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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Green Purchasing - Gently Used Clothes

At the bank a few days ago the teller, a young woman probably of 25, made a complimentary comment to me about the sweater I was wearing. It's a dark green, hooded, wool sweater made in Norway and has a beautiful pattern of black dragons all over it.

I thanked her for her comment and not being able to keep quiet about it, told her I had found it used at Goodwill several years ago. The expression on her face was priceless youth - first she looked horrified, then embarrassed, and quickly moved on to the next customer. She acted as if I'd just told her I had a contagious disease!

By now I'm used to this reaction. During more prosperous times, especially in the more affluent Colorado (my previous home), women were, for the most part, horrified and bewildered that I'd purchase used clothing. But they were also fascinated in some way by what I found...barely-worn cashmere sweaters for $3.99, brand-new designer dresses with tags still on for $6.99, a barely-worn long wool and cashmere winter coat for $9.99, a new wool tartan skirt with original price tag still on for $9.99 (a $200+ skirt).

What I've noted is that after the economic meltdown of the last few years, I'm getting the horrified reaction much less often than during the boom times. Now folks are envious of the gems I find at thrift stores, which to me means I'm making a little progress changing viewpoints.

I do purchase a majority of my clothing gently used - at commercial thrift stores such as Goodwill and at small resale/consignment shops.

Why buy used, especially when I can well afford new?

First, more money stays in my bank account to save for later.

Second, I intensely dislike shopping malls, big box stores, and major retail outlets and avoid them as much as possible. They are a waste of time for me and designed to try to sell you stuff you don't need...which, for me, is almost everything they stock.

Third, at a good thrift or consignment store, the variety of clothing available is much wider than anything you can find at a retail outlet. A thrift store pools the tastes from a wide variety of people, not just one buyer at one store.

Fourth, it's good for the environment. By purchasing gently used clothing, I am part of the Reduce - Reuse - Recycle movement. I am re-using clothing, not demanding that more be manufactured just so I can say I bought new.

I AM very picky with what I purchase used. I only buy top-quality, very gently worn items that I know I will wear for a long time. Everything needs to fit AND look good. I make sure there are no stains, tears, or other blemishes. And before any clothes go into my closet, they either go to the dry cleaner (I know, not the most environmentally-friendly option) or through a commercial laundry - this, I hope anyway, eliminates bringing home those stray critters such as bedbugs that are plaguing urban areas again. By the way, you CAN bring bedbugs home on new clothing if the retail store is infested so it's a good idea to clean or launder ALL clothing, new or used, before bringing it into your home.

I do have some things I exclusively buy new: white dress shirts, dress pants (I'm short and athletic, so hard to fit), athletic clothing (for cycling, skiing, etc.), socks, most shoes, and lingerie (of course).Other than that, the vast majority of what I wear comes to me via recycled routes - which is mildly amusing since I resisted wearing hand-me-downs when I was a kid!

The other thing I ask myself before any clothing purchse (or ANY purchse for that matter) is: do I really need it? Right now I don't need any clothing so I won't be going shopping - for either new OR used clothes. I have enough of everything so why waste time and money and resources buying more?

Related Reading:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/business/01apparel.html?_r=1&hpw

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