As I write this post, I’m taking refuge from the rain which is hammering against my window against a thundery soundtrack. It seems there’s no better time to write this post, not only because it will let me reminisce about brighter days in Berlin (predictable), but because I’ve been meaning to talk about thrift, making sustainable fashion choices and my current feelings towards buying second hand clothing for some time.
In recent months, I’ve bought fewer clothes second hand and increasingly more clothes from new. Whilst I’ve browsed in charity shops, my heart just hasn’t been in it and I’ve found myself passing up opportunities for a quick browse. Naturally, I’ve found very little. Of course, I felt guilty about buying the majority of my clothes brand new but finding this handmade dress in Berlin has helped me to see things a little clearer.
First and foremost, I’ve always tried to make sustainable fashion choices, avoiding fast fashion by buying clothes that I loved and wore until there was very little life left in them. But, thrift is different and my love of wearing second hand started a year ago when I resigned from teaching and accepted an internship in social media. Even though it was a paid position, the difference in pay from my teaching wage was around £21,000. Unsurprisingly, I had no disposable income. I found myself selling the contents of my wardrobe to make money to reinvest in second hand, living on a bland but cheap diet and constantly dreaming up ways to make extra money.
As an aside, no one really talks about the effects of having a low income. At the time, I had a group of friends who were also teachers. They would invite me on nights out and to celebratory events but because I had no money, I would always decline their offers with excuses. It was either that, or end up in serious debt. It was equally embarrassing to live hand to mouth but liberating to live simply: being stress free with a work/life balance. I lost this group of friends, slowly they stopped inviting me to places and deleted me from their lives. I remember feeling quite lonely at the time, but now I realise it’s all part of life. You drift away from people. Thankfully, I had two very close friends who saw through my excuses and would shout me the occasional coffee, or arrange days out that cost nothing but time.
A year on, I’m earning a regular wage and can afford to buy things brand new: I’d forgotten that old, familiar thrill of returning home to find a delivery of brand new clothes until I started to buy clothes for Berlin. You see, when you thrift, it’s hard to find specific basics. For my trip, I purchased what my summer wardrobe was lacking: Saltwater sandals, Superga pumps, two midi skirts and a handful of cotton t-shirts. As you’ve seen on Instagram, I wore them all during the trip and have continued to do so since my return. I’m likely to wear them until they wear out- hence, why I don’t feel guilty about buying them first hand.
We were lucky enough to visit Berlin over the weekend period and because of this, we chanced upon a number of flea markets. We went to the well-loved Mauerpark flea market, then took a tram to Boxhagener Platz market before stumbling upon Revaler Strasse’s ‘RAW Flohmarkt’ and that is where I found this handmade, gingham dress for 7 Euros.
Okay, I do love gingham. A lot. I have lots of gingham dresses but none with a skull lining. I was almost ready to part with 10 Euros, until the stallholder offered it to me for 7 Euros. When I tried it on and realised it was the perfect fit, I was smitten with it. I love its combination of sweet gingham with badass skulls! God bless Airbnb apartments because after a quick spin in the washer it was good to go. A slick of hastily applied lip gloss, a quick hair brush and I was ready for our evening in Mitte- feeling great. Ah, the power of a good dress!
Finding this dress reminded me of my thrifting days and the genuine glee at finding a piece of clothing to love. Is there greater pleasure than buying something that lasts for years for a couple of quid? It’s made me realise:
It doesn’t matter whether something is first hand or second hand, as long as it’s worn and loved, or donated to a good cause if not.
Since I’ve been back, I’m vowing to increase my thrifting once again and kickstart it by planning a day of thrifting in my favourite charity shops. For now, I’m holding fire on the online shopping and hoping I’ll reignite my love of thrift once again.
What are your feelings towards thrift?