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Thrift store truths

Alice Tollaksen | Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Occasionally, I get poked fun of for the things I wear. Maybe it’s because I can sometimes be seen around sporting an Illinois State University T-shirt that was made in 1980. Other times it’s a sweater that was definitely made for a 10-year-old boy, not a 20-year-old woman. I may look a little ridiculous, but I enjoy the clothes I find. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I love to thrift  – I practically treat thrifting like a sport.
Because I’m borderline addicted to buying secondhand clothes, I have established a close relationship with the local thrift stores in South Bend in the last two years. I’ve come to love those stores just as I love the Value Village back in my hometown.
But lately I’ve enjoyed frequenting the South Bend thrift shops a little less. It seems that sometime between Macklemore’s single and the “ugly sweater party” trend, thrifting has really taken off around here, and I see Notre Dame students almost any time I shop at the close-by Salvation Army.
Don’t get me wrong  – it’s not at all that I don’t like having fellow Notre Dame company at the thrift stores.  It’s just that in recent months, I’ve felt a little disappointed by some of my classmates’ approaches to the thrifting game.
The best way to explain this is by setting the scene in the thrift store. In the St. Vincent de Paul, customers are peacefully combing through clothes and books when a group of young students walk in. They have an SYR coming up and need to create the ugliest outfit they can possibly find, and they storm into the store and scatter throughout the clothing racks. Suddenly, one of them finds a “tacky” sweater, holds it up and yells to all their friends to see. The whole group laughs and starts mocking the sweater.
Sure, the students are all having a good time getting ready for their dance and probably did not mean any harm. The problem is that Notre Dame shares that thrift store with people from all over the South Bend community and from all walks of life. While many of us at the University  go to thrift stores to find very specific things, others shop there out of necessity. To openly and loudly mock what thrift stores have to offer is extraordinarily offensive.
I am in no way saying we Domers should not shop at thrift stores. We are members of the South Bend community, and shopping at local thrift stores is a way to give back to that community. All I am suggesting is when we do decide to embrace our inner Macklemore, we do it with respect.
I hope everyone can have a chance to stop into a thrift store and give thrifting a try at some point or another. I just hope when we students do make it into one of South Bend’s secondhand stores, no matter the reason, we do it the right way.

Contact Alice Tollaksen at      
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    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.