Thrifting in Boston: Ballin’ On a Budget and Killing the Fast Fashion Industry

We’ve all been guilty of feeding into fast fashion, whether it’s something you’ve heard of before or if it’s a term that’s literally never hit your ears. Fast fashion is picking up a crop top from Forever 21 to fit the theme of a party, ordering a cheap dress on websites like Shein, or shopping at H&M and Zara. 

Put in the simplest of terms, fast fashion is the rapid production of inexpensive clothing by mass-markets to keep up with the latest trends. It’s low-quality clothing, with even lower costs.

It seems great at first glance, a cheap way to keep up with the runway, but it’s estimated that each year the United States alone throws out 11 million tons of clothing garments. In a study done by Greenmatters, it was found that fast fashion items are “often worn less than 5 times, kept for roughly 35 days, and produce over 400 percent more carbon emissions per item per year than garments worn 50 times and kept for a full year.”

The apparel industry accounts for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions, according to Unearthed by Greenpeace. Polyester, the most common fabric used in creating the clothing maintaining fast fashion, is petroleum-based: it’s created from a carbon-intensive and non-renewable resource. 

Not only is the carbon footprint of fast fashion atrocious, but it also comes loaded with human rights violations. To make the clothing as cheap as it is, many companies employ people in sweatshops, in which employees are underpaid and working unethical hours. 

We’ve all heard the jokes on Twitter about Forever 21’s tendency to put ridiculous sayings on otherwise cute clothing (see below), but Forever 21’s file for bankruptcy signals more than just a more mature taste in fashion: it’s a switch to the rise of “slow fashion.”

Slow fashion is “the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity,” according to Study-NY. It encourages “slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste.” It’s creating sustainable fashion, and brands like Reformation, People Tree, and Everlane are leading the change. 

However, if you’ve been on any of those websites for even five minutes, you know they’re expensive. Definitely not student-priced. You may be asking, how can we, college students wanting to look their best, ball sustainably on a budget and kill fast fashion? 

You already know it!!! Thrifting!!!

Here are a few thrift stores to start your move into the world of sustainable fashion. I’m sure there are plenty more hidden gems in Boston, because that’s the beauty of this city.

  1. Goodwill is the most common thrift shop you can find ⁠— they’re everywhere! They can be a bit of a mess, but you truly never know what you’ll find if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, take an hour or two off, and dig into the madness. Last week at the Comm. Ave location, I snagged a brand new pair of Levi Ribcage jeans (with tags!) that are A) sold out online and B) retail for $128… I scored them for $7. I also found two cashmere sweaters, a working original Polaroid 600 with film, and a super cute dress I wore to a concert: my total was $22. I was a happy camper! (FYI: they have student discounts on Thursdays.)

    Locations:

    965 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

    520 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

    1010 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02119

  2. You’ve heard it before: Buffalo Exchange is more expensive than other thrift shops, and I’m here to confirm that it’s true. However, it’s also a much higher-end store. Here you can find top brands and newer items for a much lower cost; plus, it’s fun. Be sure to bring your own bag!

    Locations:

    180 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

    238 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

  3. Right in Allston, Urban Renewals is super easy to access. But fair warning, she is a cash-only shop (there’s an ATM though). Some may argue against me here, but I say that it’s pretty organized. They have a huge selection of basically everything; if you want it, chances are they have it (and then some). Like in Goodwill, though, patience is a virtue in this store. It’s organized by color, not by size.

    Location:

    122 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA 02134

  4. I love Garment District. You can buy clothes here by the pound, $2/lb usually and $1/lb on Fridays (great for tees, less fab for sweaters). It’s fun and unique and you literally dig through piles of clothing like you’re trying to find your favorite shirt the morning after you do laundry. While the by-the-pound selection is a bit chaotic, the upstairs section is highly organized and sells everything and anything you can imagine when it comes to clothing. They have contemporary clothes, designer clothes, costumes, clothing by the decade (love me some good 70s and 80s style, regardless of its tackiness). If you can imagine it, there’s a chance it’s at Garment District. 

    Location:

    200 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

Thrifting around Boston is easy, and these shops are just the tip of the iceberg. Buying second hand is fun––it’s a treasure hunt in the city. Grab some friends, roll up your sleeves, and enjoy the subtle art of thrifting your way through life.

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