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We’ve all done our closet cleanups, where we sort through our clothes and pick out what we forgot we loved, or what isn’t ‘you’ anymore. Chances are, the second pile made it to the thrift store. Since the late 1800s, thrift stores have served the purpose of repurposing. They gave people the opportunity to not only donate the clothes they weren’t using anymore but also the chance to shop for the items and find a new use for them at a discounted rate.

Despite what seemed like the perfect deal - give what you don’t want, and buy what you do for much less - there was a stigma attached to wearing pre-owned clothing. This was until the rise of influencers. In around 2017, thrifting took over social media: and YouTube was filled with thrift hauls. Content creators like Macy Eleni (@blazedandglazed on TikTok), Taelor Schermann (@tvelor on TikTok), and Kelsey Reese (@reese.cycled on TikTok) all show their large followers their thrift hauls and encourage their followers to slow down their shopping habits at fast fashion brands and attempt to utilize what is already available.

I witnessed Chicago thrift stores with few customers a day become filled, with lines reaching the end of the block. Thrifting became a game: to find the best pieces for the lowest price. Patience, resilience, and coffee in hand are necessary when navigating your local thrift store for hidden gems. Macy Eleni says that she must go through every single rack at a thrift store, because ‘gems are truly always hidden in the most random places throughout the thrift’.

My personal favorite part of thrifting is the idea of altering a piece and making it your own: also known as thrift flipping. Thrift flipping is the concept of buying something at a thrift store with the intention of deconstructing it to become something else. Thrifty fashion influencers with an eye for design accompany their thrift store hauls with how they have altered the pieces to create a unique piece of clothing never seen before. Some of the most creative examples I've seen include turning Adidas track pants into a lacey mini dress (@ebcjpg on TikTok).

Pieces are constantly circulating in thrift stores and there are countless stores to choose from. According to the Association of Resale Professionals, there are currently over 25,000 resale, consignment, and Not For Profit stores in the United States alone. It goes without saying that there are limitless alternatives to fast fashion as well as the opportunity to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

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