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.
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.
Same 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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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.)
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?