Sunday, June 12, 2011

Used clothing and me and you

Used clothing used to be something that only poor people bought. One of my earliest memories is going in search of a 70s dress for my elementary school disco-themed production at the Salvation Army; we found one, blue and green swirls that my mom cut off because it was a bit too long. Later, when I was going to anime conventions I went to Goodwill to get pieces that I would alter for cosplay. It was cool among the hipster kids at my high school to buy used t-shirts with slogans like "World's Best Grandpa". "Thrifting" was something you did when you were bored.

I didn't live in a big or particularly hip city so the only used boutique was Plato's Closet, which I went to at the end of high school and in college during trips home. The girls who worked there, the guardians of whether your clothing was accepted for sale or not, were dressed hip but spoke high-pitched.

When I went to Japan the first time I was surprised that there wasn't a used clothing market, given all the crazy fashion floating around. There was one used boutique near where I lived, and when I visited I found the prices kind of atrociously high.

That's changing. The 90s recession had something to do with it, I'm sure, but probably more young people went to NY and Hawaii and saw the local used boutiques there, and wondered why there weren't any at home. I've had discussions with my coworkers about how younger Japanese people aren't ashamed to have used items of any kind. Taking useable furniture out of the big trash areas isn't unheard of these days, and used clothing stores are everywhere.

There's so many reasons to buy used clothing:
1. It's often cheaper than new clothing. If you're buying vintage of course YMMV.

2. It's better for the environment. The factories that make our clothing are polluting the air and the sea, especially in the fast fashion era.

3. It's often supporting small and local businesses, or in the case of traditional thrift stores, places that do good works. In both America and Japan there are corporate-owned used boutiques (Plato's Closet, THANK YOU MART &c), but many used boutiques are one-offs owned by an individiual. In Hawaii I loved to go to Stylus, which sometimes had gyaru brands.
Places like Goodwill and Salvation Army use their profits to help other people, though you may want to make sure you agree with Salvation Army's politics before you shop there.

4. If the clothes are significantly older - they're better made. I've been finding quality of clothing has gone down over the years.

I have quite a few used pieces in my collection, and I want to shift the majority of my buying to used.

Sweater from vintage store in Amemura, Osaka: previous owner was some football player named Dave. Miniskirt from a thrift store in America, tights from UniQlo, boots from Bonita, glasses from L*chance. This was the day after the big earthquake in March and I was feeling a little off, which is why this kind of outfit is a tad different from what I usually do - I and the world felt very different that day even though I was far away from Tokyo and Fukushima.

After this I'm going to talk about places in Japan and America to get used clothing, and a lovely mook series called USED JELLY.

Do you buy used? Why or why not? Do you always buy brand even when used?