my Etsy shop, and I'm glad that some of that money is going to good causes.

4. It's environmentally friendly. 

Without a secondhand market for clothes, more clothing would end up going in the garbage can. The thought of it just turns my stomach! Certainly sometimes clothes outwear their usefulness and it can seem as if there is nothing else to be done with them. But I am trying to expand my sewing skills (starting from zero here) so that I can do more refashioning and repurposing. I would LOVE to be able to sew clothes for my daughter out of garments that become stained, torn or otherwise unwearable! But I digress. By buying secondhand clothing, you are potentially keeping it out of a landfill and you are participating in a culture that values extending the life of our belongings rather than treating them as dispoable.

5. But aren't you taking clothing off the backs of poor people, who really need it?

This is a tricky one too. Certainly any time any of us buys something, we are keeping someone else from buying that item. And the clothing at thrift stores is usually finite in quantity, meaning if I take home a fur coat, no one else gets to have it — there aren't more waiting in a stockroom somewhere. But I'm not comfortable with deciding who "deserves" to have what clothing, at what price, and in what circumstance. What I do know is that by spending money at my local thrift store, I am helping a charitable organization provide needed services. And that's not nothing.

A pretty mainstream-looking, all-secondhand outfit

6. Thrift shopping is just for hipsters who want to wear weird, ironic clothing. 

Far from it! I regularly buy contemporary, brand-name clothing at my local thrift store — everything from Target and Kmart brands to higher-end retailers such as Banana Republic, J. Crew and Anthropologie. However, that being said, I rarely look at labels unless I am buying for resale. If I like a garment, if it looks good on me and serves the purpose I want it to serve, who cares what it says on the tag? I usually have to check my tags for brand names before posting about my daily outfits, because I usually can't remember. I would encourage all thrift shoppers to be open minded to all brands, including those you've never heard of before.

If you want to get a taste of thrifty goodness, be sure to enter this week's giveaway, when I'll put my shopping lust to benefit for one lucky winner! Read all about it here.


  1. This is an excellent, comprehensive description of why thrifting is awesome!

  2. So, I think you raise some really interesting points, especially the "hipster" point and the one about "taking it from others." (Personally, I don't shop at thrift stores much, but that is more that I don't have the paitence to shop that often and I think to find good things thrifting you need to go regularly. Plus, until recently- like the last year- there weren't really any thrift stores around. It is a bit strange that literally seven more have opened up in a town when we used to have two run by churches (and those two stores literally had the hours of 10-4 on thursdays and 2-5 on Tuesdays respectively). It seems very odd how many popped up...

    All that said, I think thrift shopping makes a ton of sense and you find cool things!


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