Tackling the taboo about being second-hand

By Mary Rose Roberts
Growing up, the majority of my wardrobe consisted of hand-me downs from my sibling. While my parents did it to save money, my sibling was a boy. As a result, I spent much of my childhood dressed in Wrangler jeans and flannel shirts. To make matters worse, my mother was practicing her haircutting skills in the basement so I usually sported a short, choppy hairstyle.

It wasn’t until I entered high school that I let go of the taboo of having second-hand clothing. Like most middle-class kids of the 1980s, little money was wasted on clothes and name-brands. Kids didn’t get everything. At that time, having a Gap or Forenza sweatshirt paired with Guess jeans meant you had money. I didn’t have either.

What I did have was a group of cool, artistic girlfriends in my Chicago neighborhood. What they had was creativity. So instead of hitting the mall on Western Ave., we would head to the south side of town, across the tracks, to a thrift store called Unique.  Now people can find a Unique in the swankiest part of the city. But back then, it was in a bad neighborhood.

Us girls would head to Unique with a mission and little teamwork. It was about hitting the racks and finding a treasure, then comparing who found what. Treasures included carpet bags; long gold necklaces featuring insects or animals; polyester patterned shirts; even Levi’s and Guess jeans. Rarely did anyone buy shoes. But we all walked away with a sense of personal style.

This was the memory I had while walking around my local Goodwill and a reminder about this blog’s reuse, recycle and renew philosophy. Since that day in Unique, I enter thrift stores with excitement. I never know what I may find. For example, my last trip I scored two belts as accessories to my newest Anthropologie tennis dress, a Fossil reusable bag and two shale serving bowls. The grand total? $12.

So don’t be afraid to go second-hand. There may be a surprise waiting just for you to discover. 

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