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Secondhand Clothes: Fashion or Need?

By Karla Ortiz

“I have nothing to wear.” “What will I wear today?” “I can’t find anything to put together.”

These are the phrases so many of us say when we dress to go out. For many, buying new clothes is an investment where much of their income goes and a weekly activity. We believe we need fashionable clothes to feel accepted and “cool.”

Many times, high fashion clothing is uncomfortable, but we buy it anyway because it is popular and therefore something we must have. But if we look beyond department stores, where we pay excessive prices for clothes of poor quality that will last us less than a year, we can find a wardrobe of useful, comfortable clothing with social awareness.

Today there are many ways to get rid of the piles of clothes that lie forgotten deep in our closet. You can always donate your clothes to a home, a shelter, or remote communities. If you want a little extra money for those things you’re getting rid of, you can also sell them to a secondhand store or have a garage sale.

Often among friends and acquaintances, there is another idea you see sometimes applied: a “clothing swap,” where people leave behind an old garment that for others is a completely new item, and they pick up something new for themselves.

Reducing Your “Textile Footprint”

“Responsible consumption” is a term heard a lot in recent years. It doesn’t only apply to food, but also to clothing. In México, each person generates about 50 kilograms of textile waste per year. This sort of waste nationwide increased from 458,000 tons in 2000 to 613,800 tons in 2013, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

And to make matters worse, now the fashion industry has opted for “fast fashion” campaigns, meaning that they no longer produce clothes by season but put out new designs in stores every two weeks, a fact that can be seen in how many clothes nowadays fade in the first wash and become unusable by the fifth.

According to research by the BBC, the typical fast-fashion garment is used less than five times and is thrown away after 35 days. It produces more than 400 percent more carbon emissions than garments we use 50 times and keep for a year. According to fashion designer Eileen Fisher, this makes the textile industry the second-most polluting in the world, due to the high levels of oil used and pesticides sprayed on cotton plantations.

All over the world, there have been initiatives to change this situation, some involving markets or itinerant bazaars where clothes in good condition are sold and some places where old clothes mended with patches, embroidery, or colorful pieces of cloth are resold.

It is important to emphasize that secondhand clothing does not have to mean old or unusable. There are many stores that sell outdated models of clothing that were only used once and are in very good condition. When you buy your clothes in this type of store, you contribute to the 3Rs idea: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Some advantages of used clothing are:

-It decreases the amount of clothes that go into the garbage.

-The life cycle of garments is longer.

-It reduces your environmental impact.

-Clothing prices are lower.

-You raise awareness about recycling.

-You can find brand-name designers at very low prices.

It is not necessary to go online or travel to big cities to find secondhand clothing. In San Miguel, you can find several stores with these items. One of them is the Bodega de Sorpresas at the back of La Biblioteca. Many people donate clothes and household items that are no longer in use so that this store can sell and raise more funds for scholarships. In this space, you can find clothes of all sizes and quality, and all at good prices. Take a tour and visit the Bodega de Sorpresas every Thursday from 10am to 1pm.



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