Thrifting 101: Have you ever felt thrifting shame?

"I love those heels! Where'd you get them?"
"Your vintage dress is so pretty! How can I get one?"
I would kill for those jeans."
Loving your southwestern shirt."

Thrifting used to be a secret, covert activity executed primarily out of necessity. Once upon a time, back in the dark ages when I was a geeky and awkward high school student growing up on Long Island, there was a certain amount of shame and embarrassment about thrifting. It wasn't popular. It wasn't trendy. It wasn't something people wrote blogs about or bragged about or boasted over. No, you thrifted out of necessity, because you were broke or cheap or just wanted to avoid wearing mall clothes like your peers did.

Things are quite different today. The negative qualities associated with thrifting have largely disappeared, and it's more common for thrifters to gloat about their scores than feel shameful about them. Thrifting has become so popular that Goodwill Industries International Inc., opened more than 180 new or relocated stores in 2010. In addition, total retail store sales increased 10 percent compared to 2009.

But I wonder if the discomfort and shame about having to thrift still exists. In certain parts of my own city, the idea of digging through bins at the Goodwill is distasteful to some. And there might be thrifters who purposely avoid revealing to friends and family that the clothes they wear are largely thrifted.

So I ask you: Do you tell people that you thrift? When complimented on an item you're wearing, are you likely to share that it was thrifted? Have you ever felt shame about thrifting?


  1. I can definitely understand the stigma, but I've never felt like I shouldn't boast about the amazing deals I got at the thrift store.

    Though I occasionally feel a little pang of guilt when I see a fellow thrift store shopper who clearly can not afford to shop anywhere else and I'm there snatching up the J.Crew tops and Coach bags and ignoring all the Kohls rejects and leaving them for the less fortunate.

    Chic on the Cheap

  2. I would definitely brag now if I got a compliment on an item, but it was a completely different story when I was in high school and mall brands were everything. I thrifted a ton after I got my driver's license, but never bragged and rarely even went thrifting with friends. I could never admit my American Eagle hoodie was from the church second-hand shop!

    motu viget

  3. I have no shame! I think people are impressed when I tell them I thrifted my outfit or parts of it.

  4. I will usually brag about my thrifting finds, but I do occasionally feel a little shame knowing that I really CAN'T afford to shop "new" right now. I am a huge thrifting advocate (this girl is my hero, but knowing that it's my only choice feels constricting and is extremely frustrating at times.

  5. Depending on how well that person knows me, I might call a thrifted item "vintage". As in, "Oh, this old thing? Just a vintage Talbots skirt."

    Anyone who knows me well has probably been thrifting with me so there's no hiding and no stigma. In my family, there's generally a competition to see who can thrift the most awesome stuff.

  6. I grew up in a family that thrifted out of financial necessity. I never got new clothes except a very rare trip to K Mart. I also got a lot of hand-me-downs from family friends. There was a lot of shame attached to this, especially the hand-me-downs.
    As an adult I am working to get over that mindset and am enjoying thrifting for its own sake. Now I can afford new clothes but I think thrifting is a smarter and more ethical option. I will proudly talk about my finds if asked, especially unique vintage items. Most of my friends will do the same. Besides, women brag all the time about how they got an item ON SALE! and for A GREAT PRICE! . . . I don't see why thrifting is that different.

  7. When I've thrifted something or it's been thrifted for me ;-), I have no shame. It's like I've scored points at a game when I wear $2 Ferragamo pants or an awesome printed full skirt that no one else will have. Thrifting and vintage clothes is something I once had no interest in, but once I discovered it maybe 4 years ago, I've never been ashamed.

    1. It seems to still exist in some smaller areas. Were I live people still give you a weird look if you got your stuff at Good Will. There idea of thrifting here is TJ Maxx lol Part of the reason is that most Good Wills here don't have quality items. You need to go to a local thrift store for that. The local stores are far more acceptable, often because they are in support of a charity.

  8. i think people kind of admire people who can score awesome thrift finds. a lot of people are just too cookie-cutter or too lazy to go outside of the mall box, you know? NO SHAME.

  9. I no longer care what people think about thrifting...but in the early days, when as a single parent I was doing it out of necessity, I did sometimes feel shame. I would wish that I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew. And then one day, it occurred to me that if I DID bump into someone, they were thrifting too! It was a revelation.

  10. I used to avoid thrifting due largely to the stigma you refer to. I couldn't afford the mall brands that were popular amonst the "cool" kids in school and I didn't like the styles that were within reach to me (shallow now, I realize). I used to thrift in high school for the types of clothes my parents deemed "unacceptable", and I think I also carried that association of thrifted clothes as the clothes I had to sneak around for a long time. I'm just beginning to be intrigued by thrift stores, thanks partly to seeing your great finds on Dress with Courage. I'm now proud of my thrifting finds!

  11. My first time entering a thrift store happened this year and it was all due to being inspired by bloggers! I wouldn't say that prior to this year I would have been ashamed, but I just felt it was not my cup of tea to weed through loads of clothes that were probably not promising in the first place.

    I took a Sociology course on poverty and it made me realize that its ridiculous to pay hundreds of dollars for something that (a) took less than $10 to make, (b) I may not want after a season, and (c) I can find at a major discount store for less than $5, I changed my whole perspective. I now enter thrift stores with an eagerness to score pieces that are both fabulous and have longevity. Unfortunately, my city doesn't have many so I'll have to check for some good places on vacay. :-)

    ~ Erica~

  12. As a child pretty much everything we owned was thrifted or hand made. My parents were very conscious about saving money and as a result our house was paid for outright unlike the majority of my friends parents who were struggling to pay their mortgages, but were able to afford designer jeans.

    Thrifting is like a challenge. Why should someone have to spend a lot of money for something if someone else is essentially giving it away? I am proud to tell people that my clothing is thrifted. Usually their response is envy that they weren't able to find anything like it themselves.

    And above all thrifting is fun.

  13. When someone makes a remark about a recent thrift find I am wearing, I always wonder if maybe its because they just dropped it off a few days before. In very small towns, there are smaller numbers of women who shop high end brands regularly so its more likely it came from just one of a few local closets. Or maybe, I'm just a bit paranoid. I have to remind myself that Ann Taylor, for example, makes thousands and thousands of the same skirt. Sometimes I say, "Oh, my mom (or daughter) found this for me." That seems to satisfy them without further explanation.

  14. I've always loved thrifting. I pretty much never got anything at new retail price as a kid, even Christmas clothes were clearance/sale items. I happily told my peers that whatever only cost x-amount while thrifting. I couldn't fathom why some kids were proud to have their parents pay hundreds of dollars for jeans.

    I still do the same. I love thrifting, it's much more fun to feel like I've had to dig and search for something unique versus walking into a store with something in every size. I also gratefully pay less than $5 a piece on most of the things I thrift.

    I know it squicks some people out, some people don't like the thrill of the hunt or have specific sizing needs, but I have sewing machine, I like to shop, and I like to get stuff cheap - without buying lower-quality items. I know when I started blogging I didn't have as many high-quality pieces as I do now thanks to thrifting.

  15. Am I ashamed to get my stuff from thrift stores? No.

    But sometimes being in a thrift store reminds me of how immensely, unbelievably privileged I am as compared to so much of the world. I start thinking about my own issues of class and money and status. And THEN I feel ashamed. Or embarrassed, or uncomfortable, or forced to see things I'd rather not look at. Or all of the above.

    Thrifting may be cool right now, but it's definitely still a loaded experience for me.

  16. i have no shame. I humiliate my parents all the time when I am home and family asks where i got it and I reply $2.99 at the goodwill! On the other hand my Dad has a pair of Gucci loafers which he said he wanted all his life. I got those for him at the goodwill and he has no issues with that. He tells people his daughter gave them to him. So I think every one has a kind of tipping point.....

  17. I'm not ashamed at all! In fact, I'm very proud that 90% of my wardrobe is thrifted! I feel as though I'm helping out with the "green" movement and saving TONS of money at the same time! I can't imagine paying $100 for a pair of jean or $80 for a blouse!I'd rather spend my money on paying down my mortgage and taking more vacations!

  18. I happily admit that my clothes are from thrift stores, and that I love thrifting. The reactions I receive aren't always the same though. Many people try and console me, like I'm admitting to some dirty secret when I say my shoes are from the thrift store.


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