I am so excited about sharing this post with you! I am by no means an expert on how to shop second hand clothing. Occasionally I go to thrift stores in search of things like toys, books, housewares, and sometimes will spy something for my kid or for myself. But I have to admit that I do love getting new clothes too – especially from ethical and sustainable brands like tentree (they plant 10 trees for every item of clothing they sell, and their clothes are made from eco-friendly, recycled, and sustainable materials). But I also KNOW that shopping second hand clothing is the more eco-friendly choice. It’s a no-brainer really; keep using clothes that have already been made to keep them out of the landfill, and to give them a longer life.
So… I was really excited when my friend and colleague, Angèle Fournier, agreed to share some of her expertise with us! Background – I’ve known Angèle for almost 4 years now, and she is well known around our office for dressing very fashionably. She always has beautifully put-together outfits, and never looks like she just slapped on whatever was on top of her laundry pile (I’m not saying that’s me on a typical day… exactly…). So when people exclaim about how cute her outfit is, and ask where she got it, and she answers, “I got it at such-and-such thrift shop/second-hand shop”, it gets people’s attention! She has made shopping second hand clothes a reality, and rarely ever buys first-hand! I asked her some questions, and she is graciously sharing photos of some of her favourite finds.
1. What made you decide to stop buying new clothes?
At first, it was all about finding great deals and trying new styles without a large investment. I’ve always been someone who loves a good deal on anything from clothing to renovation materials. When you are buying second hand this is typically a guarantee (although you do need to be a bit more careful now days!). I also loved how I could try things out of my style comfort zone without worrying about if I was actually going to wear it enough to justify the cost.
I never had the intention of “giving up” new clothing until I started to learn and research the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion. Have you ever wondered what happens to the textile you throw away, and why things that are locally and ethically produced so much more expensive? The answers to those questions are now the reasons why I only buy second hand or locally and/or ethically made.
2. What are your favourite pre-loved clothing stores in Edmonton?
I love this question so much! Edmonton is filled with amazing consignment and thrift stores. Here are a few of my favourites:
Consignment stores (stores that sell other peoples items on their behalf. Typically more expensive but resembles more a traditional retail store):
- My Favourite Aunt’s: this is by far my favourite in the city! The prices are very reasonable and they have the largest Lululemon selection! They also have an amazing shoe selection!
- Vespucci: best to shop here when they are having their sales (typically 70-90% off). They have a lot of very high end merchandise that you can get at amazing prices during the sale. Outside of sale times, things can be a little bit pricey.
- The Good Stuff: smaller boutique with a good sale section and some really nice clothes.
- Red Pony: the shoes at this place are always top notch! It also has a lot of unique piece of clothing and jewellery.
- Caprice West: very well organized boutique consignment store. Tons of great quality clothing and shoes and customer service is top notch.
Thrift Stores (people donate their clothing. Usually cheaper but requires sorting through a lot of clothing):
- Value Village on 34th Avenue: I have found my best thrift items by brand at this location! My fiancé has also found a ton of male Lululemon and Prana items at this location!
- Value Village St. Albert: A newer store that is well organized and not too over packed.
- Goodwill West Edmonton: brand new store where things are easily found and the racks aren’t too packed (yet anyway).
3. People tell me they can’t buy second-hand because it’s too daunting to search through things and not have access to multiple sizes. Do you have any tips for this?
I completely understand this! I used to avoid shopping at Winners and Marshalls for this very same reason. It really is just about having a different expectation when you go shopping. You can’t go into the store looking for specific items, instead it’s all about enjoying the experience and maybe finding something you love!
Everything is organized by size and sometimes by colour then by size (which I am still not sold on). Mentally prepare yourself for this – don’t get upset if it doesn’t fit because there is nothing you can do!
My tips for making it more enjoyable are:
1) Go when you have time and are in the mood to shop.
2) Don’t go when you are needing something specific. This just causes disappointment and takes the joy out of thrifting!
3) Start small – only check out 1-2 racks on your first visit. Next time you go, check out a few more. In no time, you will be able to search through an entire 4,000 squarefoot building of clothing in under an hour.
3) If you find something you love, you can always get it altered. You are usually paying at least half the price of retail so you can spend a little extra money getting it to fit you perfectly.
4. If someone is new to shopping second hand – what would you tell them to get started?
Start at consignment stores- they are less daunting and feel more like a retail store. Build your way up to thrift stores like Value Village and Goodwill. When you are ready for a good challenge then check out the thrift stores on 50% off days!
But if you are opting for a store, go shopping with no expectation of finding something, but sometimes it helps to narrow your search. For example, when I started or when I don’t have a ton of time I may only check out the shoe and skirt sections or maybe only the household items and active wear sections.
Go with someone who has been thrifting before, or with a friend who likes to shop! This makes it more fun and less daunting!
Do some quick research on the social and environmental impact that fast fashion has on our world. If the thrill of finding great deals isn’t enough to motivate you, this sure will be!
This post talks about sustainable fashion and how much the fast fashion industry harms people and the planet.
Thank you, Angèle, for sharing your tips with us! And for sharing some of your incredible finds!
Check out this infographic on thrifting and upcycling for more information on what these mean. If you don’t want to shop, but want to try your hand at upcycling clothes you already have to give them a new life, check out these tips!
Do you have tips for how to shop second hand clothing successfully?
(Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post.)