Tuesday, August 11, 2015

a thrifty solution

Last week I wrote about my reaction to the documentary "The True Cost". In short, it made me deeply confused and caused me to reexamine my behavior. How do I continue as a personal style blogger when I know that the people who make my clothes are treated so poorly, and when the mass production has catastrophic effects on the environment?

After much contemplation, I realized I already knew the solution: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Step 1: Reduce

  • Buy less. I've never successfully quit anything cold turkey, and I don't think shopping will be my first. However, I do think, nay, I know that I can buy less. My goal will be to only buy replacements, but allow myself to buy treats for reaching goals during my dissertation process and getting through tough stretches of teaching.
  • Avoid "fast fashion". Stores that sell tops for $7 generally rely on cheap labor to do so. When the stores successfully sell these items, they have no reason to change their strategy. (And if they do change their strategy, it's to pay garment workers even less so they can sell clothes for even less.) My goal is to avoid supporting these stores by not buying from them. I'm also trying to learn more about which garment workers are treated the worst, and avoiding buying products that were made in those countries. 

Step 2: Reuse
  • Wear more. I'll admit it: I'm one of those people who treats my closet as a mausoleum. I suspect it boils down to some irrational fear of ruining my clothes. (It's entirely irrational because I can't remember ever having ruined any of my clothes, and the ones that had to be retired were heavily worn for yeaaars.) Also, if I'm going to allow myself to buy replacements, that means I need to wear things so that they can be replaced.

Step 3: Recycle
  • Thrift. I can't tell you how many times I've used the line "I never find anything in the thrift stores". After so many trips to these stores, I realized that there was a reason I never find anything. It's because those stores are catered to a younger demographic, or they sell things I have no interest in. One of the thrift shops in town has one aisle (of maybe five for women) devoted to our local college and sports teams' apparel, one aisle for athletic gear, one aisle for leggings, one aisle of mini skirts... Another thrift shop has a quarter of the store devoted to jeans, another to Coach purses, and then has a mess of unorganized tops and bottoms in the other half. If you know me, you know that I can't shop in that kind of environment. When I was 20, I almost applied to work at Charlotte Russe but realized I could never handle working in such a loud, hectic, and messy place. I prefer a calm environment, with organization and space. So what does this all have to do with thrifting? 

There's an alternative to the Plato's Closets and Goodwills of our towns: ThredUp. I know, I'm presenting groundbreaking news here, I should have warned you. But seriously, I knew ThredUp existed, but every time I went on their website, I was overwhelmed and gave up. With a strategy of starting with narrow searches that would limit results, I was able to successfully shop. But that's a story for another day. [In the mean time, you can get $20 to spend when you sign up!]

In summation: I was overwhelmed and truly struggled with the way I approach shopping and blogging after watching the documentary "The True Cost". After a great deal of reflection, I realized that I could do something, and I should do something. I should shop less - not because of financial reasons - but for humanitarian reasons. I know alone I can't do anything, but I do believe that change relies on movement, and is therefore contingent upon action. Moreover, the majority of my shopping should be done in thrift stores. Thrifting still gives me the benefits of retail shopping (namely, clothes) in a much more environmentally sound way. 

So what does this mean for this blog? I'm not sure yet. I'm not calling it quits, but I'm also not putting pressure on myself to post. For now, I'm going to enjoy the last bit of my summer vacation.

[By no means am I advertising this solution as the right one for everyone, but I think there is something worthwhile in a deep examination of the way we behave, and acknowledging that we can be better.]


  1. These are some interesting points to think about. I do feel good about doing most of my shopping secondhand but thrift shopping also takes a lot of patience. I feel a huge relief when I step into an actual store where my choices are more spread out and come in multiple sizes. I'm hesitant to order much online because I can't try anything on and don't want to waste money on something I can't or won't even wear. I've seen lots of bloggers, like Laura for example, have so much luck with ThredUp. Avoiding fast fashion is great. Having something that doesn't last long or that you didn't like enough to spend more on it just makes you feel terrible when you throw it away! I wish you the best of luck for your plans here. I'll have to check out that documentary.

  2. I have never been a thrifter because it just overwhelms me way too much and I feel the same with larger department stores to. I think ThreadUP, Postmark and eBay are good alternatives to thrifting even if it's higher priced. I think they work as long as you have a specific item that you are looking for.


    Would love to see you Thursday for TBT Fashion link up.

  3. Good for you! I think that what you are doing is fabulous! There are so many reasons beyond the points you have outlined here for recycling and reusing!

  4. Good for you. Enjoy your blog break.


  5. This seems like a good plan, and not too intimidating. I've never had much luck with thrifting either. I'll get excited about it, because I see other bloggers who find awesome stuff, and then I go and am disappointed. I actually thought I just lived in a Goodwill-vortex or something, and then found out Ginny (now from Clothed with Grace) lives super close to me, and found all her awesome stuff at the goodwill I normally shopped at. So we went together, and she found a ton of stuff, and I found nothing. And I haven't had any luck on Thredup either. But anyway... Now that I'm past the point of wanting LOTS OF STUFF, I think your Step 1 is my best bet. I'm already shopping less, just because mr baby takes up all my time. It would be great to know which stores have better practices, so I'm supporting the places where workers are treated well.

  6. this is a great post, kate. i haven't heard of that documentary and haven't had a chance to watch it from your previous post, but i appreciate you sharing about it here as it sounds like something i'd be really interested in watching and then developing some new habits related to my own consumption. i think thredup, ebay, twice, etc are great places to start online to buy secondhand! and you've definitely encouraged me to start thrifting more often again... i used to go to the goodwill weekly and i'm glad i stopped because i think thrifting can get out of hand, too, but now i'm encouraged to bring back that old practice.

  7. Yes, yes, yes! This is all exactly what I'm trying to do in my life as well. Kevin and I have been doing so much research about clothing companies and how to be ethical consumers, and we've come to all of the same conclusions you've addressed here. I am really considering using thredUP more as well, especially if I'm looking for something very specific.

    I think this topic is so heavily ignored in the blogging world, and it makes me sad. I've slowly been working on a blog post of my own to outline some of the changes I've made with regards to being an ethical consumer, and I'm eager to share it when it's all fleshed out! Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing this on your blog!!


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