By Eunice Kim
I remember the first time I saw it. I was casually flipping through racks and there lay the most colorful piece of clothing I’d ever touched. It was a windbreaker with a green and collar and geometric slices of pink and blue that cut below the collar, surrounded by tiny, vibrant triangles. It was unique. I found it at my local thrift store and bought it for the price of a burrito.
There has long been a stigma around thrift-store shopping. That’s unhygienic. Someone else wore that! I was once prone to these beliefs as well. My head was filled with thoughts about mystery stains and already dog-eared books that previous owners had gone through and abandoned.
We need to remember that reusing and repurposing is good for the environment. Too often, we see clothing as disposable. Garments overflow in landfills and so much clothing is abandoned that even second hand clothing stores can’t take it all in.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States. The fast fashion rage, where fashion trends arrive quickly and cheaply to consumers, comes with these harmful consequences.
By shopping at thrift stores, however, there is at least hope that textiles are not thrown away uselessly as these clothes can make their way into a new owner’s home.
Luckily, thanks to the new trend of shopping at thrift stores, we are making progress as a culture. According to America’s Research Group, about 16-18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year.
While it’s easy to buy that cute, new sweater on a whim at the mall, we need to shop more rationally and carefully, beyond the “trendiness” factor. That means we should carefully determine if we are going to be wearing that top for a long time.
Only recently have I grown an affinity and appreciation for thrift stores. And it stemmed from my growing interest of going beyond my boundaries in terms of fashion. Thrift-shopping has given me the privilege of seeing clothing and goods from diverse walks of life without emptying my pockets. I’ve also found that thrift stores allow me to choose my own fashion rather than the limited trends we see in the department stores.
Not only will you help save a new shirt or pair of shorts from clogging up the landfill, you could also discover a new personal style. We have to discard the idea that clothes are expendable and shop rationally.