One of the best descriptions of items at consignment or thrift stores is the phrase, “gently used”. The thing could be a shirt or an office chair. If it is described as gently used, the implication is that the previous owner took proper care of the item.
In my experience, a store that displays a sign that mentions gently used merchandise, has products that are fairly nice. In fact, much of my wardrobe is from second-hand sources. I’m reasonably fashion conscious and keep track of trends, fabric integrity, and brand names that represent excellent quality, so gently used is what I buy.
The beauty of gently used clothing is that it is plentiful and very inexpensive. It’s probable that one trip to a thrift store will yield at least one attractive, tasteful, sturdy outfit for the cost of one item you might buy at a regular retail store.
For instance, last month I found a pair of Dockers khaki slacks in like-new condition, a conservative Arrow button down dress shirt, and an understated Ralph Lauren pull-over sweater. The entire ensemble cost just under $12. It looks great and feels very comfortable. Each item can also be combined with other clothes in my wardrobe for variety.
You never know what gem of an item you’ll discover while browsing the racks of clothes in a second-hand shop. Once in awhile, I’ll notice the holy grail of thrifting–a brand new article of clothing with the hang tags still attached in exactly my size, style, and color preference.
Last week, I stumbled across a never worn pair of Carhartt work jeans in my size with the hang tags and size strips still attached. I brought them to a changing room to verify that they fit. (Always try things on before buying.) They fit perfectly, so I brought home a spanking new pair of my favorite brand of jeans for $7. This was a savings of over $50.
One amazing fact about gently used clothing, is that there is so much of it available to buy. If you’re a busy person, you can find tons of selections on-line at eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and elsewhere. In addition to the standard clothes for everyday wear, there are collectible vintage categories.
I used to have an itch for cowboy hats. I got most of them from on-line sellers for a fraction of retail. Although I eventually lost interest in hat collecting, there are still two excellent Stetsons and one Bailey hanging in the closet that I didn’t resell.
There is one almost ironclad rule I follow about gently used articles. Never buy used shoes. You’re asking for trouble if you do. Shoes that are broken in to accommodate someone else’s feet and weight distribution may cause medical issues. Besides that, a stranger’s sweaty feet spent a lot of time in those shoes, and you can’t wash shoes to get rid of the funkiness.
That said, a friend pointed out a pair of brand new, never worn Hush Puppies oxfords on the shoe rack. I picked them up and noticed they were my size. Miracle of miracles, they fit perfectly. They are now a frequently worn part of my wardrobe.
One more practice that I do is to re-donate clothing I get tired of wearing. This keeps the cycle moving. Naturally, I wash, iron, and fold my own gently worn clothing before bringing it back to the thrift store.