Hello and happy Thursday, vintage lovers!!
If I had my way, my heaven would be a thrift store — and the reality of it all is that most of you reading today’s post probably would want that, too!
So that’s why I’m devoting this blog post to why thrift shopping our wardrobes is such an addiction. Whether we prefer the thrill of a thrift store proper, the thrift travels that take us to flea markets, garage sales and estates sales or shopping our favorite local vintage boutique or the closets of a friend for a mutual style swap: There’s boundless opportunity to thrift our fashion versus buy our fashion new.
But not only is it about the great finds and the money we save whilst thrifting, but it’s about how thrifting makes us feel that keeps us coming back.
That’s what an addiction is about, right? We can’t stop wanting the high it gives us, so each time that high ends we just turn around and go looking for it again … !
Keep reading after the jump for 5 of the many reasons we’re ALL addicted to thrift store shopping. And for more on the thriting lifestyle, check out my post Thrift Jargon 101, too!
I’ve been wanting to write today’s post for a while because it’s almost as if the thrift Gods have granted me inspiring signs to write it often as of late.
Inspiration for today’s post began after meeting the lovely Elizabeth Hine of Hinesite Vintage in my hometown. She told me that thrifting at the town’s local Salvation Army is like “therapy,” and that she can “simply let her fingers glide over the fabrics and know which piece is vintage by touch alone.”
Then last week I had a great conversation with Carmen & Ginger of Etsy, who shared her thrift addiction with me as well. And just this past Sunday night during the weekly Google + live video chats I’m hosting, vintage lover Wilda spoke on how she’d like to start selling some of her thrifted possessions because she thrifts so often that her collection is growing … and fast!
Whether having a thrifting addiction is good or bad is up to you: Like all good things in life we love, it’s best to experience them in moderation. Not only do we not indulge in potentially damaging effects, but we keep enough distance between us and the activity so that we can step away from it for periods of time without feeling anxiety and stress.
But who’s to say … it’s me talking here!! I may just spend a $40 credit I have at the Goodwill this weekend. It’s burning a hole in the pocket of my thrifted coat!
REASON #1: WE THRIFT FOR THERAPY
There’s a reason Thrift Jargon 101 has “Thrift Release” and “Thrift High” on its list: The act of thrifting undoubtedly releases the same feel-good endorphins that a natural high provoked by another activity (running, sex, eating chocolate) creates.
Taking time “away from it all” to enter the unknown possibility of a thrift store is how some women seek solace from the insanity of their lives.
It’s in a thrift store that no one can bother you. Associates do not ask to help you and you enter and leave fitting rooms at your free will, especially considering there are usually no crazy lines (but sometimes crazy kids).
Overall, it’s usually a friendly environment consisting of a myriad of people. Sometimes we make temporary thrift pals in our adventures, combing the racks together in unity that can only occur thanks to the inspiration of this bonding fashion environment.
But even more importantly than the peace thrifting brings is the opportunity it brings us.
Case in point: it’s the only “shopping environment” of retail that involves a full-blown CART! It’s like grocery shopping for your clothes. You can fill your cart as high as you’d like and even go for seconds on those knit sweaters if you’d like. No one is going to judge your fashion gluttony!
But looking beyond the opportunity to take home material things, thrifting is a time to take home peace of mind, because it’s a few hours when you can be with just yourself. Without the pressure of an errand to run, you can decompress and simply walk the aisles without any desires, needs or goals.
There’s a spontaneity to thrifting that fuels the fire of addiction — with such packed, scheduled lives it’s refreshing to simply “be” in a thrift store.
REASON #2: WE THRIFT FOR FASHION EQUALITY
The beauty of thrift stores is that there is absolutely nothing curated about them. The Goodwills and the Thrift Villages and the Savers and the Salvation Armies and the St. Vincents and the … [insert your local thrift here].
Since your local thrift jaunt is nothing but a mash-up of well — just about anything and everything! — that means you’ll see and have the opportunity to co-exist with pieces of fashion which otherwise would be out of your reach via any other mainstream outlet.
Take designer finds for example. While I live in the fashion capital of the world, I do not have the budget to shop on Madison Avenue, Saks, Barney’s Co-Op or any of these other high-end, high-fashion stores of NYC. Nor would I want to when I know that I’ll find equally beautiful and originally-as-expensive-things at my local thrift store outpost.
Thrifting is almost like the ultimate fashion equalizer: No matter where we live or who we are, we can still find and be found by gorgeous, “expensive” things.
I remember growing up and plastering my walls with models from W Magazine. At 14-years-old I was studying the prices of the clothing, literally turning to the back pages of the mag only to see “price upon request” written in the teeniest of fonts! I learned young and fast that gorgeous things weren’t available to the masses … until I discovered thrifting, that is!
When it came to a thrift store, I found find pieces of comparable gorgeousness to ones featured in magazines if I looked hard enough. I didn’t have to be Kate Moss to wear them and I could buy them with my teenager budget of income from working at my local newspaper.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do: We can all THRIFT! You can be a top class runway model or editor of a fashion magazine; a conservative mom in Middle America or a fly-til-you-die grandmother in Atlanta; a style-obsessed teen or a looney techno raver or heck, even a homeless man! No matter your past, present or future, there is space to shop secondhand style. And it is that secondhand style which can outfit us into the people we know we are and aspire to always be.
When it comes to the thrift store, it doesn’t matter WHO you are. We all step forth into one and are made equal, and it is in this environment that fashion becomes a point of inspiration and not a point of difference between us.
REASON #3: WE THRIFT FOR TREASURE
The most obvious, and the most stimulating aspect of the condition that is “Thrift Addiction.”
When we thrift, we seek treasure. It’s all about the hunt and then somewhere “in the brush,” we see our find and move in for the catch! Thrifting is a great comparison to the act of hunting: Instead of buying our “food fashion” pre-packaged at the grocery store, we’re hitting the forest of fashion to secure our evening meal.
The homespun aspects of thrifting is what give our wardrobes a better taste, too — this treasure was found with our own initiative and intellect.
While we may find a few nice things in our thrift travels on a consistent basis, what really keeps us coming back for more is the chance that we’ll score the big enchilada of thrift treasure.
Like a pirate of treasure or a hunter of a Thanksgiving feast, we keep thrifting because we know that “big find” is always right around the corner. We simply have to keep scoring the racks!
Whatever that stellar score is — for me, it’s a great vintage find or a designer piece — we know that it “exists somewhere out there” so even if we strike out on multiple thrift visits, we aren’t discouraged from coming back for more.
Arguably this could be an entirely different reason why thrifting is an addiction, but to sum it up: Thrifting for treasure is like playing a sport. You win some and you lose some, but in the end it’s all about the fun of the game and the potential to “bring home the gold.”
REASON #4: WE THRIFT FOR BRAGGING RIGHTS
Probably the most indulgent reason for our thrift addictions is the opportunity our finds present to boast, brag and be proud of savvy style!
I get a kick out of the compliments I receive on those pieces I either found for free or less than the cost of a Starbucks latte. Or perhaps I scored a sweet vintage find on a whim whilst roadtripping, never expecting to find it at the back 15 minutes before closing time.
You know the scenarios! Sometimes its the unexpected finds that make for the best, most brag-worthy stories.
REASON #5: WE THRIFT FOR SAVINGS
Not all thrifters thrift for the same financial reasons. Some of us thrift because like the addiction inspires, we like to add to our wardrobes without a high financial investment. It’s not that we can’t afford “new” things, it’s just that we can get more pieces at a thrift store for the price of one new thing. We are addicted and we want to thrift OFTEN, and so the low cost of the pieces lowers the barrier of opportunity to thrift frequently.
But then there are those thrifters who may be working moms with two kids. They must thrift so that they can save money for other life experiences. I know many moms who swear that they will never buy new things for their children: Why, when they are just going to grow out of that Baby Gap outfit that cost the price of 5 outfits from the thrift store?
Regardless of your reasons to save money thrifting, the reality is the same for all no matter their economic drives: You can grab a few pieces for the price of a good meal, shop an entire season’s wardrobe without needing to put it on your credit card or just shop for the sake of purchasing a few superfluous things with your flex money.
Some thrift stores cost more than others. I know that living where I do in the heart of NYC, I’m buying $14.99 dresses at the Goodwill versus the $5.99 ones you may be picking up in Florida. And when it comes to buying vintage at a boutique, you may not be getting a “thrifty” price but you’re certainly finding high-quality, top-of-the-trends pieces for less than you would at a new store like Zara, Urban or Madewell where that same piece retails for double or triple as much.
Addictions are best fueled when they come free, or at least cheap. So reason #5 may be one of the most important reasons why the thrift addiction is so rampant these days: The demand is so high because the supply is so CHEAP!
REASON #5.5: WE THRIFT FOR INSPIRATION
Reason 5.5 may be an afterthought, but the most important one for me: I thrift to share and to inspire others to reach their creative potential through the act of shopping secondhand.
Arguably I have a better position to inspire others because of this blog and my social media as platforms of reach to an audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still inspire with your own thrift accomplishments. I like to say that if you “can’t do great things, do small things great.”
When you go thrifting next, ask a friend to tag along who may have been hesitant to thrift herself. I have acquaintances who ask me, “How do you find such great things thrifting? I can’t do it! I’m too impatient!” Sometimes, you have to teach a man to fish rather than fish for me.
So bringing a friend along to “teach the ways of thrift” is the most inspiring thing you can do for the benefit of the secondhand industry. Your friend will feel like a special guest on a foreign journey. And who knows what domino effect your teachings will have? Kindness — and inspiration — is a pay-it-forward model!
Or thrift to purchase all of your holiday gifts and then write on the cards how you “found this piece of treasure just for them” and why it was so meaningful that you saw the potential in it for them. They’ll have something to talk about after opening your present, which gives that gift a greater meaning that if you simply ordered it off Amazon.com or picked it up at the mall.
I once gave my brother a slew of bow ties purchased at an estate sale. We have a great video clip of me explaining how I found them to the entire family as we sat around the Christmas tree. I smile at the sheer thought of repeating this scene for Christmas 2011!
When I was selling full time for Sammy Davis Vintage, I brought my mom to the Salvation Army to help me find vintage coats. Considering she lived in the ‘60s & ‘70s, she was GOOD at spotting the best styles in lightning speed! She was inspired through this act of search & seize and in the experience we became closer as a mother-daughter pair because she shared her stories of growing up in the eras with me as we examined the great potential of our vintage scores.
The easiest way to inspire thank to today’s technology? Shout out your finds with a post to Facebook, Twitter or simply emailing a mall-store-fiend friend of yours a picture of your great thrifty finds! You’d be surprised at the response from both strangers and confidants to your secondhand shopping success.
And undoubtedly, the positive feedback to your inspiration through sharing will further fuel the adrenaline rush and the awesome addiction that thrifting brings.
Thrift & vintage lovers, we may come from parts all of the world, from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and live with our unique value system … but the one thing that can always bring us together in the unity that is fun, fresh and inspirational fashion is THRIFTING.
MORE THRIFT SHOPPING TIPS
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WEALTH: How to Save Money Thrift Shopping
ADVICE: 10 Risky Things Not to Buy at Thrift Stores
TIPS: 18 Tips for Buying Used Clothes
RISK: Avoiding Bed Bugs at the Thrift Store
VIDEO: Thrift Shopping the Goodwill Outlet
PLUS: The Complete Thrift Shopping Dictionary