A Year of 2nd Hand 1st Outfits

2013-Collage1Photo 1: thrifted blazer, bag / Photo 2: thrifted belt, bag, skirt / Photo 3: thrifted skirt, belt / Photo 4: thrifted sweat shirt, sunglasses / Photo 5: thrifted belt, vintage ring

Waaaaay back at the beginning of 2013, I made a pledge to shop 2nd hand 1st for an entire year. I was inspired by many others who had also made similar pledges whether it for was ecological reasons or simply as a way to support their local businesses before shopping mass retail stores. My pledge was a little more radical – for me it meant I would only shop from thrift, consignment or other 2nd hand stores for an entire year. Yikes.

2013-Collage2 Photo 1: consignment scarf, flats, sweater / Photo 2: consignment blazer, 2nd hand boots/ Photo 3: resell dress, thrifted bag / Photo 4: thrifted top / Photo 5: thrifted sweat shirt, eBay bag

What this really meant was that I would stop scouring the Target clearance racks for a $5 “steal.” That I would not lunge at the newest and latest trendy item. That I wouldn’t go crazy for designer collaborations (Prabul Gurung for Target, Isabel Marant for H&M – yep, missed ’em both, plus others). It meant that I would be wearing a lot of what was already in my closet, figuring out how to mix and match, and thrifting – a lot.

2013-Collage3Photo 1: consignment sweater, vintage necklace / Photo 2: consignment sweater and Jimmy Choo’s / Photo 3: 2nd hand blazer, consignment kitten heels, thrifted clutch / Photo 4: thrifted skirt, 2nd hand top, antique necklace / Photo 5: consignment sweater and scarf

So how was a year of not shopping retail? Pretty darn good. I loved the sheer surprise on people’s faces as they asked, “Are you really only shopping at thrift stores?” (For the record, the answer was yes.) The year turned out to really be an adventure in clothes. While I was only shopping 2nd hand, I was shopping/looking quite frequently. I added plenty of “new” items to my wardrboe, some needed, some not so needed. I learned to slow down and really ask myself if my purchases were going to add quality to my wardrobe. All told, I spent about $1,700 this year on 2nd hand clothes, jewelry, shoes, and accessories. Ironically enough, my closet has never seen so many designer items and I have never really loved my wardrobe more.

2013-Collage4Photo 1: thrifted bracelet, consignment sandals / Photo 2: thrifted belt, consignment top, earrings and skirt / Photo 3: resell top, consignment skirt / Photo 4: thrifted vest and bracelet, consignment sandals / Photo 5: thrifted necklace an bracelets, consignment top, skirt and sandals

I don’t know that pledging to shop 2nd hand 1st is feasible, realistic or even appealing to some. But I found that it did help me in several shopping areas:

  1. I cut down on impulse spending. I can’t remember how many times I’ve frequented the sale or clearance racks just to find a “good deal.” I was the queen of getting something for cheap, but inevitably, those items always ended up falling apart or in my resell bag. I have never tracked my spending before this year, but I can almost guarantee that I spent more than I care to remember on these cheap, “deal” buys.
  2. I invested in quality over quantity. I will be the first to admit that some of my thrift hauls were not always quality, but I made up for that by shopping cheaply at thrift stores and discovering the wonders of consignment stores. I learned a lot this year about brands, designers, fabrics, and how a garment is constructed. I found that investing in a classic quality pair of shoes that will last beats replacing high street shoes every few months.
  3. I realized I do not need any new clothes. Ever think you would hear that from a fashion/style blogger? The only new items I purchased this year were 4 white tank tops from H&M which replaced the three I had that had holes, turned dingy and were in all around bad shape. These were the only items I actually could say I “needed” this year. I have everything I could ever need. But by shopping 2nd hand, I could splurge on some fun accessories or add something fun to my wardrobe (like a teal maxi skirt) that I may only keep for one year (it was $1). I have a whole closet full of things I can mix and match. The key is to just get in there and play.
  4. I loved supporting my local businesses and I made quite a few new friends doing it. Shopping in my local consignment stores this past year has been fun as the stores are small enough to really meet and interact not only with the staff, but the owners as well. I have been fortunate to be able to use these relationships to put on several events, write articles, and even film a TV spot. Imagine trying to do this with your local H&M.
  5. I figured out that I really do not like the retail shopping experience/environment. I recently went to the outlets for a Banana Republic Factory Store sponsored post. While I loved being able to choose my dress, I was not enamored with the retail experience. It was crowded, people were rushing, and I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of items made purely for mass consumerism. I also spent some time this Christmas shopping at a local mall for a few presents. Again, I felt the same things. Retail shopping, in my experience this year, fuels greed and distances people from each other.

2013-Collage5Was there anything I did miss not shopping retail? Sure, I missed the smell and feel of new clothes. I kinda missed the fashion hype of talking over who got what at the new designer collaborations. And I missed…well…not much else!

What will 2014 mean for 2nd hand 1st? A lot more! I haven’t quite decided if I will be making a staunch pledge to only shop 2nd hand first this year, but I have little reason to venture back into the world of mass retail. In 2014, I may shop more small boutiques and locally owned businesses because I absolutely love supporting my friends and fellow city dwellers who have pursued their dreams and shopping at these places allows me to invest back into my city. But I will never give up the fun, practicality, and true fashion creativity that comes from crafting a style that is centered around 2nd hand pieces. After all, they tell a story to retail piece ever can.


11 thoughts on “A Year of 2nd Hand 1st Outfits

  1. Thank you for sharing your year of 2nd hand 1st outfits. I would love to try this challenge for 2014. Can you provide a list of 2nd hand shops (if you haven’t already)?

    Shana R. Demby
    Program Administrator
    700 Quarters Rd., Bldg 12400
    Room 145
    Ft. Lee, VA 23801
    804-732-6082 office
    804-765-3533 fax

  2. I agree, there is a sense of accomplishment only shopping 2nd hand. Plus I love the surprise of it – not knowing what (if anything) you’ll find. I also feel like i’ve been buying more quality rather than quantity. but the flipside of that is I ended up with WAY more clothes than I need simply because used clothes are so much more affordable than new ones.

  3. You are so right that sometimes you do actually end up with more clothes thrifting because the prices is so good! I hadn’t thought of that when I was writing my recap.

  4. This is great and I’m really impressed you were able to keep it up for the whole year. I tend to challenge myself and then immediately give up. I’m a Virginia Blogger, as well, and have a blog on fair trade and sustainable fashion; this year I’m planning on focusing on a particular sustainable fashion goal each month. I think breaking it up into chunks will work better for me. I tend to visit thrifts pretty frequently, too, since I resell vintage on etsy. It’d be great to keep in touch; maybe I’ll finally come to a blogger meet-up. – Leah, wisestyle.wordpress.com

  5. Thanks! It helps that I actually LOVE thrifting and finding a good deal. I checked out your blog – I love it! Sustainable fashion is a very big thing. It gives you something else to think about when buying clothes. Come to the next VA bloggers meet up! Hopefully we can chat.

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