Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My first Thrifting experience as an adult

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Texas Style Council blogger conference, which turned out to be a wonderful learning opportunity. The weekend consisted of parties, mentoring, a field trip to a thrift store, and a full day of informative panels.

Trying to be Vanna White. (Photos by Rocio)
On the last day of the conference, during the creative consumerism panel, I tried to speak out about how it felt to be taken to a thrift store as a plus-sized woman who grew up as a fat child. I grew up on thrift store clothing not to be “green” or “cool” or “express” myself. I tried to share how it felt to be forced to wear clothes from thrift stores out of necessity. I wore tacky, used clothes because that was all we could afford. The clothes that fit my plus-sized body were never cute and trendy. They were matronly, itchy, and unattractive

I tried to express how maybe wearing used clothing was not something some of us wanted to do, nor was it something we should be forced to do or judged for
not doing. I tried to express that it was frustrating to be told that our decision to spend our money on new clothing rather than used clothing was “destroying the planet.” 

Of course, I wasn’t very good about articulating most of these things because I ended up in tears before I could even form complete sentences. But at least I raised my hand and attempted to express myself. During my cry-fest, I was able to show off my newly thrifted skirt. It’s just too bad that I didn’t do a very good job saying what I wanted to say. But that's what my blog is for, right?


The famous Pretty, Pink, Pleated, Polka-dotted skirt that I thrifted the day before.
For some people, such as myself, walking into a thrift store brings back negative emotions that stem from being raised in poverty, being bullied about my size, and for being different. I spent far too many afternoons as a child desperately looking for clothes that fit me while trying to hide from anyone who might recognize me. As a result, I wasn't too happy about boarding a bus and revisiting a part of my past that I dreaded.

When we arrived to the thrift store, we were grouped together and a few bloggers shared their thrifting tips. I tried to be attentive and optimistic but it was hard to relate anyone speaking. Not everyone can relate to
 the super model who can literally wear any crazy ensemble from a thrift store and still look fabulous in it.

They shared ideas for finding clothing that no one else will have, for trying on all sizes, and for picking unique pieces. I overheard one blogger share how she had to squeeze into a *gasp* size 12 dress when she was more like a size 6. I tried my best not to roll my eyes.


I know that in the fashion world, what I am about to say might blow some people's minds, but it needs to be said: 

  • Some of us do not WANT to be different all of the time. 
  • Some of us actually want the option of being on trend.
  • Some of us are bigger than a size 12. In fact, the average American woman wears a size 14.
  • Some of us are wise consumers who do not want to spend our money on used clothing.
Please don't get me wrong. My thrifting experience was overwhelmingly positive. When I walked into those doors, I felt my heart race, my palms sweat and I had convinced myself that I would walk out of there completely empty handed. Instead, I left that store with a bag full of nearly-new shoes, 4 adorable skirts that actually fit my body, and new ideas to be a smarter consumer.

I can not even begin to say how theraputic it felt to browse through racks of clothing with no shame this time and then look up to see my
favorite bloggers appreciating the same items. What I wouldn't give to go back in time and share thrifting role models and tips to the 13 year-old-me!

Will I be a forever thrifter now? I can't say for certain. However, I am forever grateful for the opportunity to overcome my fears. I love a good bargain and I sure did find some at the thrift store. I scored a bag full of adorable things that averaged less than $5 an item. The frugal fatshionista in me is
extremely excited about those prices! 

How do you feel about shopping at thrift stores? Do you have any tips for a new thrifter, like me?

11 comments :

  1. Yeah, I have to say I never really got into thrifting either. One because I, too, grew up wearing hand me downs and used stuff and two, because I rarely find anything I can wear AND like. Yet, I keep trying, because well, when I *do* find something, it's such an amazing feeling somehow.
    So I can definitely relate to this post ♥ and I am glad you found something you liked! That skirt is all sorts of amazing and you look fabulous in it! :)

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I'm an avid thrifter and my experience with finding clothes that fit and flatter in thrift stores has always been positive and fun. I've never had to thrift out of necessity, even now as a grad student, but always been able to CHOOSE whether to buy my clothes new or secondhand. As with so many things, it is incredibly easy to forget that my decision to purchase most of my clothing secondhand comes from a position of privilege.

    I just started reading your blog after Jentine of My Edit featured you and your lovely thrifted skirt. Can't wait to read more from you!!

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  3. Thrifting is still a pretty foreign concept to me. When I do look I rarely have luck. More than that, though, I grew up being taught that the thrift store was for people who needed it. Not that I'm Richy McRicherson, but I can afford new things. This isn't to say I don't believe in people thrifting or will completely shun it, I just don't think it will ever become a big part of my life.

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  4. I adore thrifting and am raising a child that asked for a gift certificate from Goodwill for her 7th birthday.. I grew up in thrift stores and refused to step foot into another until I entered an office environment, now I can honestly say that at least one item in my daily outfit is used.

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  5. Whoops sorry hit enter before I was finished... while I completely understand where you are all coming from I wouldn't own some of favorite pieces if it weren't for thrift stores..

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  6. Thanks for this post. I grew up thrifting too partly out of necessity and partly because my mom is way into vintage things. While I didn't have the same negative experiences as you, I wasn't forced to buy my clothes from thrift stores, I wasn't a big fan of them. this was mostly because they were the places I was dragged to on weekends and spent a lot of time bored out of my mind in. I thrifted a little in high school but that was mainly to find stuff for pep-fest/Halloween/spirit week etc. It wasn't until a few years ago when I saw a lot of plus size bloggers finding really cool stuff in thrift stores that I decided to really give them another chance. Now I'm totally into them.

    That said I totally see where you're coming from and I think it's an important narrative to tell. The trifting out of necessity narrative seems to be lost a lot of times in the blog-o-sphere, and is one that should be shared more. And i think it's just fine if you or anyone else isn't into thrifting. some people don't want used items, some people just don't want to dig or allocate the time for thrifting and that's totally cool. Thrifting isn't necessarily for everyone.

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  7. @Pashteit
    I really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that I felt when I finally did find something that I liked. I could not WAIT to style this new-to-me pink polka dot skirt the second I got home that day! :-)

    @Bethanne
    Thank you so much for your thoughts. I'm glad you're here and I look forward to any thrift tips from you! <3

    @Cassykins
    The area where I grew up basically considered the thrift store as a place to avoid. It was also a very small town. I remember wearing a pair of fringe shorts (It was the 90s!) to school and someone telling me that their mom "used to have shorts exactly like those." I was convinced that the shorts I was wearing had been donated by their mom. Needless to say, I was forever embarrassed and I avoided wearing them to school ever again.

    @April
    I hope that I can raise my future children to not be ashamed of wearing secondhand clothing. My husband and I have discussed ways to save money on our future children and are considering ways to make thrifting appealing to them (since children grow out of clothing SO FAST). One strategy that we're going to implement is to provide them with examples of hip fashion bloggers who get most of their clothes from thrift stores. I think that's the big difference between today and when I grew up. 20 years ago, thrift stores were not the glamorized, idealized, "look at me! I am being green!" places that they are today. They were a place to be shames and ridiculed. However, it's 2012 AND we live in the most liberal, eco-friendly place in Texas (Austin), so I hope it'll be a different experience for our future children. :-) How did your daughter grow to love thrifting? I'd love some tips! <3

    @Zorah
    I hope that I can continue to try thrifting. In fact, I went back to the same thrift store last week, actually. I didn't find anything, but I went in with a very specific mission (to find the perfect turquoise summer sandals since mine sort of died on me recently). I really love the items I found during this experience and, as I said, I loved how affordable everything was. I am frugal to a fault, so I imagine that my frugal ways will continue drawing me back to the thrift store. <3

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  8. I have to admit that I teared up a bit reading your post. I grew up in similar conditions except, I was lucky to have a ridiculous amount of cousins that I received most of my clothes from. I remember that no one wore the same shoe size as me and that was the one thing that I was always allowed to buy new at the beginning of each school year. I would get one athletic shoe and one dress shoe. I really believe that is where my obsession with shoes came from and why I can't seem to get enough. Thank you for writing this and giving a voice to those of us who have emotional baggage about second hand clothes. You write so well!

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  9. It was so great to meet you in Austin - and thank you for coming to our Thrifting Tour and panel about Creative Consumerism!
    I really loved that you shared your story and it was very rewarding to hear that you were able to over come your negative feelings about thrifting and even scored a few awesome goodies.
    While I was different all my life, I always embraced it, so I guess that's why I love thrifting and vintage so much. It was my mom who was always in tears when in 2nd grade she'd ask who I had played with and I said nobody - I was too different for the other kids to like me. I know that hurt her feelings but she was also supportive and smart enough to let me know that it's ok to be different and that you can use it to your advantage.
    I think now that you've done it you can see how it has paid off - many of the bloggers at the conference starting blurring into each other after a while, but you definitely stood out. And have been remembered ever since!

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  10. You and your blog are always such a great source of inspiration! love the skirt your wearing btw :)
    Anna
    http://opshopaholic.blogspot.co.nz/

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  11. What an inspiring read! I just opened my clothes closet, and you can view it online at http://www.beautysaplus.com/ I have career clothes and everyday sheek clothes. Check it out.

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