Reduce, Recycle, Reuse: Clothing

That’s the title of a terrific post written by longtime reader Catherine, who blogs at American Dream Finder after retiring her first blog called The Vegan Good Life. I find both blogs to be great food for thought on my nonconsumer journey. I think anyone who reads my blog, especially fans of Thrifty Threads, will appreciate this post about the many joys and advantages of making the switch to a secondhand wardrobe. So tarry no longer! Check out Reduce, Recycle, Reuse: Clothing now.

Catherine muses on the mania for brand name shoes and purses, even in the depths of the worst recession in eighty years. And I couldn’t agree more with her observations. About brand obsessions, she has this to say: “I get all my clothes second hand now, and if people want to put me down, I don’t care. I have an increasing retirement and savings account, no debt, have traveled to Paris, Mexico, Spain, Morocco and more and paid for those trips outright, and it’s not because I make an enormous salary. If someone wants to feel superior for paying $90 for something I spent $4 on, I let them!

I’ll take a trip to Paris over a Louis Vuitton bag any day. How about you? Any brand obsessions you’d care to share? I recently saw a Prada purse priced at $200 in the chi chi consignment store that’s become my favorite. Luckily for me, I don’t usually even like designer bags because my style is a bit more hippie/artsy, but if you’re a fan, it is possible to get them secondhand. Stephanie over at Those Tricks often scores designer bags and scarves on her secondhand shopping sprees.

Either way, I think you’ll enjoy Catherine’s thoughtful post, where she even shares the plot of a humorous episode of the old I Love Lucy TV show, which I just happen to remember! Plus, she mentions Thrifty Threads and has been a longtime supporter of the segment.

What do you think about brand obsessions, designer bags, and shopping secondhand? Please leave your thoughts  in the Comments section.


  1. says

    While I have discovered som e brands that fit me better (and that is useful in thrift stores without dressing rooms) I don’t like to be a walking advertisement for any company. My daughter takes it a step further and says, “if companies want me to advertise for them, they can pay me”. It is easy to avoid labels in dress clothes, but harder in casual clothes and almost impossible with purses. I cannot understand why people will pay hundreds of dollars for a purse, especially one where the pattern is composed of the company’s logo repeated across the surface of the bag. I feel like the boy in the Emproer’s New Clothes and am the only one who can see that the purse is ugly and the designer is uncreative.

    I will step off my soap box now and admit that I am a total Duchess Kate watcher. My daughter and I both like her style and we appreciate that she wears her clothes repeatedly even to very public events. But I won’t be buying expensive brands, instead I will collect pictures, look for similiar patterns that can be adapted and use her for inspiration to create dresses for my daughter that either I or our local seamstress will assemble.

    • Angela says

      Alea- I agree that sometimes with designer purses, it goes beyond disinterest for me, and that I find them actually ugly.

      Since I get almost all my news online and from the radio, I see photos of Kate but don’t really watch on TV. I admit I’m not a fan of worshipping anyone who is famous simply because of the family they were born into or married. But I seem to be a minority in that opinion and everyone seems to love her style. There is one famous person whose style I admire and that is Michelle Obama. Some of her gowns are absolutely stunning.

      Thanks for commenting Alea!

  2. says

    Hi Angela. Thank you so much for featuring my post, and for your efforts to take away the unfair stigma of second hand clothing and promote economic empowerment. So many women don’t take a few minutes to come and look at our clothing swap offerings (some are brand new, with tags on them). Who wouldn’t want a chance at free clothing or beauty products? Wearing something previously worn has a stigma, but being pressured or seduced into living beyond our means does not?

    I work in NYC and have heard of Sex and the City bus tours that stop at Manolo Blahnik shoes. $500 a pair? No thanks! I’d rather go to Paris than buy something that was a product placement. I so agree with Alea’s comments about those designer logo bags and think the same thing – they should pay you to advertise! I love that Kate has brought back elegance, and that she has some thrifty ways, like doing her own wedding makeup. Great!

    • Angela says

      Catherine- I like that term “economic empowerment.” I think there definitely is a stigma to shopping secondhand that makes no sense whatsoever, but that’s just more for the rest of us, I guess. Thanks so much for your insightful post.

  3. says

    I can’t stand designer clothing – never have, never will. I really don’t understand the obsession with labels. You couldn’t have put it more perfectly when you said “I’ll take a trip to Paris over a Louis Vuitton bag any day.” I wouldn’t know a Prada handbag if it crossed my path – and nor would I care. Handbags, clothes and shoes are practical items, and while I do like to look presentable and up-to-date, I’m not concerned about being a walking advertisement for the latest trend. Not when there are so many good experiences to have and places to see out there!
    I once discussed this topic with some female colleagues. In a group of five, I was the only one who had never spent more than $50 on a handbag (one colleague admitted spending $800, yikes!). I just didn’t understand it. My $20 handbag does exactly the same job – it carries all the items I need for my day.
    I know what I’d rather spend my hard-earned money on!

    • Angela says

      Rikki- I actually do like clothes very much, and I also like to dress well, but I hate to spend money on clothes. So secondhand and swaps are perfect for me.

      It’s funny about the handbag- I generally try to find a bag I like and wear it several seasons, usually one summer purse and one winter purse. I have several other purses I love but only wear for certain times or occasions. I like to pay as little as possible, and definitely no more than $60 or so. The one and only time I paid more – an incredible amount I would never pay now – was when I was working so hard and was flown to NYC and I bought it as a treat to myself. It was a beautiful purse, and I paid $250, which was a lot to me but I didn’t know at the time not even that much for a nice purse. Anyway, I used it once and hadn’t even taken the time to realize even though I loved looking at it, it wasn’t my style and I didn’t like carrying it. I ended up selling it to a consignment store when I could finally admit my mistake, and none of my swap girlfriends thought they would use it either. So for me, spending more on a purse definitely doesn’t mean I’m going to like it or use it more. In fact, my favorite purse I’ve ever had was handmade and my friend charged me far too little for all the work she did on it.

      Thanks for commenting Rikki!

  4. Hilda says

    Hi Angela, Well I love 2nd hand clothing and love shopping for it. I don’t care what brand it is, if it fits and it’s cute, then I buy it. As for designer bags, it’s a definite, no. I’ve had my purse for almost 7 years now, (I like smaller purses) and it cost $14 then. It is the only purse that I own and it has a place for my cell phone and zippered compartments for just what I need. I hope it never falls apart.

    • Angela says

      Hilda- Isn’t it great when purse has the right compartments! I’m like you, when I find a purse I like I wish it would last forever. I don’t get sick of things that I love.

      That’s a great motto for secondhand shopping, “I don’t care what brand it is, if it fits and it’s cute, then I buy it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. says

    Hi guys!

    Though I am 100% in support of thrifty ways and will always support re-use and recycling (especially with still-wearable (vintage!) apparel), I must pipe in about the difference in high-end and mass-produced fashion.
    It’s not as simple as designer = bad, inexpensive = good.

    Since thrifting my little heart out while also having a day job at Neiman Marcus, here is what I have learned from touching, trying on + looking at every seam/button/cut of hundreds of items over the past few years…

    Not always, but in general, with high-end fashion you are paying for :
    Better Construction
    Finer fabrics
    Detailed design
    Specific Fit
    Heavy accessories (metal instead of plastic. real instead of plated)

    NOW – just because a name brand is on it, does NOT mean you are getting this.
    It is just more likely.
    The trick is to learn about purses, dresses, coats, etc and notice these details.
    If you don’t care – then more power to ya. Wear whatever.
    But once you DO notice/care…the artistry, craftsmanship and materials that enfold your body while you appear in public will become important to you.
    Women who are chic and stylish know this and regardless of the price – it is a MUST for looking your very best.
    Whether a $3 thrifted purse or a splurge for a designer dress at Neiman’s during sales, I demand most or all listed below for every purchase :
    – Quality Materials
    – Attention to Detail
    – Design Originality
    – Fabrics that feel good on my skin
    – Long-lasting construction
    – On skirts/pants/dresses : pockets

    Long story short – in my humble opinion…yes – carrying a Louis Vuitton bag splattered with the logo is obviously a show-off thing with no style quality (silly silly ladies). But as long as you have learned to identify and appreciate good quality and creativity – you are investing in a piece of art you can enjoy toting around with you. So, no shame in ponying up a bit more for something you truly love and will get use out of. Thrifted or Retail. To each his own.


    p.s. For the record – my “luxury/designer” vintage, thrifted clothing & accessories would never have held up for 30 years for me to find & enjoy now if they weren’t superior in quality to the average items currently coming out of, say – Target. xoxo

    • Angela says

      Steph, I agree. I actually love clothes, and care about quality, workmanship, and details, and tend to keep clothes for years and years. that’s why I don’t buy trendy clothes or shop at places like Forever 21 or H&M (well, one of the many reasons). But I think at some point, thousands of dollars for any particular item makes absolutely no sense for anyone who isn’t an heiress, and is actually financially silly. And I have never been one to care about brands or labels for their own sake, which is about status and not quality. Thanks for the well thought-out comment.

      • says

        I totally hear you. And while you or I and most of your readers think it’s ridiculous to spend thousands on a single item – we shouldn’t judge lest we be judged. $1000 to someone making a million a year isn’t much. It’s not like they are choosing between a purse and a charitable donation. heehee And hey – if someone who isn’t rich wants to save up to buy a pair of Louboutins instead of going to Paris – that’s their right, right? We all assign importance to different things.
        Love the intelligent dialogue on your blog (as usual!)

  6. Lily says

    Hi! I’ve gradually become a fan of second hand stuff, but unfortunately here consignment shops are almost non-existant.

    There is eBay though! I’ve recently bought a bag I fell in love some years ago but never bought – it’s by Mandarina Duck, a great brand. Check it out –> It’s in brown leather, very roomy, practical and stylish… as you can guess, I adore it. And it cost me 12 euros! :)

    If I don’t buy second hand bags, I buy handmade or craftmade and never spend more than 30 euros anymore. And I’m even more satisfied!

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