Thrifting for style: Local high school students save a few bucks by shopping at consignment stores

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Haley Robinson bought her shirt at Teen Challenge and her shoes and tank top at Goodwill. Shoes were $4.00 and the tank top was $5.00. (Photos by Diane L. Wilson)

A fashion trend is sweeping through the halls of Central High School and it has a group of followers they like to call themselves "thrifters."

Long ago are the lunch table conversations about stores such as Hollister, American Eagle, The Buckle or PacSun. At Central, students talk about their "thrifting" escapades to local thrift stores like Annie Laurie's, Teen Challenge or the Salvation Army.

Many of today's young people like to express their personality through style and that means finding articles of clothing that aren't mass produced.

"I go thrifting because you can find really unique and individual things that you couldn't find at everyday retail stores," said Haley Robinson, a sophomore at Central High School.

Buying a clothing item at a thrift store offers teens a sense of knowing that no one else will be wearing the exact same shirt. Thrifting allows students to express their individuality.

Trevor Camp, 18, bought his army shirt at Teen Challange for $10.00 and his suit coat at Goodwill for $4.00.

Trevor Camp, a senior at Central, is a long-time thrifter.

"No one else at school is going to have what you buy at a thrift store -- that is what's so great about thrifting," he said. "The merchandise is always changing and you never see the same thing twice."

Buying clothing at a second-hand store also gives students the chance to be creative. Many students spend hours digging through clothing racks for a special shirt or pair of pants.

"It's all about how you put the clothes together. You have to be creative with your outfits," Camp said.

In the fashion industry, there's truth behind the phrase: what comes around goes around, Camp said.

Lauren Clark, 17, got a prom dress at Pastime Antiques for $35.00. (Diane L. Wilson)

"Designers look to the past clothing trends to design what we wear today. They see something, tweak it, and then sell it top dollar in stores like Urban Outfitters," Camp said. "That's what is so great about thrifters, they go straight to the source and buy the original style of clothing at a very low cost."

Many popular styles today compare closely to items our parents wore in the 1960s and 1970s.

And thrifting is not just about finding vintage items.

"When I'm thrift store shopping I usually find items that I'd see at the mall. They're worn out a little bit but still new enough to wear," said Elise Hecht, a senior at Cape Central. "When some retail companies can't sell their items, those companies send their clothes -- which have never been worn -- to places like Goodwill."

Shopping at the mall can get expensive when many of the same items can be found at thrift stores for about half the price.

Elise Hecht, 17, shopped at the Goodwill Store. Shoes were $1.50, belt $1.00, shirt $2.00, and pants $3.00. (Diane L. Wilson)

"I also go thrifting because I'm really, really frugal," Robinson said. "I don't ever spend more than $15."

Thrifting keeps a lot of teens in style while maintaining a budget. But thrifting isn't just about shopping on a budget -- there are some students who go thrifting just for the experience.

"One of my wealthiest students buys most of her clothes at thrift stores," said Miki Markovich, English teacher at Central High School.

Antique and second-hand stores all offer clothing. Most of the antique stores in downtown Cape Girardeau have clothing from time periods ranging throughout the 1900s. Some of the clothing can be pricey, but it all depends on how authentic the item is.

In a recent trip to several antique stores in Cape Girardeau's downtown, a Jackie Kennedy-style coat from the 1960s was found at Past Times Antiques and Annie Laurie's had a locket from the 1920s. There were even items from the 1970s, like bell-bottom pants and leather fringe vests.

Emily Viers, 18, bought her vest and locket at Anne Laurie's. The vest and locket cost $10.00 each. (Diane L. Wilson)

What more does a teen need to express themselves?

"The most unique piece of clothing I own from thrifting would have to be a leopard print cardigan with pink rhinestone buttons," Robinson said. "But my favorite piece is my black suede flat boots."

Local thrift stores offer more than clothing and accessories. Hecht's favorite thrift store item is something that can't be worn.

"The most unique thing I've purchased was a 1974 Kodak camera at Teen Challenge," Hecht said. "The camera cost $2 and it was still in the package with the directions."

The number one piece of advice from the experienced thrifters: to find great items, patience is a must.

"You have to search and dig through piles. It's not often that a great piece just jumps out of the racks at you," Camp said.

In the end, the hunt is worth it when a great article of clothing or beautiful accessory is found.

The next time you want to add a little flair to your fashion or you want to stand out from the crowd, check out some of the great items local thrift stores and downtown Cape antique stores have to offer.

And after your first thrifting experience, you may be surprised at how much you love the atmosphere, the hunt and the satisfaction that goes along with thrift store shopping.

Emily Viers is a senior at Cape Central High School and the editor for the school's newspaper, The Tiger.

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