By Rebecca Kerzner
I am addicted to thrift shopping. It’s quite embarrassing actually. I pretend to have this thing called self-control, but every Monday, when I walk back from Computer Typesetting and Design (my FIT class), I pass by two thrift stores on 26th Street. The items in the display windows always bear new goodies, perfect for the season. I often find myself staring and imagining the dream of me wearing the beautiful dress and how perfect I would feel if I had it to wear for the coming Shabbos. If one were to see my face at this moment, they would see a surprisingly expressive face that would depict a state of intense yearning, hope, and desperation. These stores have stolen my heart, and I find the temptation to enter so intense that I finally made a three-month no shopping pact with myself.
Last Monday, I found myself on 26th Street, passing the stores once again and I felt that deep yearning within me. No, I said to myself, trying to shut it down. Don’t do it. But I walked through the doors. I made an excuse. I needed an 80’s theme shirt for a costume party. Pshh, no I didn’t. But I didn’t listen to that voice and walked inside. I immediately felt the whoosh of the heat, inviting me and caressing me, and I cringed, knowing I would regret this. I tried on some pieces. I pretended I wasn’t doing it. Fine. The dress is cute. It’s worth it. The leggings too. I need new workout clothes anyway! I left with three items and realized: I broke my pact. Well, hey, at least I tried! That should count for something right?
Since I’ve discovered the glorious world of thrift shopping, my closet has improved dramatically. My clothes are much better quality for about half the price. I have a very boho style and it can be hard to find the perfect modest, boho piece, but these thrift stores, especially Buffalo Exchange, have tons of printed flowy dresses, which are my favorite clothing to wear. Plus, you get access to tons of styles at once.The thrift shopping experience is like shopping in a thousand best-friend closets. The clothes are also more unique than the classic Zara or Forever 21 pieces that everyone seems to own. You won’t find yourself in the same criss-cross tee as your best friend when you start shopping at thrift stores.
These days, I often get compliments on my clothing from friends and peers. But when they ask me where I bought the piece and I excitedly say ,“Buffalo Exchange,” their faces change. A cock of the head and a sigh, friends will usually say something like “where do you go?” or “oh! I suck a thrift shopping.” I try to assuage their feelings and offer support and resources of places to go and how to shop– usually to no avail. I find myself coming to the same conclusion time after time: maybe people just aren’t that into thrift shopping.
I believe this lack of interest in thrift shopping follows some misconceptions. In an effort to enlighten the Stern population to the fabulous world of thrift shopping, I will identify those misconceptions and debunk them (if only because I just don’t want to feel alone in my addiction). People believe that thrift shopping is:
- Dirty! This clothing has been worn before!
- Overwhelming! There is just too much to sift through.
- Competitive! Everyone probably runs around fighting each other for items!
- Outdated! The clothes don’t follow new trends and I want to be part of the times.
Now, I understand these worries. However, since I have properly shopped too much for my own good, I can safely tell you that NONE of these are true. The thrift shopping experience is more similar to other stores than we assume it to be. Thrift store vendors always pre-wash the clothing, so you don’t have to worry about dirtiness or even the clothing shrinking in the wash! Double whammy! Also, the truth is, tons of the clothing still have original tags on, which means it’s literally brand new! Secondly, the stores seperate clothing into types, sizes, and even colors! If you want to find a dark green dress in size 6, it’s actually easier in a thrift store than other stores. As for competitiveness within the store, this one can be true but not in a way that you might think. This is no Black Friday. People shop side by side in a very civilized manner. Sometimes items come in many different sizes in colors too, so you don’t have to worry about a passerby swapping because there’s enough for everyone. Lastly, the clothing is not all that outdated. There is usually a specific vintage section for clothing from older decades, but the majority of clothes come from current stores with current trends. I’ve gotten most of my pieces from Free People, Madewell, and Gap, but for Forever 21 prices.
In addition to being awesome and elevating your clothing to new heights, thrift shopping also has what I like to call “The good samaritan appeal.” When you buy clothing from thrift stores, you help the environment too. Oftentimes, the clothing from “fast fashion” stores like H&M or Zara are handled in factories in third world countries where the workers are barely paid and work in unhealthy conditions. Thrift still will sell clothing from these brands but since they are from someone else, you aren’t contributing that issue directly. As for the material, farmers use pesticides in the plants to bring about more material for Western clothing, which affects their and their families’ health and can lead to serious diseases. It also takes a lot driving around to different places to distribute the clothing to its vendors that lead to transportation-related pollution. The clothing we buy, once worn and thrown out, just accumulates in landfills and leads to more waste on the Earth, which is also unhealthy for the environment. These are just some of the negative consequences of fast fashion. If you’re interested in finding out more, read here. Of course, by making the choice to thrift shop, these issues don’t miraculously go away, but it’s nice to know that we can mitigate some of the negative effects on our planet. It’s a small thing that we can do to impact our world and show that we value where our clothing comes from.
We happen to have a ton of thrift stores close by. Down by the Flatiron District, there’s a plethora of options. If you head over to 26th Street, between 5th and 7th Avenue, there are three thrift stores that are my go-tos. When I take friends, we first hit up Crossroads, a slightly smaller store, famous for its impeccable color-coding and easy navigating, to dip our toes into the thrift shopping world. Then, if they are ready and willing, we head on over to Buffalo Exchange and dive into the dresses, great skirts, and show hunt. The best part is, you will almost always find something. I recently discovered Goodwill, which is a cheaper option than the other two, but also carries a lot of big name brands and fashion designers.
To reiterate one last thing: thrifting is cool. Trying on these funky pieces helps you live out your movie montage dreams in real life. When you thrift shop, you help yourself and the world. It’s a win-win for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get thrifting!