Thrift shopping with Anita Ballachanda/Yoshi Matsuzaki Photo Thrift shopping with Anita Ballachanda/Yoshi Matsuzaki Photo

This is the second in a four-part series on Project: Trashion, a student-led initiative at the University of Waterloo that examines issues of sustainability in the fashion industry through art and design. For more information, and to purchase tickets to Project: Trashion’s fashion show on Sept. 30 in Kitchener, check out their website.

Part II – Thrift Shop

Personal style is a representation of your interests and self-identity, helping craft the first impression you make on others. Buying brand names and following ever-changing trends can be exhausting on your wallet and your closet space.

It’s an unsustainable pattern. Fast fashion retailers thrive by constantly producing new clothing items, but this quick turnover is made possible by cheap labour, utilizing hazardous materials and dumping unsold clothing in landfills.

Second-hand shopping is an easy first step to closing the fast fashion loop by bringing sustainable practices into your life. Not sure buying second-hand is for you? It could be! But just like shopping for anything, new or used, it helps to know how to do it right.

Below are some tips and tricks to consider when shopping thrift.

Find Your Creative Side

Don’t stress if you cut up your $5 jeans a little too much – they can easily become $5 shorts. And besides – customizing a pre-loved piece of clothing is easier on your wallet and your conscience than rushing out to replace them with something new.

Retail clothing trends, and the clothing itself, is made for the masses, making it impossible to cater to every body shape out there. Second-hand stores, by comparison, offer a diverse range of brands manufactured when tastes and shapes and cuts were different than they are today. It’s much easier at thrift stores to find styles that suit your body.

Or you can embrace your crafty side if you’re feeling adventurous. Taking scissors to $5 pants can create a great pair of $5 shorts.

Your Wallet Will Thank You

Thrift shops typically sell at a fraction of the retail price. But look to take advantage of 50 percent off days, points cards and student discounts at numerous vintage and second-hand shops. Signing up for email newsletters is the best way to keep in the loop on upcoming deals.

Always remember that fashion is cyclical. Trends that are popular now likely existed two decades ago, and some staples never really go out of style. And besides – it can be hard to create a unique fashion style when everyone shops at the same handful of stores. Thrift shopping is also a great option for finding brand name pieces on the cheap or for finding something fancy to wear for important events.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Second-hand shopping is environmentally friendly, but what’s often forgotten is that many thrift stores also give back to their community. Do your research on where your money is going, which charities a shop donates to, and what they do with unsold items. Some for-profit thrift chains have been known to give less than 10 percent of their earnings to charity, and a lack of transparency on the extent of their giving is a major red flag.

Making the Most out of Thrifting

Becoming a serial thrift shopper certainly has a learning curve. But the following tips should make the process a little easier:

  1. Give Yourself Enough Time – Chain second-hand stores often have a lot of inventory, so give yourself at least an hour for the best chance at success.

  1. Dress Comfortably – You’ll be trying on a lot of clothes, so wear something comfortable and easy to change in and out of. Try to wear basics that can be paired with many outfits to give you a realistic idea of how each item could be styled. I recommend slip-ons, a simple fitted t-shirt and your favourite jeans.

  1. Try It On! – Just like regular retail shopping, pieces look different on the rack versus when you try them on. Second-hand stores do their best to accurately tag the size of clothing, but it’s usually an unreliable measurement. Always try it on for yourself.

  1. Visit Every Department – Don’t be afraid to search through every department of the store. The children’s department is a treasure chest for brand-name clothing at an even cheaper price point, and the men’s department is amazing for oversized knit sweaters.

  1. Come Prepared – Pack hand sanitizer. Take it from someone who used to work in a thrift store, some shops don’t wash their items before putting them on the rack. Always wash your clothes before wearing them and, if you’re easily allergic to dust, bring allergy medicine as needed.

As with most things, the best way to learn is practice. Scope out the next 50 percent off sale at a thrift shop in your area, or make an event of it with friends. Thrift shopping is both a fun and environmentally responsible way of shaping your personal style!

Anita Ballachanda is a thrift junkie, pig enthusiast and coffee addict. Look out for her Depop store @filthyswine coming in 2019 and catch her as a model and head thrift designer @ProjectTrashion's fashion show, The Union.

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