It all started with a shaggy cropped cardigan. Complete with fur, metallic stitching, and the softest of fabric. It was the spark that ignited my obsession with thrifting. I came across the piece at the Goodwill down the street from my unpaid internship in West Palm Beach, Florida. Despite the fact I was scraping by on money for the summer, I knew there was no way I could go a season without trying new trends and fueling my capitalistic needs. So, I took it upon myself to find clothes for cheap. All of my spare change from odd jobs went to thrift stores.
I’ve always been keen to do things myself, even if means going the furthest lengths to do so. I find myself latching on to activities until my desire to do them is near obsessive. In middle school it was internet fame (my Instagram follower count was that of a D-list celebrity); in high school it was applying for scholarships; and in college I took a strong liking to the trash rooms of my university's dorm (move out was the best time for dumpster shopping – I once found an unused pair of Uggs). But no addictive behavior of mine has been as prominent as thrifting.
You see, I didn’t find that fur shag cardigan. She found me... in the men’s T-shirt section. She was confused, awfully misrepresented, and simply put, a diamond in the rough. I couldn’t help but find a bit of myself in her. Although at the time she was unwearable in the heat of the Florida summer sun, it was love at first sight. Sure, maybe I still haven’t worn her, but that’s only because she’s so fragile, I’m just too nervous to go out with her. Shockingly, this one purchase didn’t cure me of my thrifting bug. It was only the beginning. With barely any friends back home for the summer, I took it upon myself to find other companions. I know it may sound conceited and materialistic to find comfort in things, but I look at my summer of thrifting as an exploration into myself, not my wallet.
One of the most exciting moments of my summer revolves around a silk, one-shoulder blouse with a pattern similar to a vintage Versace scarf. I thrifted it at the Goodwill down the street from my house. Unlike the shag cardigan, this silk top was found in her proper section: women’s tank tops. Her silhouette wasn’t the best, but I knew she had potential. She had a lot of loose, asymmetrical, and unnecessarily long fabric. A simple nip and tuck transformed her from a five to a ten. Thankfully, I learned how to hand stitch in middle school, because all she needed was a cut up the side and some reinforced stitching. I had some of the best days of my summer with her.
Finally, my holy grail for the summer was also a way to expand my social circle. This time, not a piece of clothing, but rather the perfect accessory: a dainty handbag with a print of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” on the front. The print was coated in resin, adorned with beads, and shimmered like it was custom-made for the same sunlight that barred me from wearing that shag fur cardigan. It was clearly handmade and I knew that I could make some quick money if I flipped it. But instead, I took her to the art museum and later for a walk around the park; she was a great conversation starter. I decided not to sell the handbag as I knew it would feed me more than a deeper pocket. Meeting new people and sharing this piece of art was much more impactful than any extra cash could be.
To me, shopping has always been a social experience. I’ve been a mall rat since my preteen years, since it used to be the place to hangout. A new piece of clothing, if it wasn’t handed down or purchased by my mom, was purchased in a social setting amongst my girlfriends. My thrifting experience made me realize how the solo hunt was worth the reward. Each item I found that summer held a different meaning than the next. Whether it be the choice to not profit off of a wearable piece of art, the vision I had with the silk blouse, or the connection I had with the cardigan, I learned a lot about myself while thrifting. I gained empowerment through my own experiences, and developed my personal identity with each piece I found.