Over ten years ago I used to get my shopping fix exclusively from retail stores.
I’m not proud of the fact that you could find me in some of the worst fast fashion stores that exist, H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Gap, TJ Maxx, outlet stores, you name it. I had no idea where my fashion came from or how it was made, I just wanted more booty.
Shopping for that perfect outfit was an obsession. Sometimes I would fall sleep putting together outfits in my head and figuring out what store I could hit up next to create my desired ensemble. Shopping was my recreation and my high. Adrenalin would rush through my veins when the credit card was swiped and I became the owner of the piece I coveted. Arriving home with large shopping bags filled with my hauls was exhilarating. I felt a sense of accomplishment. I couldn’t wait to show them off to both my husband and my blog readers.
How I Weaned Myself Off Of Retail Shopping
Weaning myself off of retail shopping didn’t happen overnight. Over seven years ago another blogger that advocated secondhand first shopping left what I thought was a bit of a rather snippy comment on my blog saying something to the effect, “I’m sorry I cannot get on board with praising any fast fashion retailer such as Forever 21 which sells cheap disposable fashion at the expense of our planet.”
I didn’t care for the comment when I got it. I thought to myself, “Who is she telling me how I should spend my money?”
That comment stayed with me though. It planted a seed of discontent in my brain that grew. I’m forever grateful to Bella from Citizen Rosebud now.
I started shopping vintage ages ago partly due to the fact that someone spotted me at one of my jewellery shows wearing the same dress as them…from H&M. It was funny and I made a joke of it at the time but as a person that has always tried to stand apart from the crowd, especially for shows, I was disappointed with my choice and vowed right then and there to forget about H&M.
After watching Mad Men my love of vintage clothing grew. I started seeking out vintage stores and going to vintage clothing shows. The clothing spoke to me not only because it was different from everything else being offered in the regular retail stores but also because it had a history which made each piece more meaningful than anything I could buy off the rack.
Consignment stores are a very easy transition into secondhand shopping. They are often merchandised nicely and have well curated collections. They are in fact very much like shopping at a TJ Maxx. The prices are about half or less what you would normally pay retail. I even started taking some of the pieces I no longer wanted to the consignment stores for resale.
Thrifting & Estate Sales
My family has shopped at garage sales and secondhand stores for a very long time. I always had a negative view about this and I called it, “Picking through someone else’s garbage.” Difficult to believe I actually said that, but I did. Oh how times have changed for the better!
Vintage sellers I bought from often told me they purchased their beautiful inventory at estate sales. I wanted to check it out for myself. It was a bit of a shock as you can read here but I eventually grew to love the excitement and the thrill despite the bullies and unruly crowds as I wrote about here.
Thrifting & Secondhand Shopping
I discovered that through thrifting I could feed my love of fashion without breaking the bank while recycling for the planet. I researched online for the best thrift stores near my home, the ones that keep a clean, uncluttered store so it would make the transition into secondhand shopping easier and less overwhelming. Previous trips to secondhand stores had left bad impressions, too much like I was going through trash. I made a point to choose better stores which didn’t smell, were well lit with lots of space and well organized. These stores didn’t feel much different from shopping at a TJ Maxx as I mentioned before. The main difference was the price, which was about 90% or less what one would pay retail.
I realized that with some patience and tenacity I could find many unique pieces secondhand that were better than what I would find shopping retail. Vintage pieces and the higher priced brands which I normally couldn’t afford were now within my budget. I knew these items would last longer and be better for the planet than any of that cheap stuff I’d been buying retail. I was hooked.
After researching more about fast fashion and how it is ruining the planet I decided I no longer wanted to support an industry based on exploitation of people and the earth. I no longer spend money in those stores.
Anthropologie My Shopping Addiction
Educating myself about how fast fashion is destroying the planet kicked 70% of my shopping habit but I still had that elusive 30% to tackle, my weak spot, Anthropologie.
Anthropologie used to be a very smart retailer. They hooked me in with their artistic displays, unique selection that looked like handmade works of art and their oversized furniture where my husband could wait for me in luxury. The stores even smelled great! They were a mix between visiting an art gallery and visiting a store. I loved them.
Somewhere along the line things changed at Anthro. They downsized their creative department which effectively disposed of their artistic displays. The clothing started to look cheap and similar to what you would buy in fast fashion stores even though Anthro’s prices remained very high. When they got rid of the sofa for my husband to relax on while I shopped that was the last straw. I was finally able to break up with my long time love Anthropologie. It’s you Anthro, not me.
Life After Retail
Since I gave up shopping retail aside from the occasional footwear, underwear and socks I honestly haven’t looked back. Oh sure sometimes I’ll spend some time zoned out scrolling through Anthro’s website and then I quickly remind myself it is everything I despise made to look appealing. They are not socially or ethically responsible for how they produce their clothing and they don’t make an effort to recycle. I once read that unsold items at Anthropologie were destroyed and burned rather than sending them to overstock shops or thrift stores. That made me ill. Imagine the resources used to create those products only to have them eradicated for corporate greed. This is a practice that is still used by many high end brands.
Happily Ever Thrifting
My previous obsession with retail shopping has transformed into an environmentally friendly independent small business. Now I spend my shopping time scouring the local thrift stores to stock my Etsy shop. It is inevitable that sometimes pieces of that bounty make it into my own closet from time to time however my main goal is providing excellent inventory for my shop. While I still feel the need to improve upon reducing my consumption in every aspect of my life I’m happy knowing that through my Etsy store I am providing an opportunity for people that might not shop thrift to see pieces in a new light so that they too can begin to fall in love with thrifting the way I have. We are all responsible for our choices. Supporting stores that exploit the planet and their workers means that you are actively participating with full knowledge of their actions. Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?
New Etsy Store Listings
Here are some pieces I’ve thrifted recently which are for sale at Vintage by Suzanne on Etsy.