by Tiffany Chu ‘22, Maria Chiang Rebatta ‘22, and Mandy You ‘22
For most of my life, my mom was convinced there was something ghastly about vintage clothes (all the more appeal for me) and I didn’t get much into thrifting before the summer of 2014. Thrifting seemed like this magical past time that allowed people to unlock bargain treasures. A vintage piece of clothing is never just an ordinary piece of clothing; vintage clothes have stories sewn in their hems, each a gateway to different personas one can inhabit.
The W13th Street Beacon’s Closet was my inauguration into the world of thrifting. My first visit, I uncovered a violet Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, a maroon Sonia Rykiel dress, and a beaded slip from Nanette Lepore. From then on, I remained a loyal customer to Beacon’s Closet (available online!*) and continue to visit any time I’m in New York.
It was also thrifting that truly unearthed my love for shoes. Before the age of fourteen, I was always one to discourage shoe purchases and would wear the same pair of ballet flats until holes in the soles drove them into the trash. Everything changed when I purchased a pair of black and white leather Marc Jacobs Chelsea boots. With bronze-gold studs lining the outsoles and spiky detailings, the boots make me feel like a vamped up cowgirl. Alas, the first and only time I wore them out, the heel cap dug into my heel. By the end of first period, my feet were bleeding and I had to change into my friend’s jazz shoes. All the pain aside, the shoes did come in handy in art class when we were told to do a rendering of our shoes and I found myself with a fascinating muse. For sentimental purposes, they’re still sitting in my shoe cupboard. Maybe one day I’ll have heels strong enough to bear them.
Before thrifting, I learned the names of designers as if I were collecting a list of strangers whom I would never meet. Then, I found a pair of $30 Rodarte star studded glitter strappy heels. In my mind, Rodarte was reserved for people who had gala invitations pinned to their mood boards (and the bank accounts to match). Last spotted parading down the runway in the Fall 2014 show, the heels were now relegated to sinking into my high school football field’s turf. The heel is about 4-inch stiletto and thus fragile, so I save them for Very Special Occasions. All the same, there is a certain happiness in knowing I can take a walk in the type of shoes worn by the likes of Tavi Gevinson and Kirsten Dunst. Thrifting gives me a peek into a sartorial world I believed beyond my middle-class existence.
Maria Chiang Rebatta
Instead of getting postcards or souvenirs, I thrift. For me, thrifting is a part of getting to know a place because it reflects culture, style and a population in a very local way. So far, my favorite thrift store is a chain in Europe called Emmaus, specifically its locations in Sweden. I tend to be very practical with the way I dress and I think it reflects the kind of clothes I look for. At the same time, I keep an eye out for brands, cuts, and styles that embody the place I’m visiting or are considered classics by the region’s standards.
Shoes- Rome, Italy
Lately I have come to terms with the fact that I love shoes more than I love any other article of clothing. When in Rome, I askeda group of people I had just met where I could find a good thrift store. They mentioned a store on the outskirts of Rome and, funny enough, decided to tag along with me on the adventure. It was there when I found my first pair of Supergas (pictured) which have, since then, become my go-to travel shoes.
Coat- Gothenburg, Sweden
The coat is one of my most “creative” pieces. It has a magnet on one of the ends that attaches to another magnet by the collar bone. I was visiting my sister over the summer and while my goal that day was to look for (you guessed it) shoes, she took me to the jacket section instead because she kept insisting that I always forget how cold Swedish summers can be. As much as I hate to give my sister the credit for finding one of my favorite pieces, that coat has become a staple when I travel since I can wear it up or down.
Sweater- Gothenburg, Sweden
This is my favorite sweater, (one) because I love mock necks and (two) because of the memories associated with the store I purchased it in. I always find thrifting to be a bit of an adventure since you can’t predict what you’ll find. I remember being in central Gothenburg and going down some steps to a basement store crowded with people in their early 20’s—listening to music, browsing clothes, and just enjoying themselves. Any time I wear the sweater now, I’m hit with a massive wave of nostalgia and good vibes.
Shoes- Aarhus, Denmark
Clogs are a staple to most of my outfits. I got my first pair while exploring Aarhus for the first time. My entire plan that day got derailed because of my impromptu thrifting adventure during which I spent hours checking out various stores (mainly for shoes) until my eyes landed upon these clogs. On my thrifting adventure, I scored a local-approved tour of Aarhus and the perfect pair of clogs with an arch support that stole my heart.
When I stare at an item in a thrift store, I can’t help but imagine the lives of the former owners. The streets they walked on, the people they greeted, the stories behind the tiny stains on the sweater. I feel strangely connected to them. This is part of the reason why I love thrifting so much.
Pants- Little shop in Harajuku
I was wandering around the Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo. After walking for an hour along the crowded commercial street, I found a tiny thrift store hidden between two tattoo shops. I walked in, and an elderly Japanese woman greeted me. I knew I would find something good when I saw that the owner herself had amazing fashion taste. This pair of colorful striped pants is still one of my favorites.
Dress (pictured right)- Chicago Osaka
This picture is taken in Shibuya, four hours away from Osaka, the place I bought this polka dot red dress. Osaka is full of grandpas taking naps under the sun, kids laughing and chasing each other and adults telling loud jokes in street corner bars. On the other hand, Tokyo is more uptight and serious— my friend Cherie, a Tokyo native, pointed out that I was the only person wearing red in the entire street. This dress is like a mini Osaka that I keep in my closet.
Shirt- Cambridge Art Market
Pants- Flamingo Tokyo
I found this shirt in a local art market in Cambridge. I feel like social media is a great way to find out about cool events since my friends saw this event on Facebook. There are a lot of artists who are willing to share their wardrobe in these markets, so definitely grab a few friends and check them out!