Pre-loved clothes and the second principle of green living

Back in the 70’s here in Australia, the thought of buying used clothes was strongly associated with poverty. I guess not all that much has changed over the years, the stigma remains, but back then my mother saw it as an opportunity to change that and opened one of the first stores of its kind in Australia.

She opened a clothes shop called “Mignonette” and instead of calling it a thrift store or her stock “used”, it was a boutique and the clothes were “pre-loved”. She would sell pre-owned quality clothing on commission and went over every piece with a discerning eye, rejecting anything that was cheap, too worn or stained.

The end result was that my mother built a great little business, her clients made money from the clothes they no longer wore or were able to purchase clothing that otherwise would have been out of their reach. My mother would have never given any thought that what she was doing was also decidedly “green”; observing the second principle in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle green living mantra.

It’s a shame there’s such a stigma about used clothes. I’ve certainly bought from thrift and charity stores and don’t feel it beneath me at all. You’d be amazed at what you can pick up. For the guys, probably the best bargains are suits. Often these have only worn a couple of times before the original owner loses or gains weight and the outfit no longer fits. You can pick up suits in great condition for under 20 bucks – ones that you would need to spend hundreds on new.

Our girls have been brought up not to turn their nose at pre-owned clothing and while they buy their share of new clothes, they occasionally enjoy the hunt for something special and unique in second-hand clothing stores.

Thrift stores are also great for putting together costumes for 70’s and 80’s parties. Heck, I still wear those sorts of clothes as part of my normal wardrobe I’m told!

On the flip side – take a look at your wardrobe. How many items of clothing do you have in there you haven’t worn? That dress that you just had to have that’s now out of fashion, or perhaps a pair of shoes that turned out not fitting you so well.

Instead of letting these items molder away in your closet or become moth food, move ’em on out to a charity who can then resell them. You’ll get the warm and fuzzy glow of doing something good, you’ll be observing the second principle of green living, the charity will get some more money for their cause and someone will get a cheaper item of clothing. Everyone wins.

If you have particularly expensive clothing, perhaps there’s a “Mignonette” type of store near you where you can make a little cash for yourself. I know there’s a roaring trade on the Internet for items such as pre-owned wedding gowns and I’d expect there’s places where you can sell your quality gear online as well.

This may also be an option for you – DigNSwap. It builds on the increasing popularity of the clothes swapping phenomenon and takes it to the next level, online.  Clothes swapping parties have become all the rage as women look to renew their wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Dig N Swap looks to complement the real-world parties, which are as much about social interaction as they are about clothes, by creating an online community where fashion and environmentally conscious women can communicate, share insights, and trade clothes and accessories.

One of the challenges for us all is the hoarding of things – this was certainly driven home to me when cringing at accumulated junk when we moved house recently. Hoarding clothes and other bits we no longer use is also the hoarding of nature’s resources that others can use. The more we redistribute and re-use, the less of those resources are consumed.

I remember a story from my father when he was in India – he commented on how much he liked an item of clothing a local person was wearing. The person then gave him that item! He couldn’t refuse as it would have been an insult, but he did learn that he needed to be careful about paying others compliments on their attire :).

While that sort of giving is probably a little over the top, there’s a lesson to be learned. If in some cultures they’ll do that, can’t we at least let go of stuff that we *don’t* need or want so it can be re-used by someone else who does?