I love going to Banana Republic or Aritzia or J. Crew as much as any other girl. I love finding that perfect shirt or dress, and buying something brand new; there’s just something about the shopping experience I love. But with the awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and the people it affects along the supply chain, it’s become clear that I need to make better decisions.
Consider that an article from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, an organization dedicated to studying how we can create a sustainable circular economy, estimates that the garment industry produces the equivalent of more CO2 than the emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. But while the awareness of pollution from air transport has become so accepted that some airlines, such as British Airways, allow fliers to contribute to a carbon fund by buying offset credits when they purchase tickets, most fast-fashion giants are doing little and sharing even less with the consumer.
Two of the main environmental problems with most conventional (price-focused) fast fashion garments are that their production consumes an excessive amount of natural resources (namely, water) and it releases toxic chemicals into the environment at many stages of production, putting people and entire ecosystems at risk.
One way to mitigate these and other problems in the short term is to buy thrifted items. At this time, more environmentally made garments tend to be significantly more expensive than their conventionally made equivalents. So to stretch your budget, and make responsible decisions when you buy new, it’s a good idea to buy used clothes whenever you can. Here are some things I wish I’d known before starting to thrift.
[Consider watching the documentary The True Cost to learn more of the detailsof the environmental and human impact of the fast fashion garment industry. Rent it on Youtube or find on Netflix]
KNOW what you like: // This is my most important tip. When you enter a Club Monaco or the Gap or any other store, you’re presented with items that fit into a semi-coherent style. The company carefully curates their seasonal offerings and their garments wouldn’t look out of place side-by-side in your closet. But thrifting doesn’t offer that luxury! When you’re thrifting, you’re exposed to all sorts of styles; so it’s really important to know—before going to the shop—what you will be looking for.
Thrifting shouldn’t be about sacrificing your personal style; it just requires a little more effort. So, know your colours, which cuts suit you best, whether you prefer skirts or dresses, and be completely at peace with not finding anything sometimes—because that will happen!
If you have trouble envisioning what style might suit you, consider finding a fashion blogger that inspires you or look at the cut and colours of the garments at your favourite shops. I recently wrote a blog post about Carly, a style blogger I like.
Ditch last minute shopping: // If you know you’re going to be invited for a baby shower in two months, or you have to go to a friend’s birthday next month, start planning for an outfit now. It’s a good idea to have seasonal, occasion-appropriate outfits at the ready, but if your wardrobe is incomplete, act on it as soon as possible. Thrift shopping takes a lot more time and effort than conventional mall shopping. You might need to visit more shops and flip through more hangers than you’d like to. That’s why you need to give yourself time.
But if you do find yourself in a pinch, why not consider a rental service like Rent Frock Repeat? They are a Canadian designer dress rental service. You will pay a fraction of the cost of the dress, and you will look absolutely fabulous, without having to make an often unnecessary addition to your closet. This service is great for weddings and other big occasions.
Find a seamstress: // This tip can take you a really long way. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or skirt, or shirt, that is almost perfect, but not quite. Maybe it’s a little loose in the chest area, or maybe the shoulders sit a little funny. Ask the thrift store about their return policy, and take the garment to a seamster/tress you trust. See if they can fix it!
If you can find a place that offers well-priced alterations, then you will still save money on your shopping while ending up with an outfit that is tailored to your body, something no ready-to-wear item offers.
Follow the care instructions: // Yes, you may have only paid $8 for your newest thrifted item, and it may make little sense to now dish $10 to dry clean it. But if the wash instructions ask you to only wash cold with light items or dry clean, then you need to do that. My personal experience has been that thrifted items are much more prone to disintegrating than new buys. Treat them as well as you possibly can, and part of that will include following the care instructions to a T.