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Clothing: An Argument for New

This feels like it should be a confession. That there is somehow shame in buying new clothes. Because I pay (mostly) full price. Because they are items (mostly) made overseas. Shame on me as a Conscientious Consumer. Or something. Because the more I think about it, and believe me I think things to absolute death, the more buying new clothes is a proper use of my time and resources.

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I do a fair amount of thrifting. As the holder of one full time job, the blogger of this here blog, the tender of one Ugly Garden, and the owner to too many dogs, fair is completely subjective. I don’t generally have the time commitment it takes to ‘get to know’ my local thrift stores. I don’t get to stop by every day or every week. I don’t know when they put out the good stuff, when they have sales, who the good cashiers are, or all the other tips and tricks to improve my haul. Ditto garage sales.

When I thrift, I tend to get stuff. Good stuff. Mason Jars, Pyrex, Board Games, and strange art, but still stuff. Stuff that doesn’t require me to go into mildly disturbing dressing room, to contemplate sizes, to meticulously inspect for holes and stains, to carefully consider long term wear-ability. Talk about time commitment.

Combine that with my general clothing strategy, which goes a little something like this: Buy high quality basic items, and wear the ever loving shit out of them. Until just recently, I’d been wearing two pair of jeans since 2009. Granted they were $100 jeans, and in 2011 I supplemented with another pair. However, I wear jeans a lot. Like most everyday of the week. Even at brand new and $100, I’d say I got my money’s worth. It’s not just the jeans. I was wearing tank tops and t-shirts from before I got down to my goal weight. Not the best fitting of items at the moment, but usable and of good enough quality to hold up. Before I bought new shoes last December, I’d been wearing their predecessors from prior to The Leap.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? To be perfectly blunt, fashion maven, not me. T-shirts. Tank tops. Items with hoods. Although, I will admit to a little vanity (I love those $100 jeans!). When I’m done with my clothes they are ready for the rag drawer, and not much else.

I supplement where possible, with Groupons and even the occasionally thrifted or hand me down item that falls into my lap. Its just not enough to fight the tides of time on my wardrobe. Sometimes when your two favorite pairs of jeans have truly abandoned you with holes in unforgiving places, when there is no amount of bleach that will restore the luster of tanks and T’s, when even years of meticulous line drying have rendered items threadbare, sometimes you gotta bite the bullet. And go to the Outlet Mall.

The Outlet Mall, which while reprehensible, is still far superior to the traditional mall. Both in layout and (usually) in price. The Outlet Mall where with a 90 minute time commitment (Let’s call it 140 minute with driving) I can acquire enough items to see me through to my next major life change (since that seems to be when I acquire clothes). The quality of items I’m looking for, at prices I can swallow, especially given projected longevity. 90 minutes = 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 2 workout shirts, 1 pair running shorts, 3 t-shirts, 1 tank top, and a pull-over hoody. It would take me time and eternity, not to mention multiple stops and trips, to wade through the rack after rack of Aeropostale, American Eagle, and Hollister for any hope of finding an equivalent thrift store haul.

I like the idea of it. Really, I do. Second hand, quality clothes at a fraction of the price of new. Who doesn’t like the sound of that? The reality is somewhat different. Stained clothes, higher than expected prices, limited availability. I will continue to peruse the clothing during my thrift excursions. If those diamonds in the rough make it my way, bonus! That prolongs the next trip for new that much further.

There are some yucky politics in play here too. I’ve not forgotten. Sweat shops. Livable wages. Carbon footprints. In actuality, those are still concerns with most thrifted items. Just one step removed. I don’t want to diminish that step. But, I’d rather focus my energy on making full use of the resources I do choose to acquire, rather than returning more of the same items back to the cycle. There’s got to be an awful lot of waste in those aisles of subpar clothes. Who’s really buying that pit-stained defunct tech company t-shirt? How many painting shirts do we need? Is processing into carpet pad the best use of those resources?

Maybe this is just justification for an area where I don’t have the time to ‘do it right’. Choosing not to buy an iPad? Easy. Holding on to an archaic cellphone for a little too long? Challenging, but still just inertia. I draw the line at spending hours on a quest which has historically netted me bupkiss. We all draw it somewhere.

What do you think? Cop out? New clothes? Or used? Am I the only one that consistently strikes out with thrift store clothing? Does anyone else wear their clothes until they are rags?

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Comments

Crystal Wayward
Reply

My solution tends to be clothing swaps. But for that it helps to have some friends your size. I also wear clothes until they’re about ruined and have mad guilt when I spring for the good-looking stuff.

dogsordollars
Reply

I’ve been on the lookout for friends in my size. I think it would be great to take part in an official clothing swap. So far, I’m just benefitting from The BFF’s pre maternity wardrobe. ;)

Tracy
Reply

I try the thrift stores as well. Find a few items here and there but don’t base my wardrobe on them. As far as wearing them til they are rags – not so much. After being a stay at home mom for 8 years i was excited to buy clothes for work so i tend to replace quite often. If it eases your mind any I give all my clothes to my niece. Often times she will see me wearing something and ask how long before she gets it. She is 24 and I am 44 so either I am dressing too young or she is dressing too old :)

dogsordollars
Reply

Either way, lucky niece! That’s what I need: a wardrobe mama. :D

Miser Mom
Reply

For me, the real problem with buying new clothes is incompetence. I try something on, think “this looks good”, get home, and realize I hate it. I did that with far too many mall clothes in my way-back-when days. Whatever guilt goes with that (“I can’t get rid of it after all the money I paid”) gave me a closet over full of clothes I didn’t wear. Now that I buy my clothes for a dollar or less, I don’t feel bad about tossing it [=putting it in the “to give away’] immediately if it doesn’t look/feel right on me.

I admire people who actually can predict what clothes they like while they’re still in the store. You, yes. Me, no.

dogsordollars
Reply

Oh now, that’s interesting. I have the opposite problem. I am more inclined to buy thrifted stuff I’m not in love with because it’s just a buck or 5. I’ll make excuses for the item because of its cheapness. Then not really end up wearing it. Where as, if I’m paying retail prices, I put more thought into how long this item is going to stick around. Its that whole ‘getting my money’s worth’ attitude – not hard to do with $1, so easier to purchase. More difficult with $25, so I’ll think carefully.

Also my wardrobe? Not complex.

Samantha
Reply

I find myself nodding a lot when ready your posts – I think we have very similar thought processes! I really loved the idea of “The Compact” and buying used…. put into practice though it just doesn’t work for me. I have found that no matter how well I look over thrifted clothing, there always seems to be inevitable flaw that I overlooked (a zipper that pops open, a small stain or hole). I find that I buy things because they’re cheap, not because it’s what I love.
When I really like a piece of clothing I wear it to death, so I have come around to the idea that I might as well buy new. I am swearing off the mass market cheap fashion like Old Navy though, and when I do buy clothing I’m going to buy what I really love, regardless of the price tag. I am trying to find good sources for “ethical” fashion though, without dressing like a bag lady.

dogsordollars
Reply

Oh ethical fashion. It’s like a false messiah. I look and I look, and its either ridiculously (and I do mean ridiculous) expensive or it just doesn’t jive with my rather unsophisticated aesthetic. Goodness know I will pay more, but again with the drawing of lines.

Down with ‘cheap’ clothes though too. No Old Navy. No to that whole category of big box clothes. Its a difficult happy medium.

K.B.
Reply

New clothes, but basically because I’ve never been able to find a second-hand store that has anything remotely worth buying. For anything, not just clothing. I’ve been to my local one 4-5 times in the last few months, and bought… nothing.

So, I prefer to spend more money on well-made clothing, and then wear it until it’s dead. Like you, I’ve had the same articles of clothing for years, if not decades. That red sweatshirt? Bought it well before that one trip, which was over 10 years ago. Those jeans? At least 4 years old, and they’ve seen a LOT of wear.

This especially holds true for shoes – a pair of Merrells, while $$$, will last me for 4+ years of daily wear and tear (and the last pair went through daily workday wettings from watering plants in a greenhouse), while the cheap pair won’t last a year, and will be less comfortable to boot (ha!).

The main problem I know have is my stand-by cloth buying stores have seems to reduced their quality (while increasing prices) in the last couple of years. I cannot seem to be able to find even decent t-shirts anymore. :(

dogsordollars
Reply

I always think I am missing some thrifting skill. There has gotta be stuff – even clothes – out there that I’m missing, because I dont have the time or because I dont have the know how. Either way…frusturating!

And there’s nothing like a good pair of shoes… or a sweatshirt.

Jenny
Reply

I agree with you on every. single. point. It might just be my area of the country, but our thrift stores have almost nothing. They’re not well-organized, and they’ll try to sell you a ripped shirt for $10. I’ve had much better luck looking for “things” than clothes. With the way my family’s schedule is, I just don’t have hours to donate to thrifting so I can figure out which stores are the best. I love the idea of buying everything used, but for me at this time in my life, it’s just not practical.

dogsordollars
Reply

I went to a 2nd had clothing store a few month ago, the worn piled shirts were like $14 to $16. Wow. Not practical to say the least.

Cassi
Reply

I personally really like the modern/vintage look, and if I had my way, I would go to thrift stores and trying and find real vintage pieces to go with my normal clothes. I grow up in a family that doesn’t buy anything except the very best, so alas, I am only allowed to buy clothes new. I don’t think many people can complain because they aren’t allowed to buy cheap clothing…

dogsordollars
Reply

Your day for vintage will come. In the mean time, live it up.

laura h
Reply

I have a terrible time at thrift stores,too. Things don’t fit, I don’t know how to put things together, I can’t tell what looks good. Earlier this summer I was bitching and moaning about how I need a uniform, because I look like a bum at work.

dogsordollars
Reply

I too, would *love* a uniform… at times. Then it would get old, and I’d bitch about THAT. ;)

Melanie
Reply

I’m so jealous of the people who somehow find fabulous things at thrift stores. Honestly, the only clothes I ever really bought in those stores were random child-sized graphic tees back in my college days, when my “fashion sense” trended toward the weird and ironic.

I do try not to pay full retail for the clothes I buy (and I definitely wear everything until it falls apart too) by hitting up clearance racks and sales at places like Target and Kohls. I used to shop at Ross/TJ Maxx some too, but, like thrift stores, finding anything good there takes patience and luck. Plus the complete lack of organization sometimes stresses me out and makes the whole experience not worth it.

With part-time school and full-time work, I haven’t really had (or made) time to go clothes shopping at all in months. That’s one way to save money (for now, at least)!

Erica / Northwest Edible Life
Reply

I like $.25 mason jars too, but I notice when it’s time to clear out the closet and take shit to the thrift store, most of the “Wow, I’ve NEVER worn that” items are….ta da!…from the thrift store. It’s like I paid $6 for the privilege of storing a skirt for 2 years then my lease was up. And, like you, I don’t need a lot of variety in my wardrobe. Yoga Pants. Cami. done. So, yeah, I’m with you on thrifted clothes for the most part. I buy my new $200 jeans at Nordstrom Rack for $70, wear the hell out of them and call it good. I was in Paris a few years ago (how obnoxious does that sound?) and the quality of the clothes there was incredible. Even Target-store-equivalent type tee-shirts were extremely well constructed and the material was made to last. I think the US mentality if to have A LOT of items and pay very little for each piece, and the European mentality is to have just a few excellent pieces. I think the European way is better.

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