A Field Guide to Thrifting by Emma Haston, photo by Jess Reyes

My dad once said to me, “I’ll never know or understand what it is like to love clothes like you do,” and he’s right. I love clothes. My relationship with fashion is one that I should probably count as the longest lasting relationship in my life. I can honestly say that I can express my emotions through an outfit than through any other medium. Think about it. Clothes will never not text you back, they will never forget important dates, and they won’t play mind games to drive you nuts.

But, let’s face it. Fast-fashion is being combated in many ways these days, and I have been feeling the need to change some of my habits when it comes to shopping. Thrifting is one of the best ways to keep the circle going, and by donating and repurposing your clothes, you can cut down on the amount of clothing that goes into the trash. Another thing I am learning to do is make and mend my own clothes so that I can wear them longer.

Shopping and supporting brands that do not use sweatshops or any other type of unethical production is important in our fight for equality in our world. It’s really great to find brands that make sure the money from the clothes goes straight to the person putting in the work to make them. I am by no means perfect, and I am still on my journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. I have my slip ups every once in a while where I buy something that is considered fast fashion. However, I do think that phasing out unsustainable practices is something that we can all try to do. Even better, we all can support each other and keep each other accountable together. So with that, I am going to tell you guys where and how I find some of my favorite thrifted clothes.

Online Thrifting: I have used Depop and Poshmark to buy used clothes, and for the most part I have had positive experiences. Some of my favorite things I have gotten from online consignment shops are my vintage Esprit denim shorts, what I call my “Nancy Wheeler” jacket which is red corduroy with sherpa lining, and a crazy cute gingham romper that I wear way too often. One thing I do not like to do is drop large amounts of money on used clothes online. The reason for this is because I worry that the condition of the clothing won’t be worth what I paid, and more often than not, most sellers do not give refunds.

Vintage: There is nothing I love more than a funky vintage store. When I first started playing the vintage game, I really did not know how or where to find cute, reasonable pieces that were in good condition. Think moth eaten victorian blouses and taffeta. But what I always try to remember is that good vintage stuff doesn’t always hide in obvious places. Don’t get me wrong, Pre to Post Modern, The Hip Zipper, and Star Struck are some of my favorite stores in Nashville. Also, the vintage room at Fanny’s House of Music has lots of gems. These types of stores are ones where I am willing to spend a little more money on something that has been taken care of, like my vintage floral romper that zips up the front.

What I think a lot of people forget about are antique malls. As a child, my mom was always dragging me to antique malls against my will, so I am surprised that I actually enjoy them now. If you can look past the china and creepy dolls, some booths have clothing racks with really great prices. My favorite jeans came from an antique mall in Kentucky. To be honest, I feel kind of guilty that the older woman didn’t know how much those jeans would sell for in a vintage store…

Goodwill/Local Thrifting: I would have to say that I frequent Goodwill and smaller, local thrift stores the most, usually because there is just so much to look through, and everything is priced the same by category. I spend the first half of my trip picking up items that I like at first glance, really anything that catches my eye. A lot of the time I will look at my Pinterest boards to remind myself of pieces to look for, such as a certain cut of jeans or type of blouse. One thing I love is when things are organized by color, which is really the first step in planning my outfits.

The second half of my trip is trying on/debating whether or not to buy. Make sure to go through all the sizes, no matter what size you are! You may like the fit of something that is bigger or smaller that is hiding in other places on the rack.

Damage wise, holes can be patched, but stains, discoloration, and yellowing are things I try to pay the most attention to. I’ve gotten out of a store once or twice not realizing that there is a massive stain on something I’ve bought, which is always a bummer. Also, I try to figure out if a piece will need alteration. As someone who is just learning how to sew, I can’t really do any of my own alterations, so I want to figure out if the piece is worth spending money on to get alterations done.

Local thrift stores are also great because you know that by shopping there, you’re giving back to your community. Many even have signs saying which charities they donate to, such as women’s shelters, child advocacy centers, or homeless shelters. About once a month, most local places have half off days or days where you can fill up a bag for $10.

I think thrifting is a unique way to create a closet that you know is completely yours. Each piece has its own story, and by shopping second hand, it’s a neat way to keep the circle going. When we as consumers begin to move in a new direction, hopefully the industry catches on. In the future we can find even more sustainable ways to shop.

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