Confessions of a Thrift Shopper

All the handy hints and justifications you’d expect from a deranged vintage addict.

  • Photography by Alicia Harrison.
  • Model Bailey Jones.
  • Styling by Bailey Jones.

I’m a girl who loves clothing. I’m a girl who loves shopping. I’m a girl who, unfortunately, does not have an exorbitant amount of money to spend on clothes (damn it.) This perfect storm has lead me to become a real-deal thrift shopper. I’ve always shopped vintage rather than designer and hand made clothes where I can. This means of cultivating my clothing began out of necessity but I now see the benefits that emerge from being a thrifty gal.

Of course I invest in pieces, usually from brands I admire or garments that I know have a timeless quality. But for the most part my closet is made up of rarer finds. Not only does this method protect the pennies in my purse but I also believe it has given way to a cultivation of eccentricities that now defines my look. Take this outfit for example – the jacket is an op shop find, the t-shirt was found on the internet from some nondescript store and the skirt is handmade. All in all this entire look (excluding the shoes that I have worn almost every day for two years) cost me under $100. This not only means that the look is inexpensive, it is also one of a kind. A weird mish mash of style genres, which I think gives off an intriguing aesthetic.

Another reason why I am proud to be a thrifty shopper is because I believe it has less damaging effects on the environment. I love the fashion industry but I am devastated over the effects it has on the environment. I don’t mean to point the finger directly at clothing, all consumer products are causing this destruction. But as a fashion enthusiast I believe it is my responsibility to acknowledge the damage being caused by clothing construction. After agriculture, the clothing industry is the second biggest water polluter – this is sadly mostly to do with fabric dying.

Furthermore, globalisation and technology has drastically changed the relationship society has with our clothing. As most of our clothes are made off shore the prices have dropped significantly for our products. This means that in order to be competitive many companies are underpaying their labourers and using poor quality materials. Therefore, the quality of our clothing is reducing, meaning that our garments aren’t lasting long enough and the cost of replacement is so cheap that this has given way to a ‘throw-out’ culture. And so, our landfills are filling up with our clothing.

I don’t mean to scare you or cause you to feel guilty for shopping. I shop and I love expressing myself through my clothing. However, in light of this information I have been thinking more carefully about my purchases. Asking myself, do I really need this? Is the quality and style of this garment conducive with long term wear? Is this brand environmentally friendly?

It is because of my lack of funds, eccentric tastes and environmental conscience that I have created a shopping process to live by. I mostly buy vintage or second hand clothing because often it is beautifully constructed (take this jacket for instance) and it has already gone through the most energy hungry process of it’s life so it might as well be worn. I invest in statement pieces and accessories. I believe that this can transform outfits and stops me from feeling as though my wardrobe has become stale.

My advice to anyone who wants to be a thrifty shopper is to hit up the rural op shops because they’re less competitive and so have more hidden gems. Have the trends you love in mind and try and find a piece that emulates one (trends come around in full circle so quickly now you’re bound to find something similar.) Know what items are wardrobe essentials. You can never go wrong with a pair of Levi’s and a ornate white blouse.

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