Fashion at (Almost) Any Price

And a good Monday to you, people of the internet. It was a busy and productive day today, including (but not limited to!) starting the second week of marathon training and going into the office to work on syllabi for fall semester. The thing I want to talk about, however, is not anything so studious or workmanlike or athletic as all that. Oh no. I want to talk about shopping! Yes, I have moved on to retail therapy.

This weekend I was in Atlanta with my friends Brunbec (who lives here) and Deebeecooper, who just moved to Atlanta for a new job. We spent a bit of time exploring her new neighborhood and shopping around. There are loads of great restaurants, bars and shops — the more I visit her this year the less money I will have, but I so don’t care!

H&M is a favorite place of mine to shop when in the city for cute things at cheap prices, but it tends to be hit or miss. Sometimes I could easily drop hundreds of dollars in there, but this time there was nothing. Instead, I found myself drooling over things I couldn’t really afford at Banana Republic and Madewell. It was lucky for everyone, my bank account especially, that we didn’t find ourselves in Anthropologie, because I feel like I could really spend an obscene amount of money in there right now.

To ease my pain at not being able to spend too much money on new clothes (I am a teacher, you know; we barely make anything), I decided to check out a secondhand clothing store here in town this afternoon. It’s one of those targeted at the young whippersnappers — they can sell their old clothes and buy new/used things on the cheap, but the stock is vetted far more carefully than that in a typical thrift store and costs predictably more. You know the type of place? I had this fantasy that I would go in and be able to find some kind of fancy-schmancy designer jeans in my size at some ridiculously low price. And you know what? Spoiler alert: I DID!

They had racks and racks of jeans throughout the store, but the “designer” jeans were off on their own special rack, in a place of honor far away from the types of brands I can usually afford. Did I dare investigate? Of course. These were used designer jeans and thus in no way intimidating. After trying on a few pairs from a few different brands, I found a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans that fit like they were made just for me. The previous owner had even had them hemmed at my exact inseam length!

[227/365] Favorite New Discoveries

Sidenote: I swear to DOG, what is up with the inseams on women’s jeans? How tall do they expect us to be? I am 5’9″ and jeans are usually anywhere from 2-4″ too long for me. I do think I have a longer torso and shorter legs, but still. I am pretty tall. What does the 5’5″ woman do? Or the 5’2″ woman? It is ridiculous.

Side sidenote: On the subject of sizing, how is it possible that I wear three different sizes in three different brands? This type of inconsistency is something I have long ago come to expect in clothing, but that makes it no less frustrating. If anyone is wondering, in my experience, Joe’s jeans run the biggest, Seven seems consistent with what I expected my size to be, and Citizens of Humanity run pretty small. Does that ring true for anyone else?

Back to the point. I bought the jeans, at approximately 1/7 of what they would cost new at a department store, and at about 1/4 of what they would cost at discount designer sites like or Shopping victory!

Here’s the thing, though: as much cool stuff as they have in that store, and as low as the prices are, one cannot forget the fact that most of the stock (if not all) comes straight out of the undergrads’ closets. The next pair of jeans I buy there might at this very moment be in a pile of dirty laundry on the floor of a sorority girl’s closet. Or perhaps their hems are being dragged across a dirty barroom floor.

Or worse.

Look, let’s just not think of this sordid truth. Let’s imagine that every girl who sells her old clothing there is a fastidious fashionista who takes meticulous care of her things, only selling them to make room for yet more current and edgy pieces. She never washes dry-clean-only items; never spills food or drink on herself; never lets her cat sleep in the laundry basket. That’s probably true, right?

What do you think about second hand clothes? Would you buy your (real or hypothetical) students’ cast-off items?


  1. A note on the shoes in that picture, since vegan vs. non-vegan shoes have been under some discussion here: it’s an old pair of Nike waffle-bottom sprinters in UO colors, purchased ca. 2002. I just re-discovered these in a recent closet clean-out. They do have suede on them, but I hang onto old shoes I purchased in pre-vegan days and don’t throw them out just because they may contain animal products. I can’t really afford to replace all my old shoes, but whenever I do purchase new ones, I am choosing non-leather.


  2. I have no problem with second-hand clothing, although I always wash it upon bringing it home, no matter how clean it seems. In my experience (which is, unabashedly, vast), if you practice a discerning eye in thrift shops, you’ll have some amazing finds. I have bought many, many, many, many clothes at second-hand shops, but I’ve never bought something stained or nobbly or faded. Just because it’s second-hand doesn’t mean I drop my standards any.
    And speaking of second-hand, that forever favorite black velvet blazer of mine that I love with all my heart (you know the one?) was from that Salvation Army on Cherry Rd in Rock Vegas back in the day. And I refuse to recycle it b/c I love it so even though it doesn’t fit anymore. But I was thinking about checking out the Goodwill in O-town to see if I can’t scope another. Alas, I fear the days of velvet blazers are long gone. But I’ll have fun looking anyway.


  3. Oh man oh man. You mean the blazer depicted here???

    That orange one (which is now lost?) was also a thrift store find. I remember buying a green corduroy one and Mel buying the orange one freshman year. I have a film picture of us wearing them ca. 1996. At some point the green was too small for me and the orange was too small for her, so she passed down that orange to me and the green went back to the thrift store.

    Oh, I will NEVER stop loving a good blazer! (velvet, cord, tweed, it matters not!)

    I just guess it’s weird, now, knowing that it could be my students’ clothes I am buying. I am willing to accept that, though, at these prices.


  4. I have also scored some great thrift store finds- but yes, washing is a must.

    As for jean inseam- would you believe that many of the fancy brands are still too short for me? And I’m not even that tall! Sevens, for example, are sometimes long enough, but sometimes not. Other brands run longer, and yes it’s sort of irksome, but I’d much prefer to have to hem than to be constantly yanking them down trying to make them long enough.


  5. I love second hand! I often feel guilty when I buy things new, because there’s so much good stuff to be had that’s already here. It feels more responsible, more eco-friendly. Plus, I’m cheap. 😉

    As a vegan, I try to buy vegan clothing items as much as possible, but sometimes I struggle with a man-made vegan shoe that is petroleum based, and one which contains some leather. Which is better for the world in the long run? Usually, I go with the vegan item, but I do wonder and worry. Also, I own a part wool winter coat. I felt the need to confess.


  6. I am 5’2, and I buy the “short” jeans at J.Crew, but they are still at least 2 inches too long for me. I don’t go through the trouble of hemming, and I generally don’t like to cuff the bottoms, so I just let them drag on the ground and get all ripped up. Very fashionable, I’m sure.


  7. PS – Wow, you must have super-long legs! It is definitely better to have the option to hem – I guess you can’t fabricate length that isn’t there.

    C – I was just thinking about that topic the other day. What exactly are those “man-made” materials and how bad are they? Natural fibers are better of course but there just aren’t that many options. Also, I still have a ton of wool items an I haven’t been consciously avoiding buying any new wool stuff, either. I suppose this is because I have no actual knowledge that wool is that bad…I will continue to believe it isn’t for now, I think.

    K – That is what I do a lot of the time, too. If they’re really, really long I will get them hemmed, and if they’re only a little too long I will try to wear them with heels more often. Not always, though, so I get a lot of fraying in the back.


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