By: Danielle Vermeer
Danielle writes at from two to one about the intersection of marriage, faith, and feminism. She also has a healthy obsession with vintage dresses, thrift store shopping, and extreme couponing.
How thrift stores can save you money and save others’ dignity
The average American woman spends between $1,000 and $2,000 every year on clothing, but wears just 20% to 30% of what’s in her closet. That means that every item in a crowded closet has less than a one in three chance of actually being worn, thereby becoming a waste of space and money. But the real amount spent on clothing is actually much higher than a couple thousand dollars. It ignores the price of the stolen childhood of the underage laborer in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan, the pain of the sexual assault survivor in the clothing sweatshop, and the deprivation of liberty of far too many factory workers making our beloved smart phones and e-readers.
In these tough economic times, I propose a solution I’ve abided by for over ten years: thrift store shopping. Local thrift stores such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Village Discount not only offer new and even designer labels for rock-bottom prices, but your money often goes to a great cause in the community. Buying second-hand clothing at thrift, consignment, and resale stores is also environmentally conscious and does not contribute to the steady supply of clothing made under slave or slave-like conditions. If that isn’t enough to convince you, then maybe my and Yuka Yoneda’s stories will.
Buying Nothing New
At almost two months into 2012, I can proudly say that I have not bought anything new and that my modest expenses at thrift stores have been long-term investments: a wrap dress for work, a designer dress shirt for the hubby, and an organic cotton onesie for the little one sometime in the future. Total spent: $5.00. Compared to regular prices even at discount retailers like Target, I’m still saving 75-90%. I am actually attempting to buy nothing new this entire year.
But it’s more than just saving big bucks. It’s about understanding our consequences of our choices, however informed or ignorant those choices may be. For those who identify and sympathize with a feminist outlook on life, buying secondhand clothes is a no-brainer. But sometimes, that’s the problem: we don’t think about it, even if we know intuitively that it’s better for us and for our little world.
Take Yuka Yoneda, for example. While she is now known for Clossette, a DIY and personal style blog of solely repurposed and “re-loved” clothing, Yuka was not always so keen on wearing pre-owned clothing:
“I was a shopaholic. Then I learned about where the clothes I was buying came from and how they were affecting and hurting other people, particularly women and children, around the globe. The idea that these crimes against women, pollution and chemicals going into our water and bodies, and just shear waste were all happening because I wanted a new top or jeans really made me feel ashamed.I know that for some people, buying clothes that someone else has already worn may sound gross or weird. But did you know that the shirts, sweaters, skirts, and shoes you’ve been buying at major retailers might be made at factories where sexual assaults are normal occurrences? I don’t know about you, but that disgusts me way more than the thought of another girl having owned the pair of jeans I’m wearing now. And I sure as heck am not going to support it.”
Now she is spreading the message one closet at a time until we reach a “thought revolution” full of compassion, dignity, and ethical style. My vintage dresses and I are all for it.