second hand challenge

second hand challenge: outfit 1, black and white stripes

second hand outfit
low back top
strappy flats
black and white outfit
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Skirt - secondhand via Thredup; Shoes - upcycled

I take it for granted how much of my wardrobe belonged to someone else before it got to me. Working at a thrift shop, you can lose track of how much you're taking home with you. When I bought this blouse (for $3.50), I remember thinking it wasn't quite my style and wondering if I'd actually get around to wearing it, but I love the plunging back and the fit of it so much that it's become one of my favorite pieces. 

That's not always the case, though. I've made a lot of terrible impulse buys that I end up re-donating. Still, I've had pretty good luck getting things I love at second hand shops. In the past month alone, I've purchased a cashmere cardigan ($3.50), practically new Urban Outfitters duster ($3.50), Sam Edelman Petty Booties ($3.99!), and a current season J. Crew top ($10.00) from thrift shops and ebay. (You may be asking, "But what about your capsule wardrobe?" at this point, and to be honest with you, that's up in the air; that project really helped me figure out my style and narrow down my purchases, but the seasons here are so unpredictable that I haven't been ready to start it.)

I know a lot of people find no thrill in sorting through poorly organized racks of second hand clothes (I can't imagine why! JK), but it's definitely worth your while to take a quick look around a second hand shop before splurging on a new item. You'll save money and give old things another chance to see the light of day. 

second hand challenge: upcycle your way to the perfect closet

DIY black strappy flats

Part of the fun of buying second hand, particularly if you're at a thrift shop, is that you can get a bit experimental with your style both because thrift shops carry a huge assortment of goods and because things don't cost very much money. And if you can't find the exact thing you want, you may be able to buy something similar and make a few tweaks when you get home.

I'd been wanting a pair of black flats that weren't plain jane for awhile, but I just couldn't find anything that worked out at the numerous thrift shops and second hand sites I visited, so I decided to make my own! The best part is that I was able to use things I already had lying around, but you should have no trouble finding a plain pair of flats at your local thrift. I'd recommend scoping out yard sales or calling your local thrift shops (and maybe a Habitat Store if you're near one) to find basic craft supplies. My church's prayer shawl ministry just gave away a whole bunch of unused craft supplies, so double check to see if people in your community have spare bits and bobs.

make strappy flats diy

To make a pair of strappy flats, you'll need:

  • sturdy, flat ribbon (I used a wide grosgrain) for loops
  • scissors
  • heavy duty craft glue like E-6000 or 9001
  • chiffon fabric/ribbon or leather cord (depending on what type of look you're going for) for laces
  • plain flats

shoes tutorial

Instructions:

  1. Make loops for your straps to go through: Measure the height of the sides of your shoes, then double this measurement and cut your grosgrain or other sturdy ribbon to size. Using the first piece of ribbon as your template, cut 7 more pieces of ribbon. 
  2. Create loops by folding each piece of ribbon over itself, then secure with a strong craft glue. Let dry. 
  3. Figure out where you want your loops to be secured on the shoe (I eyeballed it), then glue your ribbon loops into the shoe. I used a relatively small amount of glue on the side of the shoe to ensure that the shoes wouldn't become too stiff or uncomfortable. Let dry.
  4. Choose your laces. I used my Sseko Designs chiffon ribbons*, but you could make your own chiffon ribbons from a thrifted dress or skirt or buy some cord from a craft store if you want a narrower strap.
  5. Lace straps through loops like you're lacing a sneaker. Secure around your ankle.

black strappy flats

Since I may decide I don't want straps on my flats after awhile, I made sure not to use too much glue when securing the loops onto the sides of the shoes. If I want plain flats again, I can simply cut the loops off.

Sometimes changing up your wardrobe just takes a bit of brainstorming. Next time you're looking to update an old standby, consider altering what you already have with a bit of help from a second hand store. 

*denotes affiliate link.

EWC Second Hand Challenge: don't chuck your junk in my backyard

Ethical Writers Coalition Second Hand Challenge

The Ethical Writers Co. of which I am a part has decided to host a Second Hand Challenge for the month of September. That means something different to each of us, but we're all hoping to bring to light the beauty of buying second hand. I've gone on and on about the benefits of secondhand shopping already, even writing an article about it for Relevant Magazine, but I'm still learning to Shop Secondhand First for everything instead of impulse buying on Amazon.

Since I manage a thrift shop, my perspective on the secondhand industry is perhaps more obsessively parsed out than most. While I think that the used goods market is a vital middle man between retail stores and the landfill, it is by no means a perfect system. For one, a lot of donors assume that everything they give to thrift shops and other charities will find a happy home and go on to live a full life, but that's just not the case. At my shop - and I think we're rather generous about what we keep - we often get rid of nearly 50% of what comes in on any given day. We send most of that off to another charity in the hopes that they'll find some use for it, but we're fooling ourselves if we don't admit that half of that pile will end up being thrown out.

"...we often get rid of nearly 50% of what comes in on any given day."


This is the biggest pitfall of the secondhand market: it operates (for many) as a guilt release valve for over-consumption. People don't feel bad about buying new stuff because they know they can hand over all their old stuff to charity. They don't have to deal with the burden of tossing it in the trash.

This point assumes, of course, that people tend to feel guilty about throwing things away, but that's not true for everyone. Some people give to thrift shops simply because it makes them feel like they've done their good deed for the week. One donor even told me that she considers donating her stuff to thrift shops her primary act of goodwill, as if handing over unwanted items to us is a heavy burden for her. While I'm sure every charity shop is immensely grateful that people donate, it shouldn't replace real activism. The donor-receiver relationship is mutually beneficial; it's an exchange, not a great moral deed.


"If we acknowledged the people behind the products we purchased, I think it'd be much harder to part with them."


Another downside of the secondhand market's existence is that it allows people to be flippant about their possessions and the human and environmental costs of production. If we acknowledged the people behind the products we purchased, I think it'd be much harder to part with them. I've made it a habit to pray for the makers of the things I buy, use, and wear whether they were fairly sourced or not, not so much because I think my prayer will change the lives of those I pray for, but because I think the habitual act of prayer will change my heart for the better - it will orient my thinking toward justice and intentionality.

Despite its shortcomings (but let's be honest, they're really our shortcomings), shopping secondhand is still a very good thing, because it gives perfectly usable things another chance to live our their intended lives instead of being thrown out or otherwise abandoned. And everyone can benefit from the secondhand market: people with lower incomes have access to nice things, shopaholics can curb their spending, landfills don't fill up so quickly, local charities receive financial support, and the people who made the goods in the first place are remembered and respected through the long term use of their products. But, as with everything in this life, we must act responsibly.

rules for shopping with intention

Shopping secondhand is a budget friendly way to shop more sustainably and I'm determined to get in the habit of buying more than just clothes on the secondhand market. Vacuum cleaners, coffee pots, printers, paper, CDs, gift wrapping - there are lots of surprising things to be found at your local thrift. Plus, there are a ton of other ways to get exactly what you're looking for on the secondhand market thanks to marketplaces like ebay and thredup; or you could host a swap with your friends or in your community and find things you love for free (plus, passing things on to the specific people you know will value them is often a better option than donating willy-nilly to a thrift shop). I figure that if I can buy something that's on a slippery slope to the landfill instead of buying new, that's a small win for sustainability.

"Vacuum cleaners, coffee pots, printers, paper, CDs, gift wrapping - there are lots of surprising things to be found at your local thrift."


So follow along with me and the EWC this month as we take on the #ethicalwritersco Second Hand Challenge. If you use our hashtag on social media, we'll be able to see what you're up to and get some inspiration! You may be a novice to shopping secondhand or a seasoned pro, but we want to know how you're taking advantage of charity shops and online consignment sites to create a more sustainable, less wasteful life.

Additional Reading:


From the EWC: