Students express personal style through thrift shopping

Yoon Kim, co-a&e editor

Junior Maddie Dunne-Murphy steps into school and walks amidst the sea of 3,000 other South students. However, one thing is different about her: her sunflower-painted pants. To Dunne-Murphy, her pants are just another piece of her collection of unique thrift store finds. According to Dunne-Murphy, one of her favorite hobbies is shopping at thrift stores and then sometimes embroidering or painting her clothes as a means of expressing her style, which she posts on her instagram account, @maddiembroiders.

Dunne-Murphy says that, due to her mother’s education in fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago, she grew up with an interest in fashion and design. According to Dunne-Murphy, her thrift shopping hobby initially began as an attempt to find more unique pieces of clothing that were influenced by her own designs.

“Since I was a kid I’ve always been into fashion for the most part, and I used to like to draw all these crazy designs on clothes when I was little,” Dunne-Murphy said. “Then I started to realize that these stores don’t really have what I’m looking for, so I’d go to thrift shops to find more unique pieces.”

According to Dunne-Murphy, part of her love for thrift shopping stemmed from her interest in men’s clothing, particularly men’s denim. Dunne-Murphy says that along with musical inspirations such as Nick Lenzini—a stylist for hip-hop collective Brockhampton—thrift shopping has played an integral role in transforming her personal style.

“When I was a little kid I think I was way more girly, and when I would draw in these fashion books that I had, [my] big thing was to draw wedding dresses,” Dunne-Murphy said. “At the time my inspiration was this designer Vera Wang, and I was so obsessed with all her stuff and I would only draw wedding dresses. But when I started going thrift shopping and started getting into music, I definitely leaned more towards jeans, t-shirts, cool sweaters and cardigans.”

According to senior Chloe McKerr, not only does thrift shopping provide cheaper, more unique clothing, it is also environmentally sustainable and reduces labor-related effects on developing countries.

“No one really understands the cost of fast fashion, and [there’s] a really good documentary called The True Cost, which gives such a great explanation of it,” McKerr said. “It’s just a completely untold story that a lot of people don’t know about, [including] the effects that fast fashion has on the environment, materialism in our country, and how rapid it is.”

McKerr says that, after watching the documentary, she gained a newfound perspective on the detrimental effects that certain brands and industries can have on the environments and workers of third-world countries.

“I had very little idea of what was going on in those developing countries, where so many factories barely have any labor laws, so there would be people killed in them, completely overworked and [making] a dollar a day,” McKerr said.  “[I was] really shocked, and it was so depressing and disturbing. It just made me sad that this is [what] consumerism has become.”

Although these issues are a prominent reason for her decision to thrift shop, McKerr says that she originally went thrift shopping to look for more retro-styled clothes. According to McKerr, she shops at standard thrift stores such as Salvation Army but also shops at many consignment stores, which sell secondhand items whose profit is partly returned to the original owner. McKerr especially likes consignment stores in Wicker Park that offer selective, vintage clothing.

“My biggest collective item is a bunch of weird ‘80s ski jackets and windbreakers,” McKerr said. “I [also] found this really cool fleece that’s purple, blue and gray and it has a really cool pattern and a weird collar [that] I wear a lot.”

According to Dunne-Murphy, her favorite aspect of thrift shopping is its element of uncertainty. Dunne-Murphy says that through her years of thrift shopping, she has learned is to always keep her options open.

“I like [thrift shopping] because you never know what you’re going to find,” Dunne-Murphy said. “I always go in with an open mind, never expecting to find one certain item. If you do that, then your thrift shopping experience is just going to go south because you probably won’t be able to find the specific thing you’re looking for.”