Self expression through second-hand sales
February 10, 2023
For some, clothes and fashion don’t matter. They wake up, throw on a T-shirt and jeans and call it a day. What they are wearing simply doesn’t make a difference to them in their day to day lives.
For others, fashion is a form of art, a form of self expression. They spend hours upon hours to create a unique look, each painstaking detail matching the outfit perfectly.
As long as clothing has been around, it has been used in a way to say something about its wearer. Each piece of clothing has its own unique story, good or bad. Through vintage and second-hand shops, the clothes have a way to share their stories through different people.
Former Wando student Audrey Kelly first got into thrifting and second hand clothing after seeing others on social media platforms do so. Kelly liked the way their style stood out and decided to try it out for herself.
“I started following these girls that started thrifting all their clothes and I really liked how the style looked and it was better than anything that was being put out as a mass product and what I was wearing then. So I started to thrift here and there and go to vintage markets and stuff like that, and now everything I own is either thrifted or vintage,” Kelly said.
After several years of thrifting, Kelly fell into her sense of style. Because of cheaper prices, she felt comfortable to take more risks with the clothes she bought and wore. Since she had adapted into the world of thrifting, she decided to start selling some of the clothes she found or owned, afterall it was something she liked doing. It would also allow her closet to be filled with new and exciting pieces, instead of idle items that she would never rewear.
“I unfortunately only like to wear clothes once or twice because I get tired of them. So anything that I had already worn, and just knew that I wasn’t gonna like to wear again. Somebody else definitely would appreciate having it more than I would,” Kelly said. “I just figured I would go in and just try selling it, it’s really fun… especially if you’re thrifting the clothes, Because you get the clothes for like, two or three dollars and obviously you shouldn’t upcharge a lot, but you can sell it for what it’s worth or even a little bit less.”
While searching the racks and bins of thrift stores, Kelly finds a lot of bad mixed in with the good. She tries to go in with a plan on what she is searching for, based on anything from a whole aesthetic to what she wants for a certain outfit. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean she strictly follows that plan.
“I go based on color or like the silhouette of a specific item I’m looking for. But really it’s just if anything speaks to me or I can envision myself creating an outfit with it. That’s what I’ll go for. .. you get more creative when you get to buy more clothes,” Kelly said.
Kelly will also go for certain brands that she knows will both sell well and last long. According to Kelly, she finds that these name brands, especially those more popular in the past, make the clothes with better and more sustainable materials.
“Clothes that were made in the nineties or eighties I think were made much better too, like with less polyester and like spandex and cheap material.The clothes that were made a long time ago lasts better. So I know to go for those brands because I know that those clothes are more sustainable and they last a long time,” Kelly said
Kelly doesn’t just think thrifting is a great tool to develop a unique sense of fashion, she finds it important because of the ethics that go with it. A large part of waste is clothing, and buying second-hand helps contribute to that less.
“It’s really important to buy second hand because of mass production and over consumerism, you know,..clothes are one of the biggest contributors to landfills. When things are dropped off at landfills, they just sit there, The TikTok trends and fast fashion, it’s always like micro trends, like the patchwork jeans or galaxy tops, they go out of a style really quickly.So people are buying this like cheap material made by people that are working in the shops that are getting paid, basically nothing. So that already is a problem, but then you people end up throwing out those clothes in like two months,” Kelly said.
Overall, Kelly thinks that even though thrifting can be frustrating and even scary at times, it’s worth it in the long run.
“And it seems scary and it seems daunting because you never really know where to begin and such can seem overwhelming, but you’re doing the world a favor and you’re doing yourself a favor,e. It’s really important to find your own style and it’s really important to do it in a way that is better for the environment,” Kelly said.
Junior Caolinn McDaniel prefers to buy her clothes second hand, or even sew them herself. She also has concerns on how clothing is being produced and how it impacts the environment.
“There’s microplastics in most fabrics that are mass produced because it’s just faster that way,
and they’re stronger and stretchier,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel also feels strongly against clothes being tossed aside as a result of short lived trends- which seem to be primarily caused by the quick diffusion of ideas through social media. McDaniel feels that these trends just contribute to the abundance of clothing waste.
“When fast fashion happens, there’s so much waste because people come up with whole entire new wardrobes, almost every year, and they throw out most of their clothes instead of donating them or using them somewhere else, giving them to someone else. That creates a bunch of waste that takes years to break down,” McDaniel said
The term “Fast Fashion” originated with the popular clothing store Zara when it only took 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores. The term is used to describe brands quickly mass producing “trendy” clothes for affordable prices.
McDaniel, however, believes that these quick turnaround times are at others expense.
“The workers aren’t paid fairly for their time. Especially with crochet, because there isn’t a machine that makes crochet so every single piece of crochet that you see was handmade and these pieces are selling for a couple dollars, which is not enough for people’s time and labor on that,” McDaniel said.“Fast fashion sites pay their workers less than minimum wage, less than any sort of livable wage imaginable, which is just awful for these people working impossible hours.. it exploits people, it harms the environment and it just creates a lot of waste.”
Senior Grace Davisson also likes to buy clothes secondhand. However, as she visits some local thrift stores she notices an abundance of these “fast fashion” brands sitting on the racks, untouched.
“I think fast fashion is just kind of wasteful, because we just buy it and then get rid of it because it’s so cheaply made and falls out of trend so quickly…Now, you’ll go to the racks and it’s sad because almost everything is Shein and no one buys it because they know it’s bad. So it just kind of sits there,” Davisson said.
Junior Grace Zuo has had similar experiences while thrifting.
“It’s just sad because the thrift stores that are supposed to be selling better quality stuff for cheaper, and you’re looking for good pieces of clothing when you find fast fashion and at the thrift it’s like $5 when they probably bought it for a dollar, it’s just sucks,” Zuo said.
Even with fast fashion polluting the thrift store, Zuo still prefers to shop secondhand because she doesn’t know what retail stores she can trust.
“I know it’s very unethical, especially the places where it’s made and some name brands, their stuff is made in sweatshops, so it’s just hard to determine where you can buy stuff.
Also, it’s bad quality because obviously the workers are not being compensated for their labor. So the products are not gonna be good quality,” Zuo said.
Zuo especially feels that these fast fashion stores lead to an unoriginal, un-personalized style, as people are just following what others are doing.
“I feel like fast fashion has just contributed to an unauthentic sense of style, especially since social media. Since TikTok I feel fashion trends are just excelling super quickly,” Zuo said.
“So everyone’s basically wearing the same pattern or top and it’s just very, unauthentic.”
McDaniel largely feels as if not participating in the “fast fashion” trends has allowed them to dress more comfortably and let their individuality show through their clothes.
“I don’t try to dress in fashion trends. I dress in what makes me comfortable, and I think that that’s the main thing behind me sewing my own clothes and buying them while they’re more expensive, more cherishable, secondhand pieces,” McDaniel said.
After Junior Andrew Malin started thrifting, he felt that his personal style really developed more.
“I love just knowing that there’s a lot more options out there and it gives sort of just a variety of clothes. You also get a lot of different options and try different styles that are more affordable,” Malin said.
Malin will stop himself from buying something second hand if he feels he has similar clothing items, as thrifting is all unique items and others need the clothes too. However, Malin feels as his closet has both expanded and improved because of lower thrifting prices allowing him to try out and enjoy more and different styles of clothes.
“I’m crafting something that I wanna wear on my own, that I get to choose and it’s your own style. So it makes it more special. I’ve definitely bought a lot of different clothes, I don’t think I would wear normally simply because of the price tag. ” Malin said. “I didn’t think I would ever like wearing some of these things and I was just more happy with jeans and sneakers and hoodie. But,because I got to just have more accessibility to older stuff, there’s all these options.. I realized what I’d like to wear more.”
Similarly to Malin, McDaniel notices her and others personalities coming across through second hand clothing-no matter where its sourced for. She felt that her clothing should be a way to express herself and not what’s trending, vintage clothing allowed that for her.
“Overall, I think buying second hand helps establish individuality, especially in fashion because it has a story behind it. So it’s not just mass produced, it’s yours. It’s special.” McDaniel said.