About a month ago we happened upon a sale of sample clothing - great pieces at even greater prices. Most of the clothing had labels removed and some pieces were slightly damaged (mostly broken zippers which could be repaired at a small cost). At this particular sale EN picked up some fantastic dresses for a laughable amount. These included a black Grecian style Calvin Klein dress for 20$ (that's right!), a blue sequined cocktail dress so beautifully outrageous that the 15$ (I know!) it cost really was a steal, and a hot pink halter style dress with a broken zipper for 10$ (cost to repair zipper - between 20$ - 30$...still a bargain).
When gleefully sharing this shopping coup with a friend, her initial and immediate response was "Ewww...but were these dresses used??". What a strange question, we thought. In fact, these items were not "used" (they were samples)...but at 20$ for a designer dress...who the hell cares? It seems that she did. So, a subsequent survey of friends, family and virtual strangers revealed that she was not alone. There seems to be a subset of the population that thinks that used or second-hand clothing is just plain yucky.
Now, having grown up with an older sister, receiving hand-me-downs is nothing new to EN. And, when this lovely older sister had children, she saved much of their goodies and then handed those down to our daughters. Fantastic! To this day, between hand-me-downs and what they receive as gifts (and the added bonus of school uniforms), we have really not had to buy our girls much in the way of clothes and even shoes.
Our informal survey (have you mailed yours back yet? :) ) revealed however that most people do not object to hand-me-downs from people that they know - but used clothing from strangers is another story. Some of the reasons people cite for never accepting or shopping for used clothing are the following:
1. Gross! How could you possibly want to wear stuff that someone else has worn?
To this we simply ask: Have you ever eaten in a restaurant? Stayed in a hotel? The idea that wearing clothes that someone else has worn is gross stems from the fact that one believes that these articles of clothing are dirty, germy, contaminated (we guess). But think about it. If you bring home something from a second-hand shop...you wash it. So really, what's the problem? Do you think that when you check into a hotel, whether it's a 2 star or a 5 star, that you're getting brand spanking new sheets and towels each time? Sorry to burst your hygiene bubble, but that towel you're using to dry your hair...well...it's been used before. And what about when you go to a restaurant? Do you think that you're eating off of never-been-used-before dishes and that the cutlery you're using is right out of the box? Nope...used before. Now sure, the laundry machines in hotels and the dish-washing machines in restaurants are probably much more powerful than those that you have at home. Well, we hope so because in those establishments they have to wash away the yuckiness of lots and lots of folks. If you still feel that your own laundering will not get rid of the coodies, take your purchase to the dry cleaners. Germ problem solved!
2. Buying or accepting second-hand stuff means you can't afford better stuff.
Well, maybe that's actually true, but it may not be, and anyhow, that's not the point. The assumption that you're making is that hand-me-downs are, by definition, of poor quality. That is most definitely not true. Anyone who has ever shopped in a good vintage shop, gone to a fantastic estate sale or befriended a really rich somebody who only buys high end stuff and has a high turnover rate (we all need friends like this) knows that you can find some phenomenal pieces this way. And, you also know that you can wear what you've bought without worrying that your co-workers will walk into work wearing the same thing, and horrors, looking better in it than you do!
As for not being able to afford "better" aka "new" stuff, the sad fact is that some vintage items are actually a small fortune, and you can get new clothes (of pretty poor quality) for next to nothing. It's all about how you choose to use the few pennies you allow yourself to spend. Besides, if you're shopping for clothes that are beautiful and are also saving some money...all the better!
3. Used clothing is old and therefore not fashionable.
Well, we guess that this depends on what you consider fashionable. If your definition of fashion is what everyone is wearing because that is what is in all the magazines (oh, by the way...shoulder pads are back!), then you're right....shopping for second had stuff may not meet this cookie-cutter definition. But there is nothing to say that you cannot pair some current must-haves with some older finds. That way, you create a look that is uniquely your own. So long as you are wearing something you love and that you are comfortable and confident in (and that fits you properly) - you'll look fabulous. (oh...by the way...at this point Frugal Freddie would just like to say that he really has no idea or interest in fashion and has completely zoned out of this entry. Good thing he just lets EN pick out his clothes)
4. If you can afford to buy new stuff, then you should leave the used clothing for people who really can't afford anything else.
An interesting argument for sure. But, consider this, if you're going to shop from a second hand store that caters to lower income people, even if you yourself are not one, you are contributing to this organization in another way. The Salvation Army for instance uses the money that it makes on sales to put back into the community and to be able to run their stores.
If you still feel like you are shopping immorally, why not donate some of the things that you no longer wear for them to sell?
5. But it's used....
I love language and am a firm believer that semantics is everything! No wonder people only want to buy and wear new stuff when the alternative is called "used". "Used" gives the impression that something is past it's usefulness. We think of "used and abused"...well, I wouldn't want a dress that fit that description either. So, instead of "used" how about referring to these items as "vintage" (how chic) or "pre-loved" (how heart-felt) or "recycled" (how green). I for one don't have anything used in my closet, but I've got plenty of incredible, vintage fashion pieces that I saved from the garbage dump, and that I am absolutely loving.
The Tightwads (well... mostly, until FF decided to cut the grass after point 3)