I never thought I would boast about wearing used clothes. If fact, it’s taken me a while to get to this point. I grew up loving fashion. I enrolled myself in fashion school, worked at extravagant department stores, and made my living marketing new clothes to women. Every detail captivates me about fashion: the craftsmanship, the material, the creation, and the story.
I’ve been buying and selling clothes from the mid-90s. I would gather my clothes in shopping bags, load the car and then circle the same block about 8 times till I found the perfect spot in front of my neighborhood consignment boutique. I always dashed in and out, never spending more than 15 minutes inside. If something caught my eye – I hurried into the fitting-rooms, usually ending up with my shoes still on and my pants piled around the ankles. In those days, you didn’t brag about the designer bag or blazer you scored at places called Martha’s Repeats or New 2 You Consignment Barn.
My first experience purchasing second-hand clothes online was on The Real Real. After working from home for over a decade, I went back to working for someone else. I was about to enter a new chapter in my life, and just like 90% of women starting a new job, I went shopping. My work wardrobe: Prada wool pants with a silk Ferragamo blouse, DVF dresses, Blahniks with a classic Gucci blazer. The variety and prices were better than any department store I shopped. I could own a DVF dress for $70, which cost $450 at the mall or a pair of Blahniks that I used to pay over $500 for, now, $175.
Before the start of my new job, I offered a fashion show to my then-husband and young daughter. When I reflect back on that moment, it was the first time I openly displayed my clothing purchases with pride. In the past, the scenario played out something like this: sneak shopping bag with new clothes in the house, when hubby is in the shower, stash bag in the back of the closet, wear inconspicuously. If asked, “Is that new?” I’d respond with a shake of the head and deflect, “Planning to watch the game later?”
Why now, I wondered, didn’t I have the usual new-clothes-guilt? If you’re female, at some point, we’ve all felt this way, even when it’s (y)our money. Was it the incredible deals, the bragging rights of the money saved, the online shopping experience, or the luxury brand labels? Maybe it didn’t even feel like consumption. These were used clothes, after all, worn by other women.
Since living in Paris and adopting some French ways, it baffles me to think about how I used to consume so many clothes. Now, in the most fashionable city in the world, I only shop and wear second-hand. My time here has taught me French women buy second-hand too, a little secret they like to keep to themselves.
(All the pieces I wear are second-hand - the shoes too!)