If price tags in retail stores have you gasping for air, and if the price of designer-label items represents your monthly grocery budget, then it’s time to consider the many merits of thrift shopping.
As inflation rises and household budgets are squeezed, secondhand stores have become a retail destination for middle-class consumers looking to save money. Thrift shopping also has grown in popularity among the eco-conscious for another reason: It’s a way to recycle perfectly good clothes, perhaps several times, instead of endlessly consuming new clothing that feeds landfills.
“You’re extending the life of that resource,” said Leah Charles Black, volunteer and store manager at b.divine clothing boutique, downstairs from Divine Consign furniture resale store. “Making clothes is a really energy-consuming thing, and I don’t know if you’ve ever looked up the amount of water needed to make a new pair of blue jeans, but it’s gross. It’s thousands of gallons. So it’s not just the energy used, it’s the natural resources.”
In fact, the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is about 1,800 gallons. For a cotton shirt, it’s 400 gallons. And the expenditure of resources doesn’t end with the clothes. There’s also the packaging, like plastic hangers and bags, Black said. Most resale places reuse their hangers and bags are either reused or optional. There are no boxes, tissue paper or plastic wrapping.
Furthermore, resale shopping is a boon to the local economy because it funnels dollars directly back into the community. For example, 100 percent of b.divine’s profits go to Gifts for Our Community to help local charities. ReTails thrift store is operated as a fundraiser for The Humane Society for Southwest Washington. Secondhand Solutions helps pay for Open House Ministries’ family shelter.
Many shoppers aren’t motivated by altruism as much as they are by the thrill of the hunt, snagging jaw-dropping deals from an ever-changing selection. Most resale stores offer a vast array of styles and brands, letting tailored jackets from Anne Taylor Loft rub shoulders with blouses from Target.
“When you’re shopping resale, you’re able to find unique pieces. The chance of somebody having that same piece you purchased is very slim,” said Black, a former fashion model who enjoys styling her own outfits from resale finds. “You’re buying a one-of-a-kind thing. You’re able to make more of a personal statement about your style.”
Clark County has no shortage of resale options where thrifters can find everything from bathrobes to floor-length formal gowns. Some thrift stores serve a specific clientele, like Denim & Frills, Pipsqueak Resale Boutique and 4 Ever Growing Kids, which offer attire for children and babies. Plato’s Closet is great for teens and young adults. Urban Eccentric and Most Everything Vintage feature high-quality vintage clothing and accessories along with newer items.
With roughly 30 thrift shops in Clark County, not counting all the Goodwill stores, deciding where to give thrifting a go can be overwhelming. Here are six shops to try.
904 Main St., Vancouver; 360-719-7191; open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Sales: Sale items and discounted off-season items are grouped together on several racks. Never-worn Threads for Thought sustainable clothing line is offered at 25 or 50 percent off department store prices.
Donations: Accepted during business hours. Clothes should be good quality and in good condition. No undergarments are accepted, but the store welcomes gently used bras for the breast cancer nonprofit Pink Lemonade Project. Donated items that aren’t saleable are given to local charities.
What to expect: This attractive, boutique-style resale store is located on the basement level of Divine Consign; just walk down the carpeted stairs on the south side of the showroom. The shop, featuring both new and used clothing as well as a small number of high-end consignment items, has a plush, department-store feel with a sparkling chandelier, mirrors and artful displays of shoes, jewelry, purses and accessories. Designer clothes are grouped on racks and formalwear is hung along the wall. All clothing has been pre-washed to ensure its cleanliness, colorfastness and durability. Items are priced for value rather than being bargain buys (though bargains can be found). The store offers sales by color-coded tags; signs are posted to let customers know.
915 W. 13th St., Vancouver; 360-735-5943; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Sales: Get 50 percent off kids’ toys and gear on Mondays. Tuesdays are “buy one, get one free” days (applies to anything in the store). Seniors 55 and older get 25 percent off on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, clothing and shoes $19 or less are $3. Fridays are “mystery sales” with varying promotions. The last Friday of every month is 50 percent off, storewide. Saturday is 20 percent off for military personnel.
Donations: Gently used clothing and household items are accepted from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Open House Ministries shelter, 900 W. 12th St., Vancouver.
What to expect: This thrift shop, which features home furnishings downstairs and women’s, men’s and children’s clothing upstairs, is staffed by volunteers. Proceeds from sales help fund Open House Ministries’ shelter serving homeless people. Offerings vary widely, from well-worn but durable jeans and flannel shirts to never-worn blouses and sweaters with original tags still on. The ever-changing selection and weekly sales make this shop a bargain-hunter’s paradise. Customers can find everything from loungewear and athletic wear to jackets, slacks, coats, formal gowns and even wedding dresses. Men’s clothes are in a separate area with a variety of button-down shirts, slacks, shoes and ties. Purses, scarves and jewelry are displayed around the store. Children’s clothing and toys are in their own room across the hall from women’s clothing.
16111 S.E. McGillivray Blvd., Vancouver; 360-253-9053; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Sales: Items are priced according to colored tags. The colors change every three weeks and items with the new tag color go on sale. A large selection of clearance items hang on racks out front. Customers can sign up to receive periodic text alerts about seasonal sales.
Donations: By consignment only. Bring no more than 40 items to the store during business hours; appointments are encouraged. Clothes should be seasonally appropriate and on hangers. Intimate items are accepted if they have not been worn. Items will remain in the store for 50 days and consigners receive 40 percent of the item’s sale price.
What to expect: This store offers a huge variety of women’s clothing, as well as shoes, boots, purses, scarves, hats, jewelry, formal gowns and even sunglasses and reading glasses. Find Converse sneakers and designer-label items alongside clothes to fit the season, sweaters in winter and swimsuits in summer, from size 0 to plus sizes. Fantastic bargains — in the range of $3 to $10 — can be found on the last-chance racks outside. Inside, higher-end name-brand shoes and accessories are in cases. The store is a good place to find dressy casual or business attire, leisure wear and special-occasion wear. Styles cover the spectrum from trendy to classic and attract shoppers from teens to septuagenarians. The store, which manages to fit a large inventory into a relatively small space, is especially busy during homecoming and prom season.
5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver; 360-984-6060; open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Sales: On Wednesdays, shoppers age 55 and older receive a 50 percent discount on clothing and accessories (except purses and jewelry). Other sales are posted on Facebook or noted on the chalkboard at the entrance to the store.
Donations: Accepted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
What to expect: This store, operated by the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, has a massive selection of clothing, shoes and accessories for women, men and children. Most clothing items and shoes are $4.99, although there are some racks of higher-priced designer clothing, dresses and formalwear. Gently used bras and other foundational garments have their own rack. There’s also a vast array of handbags, scarves, hats and jewelry. A warning to shoppers concerned about a good fit: The dressing rooms are closed, but items can be returned within seven days with a receipt.
After shopping for clothes, wander over to the home-goods section, where you’ll find furniture, dishes, kitchen items, tools, knick-knacks and books. The store’s popular seasonal decor section will open Nov. 2, featuring holiday decorations, trees and wreaths.
512 N.E. 81st St., Suite D, Vancouver; 360-546-1163; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Sales: Items are priced by colored tags that are marked down regularly; the longer an item has been on the floor, the deeper the discount. Every month two colors are 30 and 50 percent off. Other sales are promoted on social media or customers can join an email list.
Donations: The store does not take donations or consignment but offers cash or store credit for whatever is accepted. Items are received by appointment only.
What to expect: This store is for shoppers who are looking for haute couture without haute-couture prices. Shoppers can sing along to classic midcentury tunes while browsing women’s clothes, shoes and handbags from Armani, Eileen Fisher, Rag & Bone, Vince and Prada, among many other high-end brands. At this shop you might find a Louis Vuitton bag for $1,095 or a $10 shirt from fast-fashion brand Shein. Prices for clothes in good-as-new condition are mostly in the $20 to $50 range. Look for leather goods, tailored jackets, skirts, dressy sweaters, blouses and professional clothing from brands like Nordstrom, Anthropologie, J. Crew and Chicos. The store’s goal is to make shoppers wonder: Is this resale?
602 E. Main St., Suite 102, Battle Ground; 360-342-8327; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Sales: Buy one thrift item and get another item half off until 8 p.m. on First Fridays. On Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, the store hosts a bag sale — $25 for as many thrift items as can be stuffed into a bag.
Donations: Straight donations (not for sale or trade) are accepted during business hours. The store will also pay cash or offer store credit for clothing by appointment. What isn’t accepted will be donated to God’s Closet or upcycled into artisan-made attire sold in the store.
What to expect: This snazzy store in Battle Ground is geared toward women with a bold fashion sense in sizes from extra-small to plus. The center of the store holds racks of resale items, everything from sweaters and jeans to blouses, jackets, slacks, leggings and skirts and well as shoes, scarves, hats and accessories. Vivid, eye-catching colors and patterns peek out from darks and neutrals, encouraging shoppers to wander deeper into the store. There’s a small maternity rack and a rack of what the owner, Michelle Smith, categorizes as “Vegas attire, glitz and glam.” The perimeter of the boutique displays new, custom-made clothing, upcycled from thrift-store items by local fiber artists Pati Nadgwick Jeffers of Somethin Outta Nothin and Stacy Thoma of Grace and Dean. Customers will also find jewelry and other items made by several local artisans. Smith calls the store “a collective of local mama-made products” and stocks items from 10 Battle Ground-area vendors.
When ripped, stained or otherwise unsellable clothes are donated to the store, Smith tries to put them to good use by giving them to Jeffers and Stoma, who will cut them up and use the fabric for their fashion creations.
“We’re doing our part by not wasting product but upcycling it and turning it into wearable art,” Smith said.