Embracing Secondhand

A few months into pursuing Zero Waste, I became engrossed by the documentary “The True Cost,” exploring the impact that the clothing industry has on life on our planet. From overproduction to poverty, the film tainted the way I look at what I buy. Every piece of clothing I owned passed through someone’s fingers & I grew obsessed with how making my clothing effected their well-being.

I also got a little obsessed with pairing down & making sure that every purchase I made got use. I’ve definitely fallen within the “starving artist” category more than once in my responsible adult life, so I cringed at the thought of how many cheap pieces of clothing fell apart within only a few wears or sat on the hanger after quickly loosing its shape. You know those tags at the supermarket that help you determine how much you’re actually spending per pound on your food? I felt like my clothing held a $15 price tag with $5/wear inscribed on the corner. Plus as creative as I was, I neglected to learn how to mend or alter the pieces after they were no longer loved.

And so my life was changed. I now lead with the rule of seven.

Today, I own seven complete outfits for any given season. Seven tank tops, seven sweaters or sweatshirts for cooler weather. Seven pairs of the same black sock (because who wants to search for a match). Our family does our laundry every morning but can usually stretch to every other day if this mama gets forgetful, which happens a lot – I’d always rather go on an adventure than focus on my next chore. We line dry our clothing to get more use out of each piece, so it takes one or two days to dry. This leaves several outfits to use if a kid makes a mess, if we leave for vacation, or just to add more variety to the rotation. There’s not one thing in my closet which is left unworn, which is a dramatically different beat I marched to before pairing down.

By maintaining less, I use more. A $20 shirt I purchased secondhand off ThredUP last month is already down to $1/wear in my hands alone & going strong.

But secondhand is dull, right?

What if I added that this magical chambray shirt was $80 new yet was sold to me worn just a few times? And that the manufacturer provides an Ironclad Guarantee to mend or repair their pieces?

I’m wearing a secondhand goddamn unicorn.

I took so much convincing before turning to secondhand goods. My misconceptions smelled like my grandmother’s closet, complete with her (comforting & nostalgic) brick-to-the-face perfume & stale cigarettes. When I was in early undergrad I scored amazing wrap skirts, yet somehow I lost touch with that thrill. Some towns have better thrift stores than others. My second undergrad college town indiscriminately stocked illformed Forever 21 T-shirts & hundreds of size 0 skinny jeans.

Discover the internet.

ThredUP & eBay are killing it with providing “new with tags” or “excellent used condition” clothing. BST (Buy Sell Trade) groups on Facebook can pair you up with your favorite brands. These sites & groups are best when you’re already familiar with the fit you’re looking for.

Secondhand allows you to find your own unicorn, however you may define it. Lululemon clothing without your consumer vote (aka cash) moving towards & otherwise rewarding the sizeist CEO? Check. Or simply cheap Lululemon – pick your poison. For me it’s been the answer to funding organic fairtrade clothing with an amazing repair policy with the budget of a starving artist.

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