Despite Macklemore's song, thrift shops are not new ideas. For years, people have been taking their gently used clothes to places that will redistribute them to people in need for a reasonable price.
In college, I often spent many hours wandering the aisles of the local thrift store, Value Village. I could get lost in the texture of a good leather coat and could spend hours daring friends to try on hideous cast-offs someone once thought stylish.
I found a style of my own in the racks of other people's clothing. Old man trousers, busy polyester shirts, warm hand-knit sweaters, and bright outerwear came home with me for a new life. I felt like each piece had a history and it would help me shape my future.
I was pretentious at 23.
More importantly, I could find a deal. I was living on $700 a month -- including rent, utilities, groceries, and my car. It was enough at the time - not much extra, but I didn't need much. I lived with 3 room mates, I could raid my parents fridge if need be, and I loved "retro" before it was cool.
I might still be pretentious.
This last time I wandered the hallowed lanes of The Double V Boutique, I was underwhelmed at what I found and a more than a bit appalled.
The front of the store was new items for sale. New, cheap (though more so in make than cost), and gaudy. The store was less of a treasure trove and more of an aging woman trying desperately to pretend she's 21. Too much lipstick, not enough substance.
However, the worst part was the prices. Any item that was quality was so expensive you could almost afford to buy it new. If the item was worn down and not really that great, it was still a low price. But anything that could be used to augment a poorer persons wardrobe was out of range.
It dawned on me that the thrift shop was not a place for lower income people to purchase things they needed at a price they could afford. Instead, it was a place for higher income people to find prices they thought were inexpensive.
I'm sure there are still deals to be had. Maybe, if one searches they will find a piece here and there that is both affordable and of quality. Maybe the memory of what Value Village was for me as a college student was not quite the reality even at that time. But what I felt, as a woman with 15 years more experience than that doe-eyed girl, was that it was not accessible to everyone in our village.
Then it dawned on me -- I hadn't been poor. I had been a student. If I wanted to, I could have saved up money and bought things at their full price elsewhere. It was the influx of college students scoring the racks looking for their own voice that may have raised the prices out of the reach of the people it was meant for.
On the other hand, I got a really cute skirt.