Thoughtful Style | Thrifted Polka Dots

Ethical Details: Thrifted top and cardigan; Everlane jeans and shoes (on sale); Retrospecced vintage glasses

At some point a few months ago, I got it in my head that I wanted a navy, polka dot, wrap top. I half-heartedly checked my favorite ethical brand websites, knowing that there wasn’t a high likelihood I’d find that precise combination. I also scanned local thrift shops weekly to see if anything fitting that description had been donated. At one point, I snatched up a long sleeve, dotted blouse, by J. Crew at a Richmond thrift shop, but, while it suited my needs in cooler weather, it wasn’t ultimately what I was looking for.

Then I went on a lucky thrift excursion on a last minute trip to Baltimore, and found this blouse! I would have preferred a stretch cotton rather than this polyester, but the drape, cut, and fit is beautiful. It’s (almost) exactly what I wanted. And (likely) the closest match I was going to find given the ethical guidelines that limit my shopping options.

Thrifting can be magic, and the longer I’m at this task of shopping ethically, the more grateful I am for secondhand options. It is undeniably true that part of the reason thrift shops can offer such a good selection is because of mass overconsumption in the first place – and as a thrift shop manager that’s a complicated reality I have to negotiate every day – but there is something so wholesome about being able to “give something new life” even if it amounts to a drop in the bucket on the global scale.

I am also realizing, due to other things going on in my life, that I’m the kind of person who benefits from having fewer choices. I’d rather get in my head what I want ahead of time and then strategically reduce my available options so that I know that the choice I made is the best choice I had within those metrics. What I mean is that thrifting – and shopping on the secondhand market more generally – gives me a nice set of parameters to move within so I don’t get overwhelmed.

Shopping from fast fashion retailers is, sort of by design, overwhelming in its overabundance. I’m such a perfectionist in the first place that I’d rather sit in the “good enough” space than feel that I must make it my life’s goal to find the perfect thing.

Plus, when I do find that exact thing I’m looking for nestled into a rack at the thrift store, I’m even more convinced that life is a wonderful mystery and not just a meaningless set of circumstances.

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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