“I Thrifted It”

Ava Soleibe, Staff Writer

The most extensive fashion anomaly to date, stigma to super trend: Thrifting. As I see it, there are three main appeals that have moved this last resort to the front of the clothing industry: uniqueness, sustainability, and access.

What began as a way to save money and an alternative to traditional shopping has evolved into a trend of epic proportions. The stigma surrounding wearing secondhand clothing has been eliminated due to a flurry of media attention. NPR says, “Not surprisingly, social media is driving the obsession. Influencers post massive thrift hauls on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.” In retrospect, I am surprised thrifting did not garner its massive community sooner. The quite universally affordable prices are enough to draw a crowd. However, it took influencers partaking in this practice and raving about their finds online for the public to notice. Sophomore Liv Jensen, a veteran thrifter, says, “If I see something on Pinterest and I think it is cute, I will be looking for something that looks like that. Some Youtubers are all fashion. They talk about old trends, new trends, what they think are going to be trends. [Social Media] affects trends.” The low risk factor of thrift shopping has an enormous appeal. Junior Brecon Adams, wearing his favorite thrift find, loose black jeans, says, “It saves money, and there are a lot of clothes I would not usually buy, because ‘oh that’s eighty bucks and I do not think I will wear it a ton, versus, ‘that is ten bucks, and I can re-donate it.’ It is sustainable.” In the same way that thrifting allowed people with limited income to clothe their families, us teens with our minimum wage jobs in various food and retail industries, can afford to experiment with different styles. Senior Paige Bryan says, “A lot of the time, the stuff that is in thrift stores is not trendy, you just find something cool, and you are like ‘I need that.’ It is so cheap, it is so affordable.” In this way, Gen Z is pushing new boundaries with fashion, simultaneously emphasizing personal style while buying into the trend of thrifting, Jensen admitted, “It is cool to say, ‘oh I thrifted it.’” Bryan calls her thrifted pieces “good art” and says, “For the past two years, I only thrift shopped. When I buy clothes, I go thrifting first.” And it has paid off. Throughout the conversation, Bryan detailed the stories of her favorite finds: a vintage navy corps jacket, a Brady Bunch tee and a Dave Matthews band tee, brown Doc Martens, two pairs of white sneakers, a brown leather aviator jacket, a Carhartt jacket, and a windbreaker.

Undoubtedly, this new-old concept of shopping is attractive due to its ease. Unfortunately, it is equally as easy to exploit. Bryan says, “People do massive hauls and buy things for mini trends, wear them once, and then put them in thrift stores.” What is problematic about this, according to the New York Times, is that “’those hauls just encourage overconsumption.’” When influencers (and those they are influencing) contribute to the cycle of discarding garments from fast fashion brands, purchasing them, then re-dispensing them, it reduces the quality of clothing available in thrift stores. Fast fashion clothing is made to be temporary, and although donating it is a better option than landfills, a Value Village brimming with Shein is a waste of space. Some deign to say the golden age of thrifting is over, but I think that is a product of gatekeeping and pessimism. According to freshman Konner Lu-Nguyen, thrifting in this era is truly about acquiring items “that you cannot find on Amazon.” I set out to evaluate Issaquah’s scene.

Value Village, Issaquah’s most local chain secondhand store, is always a viable option if you are ready to sift. It is traditional in nature; the sections are organized by article of clothing, and the content will change depending on the season. Bryan says. “Value Village is always picked over, unless you go on restock day.” Jensen agrees, saying, “It is really fun to go through all the racks. Everyone says they ‘never find anything’ but you have to go every week. It is a good time to go through stuff and I usually go with my sisters, so we are like: ‘You take this row, I will take this row’ and then we put anything we like in a cart and go through it at the end.” I took the Jensen approach; I diligently combed the racks, and pored over my choices at the end, utilizing a mirror in the home décor section to try on what I could. I walked out the door with brown, slightly flared pants that fit shockingly well, and a brown sweater that I cannot wait to outfit repeat with.

The Goodwill Bins are like holy ground for thrifters. It is a temple of miscellany. Located in the Sodo region of Seattle, I made the trek and cajoled three friends to come and dig with me. Upon entering, I witnessed all walks of life: a mother-daughter duo picking out outfits for each other and giggling at the finds, groups of friends hauling carts piled to the high ceilings and asking each other’s opinions, quiet, pensive. The Bins are true to their name: it is plainly a ton of massive containers of clothing that you may never emerge from if you dig too deep. The Bins hold everything that does not sell in Goodwill chain stores, essentially a thrifting outlet. Between the four of us, my friends and I spent a grand total of $8.69, giving new lives to charcoal corduroy pants, sweats, Levis loose straight jeans, a rose-colored tee, and a sweater from a beach I have never been to. It was thrilling to experience this cornerstone of the thrift scene, and fun to laugh over some utterly random items (a tee featuring the phrase “Panic at the Costco” took the cake).

I ventured to Fremont to scope out a more niche thrift spot. The Fremont Vintage Mall features mini shops curated by those who I would consider Olympians if thrifting was a sport. The shop is fantastical and eclectic. It looks like a Pinterest board produced by Lewis Caroll, but it exceeds even Alice in Wonderland’s level of whimsy. My favorite section was a funky rack that included mixed media clothing like patchwork pants and psychedelic printed skirts. Every attached tag was printed onto a playing card from a random deck. Ultimate thrifting. A friend and I left with handmade posters and the joy of a colorful afternoon.

Throughout this process, I gained a new zeal for shopping secondhand. It is the informality and the opportunity for spontaneity. It is the fact that I found myself giggling at finds while shopping, an activity that typically stresses me out because of the consumption pressures and constraints of expense. I found pieces I will wear for a long time, and confidence in the ethics and individuality of thrifting. I encourage one and all to grab your drink of choice, harness an open mind, and spend an hour or five wandering the racks.