The Moral Implications of Reselling Thrifted Clothing

Phillip Pesar

“Thrift Store Mannequin” by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Calei Loy

Our society has recently become more aware of the importance of sustainable fashion. If you’re unsure of just what sustainable fashion is, that’s okay. The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion details:

Sustainability encompasses social issues, such as improvements in working conditions and remuneration for workers, as well as environmental ones, including the reduction of the industry’s waste stream, and decreases in water pollution and contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

So what’s holding back all fashion from becoming sustainable, and why aren’t we all buying it? The cost.

Brands that carry sustainable clothing are often much more expensive than their fast fashion counterparts. Merriam Webster defines fast fashion as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”

Buying from these brands is common because it is accessible both physically and financially.

Many factors contribute to the added cost of sustainable fashion including better materials and higher wages for workers.

There is a way to shop more ethically without the hefty price tag, however: thrifting. Thrift stores help to extend the lifespan of pieces and reduce the need to buy new clothing. Participating in thrifting helps to consume less, or even no, fast fashion.

However, some people have taken advantage of the rising popularity of thrift stores. Some have begun to buy from these stores with the intention of reselling the pieces on the internet with heavily inflated prices.

There are multiple issues with this process. 

Many people rely on thrift stores as their only source of clothing. The new popularity of thrifting and wearing used clothing has finally destigmatized buying second hand, but in buying items without the intention of wearing them yourself, the pool of options for others has senselessly dwindled.

Another issue is that, in inflating the prices of the items, thrifting becomes financially out of reach for consumers trying to become more conscientious. Part of the reason that people are enticed to thrift is the discounted prices of the clothing. Selling the pieces for personal profit raises these prices and makes buying them more inaccessible.

On the other hand, reselling clothes is a way for people to make money that may not otherwise have the opportunity to, and reselling clothes has a much less significant impact than fast fashion.

Resell apps like Poshmark, ThredUp, and Depop have also played a large role in the popularization and destigmatization of thrifting as a whole. By creating an online marketplace, the reach of second-hand clothing has been expanded. Without these apps, in-person thrifting may not have had such a significant resurgence.

There is also a certain amount of time and effort involved in the reselling process. Often, sellers will spend a considerable amount of time searching for specific sought-after pieces. This makes the process easier for consumers to find pieces they may be interested in.

If you choose to resell, here are some things to consider:

1. Never sell something for more than you think it’s worth. Selling an item should not feel like you are scamming someone.

2. Be honest about the product.

3. Buy only a few items at a time.

4. Don’t target one thrift store in specific.

5. Improving or customizing the clothing provides an opportunity to increase the price of the item because you have made it better.

This is not a condemnation of those who buy fast fashion or sell thrifted finds. Instead, it is an encouragement to be mindful of shopping habits and the effects that they have.

At the end of the day, any attempt to be more conscientious is valid and appreciated, but in critically thinking and considering other points of view, our society can continue to take necessary steps towards sustainability in fashion.




Note: While writing this, I came across this article:

Check it out for a more in-depth view of the evolution of conscientious consumerism.