Puddle hopping in a bright yellow raincoat, I made my way to this high-end looking store in Milwaukee’s hip Third Ward with my Mom. We braved the Spring Wisconsin storm during a lunch break from hours of lap top work at my parents’ office to shop–knowing that our bleary eyes would brighten at the prospect of new clothes and accessories. Well, not necessarily new. Believe it or not, the articles of clothing draped across wooden hangers and carefully arranged by color that you see in the scene above all come from the fluorescent-lit aisles of Goodwill stores all over Milwaukee. This secondhand boutique, cleverly named “Retique,” boasts merchandise that was hand picked from Goodwill stores and made to look high end. The items were weeded out–selected for designer labels or current fashion trends, but the prices stay shockingly low. A t-shirt from Banana Republic costs a mere $5, and heels from Steve Madden come in at a cool $15. Retique is a bargain hunter’s dream.
The way I see it, wooden hangers, attentive sales assistants, and well-kept dressing rooms have made secondhand shopping and sustainability accessible to a new group of consumers. Gone is the stigma that secondhand means “gross” or “stingy.” The location of this goodwill owned boutique makes it cool to support a very worthwhile mission. Shopping at Goodwill shouldn’t be something seen as only for those who are “poor” (I know that this is often the stereotype.) Shopping secondhand means you are doing your part in getting the most out of the embodied energy that exists in all of the clothes that have been thrown out by people who are done wearing them. Furthermore, the money you spend goes toward the important mission of Goodwill. When I shopped today (as I’m sure many of my peers did on their Spring breaks) I didn’t feel guilty like I would have at the mall. I am still aware that I have too much “stuff,” but I think that shopping this way (though it is still shopping) is a step in the right direction. When I get home tonight, I plan on cleansing my closet of all of the things I no longer wear. We will donate these clothes to a Goodwill store near us–perpetuating the cycle of clothing recycling.