Last weekend I finally admitted that the cold weather was here to stay for the season. It was not moment too soon as yesterday the Chicagoland area was blanketed with several inches of snow. Along with the plummeting temperatures came the cold, hard fact that twelve year-old Eva really needed warm clothing that would fit her. I think that she has fully outgrown her wardrobe at least four times in the past year, which is making it a challenge to keep her clothed.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have shopped for the kids’ clothes at children’s consignment sales for many years. I love consignment sales and thrift stores as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and to conserve our family’s financial resources. For us, spending money on healthy food and other wellness choices trumps fashion. I have also found that there are a lot of great clothes to be purchased through resale routes. Kids’ consignment sales are still a great resource for me to find clothes for Alina and Asher, but in the past year Eva has shot up to almost 5’6″ and has really grown beyond the sizes featured at most children’s sales. It is also difficult to buy clothes for her that she cannot try on for fit, and that cannot be returned if they don’t work for her. Clothing resales generally do not allow try-ons or returns.
To solve this lack-of-wardrobe challenge, Eva and I set out last weekend for our old neighborhood to hit the racks at a couple of my favorite thrift stores. The thrift stores that I have found by our new home have been very hit or miss, and I knew that making a day out driving to visit these stores would be a good use of our time. Eva balked a bit at the idea of a long drive to spend hours at thrift stores, but she too was getting tired of trying to get dressed for school each morning without clothing that fit properly.
Our first stop was a privately-owned thrift store that was featuring 50% off of two of their four tag colors on that day. Mind you, three days earlier I had received a text that everything in the store was 50% off, but pulling Eva out of school for a sale seemed irresponsible. I settled for my more modest sale and remaining in good parental standing. I was able to hold Eva’s attention at the jeans racks for a short while before I lost her to the books. I played the role of her personal shopper and loaded up the cart with jeans and tops that I thought that she would like, and then listened to her refrain of “are we almost done?” as I made her try everything on in the dressing room. In the end we left with several pairs of jeans, and a handful of sweaters, as well as a pair of pumps and a few books. I have a shopper card at the store, and although I completely do not understand their rewards program, I apparently had earned a $10 coupon previously which I applied to my purchase. After making this purchase, I earned another $10 coupon for a future visit.
Thrifted tween jeans: Aeropostale, Express, Guess, 7 For All Mankind
Our second stop was to a large Goodwill store. Once again, I knew that my timing was not ideal because we were missing their % off tag days, but I was more concerned about getting the errand done than about getting the best deal for this trip. If we lived closer, I might have tried to capitalize on sales. As it turned out, it was student discount day and Eva was offered 10% off at checkout with her student ID (I knew that kid would pay off someday). Goodwill was a layering tee and sweater goldmine. We found another pair of jeans here too, and more books of course, but overall the tops won the day at Goodwill.
By the time we were done we were tired, thirsty, and hungry. The reward for our efforts was a new wardrobe to carry Eva through fall and winter, assuming that she doesn’t grow more by then (which I am not really assuming at all). It was interesting to see her style leanings. She is clearly straddling the worlds of girl and young woman. Her choices ranged from the cute and whimsical, to hipster.
Tween clothes: quirky and bright
I must admit that it is fun watching her grow up, and to spend the better part of a day shopping and laughing with her. Eva and I don’t get a lot of one-on-one time together. Even if the time was spent shopping, we still had fun.
Hipster chic: Gap, Halogen, Land’s End, and LOFT (aka, “the one with the bacon sleeves.”)
It total we came home with a lot of great clothes at a fantastic price. There are a few items that I did not include in the photos (books, the pumps, a few new-with-tags camisoles, etc.) but by my count the pictured piles include 5 pairs of jeans, 16 long-sleeve and layering tees, and 16 sweaters, hoodies, and cardigans. Our total for these items, including our discounts and tax was $168 and change, or just over $4.50 per item.
Eva has loved wearing her new-to-her clothes this week. I love that we were able to pull together a whole new wardrobe in a day filled with cute clothes to reflect different aspects of Eva’s personality. I like that we were able to buy it all at prices that don’t put us in debt. I also understand that Eva is at a stage in her life when she could wake up tomorrow having outgrown all of her clothes again, and that spills, stains, and accidents happen. Buying thrifted clothes means that I won’t be upset if these clothes end up being handed down, given away, or if they reach the end of their useful life in our home.
I think that buying previously-worn clothing still carries a stigma in our society where abundance is the norm, and “new” and “expensive” hold status. I also think that unless you are in a trendy-Boho area, the notion of a thrift store often conjures up images tantamount to indigent individuals dumpster-diving for any rags that they can find.
With a family of five, including three growing children who need new clothes every season if not sooner, buying the bulk of our wardrobe through thrift and resales is a lifestyle choice that has a big impact on our budget. These clothes will make up the bulk of what Eva will wear over the next six months. Our total expense for the thirty-seven items was close to the full retail price of one of the single higher-end items in the bunch. In addition, I feel much better from an ecological and social perspective getting more wear out of clothing items that are no longer useful to someone else, and easing the burden on other countries (and their children) to produce clothing for us to buy new, wear, and toss. The items purchased at Goodwill give the organization funds to train people for jobs. Moreover, even with a tween focused on how she looks, and wanting cute, trendy clothes, we were able to pull together great clothes from quality brands, and in very good previously worn condition.
What is your experience with thrift store shopping? Any great finds or tips to share?