Monday, March 23, 2009

“Post Consumer” Clothes Shopping

I’ve been a second-hand shopper for a long time.  In the 1980s, I was a college student in Tucson, Arizona, where the first Buffalo Exchange Store was founded.  It was there I overcame my queasiness about “used” clothes and started a life-long adventure in creative shopping.   

lalyvintage Laly Vintage Clothes, Prague

People who buy second-hand as an eco-friendly lifestyle choice are starting to call it “post-consumer” shopping.  I like this term.  It incorporates a deeper philosophy than mere “thrift shopping.”

Over the years I’ve spent a lot on new clothing—mostly for my first professional job.  But I keep coming back to second-hand.  Here are some reasons why, with a few photos of basic pieces from my closet, which I found “post consumer.”   

Reason One:  I believe that if my washer and dryer can sanitize a baby diaper, they can take care of any second hand clothing issues I might have.  For shoes and bags, I believe in alcohol.   

Reason Two:  Uniqueness.  I’ve never seen anyone else wearing a coat like this vintage wool one.  It fits me well, and it was $12.00.  I removed the belt and belt-loops as they do nothing for me.  I love the princess seams and the pointy collar. 

2009-03-15 # 060Same thing for these boots that my sister gave me from her Etsy shop, Rocky Mountain Retro.  They’re warm and comfortable and completely fun to wear.   

2009-03-15 # 065 

Reason Three:  Quality.  This was the reason I bought these Doc Marten shoes.  They stand up to Montana winters, and their clunky shape works well with my figure.   The Olaf Daughters clogs---same thing.  If I polish them, the Docs look the same as they did when I bought them nine years ago.  (Cute doggies:  first quality, paid full price.) 

2009-03-15 # 064

Also, I can find better quality brands at second-hand stores than I can in our local “new” stores.  I found this Ann Taylor vest for a dollar, and I’m using it now with summer blouses to help transition to spring.  I love the knitted pattern (which you can’t see very well).   

2009-03-15 # 051

Same with this leather bag from the Sundance Catalog, which set me back three dollars. 

I think I’ve really improved the quality of my wardrobe in ways I couldn’t have if I were only shopping our local retail stores. 

2009-03-15 # 071

Reason Four:  Ability to try something new without a big investment.  I bought these two moderate quality tops (one summer, one winter) with horizontal stripes to test the theory that small stripes are lengthening.  I wouldn’t have paid full price to test this out, but I’m now really enjoying these pieces. 

2009-03-15 # 072 2009-03-15 # 055

Likewise these Hilliard and Hansen shoes.  The times I’ve had to wear heels in the past five years is approximately once, but when those occasions come up and I don’t have anything I like, it’s bad.  Why not have these hanging around?  They’re neutral, pretty cute, comfortable, and the only “heels” I’d feel safe wearing.  And if I never wear them?  They were six dollars. 

(I’m really careful with buying things for “maybe” days.  That’s led to too many mistakes.  But for something neutral, classic, and moderately well made which could very well have a special occasion use, I’m glad to have them on hand.)

2009-03-15 # 068

Reason Five: Options, as in the freedom to spend less on clothing to save more for travel; to cut up a sweater, make into something else, and not have a heart attack; to be less beholden to the clothing industry.  And, last but not least, to enjoy my clothes hobby with a decreased sense of angst at the human and environmental costs. 

To finish up, here are a few interesting links I found that are related to post consumer clothes shopping.  Hope you like them as I did. 

“Old Clothes, New Looks” by Alexandra Palmer and Hazel Clark is a fascinating-looking book (I’ve only read reviews) about second-hand clothes circulating in history, and how the practice has affected cultures.  I want to read this. 

Great ideas for remaking an old or second-hand sweater. 

A link with information on cleaning second hand clothes. 

And here’s one of the many sites by people who recycle post-consumer clothes into new products:  Armoursansanguish

What are your thoughts about post-consumer clothes? 


Zuzana said...

I could not agree with you more; my boyfriend and I are avid second hand shoppers. In fact he introduced me to it. Anytime we can, anywhere we travel, we always visit flea markets and second hand stores. I made a post about it last year ("Vintage Stores and BookCrossing"). My most favorite clothes items and even jewelry (I too believe in the power of alcohol) were bought at second hand stores.;))

Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

I think it's a great idea. I spend a lot of time going through people's wardrobes getting rid of what doesn't work for them. Often I'll suggest an alteration or remake, but also lots goes to charity shops. Many of these clothes are in great shape, they just don't suit the owner. So if you can find a bargain and keep the world greener I say go for it!

Plus I love that you can buy better quality items at a cheaper price!

Lucy said...

I think they're grest and you found yourself some really treasures here:) Actually I find that many people are starting to raid these shops, much more than before; consequently, in my area, I'm finding less precious stuff than I used to.

Duchesse said...

I shop resale to afford high quality designer pieces or find unique pieces like your coat. Recent buys included a Ferre coat, $130,an original Halston wool crepe jacket, $100, and a Malo cashmere sweater-jacket, $60. Not interested in second hand Gap!

About shoes: it's not just smell, it's the wear pattern. Check to see that you can replace heel lifts and insoles. If the uppers and soles are in good shape, it's worth changing the lifts immediately so your gait is not affected by the previous owner's.

sallymandy said...

Protege: I agree about shopping second hand while traveling (though I usually don't find clothes, but other items). There's an authenticity about these places that's lacking in many of the shops set up for tourists. I found a couple tremendous local shops in Hilo, Hawaii a couple years ago.

Imogen: Exactly, one person's shopping mistake could be another person's treasure.

Ms Lucy: The stores in our town are certainly a lot busier than they used to be. And the prices have gone up.

Duchesse: There's something for every lifestye and fashion sense in resale! Sounds like you found some real treasures. I'm happy with second hand Gap if it's a useful basic. Their jeans fit me well.

Ingrid Mida said...

I too have found some delightful vintage gems in second hand shops. One of my favourite finds is a vintage Parisian coat in a fuschia and turquoise tweed-like wool. I always get compliments on it.

Stephanie N. said...

What a great PSA. There are so many people I wish I could make read this.

Most of the clothes that I have had for more than ten years were bought "post-consumer" at thrift shops and yard sales. It's amazing how well some of them have held up. At the time, it was something I did more out of financial necessity that out of a desire to reduce my impact on the environment. Nowadays, almost everything that I buy is new, largely because there are few "post-consumer" shopping options in the downtown neighborhood where I live. It's good to have a reminder that post-consumer shopping is a habit I should not set aside.

Sal said...

I adore thrifting for many of the reasons you've listed, and think post consumer shopping is a fantastic new descriptor of this decidedly eco-friendly act.

And holy cats am I excited that Armoursansanguish has an Etsy shop! I've loved them for ages, and always move too slowly to buy the pieces I adore.

Anna said...

I simply love the coat. I feel good about second-hand shopping, though I have trouble finding shoes.
I won't buy my kids anything but second-hand jeans. Somehow at ages 6 / 8 they're going through a hole-in-both knees stage that they missed in their younger years. It doesn't pay to put them in anything else for now!
I will take a look at those links. I buy most of my household goods from a variety resale/thrift shops for the exact reason you like your clothes: no one else has these things anymore and they feel so unique and special. I write about my found objects every Friday. COme visit!!

Jinksy said...

When my kids were small, I made loads of their stuff from cut, down second hand adult gear, often very trendy because of it. Nothing wrong with re-cycling goods!

drollgirl said...

it takes a lot of work, but you can find really super vintage stuff. i am partial to the jewelry, for sure!

sallymandy said...

Thanks everybody for the thoughtful comments!

Gal Friday said...

I am just loving your stripey shirts, sallymandy!
I shop at secondhand/consignment shops all the time(one is directly behind the shop where I work, and I often stroll over there on my lunch break). I can't spend too much money on clothes, but can always find quality clothing and better labels that way and still look pretty good.
Your dogs are sweet(Westies?)--how did you manage to get them both to look up like that when you took the photo?

Frugal Scholar said...

Great stuff--both your thoughts and your finds. My friends who lived in Montana moved before I visited. Now I see what I missed out on!