Thrifting– An Ethical Way to Shop

As a follow-up to my previous article about the horrors of the fast-fashion industry, I have compiled a list of the best secondhand stores near Lesley.  When I first got to college, I definitely thought that thrifting was only conducive to a specific kind of quirky style.  I didn’t understand that you can have whatever kind of wardrobe you want entirely secondhand—you just need to know where to look!  This guide will help you navigate the best places to invest in your new ethical wardrobe.

The Consignment Boutique

Before I worked in one, I thought that consignment boutiques were a complete rip-off.  Why would I pay more than $10 for clothing that is (shriveled, disgusted expression) used?  The answer is that this clothing has been pre-screened for its value, quality, and condition, so you don’t have to do the serious digging yourself.  Why buy an item at H&M when you could pay the same price for a high-end version that’s just had a previous home?

Raspberry Beret (1704 Massachusetts Avenue, right between Doble Campus and University Hall) is one such consignment boutique.  They feature a mixture of contemporary and vintage styles, with an average price point around $25.  Here, you are likely to find brands such as Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Banana Republic, BCBG, and Anthropologie.  This is where I go to get timeless, eclectic statement pieces that I am willing to spend a little more money on.  I practically live in vintage dresses from here in the summer because they are well-made and durable conversation pieces that never go out of style.

Down the road into Davis Square, you’ll find Buffalo Exchange (238 Elm Street, Somerville).  Buffalo has a slightly lower price point than Raspberry Beret because you’re likely to find a different set of brands; usually Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Zara.  They also have a small but intriguing vintage selection in the basement.  One thing to watch out for here is that they do buy brand new clothing to sell in the store, so make sure that what you’re buying is actually secondhand (i.e. doesn’t have an original tag still attached from a label you’ve never heard of).

The newest addition to Davis Square’s thrifting scene is Thrive Exchange (255 Elm St, Somerville).  Because it only opened this summer, Thrive is still in the process of forming its aesthetic.  Pricing and quality may be inconsistent, but that’s because the greatest challenge for a secondhand store starting out is accruing inventory by building rapport with local consignors and sellers.  I am excited to watch the evolution of Thrive in these next few months, and it’s always worth stopping in while you’re in the area—once for $10, I scored a top there that was Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock (aka: 70s vintage gold).

The Secondhand Department Store

Anyone who has ever celebrated Halloween in Boston or Cambridge knows about The Garment District in Kendall Square, but this place is useful to a thrifting enthusiast year-round.  The first floor features a by-the-pound section where each pound is only $3 as well as a selection of new costumes.  The second floor is entirely secondhand clothing in enormous quantities.  While some of it can be in that awkward space between too-old-to-be-cool and too-recent-to-be-vintage, most of their clothing is worth checking out.  For the sheer space of the store, you’re likely to find something you like—last month I bought a pair of J Brand jeans for $14 (retail is over $200).

The Garment District boasts the largest selection of vintage that I’ve seen in the Boston area, all at relatively inexpensive prices.  They also frequently host events, such as their recent 31st birthday celebration that featured free local craft beer and 31% off storewide.  If there is something that you need, you will almost certainly find it here for cheap.

The Classic Thrift Shop       

Once you’ve mastered the secondhand boutique and tackled the chaos of the Garment District, you are ready for the classic down-and-dirty version of hardcore thrifting.

Goodwill has several nearby locations (520 Mass Ave, Central Square and 230 Elm Street Somerville, Davis Square).  I frequent the Davis Square location, which was just renovated this summer.  Goodwill has an overwhelming amount of merchandise and isn’t the cleanest store on this list by far, but with prices like $5 and $7 I can’t complain!

My first tip for navigating Goodwill is to go on a weekday.  By Sunday, the good stuff is all picked over, so I try to make time after class to de-stress.  If you’re feeling low-energy, the best place to browse is the dressing room return rack and the racks surrounding it.  This is all of the best stuff that has already been filtered out by people who tried it on before you.  Lastly, it’s easy to find your next favorite wardrobe piece here by just being patient!  By chance, I found a pair of Anthropologie corduroys here in a size that fit me perfectly.  I took them home, and after learning my size, I ordered three more secondhand pairs on Ebay.  I now have four pairs of beautiful Anthropologie corduroys for less than the price of just one pair brand new—and I also got to skip giving my money to a company with shady ethics!

Remember—Sustainable Fashion is a Cycle

Thrifting is an affordable and fun hobby, but it can be even more affordable and fun when you participate in the selling end.  Most of the stores I’ve listed will either buy your clothing outright for a few bucks, or consign it and give you at least 40% of the profit.  You won’t get rich off of it, but it is certainly enough to offset the cost of your new past-time!   Sell, consign, or donate to a good cause—but it is our responsibility to do our best to keep clothing out of landfills.

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