Written by Maddy Kye
I did not go thrifting for the first time until I was sixteen. I received hand-me-downs from relatives and neighbors, I shopped clearance and sales, but I did not thrift. Ingrained in me was this idea that thrifting was not meant for me, a middle class teenager. Still, ultimately, my curiosity got the best of me, and one of my high school friends, who thrifted regularly, brought me along with her to a thrift store local to my hometown, Huntington, New York.
Prior to going to a thrift store myself, I had vastly underestimated the wide variety of items to be found there. I expected searching for something of value within a thrift store to be equivalent to looking for a needle in a haystack, but really, this was not at all the case. There were certainly challenging moments–the store was extremely large and at times, overwhelming, but I was impressed by the endless rows of clothing. To be specific, something that surprised me was not just how much clothing was available, but how much formal attire, in particular, was on display. I had expected to see an assortment of old tees and basics, but the amount of blazers, gowns, and pencil skirts, among other items, defied my expectations: my friend tried on prom dresses, I found the perfect outfit for an upcoming presentation, and we found item upon item belonging to reputable and, typically expensive, brands for what felt like absurdly low prices.
Following this trip, I felt extremely silly for not having thrifted before. Sure, it was tiring to go through one aisle after the next, but the experience was very rewarding. The items were more unique and I became increasingly cognizant of the money I was saving and the clothing I was offering a new home in my closet, rather than condemning perfectly wearable pieces to sit in landfill.
I cannot pretend I am perfect. I still shop the Hollister clearance section and I still seek deals on new items from flawed companies, but I am happy to say that I am–slowly but surely–improving. Whether I’m checking the availability of items on Depop or physically visiting Island Thrift on Long Island, I am doing my best to be more conscious of how the products I purchase impact that state of the world, however small or large that impact is, as well as how I personally can use shopping second hand as a way to experiment with new pieces at a low cost. For these reasons, I am proud to have been introduced to thrifting and am excited to identify and combat other ways through which I can work to become more sustainable, shopping second hand and beyond.