As a college student rounding out the summer, I was swamped with a never-ending to-do list filled with tasks to prepare myself for my second year of school. Between figuring out financial information and packing everything I need for my dorm, I was busy.
Of course, though, on that list of important things to do to make sure I survive my sophomore year of college is making sure that I have clothes that I actually want to wear before I shove my entire closet into a suitcase and drag it to D.C.
On a mission to upgrade my fall wardrobe, I decided to go to secondhand clothing stores close to my Mt. Lebanon home.
Secondhand stores are better for the environment—they keep clothes out of landfills and reduce carbon emissions that come along with the rapid production of cheap, fast fashion clothing.
Also, in my opinion, they have much more unique clothes because they don’t cater to fashion microtrends, so I can better fit my fashion choices to my personality. And, of course, they tend to be cheaper, so I only have to worry about breaking the bank paying my tuition, not on new clothes.
I went out on a Thursday afternoon to three secondhand clothing stores in the South Hills. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular and was rather aiming to take in the entire store, scouting out anything that looked cool.
I couldn’t set a concrete budget for myself since I didn’t know what I was going to find, but I knew that I didn’t really want to spend more than $50 and I knew that I didn’t want to waste money on something that I wasn’t certain I was going to wear.
With those loose parameters in mind, I started my thrifting adventure through the South Hills.
The Clothes Horse, 306 Beverly Road
My first stop was The Clothes Horse on Beverly Road. Perched on the building’s second floor, the consignment shop has been in that location since 1965, making it one of the oldest shops still located on Beverly Road.
Store owner Judy DeFrancis says people who donate their clothes get a 50 percent cut of the profits. If clothes don’t sell, the items are donated to either the Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul, meaning these clothes will never go directly to a landfill.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, this shop can be hard to find. I thought of it as Beverly Road’s best- and longest-kept secret. Warm yet dim lighting engulfed the store, leading me to the many racks of clothing.
Music softly floated through the store, and I was greeted by DeFrancis, who kindly informed me that there was a 50 percent off sale on all summer items.
The racks there were filled with all types of clothes. Business wear, athleisure, casual wear—if you’re looking for it, there’s a good chance that The Clothes Horse has it in that tiny store.
I landed on three things: a pair of Cambio brand jeans meant for grabbing dinner with my friends, a pair of red leggings I can wear on runs during the winter and a red polo shirt that I could just imagine myself wearing while I steam latte milk at my barista job back at college.
For all three of those items, my total was $14. The Clothes Horse doesn’t take card, but luckily, I had cash on me, so I was able to buy my clothes without having to run down to an ATM.
Savvy Fox, 1964 Greentree Road
The first thing I noticed about Savvy Fox was the pink-decorated window. Their display was Barbie-themed, catering to the trend of people dressing up in hot pink for the recently released blockbuster. I saw the movie—of course wearing pink—so I appreciated the nod to the trend.
The store was packed when I arrived. Based on overheard conversations, this Thursday was surprisingly busy for them, but they seemed to be handling it well. A large number of people surfed through the color-coded racks and fancy furniture.
The store was enormous, and I felt like I could have spent hours there browsing the racks of clothes. Sections are divided by size and brand. There were also sections dedicated solely to furniture, jewelry, shoes and purses. If I was looking for something in particular, I could have found it easily, but browsing and looking for anything worth my money made me feel like a kid let loose in a candy store.
On the day I was there, all clothing items with a blue tag were 75 percent off, and all items with a gray tag were half off. Luckily, the olive green tank top I found had a gray tag, taking its price down to about $7. Hopefully, that top can come with me to a friend’s house party in the coming school year.
Goodwill, 2866 Banksville Road
My final stop was at the Goodwill on Banksville Road. By far the biggest store of the three, Goodwill quite literally has everything. Though I ended up settling on a jean jacket, I searched through a wide variety of things, including used books and records.
One of my favorite finds on this endeavor was a well-loved Anna doll from Disney’s Frozen. Her hair was tattered and her was cape falling off of her right arm but her bright eyes and enormous grin still painted vibrantly on her face. It reminded me of playing with dolls when I was a kid, especially since my younger sister and I loved that movie growing up.
To me, secondhand stores have a certain charm: Everything in there was once owned by someone else and has already lived a life of its own before coming home with you. Though I don’t know why the previous owner decided to give up the things that I decided to bring home, I know that somewhere in the fabric of the clothing is a stranger’s story now being passed on to me.
After browsing the aisles, I decided to get a jacket that caught my eye. The second its oversized sleeves hugged my body I knew I’d be buying it because it was just too cute and too comfortable to pass up. It’s something I could wear on a lazy study day at the library and a piece that I could dress up for a museum date with friends. My total was $9.
When I got home, I showed the clothes to my sister. I told her that if I had shopped at a traditional fast-fashion store, that jacket likely would have cost $70 and I was lucky to be able to bring it home for an amount of money I wouldn’t even have to work an hour to earn back.
In total, I found five things, all of which serve very different purposes, for only $30.
When I left for this assignment, I was glad that I’d gotten paid two days earlier because that meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about spending. But at a fast fashion store, $30 wouldn’t even get me a T-shirt that I’d get rid of within a year of purchasing it. With secondhand stores, I got a whole new chunk of my wardrobe.
Secondhand shopping is a great way to save money, to find clothes that are more unique to you as a person rather than the trends on Tik Tok and to do a small but mighty act of good for the environment.
Personally, what draws me most to thrifting is that last part—it’s an easy and cool way to help the environment with its smaller carbon footprint.