What do you imagine when you think of thrifting? Is it rummaging through clothing bins, or scanning racks until a fabric speaks to you? Perhaps it’s discovering an item you’ve been searching for? Second-hand shopping gives us the opportunity to find pieces you would never see at a commercial retail store, deepening our sense of personal style. Feeling authentic in the clothing you’ve found for yourself ignites the feeling of luck, all while being environmentally sustainable.
Luck is immeasurable, and defining what makes someone lucky is subjective. That’s why I wanted to find a student who had a style separate from my own, to analyze what catches their eye. What items would drive them to take out their wallet?
Kayla Kougias, a junior at VCU, is the Social Media Manager for Eco Fashion Club. To her, thrifting is a form of self-expression.
I spotted Kayla in Monroe Park during Eco Fashion Club’s Fall Market sporting a white button-down, leg warmers, and a beige micro skirt, Kayla’s monochromatic signature.
Searching for a candidate that would let their personality guide their shopping, I asked Kayla if she’d like to spend a Saturday with me perusing her favorite second-hand stores, all in the hopes of getting lucky.
There are two routes to getting lucky: blind hope, or making a list. Going into a thrift store with nothing in mind is fine! We’ve all shopped just to shop; however, the Eco Fashion Club advocates for the “less equals more” approach. When shopping with a wanted outcome, you avoid unneeded consumption of products and save money. The payout is far more rewarding when you find what you’ve been looking for. Kayla mentioned how selective she is with what she buys, “Partially because of money, but also personal style. This past year I’ve gotten more familiar with what I like.”
Kayla’s Lucky List:
- Early 2000s or late 90s-style sunglasses
- Gray pleated skirt
- Cargo pants
- Platform shoes
Relatively close to VCU’s campus, Rumors Boutique sells gently used clothing and trendy accessories. Kayla had never been, so we headed to that unfamiliar territory first.
“It reminds me a lot of normal thrift stores, just with larger price tags,” Kayla said, pulling out a Hello-Kitty Olympics baby-tee as an example. She explained that not every store, even if curated, will provide the same clothing. Pointing out the vintage jackets that Rumors offered, Kayla began pushing through the atypical options.
Kayla said that inspiration from others is what guides her. “Sometimes I see a person’s outfit and want to remember it, but I remind myself not to take a picture of them–that’s weird,” she admitted jokingly–but with sincerity. Seeing differences in how people wear their closets on campus creates the need to achieve self-fulfillment in her wardrobe.
But what does it mean to be fulfilled by your closet, to select pieces that elevate it, rather than taking up space? Choosing more authentic pieces, instead of fast-fashion items for the sake of fitting a two-month trend cycle, will give your closet longevity. I’m talking about the poorly made $5 Shein shirt that sits in your closet, having faded out of season after another trend appeared.
Arriving at an understanding of individualistic style takes trial and error. For Kayla, colors are a big point when searching a store. “All of my clothes are either black, white, or gray,” she said. In the past, “If I saw something that was cute in nature, I would just buy it even if it wasn’t really my style.”
Kayla started thrifting roughly five years ago.“I never really identified with a lot of the styles major brands sold in stores,” she said. Instead, she looked into outlets where the clothing made her feel herself.
The next stop, which Kayla had much hope for, was Ashby, located in the center of Carytown. Upon entry, a large sign presenting itself with the words “Buy By The Pound” hung above a claw foot tub filled with clothing. It was like an aesthetically pleasing take on Goodwill bins. We sorted through it in no time.
The sunglass rack ahead of us offered a possible check-off on Kayla’s Lucky List, a red pair of glasses.
Now that we were finally seeing some payout from our thrift excursion, we had to see if there was an end to the rainbow. “It’s less common to see a good shoe collection,” Kayla told me as we approached the back wall, pointing out the vast range of shoe sizes. Immediately, she grabbed a pair of white platform boots, staying true to her monochromatic style.
Kayla believes there is a danger in purchasing new textiles instead of repurposing them. The process of mindless consumption is a domino effect. “You don’t ever end up wearing those things. You end up donating them. It ends up in a landfill,” she said.
What attracts the eye is subjective, so Kayla recommends “getting creative” when experimenting with clothing stores and your style. Each second-hand find that’s worth the buy will keep you feeling lucky.
Eco Fashion Club’s mission is to engage the student body. “We try our best to push fashion sustainability,” Kayla said. The club holds various events like style swaps, craft nights, and recycling meetings. You can find more information on their Instagram: @ecofashionvcu.
Kayla is feeling lucky.