Breaking Up With the Mall
Note: This post was originally commissioned for Vanagan Champion (www.AmyMorby.com), and published on April, 2012:
Hello my friends! My name is Julie, and I run a little thrift fashion blog called We So Thrifty. In short, thrifting is one of the constants in my life, and so I write about it. For years, my closet has slowly, surely, been drifting away from brand-new mall items to pre-loved, pre-worn thrifted pieces. Well, whether you call it a whim or a resolution, on a January night not so long ago I made a pledge to break up with the mall completely for one whole year. I look an oath, I made some rules, and I even made a button. I was unofficially hovering around this decision for so long it was time to end the relationship completely. My motivations were simple: all my favourite, best-quality pieces came from thrift stores, and all the cheap impulse buys I regretted immediately came from the mall. It was time to cut out bad stuff entirely.
I’m just past the 4-month anniversary of my break-up, and these past few months have not only reaffirmed my decision to try out a year-long mall-fast, it’s made me believe I may never need the mall again. Here are a few of the reasons I have no regrets.
Discovering a personal style: I’ve always appreciated clothing. I’ve always enjoyed getting dressed. But only since taking this pledge have I really developed a personal style. I can identify one major reason for this: when I thrift shop, it’s 100% up to me to decide what I like and what I don’t. When I went to the mall, so much of what I could choose from was already decided for me. If Aritzia decided stripes were in season, they would cover the store with them. If they didn’t? Too bad. No stripes for you. When I’m thrift shopping, only I decide what’s in style . It’s not about what fashion executives deem on trend, it’s about how I want to look, and what I want to wear. It’s such a freedom! Sure, I have to spend more time contemplating what works and what doesn’t, and I read way more blogs now to glean inspiration, but it’s forced me to be creative, take risks, and have way more fun.
History: In a thrift store, the history of fashion reveals itself one worn-out label at a time. Not only are my choices in dress no longer limited by what’s in this season, I don’t even have to worry about what’s in this decade. I’m given the chance to rock shift dresses from the 60s, shoulder pads from the 80s, and everything else in between. In fact, my shopping adventure isn’t really over until I’ve Googled the label on my latest find. I love discovering my dress came from a pantsuit designer the 70s, or that my Christian Dior jacket is from a defunct line of office attire for the working 80s woman. I’ve learned more about fashion through thrifting than any magazine could tell me. So many stories to discover!
I don’t know what size I am: I really don’t. When I was mall-crawling, I’d fret over moving from a large to extra large, or a 10 to a 12. When I’m thrifting, I start at the front of the store, and move to the back. I make my selections by eyeballing the item and determining how it will work on my body. The peachy blouse above is from the plus-size label Lane Bryant. I also own a handful of petite items. So, I’m somewhere between a size 4 and a size 14. When you throw vintage sizes in the mix, things get even crazier. Jen at My Edit has a great post on this: It’s liberating to throw all those numbers right out the window, and just focus on what works for you. I’ve even thrifted maternity clothing before. Baby or no baby: if I like it, it’s coming home.
Stayin’ classy: It really bugs me when people assume thrifters are cheap. That’s honestly not my main motivation. Sure, I like stretching out my pennies. Sure, I brag about my steals. But I also thrift because it offers me quality. Instead of overpriced H&M and Forever 21, I get underpriced Betsey Johnson (like that wicked black dress) and Ralph Lauren. I really don’t think that requires any more explanation. It’s math, people.
You still have your “Safety Brands”: If you took offense at my digs at F21 and H&M, I meant no harm! I’ve thrifted plenty of those department store brands. That white blouse above is a prime example: Zara, tags attached, $89.99, silk. I just got it for just $7. So, I still wear H&M, Zara and F21, but I get them at clearance rack prices every single time. Zara is so well represented at thrift stores, I now have six Zara items in my closet, pre-breakup I had one. Those six items together cost me less than the one item I bought retail. More math.
At the risk of sounding overly grandiose, this journey has been a life-changer. It’s renewed my passion for fashion (I am aware that sounds like Barbie commercial…), and brought back the joy of getting dressed every morning. If you feel inspired to join me, DO IT. If you’re intimidated by the timeline, start small! Try it for a month and go from there. Or, don’t make any sweeping declarations at all – just get yourself to a thrift store and start exploring. Whatever you do, make sure to tell me about it. That way, if I ever hear the mall callin’ me with her siren song, your successes will keep me motivated to make it through the year, and maybe all the years after that, too. Happy thrifting!