In the grand scheme of history, fast fashion is a very recent development but it’s already made a tremendously negative impact. The production of fast fashion releases more carbon emissions than international air travel and shipping combined, creates massive landfills of returned clothes that degrade the soil and are produced under exploitative practices in modern-day sweatshops. Shein, a major producer of fast fashion, recently overtook Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app in the US and is now valued at over $100 billion. Shein now represents almost a third of the fast fashion market in the United States.
I’m not at all enchanted by this mega-corporation bulldozing it’s way into the fashion industry and our collective closets. It’s bad for the environment, bad for the designers that get ripped off and bad for the people being paid poverty wages to make your new tube top. These kinds of practices are despicable and it’s disappointing that apparently there is a big enough consumer audience to keep them in business. It only pushes me further into the arms of my true love; thrifting. Not only is thrifting earth-friendly and cheap, thrifted clothes give you a chance to bring old clothing back to life. Oh thrifting, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Oh flannel shirt from the thrift store near my parents house, how I love you. I love you for your softness, your worn-in feel that brings endless comfort in times of need. I love you for the way you smell after I sit by a bonfire, that smoky charred scent that stays for weeks on end, no matter how many times I try to wash it out. I love you for keeping me warm in the bitterly cold winters, for the way you layer perfectly in the more temperate fall and spring. I love you for never getting wrinkled when I stuff you in the bottom of my backpack, how I can use you as a makeshift blanket to sit on and rest during long hikes. I love you for the way I can tie you around my waist when it’s too hot to wear and the way it makes me look like a soccer mom at the grocery store. Flannel shirt, in a world of changing seasons, you are my constant.
Oh men’s XL tee-shirt from Goodwill down the street, how I love you. I love you for the way you hang past my hips, the way it makes me look like I’m not wearing pants at all if I’m wearing shorter running shorts. I love the way your color has faded after all of the years, how you advertise the Grand Canyon even though I’ve never been. I love the way I can throw you on with shorts for a quick errand to CVS or wear as a cover-up when we hike along the river to the swimming hole. And I love the way you make my torso look incredibly elongated and my legs super short, so if my hair is just messy enough, I’m like a little troll person.
Oh huge plaid pants I bought for $4.99 that have mismatched buttons, how I love you. I love how snug you are at the waist and how you billow around my legs, reminiscent of those ridiculous parachute pants from the 90s. I love you for the button that popped off and rolled under the armoire, because it made me learn how to sew and it makes me feel resourceful every time I put you on. I love you for making me look like a little old lady so I can fit in with the old women at my book club.
Thrifting, words cannot say how many outfits you have put together, for last-minute Halloween costumes and artsy students alike. I am forever grateful for every evening I’ve walked through the thrift store aisles and emerged smelling like mothballs. I am thankful for every funky pair of shoes and novelty shirt you have given me. In a world where fashion is disposable, you have permanence. Never change.