Used Clothes Are Cheaper — And Better — For My Kids

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In the fifth grade, one of my classmates came up to me and said, “No offense, but why do you always wear the same clothes?” The short answer was that my family was cheap and that my grandmother had made the majority of my wardrobe, which numbered about six pieces of coordinating skirts and tops. Looking back on this moment (which marked my hatred of people saying “no offense” and then being offensive), I’m proud of my response: “Because I really like them.”

I date my love of vintage, weird, and/or homemade clothing back to around that time, but it didn’t really gain steam until I discovered thrift shopping when I was 13. Regardless of what was happening in my life—because growing up is effortless and fun!– I always enjoyed the thrill of the score whether it was a vintage Yves Saint Laurent dress, a velvet blazer, or some cork-soled wedgies from the 70’s. Dressing in vintage let me tell everyone that I was very special and unique. After a while, though, it became a habit and a natural part of how I viewed myself. It also did not contribute to the growing demand for sweatshop-made clothing, which I avoided even then. And like my parents, I’m cheap.

Upon my husband and I finding out I was pregnant with a girl, I cautioned myself the way someone with a lifelong passion probably should: Don’t push the kid into loving clothing and thrift-shopping or she will probably resent you. With my luck, I thought ruefully, my daughter will view clothes only for their practicality (very few of my clothes are practical) and not their more . . . artistic qualities. I waddled through my pregnancy wearing tie-died caftans and lace maxi-dresses like a boss and made certain that I would make sure the baby looked normal until she chose not to — on her own terms.

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