October 22, 2015

TICE | Someone’s Grandma’s Wool Sweater

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I have a love/hate relationship with shopping. I confess that I am one of those people whose ratio of what they actually wear to the total amount of clothing in their closet is astronomically uneven. Yes, I don’t need more clothes. No, that’s probably not going to stop me from buying them, but ever since I can remember having any sort of autonomy over dressing myself, clothing stores have given me loads of anxiety.

Growing up on a pretty strict budget taught me a great deal about frugality. It is a peculiar experience to shop based on price when walking into a store means half-embarrassedly flipping over tag after tag or making an immediate beeline for the sale section. Buying things off the rack was a treat reserved for holidays or birthdays, and Nordstrom was a magical world I could wish for but seldom have. That being said, I could not be more grateful for these experiences and the circumstances in which I was raised.

As a college student I’ve come face to face with the reality of my economic situation. If buying off the rack wasn’t any option when my parents were paying, honey, it sure as hell isn’t happening on my yearly student income of three minimum wage summer jobs. But truthfully, there is something very grounding about the experience of budgeting and living within limited means. I can happily say that with the exception of a few purchases, I haven’t bought a brand new item of clothing in almost three years, and, surprisingly, in those three years I have developed a distinct personal style that I am finally beginning to embrace.

Buying almost any item used, with the added bonus of getting a really good deal, is textbook satisfaction. Sustainability is the word of the decade and “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” has been pounded into our impressionable brains since Kindergarten. Thrifting, consignment shopping and flea marketing are economical and fairly ecological ways to satisfy the shopping bug.

Clothing is one of those weird things that we all seem to “clean out” every year or every few years, but where does it go? Does everyone’s mom make yearly trips to Salvation Army? The amount of cheap clothing produced and trashed each year because it gets washed five times and falls apart or goes quickly out of style has got to be mind-boggling (I’m looking at you, Forever 21). I’ve found very often that vintage or used products are made of the stuff that lasts. Sure, I may be walking around campus in someone’s grandma’s wool sweater from 1960, but I’ll bet that it’ll still be around when I too am a grandma.

What’s more, it seems as if innumerable fashion trends are just revivals of styles your mom wore in high school. Crop tops, shift dresses, canvas backpacks and flannels are not new phenomena, and buying them at half the price (for better-made quality) seems like the obvious route to take.

Ithaca and the long-ish history of the East coast in general offer loads of used items and clothing with character and price tags that won’t make you wish your last name were Hilton. Our lovely city is chock-full of antiques and thrifting. Finger Lakes ReUse, Thrifty Shopper, Trader K’s and Found in Ithaca are just a few local joints that offer recycled or used clothing and wares at stellar prices. Next time the shopping bug hitches a ride on your Internet surfari while you’re procrastinating in Olin and online shopping eats half an hour away, I encourage you to consider shopping local and used!