"People think that if you buy secondhand clothes, you have to look shabby,” says Priyanka Lahiri, a Temple film student and employee of Chestnut Street consignment boutique Second Time Around. “It’s just not true—you can make outfits that look expensive based on how you put things together.”
Though global fast-fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters pump out trendy apparel at bargain-basement prices, low-quality has costs beyond the sticker price—supporting unsustainable production that exploits cheap labor, reliance on ’round-the-world shipping and the use of petroleum-based fibers, for starters. But to be both an ethical and stylish consumer is not a mutually exclusive proposition when you shop secondhand.
Sourced everywhere from streetside flea markets and thrift warehouses to upscale consignment and vintage boutiques, pre-worn clothing, shoes and accessories abound to freshen up your look for a new season—without all the attendant baggage.
Five local style stars—a milliner/taxidermist, a PR pro, a designer, a wheel builder and a film student—show off their secondhand finds in these pages, and share tips for creating lasting looks out of cast-offs. The key to fruitful shopping on the used market is to remember that thrifting is as much sport as shopping—you must dig for buried treasure—and if something looks frumpy, don’t be afraid to whip out the scissors.
Temple film student and Second Time Around employee
Hat ($25), shirt ($15), St. John bowtie pin ($25), belt ($20) and shoes ($17): Second Time Around
Shorts: Red, White & Blue (Voorhees, N.J.)
Tips on Consignment Shopping and Selling:
Don’t get overwhelmed by the prices in good consignment stores. You can get high-end labels for so much less [than retail]. For the most success consigning your stuff, make sure the clothes are in good condition and within the style of the past two years.
taxidermist/milliner, Diamond Tooth Taxidermy, diamondtoothtaxidermy.com
Navy tank ($5 rack) and belt ($8): Wilbur Vintage
Jeans ($4): Philly AIDS Thrift
Earrings made from old bookmarks and fringe, Vintage matador hat with taxidermy bling: Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
Necklaces of family heirloom charms and gifts
DOs and DON’Ts of Thrifting
Do keep an open mind. Don’t go out looking to thrift something specific.
Not So Fun Fact
According to the Council for Textile Recycling, 61 percent of the billions of pounds of clothing donated in the U.S. is exported to other countries, creating a significant carbon footprint and depressing their homegrown textile industries. Donate instead to organizations reselling locally, like hospital and church thrift stores, or that use the revenues to fund programs you believe in, like Goodwill and Philly AIDS Thrift.
Director, MeredithComm PR, meredithcomm.com
Diane Von Furstenberg jumpsuit ($1.75): Village Thrift (Germantown, since closed)
Muskrat-jaw continuous-fringe earrings: Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
Bangles (50 cents-$1 each): Bargain Thrift (Germantown)
Don’t spend more than $10 at any one store. If you keep it under $10, you can take risks. You might buy something and not wear it for five years, but then one day you’ll pull it out—and live in it—because your fashion intuition told you to buy it.
Go with your gut. If something looks slightly off, tie it, drawstring it, turn it into a muumuu, cut it really short…
Wheel builder, Bell’s Bikes; fashion blogger and Etsy vintage shop owner, beingperfectishard.com
Floral nurse’s smock ($2) and striped vest ($5): Village Thrift (Pennsauken, N.J.)
Boots ($6): Philly AIDS Thrift
Medallion necklace and rings ($10 total): flea markets
Use your imagination. If something looks huge on a hanger, you can cut or belt it to make it work. Look in the lingerie, uniforms and little kid’s sections of the store—I’ve found some of my best stuff in the kid’s section.
Owner and home accessories designer, Masters of None, mastersofnone.org
Shirt ($1), tie ($1) and blazer ($4): Circle Thrift
Jeans: gift of a friend; buttonhole relocated to adjust size
Secondhand shopping tips for men:
Go early, go often! Think in terms of pieces, but also overall outfits. This shirt is the most ill-fitting thing ever, so I only wear it with a jacket. For $1, you can’t beat it. Since rolled-cuff jeans are cool now, if something fits in the waist with the wrong length, you can just cuff and your problem is solved.
Sazz Vintage Warehouse (2438 Coral St., open to public Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m.) has so much stuff in so many boxes—ask them for a sheet, and just dump the box out and sift through.
story by felicia d’ambrosio
photos by michael persico • photo assistant david ohl
Local designers, screenprinters and studiomates Lauren Rossi and Anne Schaefer welcomed GRID into their Amber Street Studios space for our shoot. Check out their work at boutiquetextiles.com and anneandkate.com.