Monday, January 18, 2010


Catherine over at The Vegan Good Life passed over a piece from ABC’s "Good Morning America", How Clean Are Your New Clothes?. I knew this phenomenon was true from my experiences, once described in the post What’s the bait and where’s the switch. But I didn’t have scientific evidence. This bit of news offers up the possibility of that new blouse, sitting in that shopping bag with fluffed tissue paper and tags still dangling might not be the clean item you think you paid for.

Readers know I’ve been steadily poking holes in the conventional retail notion, “If it’s not new, it’s eww!” This GMA article is but another piece debunking this conventional retail-based (not fact-based) notion that ill-informed consumers are literally buying into.

If this GMA post doesn’t gross you out. I defer to another post, Perhaps new is eww. Human teeth found in “new” products? This stuff sounds more like an archeological dig than a conventional retail store. Or, maybe a TV crime scene.

I’ve been noticing more written articles delicately addressing thrift store aversions. To think some people would consider it a mark of shame to bump into an acquaintance in a thrift store. Good grief! Do we really need to be delicate and soothing about this matter? Are Americans that snobby? All I can offer is my personal experience followed up with a loud “Get over yourself!” I run into my friends at the local thrift like it’s the neighborhood coffee shop. Then again, most of us don’t have cable TV and we do things together like camping. Our children’s clothes are lovingly passed on to friends with younger siblings who proudly wear them. Some of these garments are on their third generation. I guess some Americans would call my daughters deprived considering what I’ve just written combined with the fact that we don’t have a “Wii” to go for a run or hike “we” actually get out side and do it.

As usual, I apologize for being so snarky and, uh, painfully direct. Like I always say, in the words of my family’s matriarch, “Someone’s gotta!”

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 240 items. This could give you an idea of what could be waiting for you. Also check to the Table of Blog Contents to read on how to incorporate thrift into your life in Thrift Store Conventions.


the thrifty ba said...

i have had to drag one of my best girlfriends to the thrift store with me-even after she sees how cute my and my boys dress!
and surprise-she found amazing stuff for her and her teen daughter!
im grateful not everyone shops at 'my store' since there wouldnt be anything left for me!
but i am always amazed they they dont shop there.

Linda said...

When I get complimented on something I will say, Oh I got it at the thrift store! One of my friends told me you know you don't have to tell everyone that! WHAT? I'm proud of it! I love my bargains...

Shopping Golightly said...


I think you should go forth and spread the good word of thrift!

On a side note, some people worry that having more participants in the reuse market will diminish the inventory. I tend to disagree. More people participating generally means more people donating. It just broadens the cycle.

In the words of Sister Rosetta Tharpe:
Shout, sister shout,
Shout, sister shout
Shout, sister shout,
Tell the whole world what it's all about!

Apron Thrift Girl said...

I just wished that we weren't a culture that was so afraid of germs. Not that I want vaginal bacteria with my tea but I've often come home from a yard sale and thrown something on before I washed it. I usually can tell it is clean since it sometimes has a cloud of dryer sheet perfume radiating from it. I'm sure there are odd germs in every single place on our planet but I doubt that a majority of them will kill us. For now I'll happily thrift and wear and walk prouder because of it.

Shopping Golightly said...

Apron Thrift Girl,

I share with you in eye-rolling this whole germaphobe culture (pun intended). If germaphobes knew all the little harmless critters living in their eyebrows, they'd probably shave them off.

On the flipside, I think if a shopper is going pay $279 for a "new" suit, it's not too much to ass-ume (pun intended) they're not buying poopy pants. I'd rather pay $9 for for a suit knowing I should personally clean the potential poopy pants. I guess one could argue that washing those potentially poopy pants saved me $270.

Perhaps there really is a use for SNL's commercial spoof on "Fecal-Vision," the glasses you wear that reveal where fecal matter is residing. Do you remember that one? I so wish it was on YouTube.

I hope I've not offended anyone by discussing poopy pants but it's late and I've grown punchy and purchasing poopy pants just sounds funny.

Saver Queen said...

a few points i want to make:

1. No need to apologize for being "snarky!" I LOVE your direct way of putting things! Because you're right in what you're saying. A lot of things that are happening in our consumerist world are just plain crazy, and it's great to hear you drawing attention to them.

2. Apron Thrift Girl - I agree with you. If it wasn't in the context of this blog's message (the main point being that there are probably no more germs on thrift clothing than new) I would roll my eyes at this newspiece, which I think is fear-mongering. Getting sick from clothing? Please. A great deal of things are "theoretically possible" - but if there is no evidence that they happen or happen at a level that is statistically significant, they are not worth worrying about!

3. Let's face it - you can find some gross/dirty stuff at thrift stores, or at the thrift stores that I go into, at least. But in my opinion, weeding through the crap to find the fabulous, flawless designer outfits or priceless vintage collectibles for a few bucks a pop is simply worth the effort! Not all thrift stores are lined with only the best merchandise, and sometimes you just have to deal with the fact that you will be handling stuff that needs a good solid wash. There are germs everywhere there are humans and in my opinion, people who are icked out by thrift stores just need to get over it.

Jane said...

I really appreciated your article as it is perfecly in tune with the way we think in our family. I am an avid thrift store shopper and lender/receiver for many reasons. It saves money and it is much more ecological. Just yesterday I went to my friend's house to pick up the clothes I had lent her for her pregnancy. We had a cup of tea, a great chat. This morning, I'm bringing those same clothes to another friend who just found out she is pregnant with an unexpectant third. In our area, clothes and items circulate. It's just the way things are. And of course I run in to my friends at the Thrift store, and what a pleasure!!

kath said...

I would be excited if I ran into someone I knew at a thrift store!
I've purchased many wonderful things at my local Goodwill and one of my sons buys most of his (very nice, some designer) clothes there. He now has most of his friends shopping at Goodwill too!

Vegan Good Life said...

Glad you enjoyed the article. My mother worked for years in a department store and can confirm not only how many people are trying on these new clothes and returned (often worn) items going back on the racks, but that many of these clothes end up on the unsanitary fitting room floor.

Like Linda, I proudly declare when I receive a compliment its source. "Oh thank you, free from a clothing swap" or "$5, my favorite thrift shop." When people see how stylish and affordable second-life finds are, it will help diminish the unfair stigma.

And like Jane, I shop thrift partly for environmental reasons. Why contribute to the production of new items, which waste precious resources? - Catherine

Bee Balm Gal said...

My Army daughter and her new husband finally got to move into their first home together this past December. (They had been on opposite deployment schedules to Afghanistan.) Since then, they have been prowling thrift stores for inexpensive furniture for their apartment. At Christmas, my daughter proudly showed off the designer cashmere sweater she'd spotted while checking out a thrift store. It was $3.00, in perfect condition, and looked terrific on her. I think she's hooked...

PaperCameraScissor said...

I have to say I wish I had shopped at thrifts back when my dd( 14 yrs ago) was born. I did hit the local yard sales and hit the local Good will but not like I do now. I love going to the many thrifts we have here in my city. My husband has been on a reading kick and he heads right to the thrift to buy his books. He said why pay big bucks for a book not knowing if its going to be good? I have bought many items, clothes and even shoes from the thrifts--I am not ashamed to say that. One of my friends always says she wishes she could find stuff like i do. the only thing is she never goes. :( thanks for this blog --i am so happy to have found it.

beccy said...

I've dragged friends charity shopping - I specially took one who turned her nose up at thrifted clothing and told me I was starting to dress like an old lady as she swanned about in her Primark cheap, badly made, generic, will last about 5 minutes, child labour knock-offs (shudder). Well,she never bought any clothing but I got her interested in books so it's a start.
I also bumped into one of my adult students in a far off charity shop I always think of as 'my secret'. The only slight embarrassment came when we both (unspoken of course) spied the same pair of beautiful chairs going for a song, and she won. Bah.
As for the germophobes, well, you've gotta eat your peck of dirt, as my gran always said :)

crowjoy said...

Thanks for pointing out this hypocrisy. Like you said, at least with a thrift you go into it knowing you may have to wash it first.

What about the chemicals from manufacturing still on new clothes? I'm more paranoid about formaldehyde than a few germs.

Sigh. Have I complain in *every* comment I've made how I miss the thrifting in my old town? :)

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I'm shocked so many Americans are averse to thrifting. Many, many of us in the style blogging community love to thrift because we love finding rarer items on the cheap. I think also many of my fellow academics shop at thrift stores for political and environmental reasons. I know I do.

Alex M said...

I buy my sheets at the thrift store and am always looking for 100% cotton cases. I know the ones I am getting are new because they feel too smooth and soft. When I wash them, they come out rough -- just like when you get them new.

It didn't take me long to realize that the cheapest way to get good 100% cotton sheets, was to go to Amvets. And in this case, I am always finding them new. With cotton sheets, you have to wash the new ones at least a couple of times to soften them up. So where's the ick factor in going with those from the thrifts?

blackdog finds said...

Amen! I couldn't agree more with the author and the commenters!