At least 1/3 of my clothes came from thrift stores. I come a long line of thrifty people–“garage sale-ing” , salvation army’s 50-cent night, and “fill a bag for a dollar” church sales are family outings (even now when I fly back to Michigan to visit my family there is both a pile of clothes on the guest bed for me to look through and at least one trip to goodwill planned.)
Thrifting in NYC is different, it’s mostly stores like Housing Works, Beacon’s Closet, Monk, and Buffalo Exchange (yes there are several salvation army and good will stores but they aren’t as plentiful as they seem to be in the corner of the Midwest where I grew up), since New York is such a fashionable and expensive it follows that used clothes would also be more fashionable and expensive (although don’t get my started on the idiocy of $30 t-shirts from some defunct softball league).
Still financial limitations, habit and fun have led me to be a life long thrift shopper. In the grand circle of life I’ve also been a life long donater of clothes and household goods. I’ve written before about how hard it is to donate items in NYC, but thankfully since that post, a clothes drop off bin has gone up a few blocks from our apartment, and I’ve become more vigilant about keeping my neighbor from throwing things that I put on the curb in front of our building (aka the Bermuda Triangle), my book club has also become a kind of a swap meet–although I’ve benefited more from that than I’ve contributed…
Anyways, because of my deep thrifting roots it was with great interest that I read this article about what really happens to clothes when you donate them. (also on Jezebel) The common naïveté that when you donate something there will magically be someone nearby who wants it , is exposed. I knew that a lot of our cast off clothes (like all those t-shirts of the losing team super bowl teams) go to Africa. But I had no idea about that the turn around time is so short, that there’s a “rag bin” since some things no one wants, and that soon the Africa won’t want our mountain of cheap tacky clothes anymore.
Reminds me of this excellent documentary from a few years ago about our addiction to cheap disposable crap and how we are drowning under all of the crap we feel the need to buy constantly. To this end I’m taking a sewing class (which fullfills another life goal) so soon I’ll be able to make new crap out of all of my old crap rather than add it to the “rag bin.”