When I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband and I read the book Redefining Girly (and have since recommended it to every parent we know, including you!). One section of the book I found particularly resonate highlights the ways in which girls’ clothing can dictate their behavior, the types of activities in which they engage, and how we treat them.
The Cliff Notes version is this: girl’s clothing is too often restrictive, precious, or at the very least not designed for raucous play.
As a result, we made the decision to only buy clothing that facilitates movement, play, and the eventual destruction that occurs when kids are encouraged to jump in puddles and finger paint all day. Think leggings, cotton shorts, loose t-shirts, and often, boys-section goods.
The thing is, it can be really expensive to buy clothing for an ever-growing child. And the more expensive the clothing, the more precious we tend to treat it – which conflicts with our “Go play!” style of parenting.
Which is why we buy the majority of our daughter’s clothing at the thrift shop.
At least in our home, we’ve found when clothing is inexpensive and selected with the express purpose of being played in, we are far less likely to worry about our daughter ruining her clothes. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I said, “Try not to get that dirty.” Seriously, when the outfit costs less than $3, it’s a waste of energy to worry about grass stains.
There is certainly nothing wrong with buying clothes at traditional retail stores, and I love a good Target clearance rack, but hear me out when I say thrift store/second-hand clothing has many more perks than just being inexpensive.
Buying clothes second-hand means there’s overall reduced waste. Prolonging the use of a good before it makes its way to the landfill is incredibly beneficial to our planet. In addition to reducing landfill waste, purchasing second-hand helps reduce emissions from production, manufacturing, and shipping! I mean, win win win win, am I right?!
This perk is especially fun if you like shopping (not me.) The varied, unpredictable selection is a great way to get that dopamine fix associated with “the hunt.” Personally, I like the varied selection because I’m a mix-and-match stripes-with-polka-dots kind of girl myself. As our daughter develops her personal style, it’s interesting to watch the pieces she’s drawn to. It’s a real grab bag some days! And because the clothing is so varied, it’s an exercise in creativity just to put an outfit together.
Not to harp on this point too much, but when you don’t spend too much on clothing, it really removes the burden of trying to keep it all perfect.
Kids spill, they bury themselves in sandboxes, their clothing gets torn or ripped or stained and not caring when any of those things happen is one way I maintain my sanity. Paint, glitter, guacamole – it’s all washable.
For two bucks a shirt, I feel no sadness if something gets ruined outright. This is not to say I don’t care about waste or to seem flippant, but the fact of the matter is when kids play their clothing gets worn out – regardless of whether those clothes cost 15 bucks or a dollar fifty. I’m simply saying it’s a softer blow with a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket each year.
Tips for new thrifters
- Inspect the clothes before you buy them. Sometimes clothes make it to the rack with little holes or even small stains. I’ve learned the hard way to check the seams and check for stains before checking out.
- Unfortunately, girls clothing is often highly gendered (pink, sparkles, etc…) This can make boys uncomfortable, but boys clothing is usually simple and neutral enough for girls to wear without noticing. Especially when they’re younger. This point deserves a whole separate post, but that’s for another day.
- Many thrift stores will have major sales in the spring and back to school – making the cost of otherwise inexpensive clothing even cheaper. They also tend to stock their shelves for that sale the day before. So if you just can’t wait or you hate crowds (me!), you can get first pick early.
- Unrelated to clothing, we buy many of our daughter’s books at thrift stores. For around a dollar per book, we’ve amassed a sizeable library.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to bargain-hunting or shopping in general. I’m actually laughably bad and impatient (ask my mom, my sister, my husband, store clerks across the metro) but I do love the feeling of restocking my daughter’s wardrobe with clothes I know won’t hold her back from adventuring (raucously!)