I’m Not a One Percent-er But I’m a 20%-er!


On Facebook I came across this article about professional women shopping at second hand stores. Apparently, it’s a growing trend in the corporate world.

The writer profiles two professional women who buy their office wear at thrift and consignment stores. One of them keeps it a secret from her co-workers, because of possible negative connotations.

This statistic really surprised me: 

Indeed, 80 percent of consumers surveyed in recent years by America’s Research Group said they’d “never buy” someone else’s worn clothing.

“A lot of people don’t want to buy something used because of health concerns,” said Chairman/CEO Britt Beemer.

I took a random survey of my friends, and most guessed that 50-60% of women would “never” buy used clothing. We mused that even when we buy at Nordie’s, we’re not certain the garment has “never” touched another woman’s body (um, returns? fitting room?).

I know many of you shop regularly at thrifts, second-hand and consignment stores, and from eBay. Are you surprised at the “never” number too?

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  1. For those who feel iffy about second hand clothes I would point out that most of these would not think twice about sleeping in a hotel bed and we all know what happens there!

  2. I know a lot of women who get overwhelmed in a thrift store and just son't like the "hunt". Me–i get overwhelmed at the mall with all the overpriced crap!

  3. I am very surprised, and really disappointed to read the 'never' percentage', but wonder the people that were surveyed for it?

  4. You know, after reading about thrifting online, I've tried time and time again to give it a shot, but with very little luck. I'm not opposed to the idea, but I think I have a hard enough time finding new clothing that fits when I have a whole rack of sizes to choose from, finding something that works in a second hand store feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

  5. The number seems higher then I thought. I agree that unless its in a sealed bag, you dont know how many people have touched the item or tried it on. I have no issues with used. Buying new is nice, but used gives you a better idea of how it washes and fits.

  6. That number really surprises me – I think more of my friends thrift than that, but many of my coworkers turn their noses up at it. I'm slowly winning them over, as they see what amazing things can be found at a fraction of the price new. And the quality is just so much better than the crap in the malls! I agree with the commenters who note that the hygiene factor is bunk. I've been wearing second-hand clothing since I was a kid, actively vintage-shopped as a teen and now shop second-hand about 90% of the time. I'll buy new if it's locally-made, locally-designed and/or ethically-produced.

  7. I can count the number of new things I've bought in the last two years on the fingers of both hands. Even the most resolutely anti-second hand of my work colleagues in the past have been converted when they've seen what great quality stuff can be had for the fraction of the price you'd pay for some shoddy, questionably produced high street dross. xxx

  8. Health concerns? That is indeed interesting. While I can understand that some people just don't like the idea of used clothing, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for "health concerns". You're more likely to catch something with a handshake. No matter. their loss is our gain, if you ask me.

  9. While I've hesitated to buy second hand shoes, I have NO problem with second-hand clothing. Heck, that's what cleaners and washing machines are for. My big issue with shopping thrift/second-hand/consignment is *time.* I don't have the kind of time to do the kind of reconaissance that effective thrift shopping requires.

  10. I am so conflicted!! I love it when people thrift, but at the same time, the more popular it becomes, the more the prices go up. Thankfully, the clothes I want are pretty much passed over and not too expensive yet, unless they are SERIOUS vintage. I know some people don't like thrifting because of musty smells, bed bug hazards (which are just as likely in big name stores and fancy hotels), and stains.
    When I see "upscale" shoppers thrifting, they often seem to scurry through the store as quickly as possible, touching as little as possible. Obviously, they are still in training.

  11. That number is higher than I would have thought it would be, Patti.

    Secondhand is a way of life for me and I have never been shy about letting anyone know about where my stuff comes from. I buy at least 95% of my clothing and household items used. Most of the household is vintage and many of my clothes are either thrifted or made from vintage materials, trims and patterns. Undies are new as well as mattresses. I buy mostly new shoes only because in my area there aren't a lot of decent, pre-owned choices like there used to be. I do buy my shoes to last and, therefore, don't buy them too frequently.

    Although I'm able to buy whatever I want to buy new, I just have more fun thrifting and like that I'm making a green choice in doing so. I make sure I get every used item I purchase as clean as possible. (My mom thrifted and would say that she didn't want "other peoples' dirt".) I just don't worry too much about who owned an item before I did. Really, it's all just stuff.

  12. I'm very surprised by the 80% number. An hour ago I bought 12 pairs of unworn tights from a batch of deposited at my local thrift store by American Apparel. That's $16-$25 tights for 99 cents each. Maybe it's due to the fact that I grew up wearing thrift store clothes because we couldn't afford new, but I've never had qualms about wearing someone else's clothes. Just wash it. Even when I buy new underwear, I wash it first. I find the most amazing unworn or barely worn designer clothes at the thrift store. I know you can't just go in and expect to find what you need, but having a 'list' of needed items in your head and hitting the thrift store on a regular basis means that I find it eventually. Two weeks ago, I realized I needed a knee-length full slip. After a couple trips to the thrift store, I found one yesterday, washed it, and am wearing it now.

  13. Oh, and the never buys thrift include shoes, intimate garments, bikini bottoms and upholstered furniture.

  14. I'm corporate and have purchased nearly my entire work wardrobe thrift. At my next position, I will keep it quiet though.

  15. Dearest Patti,

    The excuse for 'not' buying second hand because of 'health concerns' is not a valid one. I admit that I got great bargains at Outlet Stores from Couture clothes that have been worn on the run way. So what? I took them happily at 80% off and I don't see any problem with health concerns. As long as it has nothing to do with 'edible' items this is just fine. And if one is overly concerned, okay a 'rapid cycle' in the washer will take care of that or else the dry cleaner. But the chemicals they use at the dry cleaner are probably worse than another woman having worn them. Especially with high end garments you KNOW that it is not coming from any dirty slum area.

    I applaud the 20%, as I also belong to that group – never from thrift stores but still. It is far better to belong to the anti disposable fashion police! Keeping our Planet GREEN and using common sense.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  16. Secondhand shops aren't very popular here in Germany and the one I know in my area isn't attractive to me (oldfashioned). In the cities you'd usually find a couple of designer second hand shops but their price range is quite high. I shopped on ebay several times though and will continue if I find something nice.
    Pam, with my daughter it is the other way round – she would definitely not wear used clothes.

    Annette | Lady of Style

  17. I "eased" into the thrifting and consignment store shopping via vintage. I love the look and fit of vintage clothing and quickly got over any "ick" factor about wearing something that someone else had worn before. In fact, I was attracted to the thought of the person that wore the item. Who they were, what they did, where they wore the piece became an integral part of the story of the garment. I wanted the piece to have a history.

    More and more I find myself shopping in consignment/thrift stores looking for unique finds. When I do find something I love I can't help but ask myself, "why weren't these Anyi Lui" shoes ever worn? Where was this NY exclusive designer leopard blouse worn? To a bar in Manhattan? London? Paris? Was it on one of the Housewives of NY? I create a back story.

    Personally I've become bored of the fast fashion fixes. Sure you can still see me poking my nose around my regular haunts like Anthropologie but the variety and selection in good consignment stores are much more compelling than any H&M or Forever21.


  18. I a happy thrifter! I'm surprised at the numbers – sort of. But, we are a consumer society and all media urges spend-spend-spend & that "new" is better. I don't agree… you can totally make something "old" new again by putting your own spin on it!

  19. I wouldn't have guessed the percentage correctly, but the fact that some women won't shop secondhand doesn't surprise me. Well, more fool them, I say – that leaves more great stuff for those of us with an eye for a bargain, who want to reuse and recycle as much as possible, who like spending our money with small individual vintage traders or with charities, and who love vintage. I have no issues at all with secondhand clothing, shoes, etc, and am at a loss to understand the hygiene argument. Just wash stuff, or wipe out shoes with an anti-bacterial spray! I positively enjoy the fact that my vintage clothing had a life before me, I love it when I know the story behind a garment. As for being embarrassed by wearing secondhand – what's that about? A fear of people thinking you don't have "enough" money? Strange, that there should be a stigma attached to ethical, thoughtful secondhand shopping, but not to buying cheap fast fashion produced in dubious conditions by an exploited workforce for large profits…
    I do agree that secondhand/charity shopping takes longer and requires an interest and a dedication. You can't just go once and find everything you need, in your size. But that's the fun of it, the thrill of not knowing what you'll find.
    Let the 80% carry on, I know which group I am happy to belong to!
    PS. The "shame" factor doesn't seem to apply to vintage, does it? xxxx

  20. Not at all surprised at those who don't as I've seen it way too much. I am vocal about my thrifting and love the quality clothing I own!

  21. They don't know what they're missing! Most of the people I hang out with regularly have no such qualms but I know some do frown upon the idea…

  22. My daughter worked in retail fashion for a while and it was a very eye opening experience. She worked in a high end store and was disgusted by how customers treated the clothing and how many times an item was tried on before it was purchased. She became very sensitive to the smell of clothing that had been tried on multiple times. 'New' does not mean unworn. Now, she always washes her 'new' clothing before wearing it.
    As for me, I love to shop in second hand stores. It makes no difference to me whether something is used. If I like it and it is in good condition, I'm happy.

  23. Some of the stuff I find at my consignment/thrifts is brand spanking new. A lot of it in fact. I have zero issue with "used" clothing. I buy my socks/undies through ethical retail businesses as much as I can afford, but everything else comes via thrift.

    How would you even know someone is wearing something thrifted/secondhand unless they told you.

    I understand the squick factor, but everything is washable.

  24. I like to buy new..it gives me a fresh feeling when I put it on for the first time. Also, with the competitive pricing and sales, sometimes I don't save much by thrifting and it's definitely more time consuming, This DOES not mean I won't take your hand me downs. I'm still waiting for that green blouse with the ruffle on the front! Love u sis! 🙂

  25. I'm not a 'never' person, but I am not surprised at the number of women who are 'never' gals. My reasons are not for health concerns or that I would be embarrassed to admit it, but rather that the times that I have looked for items I like that are in my size I am disappointed. It must just be the area I live in. This is a very rural area and to be honest the styles in our second hand and thrift shops aren't styles I can work into my wardrobe.

  26. Interesting! I know a few women like that – who seem to think they can catch germs or wierdly, someone's energy, from wearing second hand clothes! I think I have an issue with shoes – I've read that can be problematic in terms of passing on nasty things like veruccas. I love a secondhand bargain or vintage but tend not to use these purchases as work wear.

    As a professional woman I have occasionally worn secondhand things I've bought on ebay in the past, but as I've got more senior I've tended to buy new as I need to look very smart these days, and buying second hand hasn't tended to turn up things that fit the bill. I last bought a wool suit recently which I wore last season, While it was very warm, the fit and design ended up being all wrong for me and it still smelt of the previous owner's perfume even after drycleaning. I just didn't feel good or professional in it. In the end its more down to just never having time to hunt for the secondhand items that are in a pristine enough condition to warrant me buying them to wear to work.

  27. This caused me to think, Patti. I honestly believe only 25% of my local friends will shop thrift or resale. So possibly that number is correct. I also suspect some of them go to consignment boutiques, but keep it a secret. It seems that my daughter's generation are more accepting of second hand shopping. I just found her a beautiful Tory Burch dress in a resale shop and she was thrilled. As I wrote in today's post, there is room in the fashion business for everyone and there is more fun when you accept it all!!

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