Clean Closet | Thrift Shopping for a Minimal, Ethical Wardrobe

If you’ve read my other wardrobe posts, or really, most any article on building an ethical wardrobe, you know that buying clothes second hand is a great way to go. Not only are you pulling clothes out of the waste steam, but you’re helping to decrease the demand for fast fashion. Thrifted clothes have already done their damage to the environment and the hands that made them, so buying second hand means being a better steward of resources that have already been used. But thrift shopping can be more than a little daunting.
Walking into a Goodwill, or even a more curated shop like Buffalo Exchange or local vintage clothing boutique, can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already committed to maintaining a minimal wardrobe. But for me, at least, thrifting is a necessary way to fill in the gaps while I slooowly accumulate quality, ethically-made pieces from more expensive brands.
Below are a few of the guidelines I’ve set for myself to make sure I stay on track when faced with decision fatigue and tremendous bargains.
  • Search for natural fibers. Look for cotton, linen, modal, silk, leather, etc.
  • It’s all in the details. I will put something back if it has poly lace, elastic bust or waistlines (with a few exceptions), or other details that make it look cheap.
  • For the dressing room, wear key basics from your existing wardrobe for trying on with the new pieces. I always try to wear my favorite jeans and a flattering tee or tank.
  • Follow the same basics of shopping that you would for full priced pieces. Only buy something if the fit is right and the quality is good.
  • Ask yourself key questions. Does it fit your style, color palette, wardrobe goals? Do you need it/love it?
  • Continually evaluate. The nice thing about buying second hand is that if I feel like I’ve made a mistake once I get home, I can turn around and sell it or donate back!
  • Be careful about buying “projects”. Maybe you are the sort of person who will get somethings tailored or who will reinvent a piece, but more than likely, you’re like me and that item will sit in your closet taking up space. Avoid buying pieces that aren’t ready to wear. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course. I recently thrifted some 7 For All Mankind flares that fit perfectly (so hard to find in thrifted denim!), but just need to be hemmed. I *plan* to make that happen soon, or else, just go for the frayed look and cut them myself.
  • Never buy anything that’s pilled, stained, or worn. 
  • Brands aren’t everything, so don’t get caught up in labels (meaning, don’t put back something that’s otherwise perfect because the brand isn’t impressive), but keeping an eye out for higher-end brands can mean better quality and a more updated fit – plus, a higher resale value, if that’s something you’re into.
  • In the end, let go of perfection. I struggle with buyer’s remorse, and I get frustrated that I don’t have my ideal wardrobe RIGHT NOW. But even if I had the money, giving in to consumerism – and circumnavigating an intentionally slow process – goes against the whole point of what I’m trying to do, which of course, is to live simply with fewer, better things.

Happy thrifting!


3 thoughts on “Clean Closet | Thrift Shopping for a Minimal, Ethical Wardrobe

  1. I thrift most all of my clothes and am almost always disappointed on the very few occasions when I buy retail. However, I do get caught up on brands at least somewhat in thrift stores. I won’t buy Wal-Mart clothes there and only rarely will buy Target clothes there. They just don’t hold up, are flimsy, don’t wash well and are usually far more trendy than classic. I look for basics at thrift from J.Crew, Old Navy or Gap and my more specific pieces from Free People, Anthropologie or other such brands. However, Anthro pieces don’t often hold up very well so there is that; for what they are retail, they are too often not of great quality. I do like the style though so will go for that. I think one’s thrifting palate gets more honed as one does it more. I often find things that are very close to what I’m looking for but I put them back if they aren’t exactly what I want. The perfect one will come around. I also know what patterns I’ll wear and which I won’t and won’t even pull something off the rack if the pattern doesn’t catch me. Also, I pretty much wear cotton or bamboo cotton exclusively so hold out for that too. All this adds up to… Go often and you will find exactly what you are looking for. The hunt is addictive! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Conscious Consumption Bible Blog – MODEste – Fast Fashionless

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