Do you ever want to live more sustainably but do not know how to start? I found that the first step is simply trying. I started questioning my consumption of fast fashion when I was in high school and have slowly transitioned completely away from it.
We can find ourselves feeling stuck or even trapped shopping with fast fashion, but there is a way out! Completely altering where you buy your clothes from at first can feel overwhelming and honestly even expensive. However, the grass is greener on the other side and the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Original Views On Second Hand
Growing up my parent’s views on second-hand clothes were extremely different. My mother tried her best to buy new clothing for my siblings and me. She saw hand-me-downs as only desirable if they were directly from my sister. I think part of it was because she perceived second-hand clothing as her failing financially.
She did not want my siblings or me to be treated like she had seen kids wearing second-hand clothing when she was growing up. She also had a perception that second-hand clothes were of poor quality.
My father’s perception was the polar opposite. My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and her spending habits were quite unusual. She penny-pinched as much as she could on food, but never bought her kids anything that was not brand new. As my father grew up he saw the financial benefits of buying secondhand and embraced it wholeheartedly.
When I was in middle school, my parents moved out to Colorado. The cost of living there was extremely high and my family was struggling financially. Even though my mom was typically the one primarily focused on budgeting costs for clothing, it switched to my dad. He took me to Community Aid and the GoodWill bins when I needed new clothes. I started noticing that rather than only being able to purchase one of two pairs of jeans, my father was able to afford a couple more in addition to other items.
When I entered high school, I was living in Pennsylvania. My father and I began to bond by going thrifting together and I even started reselling online from time to time. However, thrifting was not where I was primarily buying my clothes. I was still budgeting my money to go shopping at the mall or at online shops.
I started to notice many more of my friends began to show interest in thrifting clothing. There was a major shift in the popularity of thrifting. I started to notice the thrift store’s demographics were changing. Many resellers were showing up every day and even more, teenage girls were beginning to go out and thrift.
I used to question if thrift shopping as a trend was positive or negative. Once I started realizing how much excess clothing is produced and burned each year, I felt much more positive about the thrifting boom. Thrift stores’ lower-income individuals were still being supported while more individuals were substituting fast fashion for a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Backtracking With Shein
While I was beginning to buy more and more items second hand I took one giant step backward. Shein was rising in popularity, and I was drawn in by the extremely low-priced items. Many sets were matched together and discount codes were all over the internet. Many items were trendy and highly affordable with even low purchase minimums for free shipping.
When I started college in my freshmen year, I was playing catch up — purchasing new clothing items I did not realize I would need. I was desperate for inexpensive trendy items to wear. I found myself no longer buying from malls but just from Shein. I was blissfully unaware of how much Shein went against my personal values.
My Triumphant Return Back To Second Hand
I started educating myself much more on the harms of fast fashion in the middle of my first semester at college. Luckily my Shein binge was very short-lived but unfortunately memorable. It was hard to adjust back to secondhand after getting used to my immediate wants being highly accessible. I pushed through and ended up deleting Shein along with all of my online shopping apps.
Broadening My Thrifting Scope
I was only buying second-hand clothing at physical locations before college. Although this is the best way to thrift, in my opinion, it is not always possible. In college, I did not have access to a car, and taking the bus out began to be a financial and time-consuming burden. The only thrift clothing apps I shopped on were Poshmark and Ebay. Luckily, I began to discover other apps like Depop, which offered more second-hand options that hit my personal style.
Although I try my absolute best to limit excessive waste, I do buy second-hand clothes online. I began to buy much more consciously as well. I started focusing on pieces I needed and not just buying items because I liked them. My purchases were more intentional than ever before.
As I progressed through college, sustainability became much more of a personal value of mine. I set goals for myself to become even more environmentally friendly. I have not bought clothing for myself from a mall in over a year. I have not redownloaded any fast fashion brand apps on my phone since I deleted them my freshmen year.
I have limited myself to only buying new undergarments and socks. Everyone has preferences inside their own comfort. Some individuals feel much more comfortable buying second hands items that have only been worn once or twice. There are online platforms available with items that fit those people’s personal preferences.
For some, secondhand altogether can be a large adjustment. I encourage those individuals to seek out eco-friendly brands. Buying from companies that are at least making an effort to limit their waste and create eco lines is a big step in the right direction.
My journey with thrifting took many years, and I still improve my consumption every day. I had no idea how much money I could save by thrifting. I was also unprepared for just how high the quality of clothing was available in the market. My stereotype of second-hand clothing was proved wrong time after time.
I have found apps with only high-fashion thrift items. I have bought numerous items with tags still attached. These instances are not rare either, they make up a large portion of thrifted items available.
The stigma of second-hand clothing has lessened, but it is still there. One of my favorite things to do with my friends is to take them thrifting for the first time and watch them become amazed at all that thrifting has to offer.
While it is difficult to buy second-hand clothing all the time it is possible to get closer than you could ever expect. When I buy clothing now, I think through much more than I did a year ago let alone three or four years ago.
I can confidently say now that I have fully detached myself from my dependency on fast fashion during my teenage years. If you are considering moving away from fast fashion I encourage you to start off by setting a goal and taking one step at a time toward sustainable shopping.