Finding Hidden Gems

Illustration by Sarah Woo

Illustration by Sarah Woo

Malls are religiously my first stop when I want to find new clothes. Before I even leave campus, I know that my most trusted stores will have clothes that fit me and are in accordance to my taste. And generally, I do not mind the popularity of certain pieces that is inevitable with mass production. I do not care if one other person or 100 other people buy the same shirt. I care if I like it and how useful that item will be in my wardrobe.  

But, I also realize that fashionable clothes are not limited to these fluorescently lighted stores. Though these stores are on trend, modern pieces can be found in other places and a designer label does not equate to good quality. For example, one of my favorite and warmest sweaters came from a clothing swap my high school organized. A boy in my grade had bought this sweater, but never wore it due to how itchy the fabric was. Not bothered by this fabric, I picked this sweater and wear it to this day. It has become a winter essential that also has a memory attached to it.

However, the overwhelming majority of my clothes have come from traditional mall stores and I still love them. But, I also realize their mundaneness. I do not remember the day I bought them nor do they carry any memory or sentimental significance. There remains a clear difference between wearing the earrings I bought from Urban Outfitters and wearing the earrings my grandma had worn for decades before giving them to me. I find family members’ closets some of the best places to not only environmentally consciously recycle unworn pieces, but also discover unique clothing. My mom’s old Levi jeans are some of my most worn jeans.

Thrift stores are also a classic hub of one of a kind pieces. I only recently started shopping at thrift stores and found that just like traditional clothing stores, some are more tailored to my personal style than others. Due to my shopping ban, I have not been to a thrift store in Providence, but would highly recommend Buffalo Exchange or the Garment District to anyone in the Boston area. I have also used online second hand exchanges, and found Poshmark’s selection vast and the website to be highly reliable.  

Additionally, styling clothes in a way that they were not intended to be worn remains an economic and highly individual way to “discover” unique pieces. For example, I had bought a skirt from Madewell and have never worn it. While trying different outfits, I pulled the skirt over my chest and discovered that I preferred it as a shirt. Since then, I have exclusively worn the skirt as a tube top, and thus, this skirt has elevated itself to be one of my best investments. To restyle those unworn pieces, I would recommend to dedicate some time and just try any combination you think would remotely work. If a shirt does not fit correctly, try wearing it backwards. If a pair of jeans are unflattering, try cuffing the bottoms.  

Admittedly, shopping at thrift stores and restyling are time consuming and not a daily occurrence. But, this rarity remains why I cherish my mom’s hand-me downs, thrift stores finds, and repurposed items so much more. The ease and convenience of mass produced clothing will be the reasons the majority of my closet will come from these stores and, unfortunately lack emotional attachment. Not all your clothing can carry sentimental value, but not being afraid and taking full advantage of those places that provide clothing with associated memories remains an underused mindset and a current goal of mine to explore more of.