Rather than buying mass-produced, trend-based clothes, thrifting can provide alternatives to modern consumerism. Community-run events such as the most recent vintage clothing market seek to grow Bellingham’s thrifting culture.
Jade Weston, a fourth-year student at Western Washington University, makes her living by repairing clothes and selling items she thrifted, both at markets and online. Weston has organized an estimated seven of these markets in Bellingham, initially hosting the market in her own front yard.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, Weston partnered with Ethyl Meatplow, Cecelia Zavack, Elija Ryan and Milton Rosario to fill the Karate Church with a vast array of vintage items. Most items were priced very affordably, with most racks having clothes under $50 and a large pile offering any three items for $10.
In order to keep Bellingham thrift stores accessible to the local population, Weston travels to other areas to stock the market's inventory.
“We’re mostly going further away where people in Bellingham can’t get to usually and trying to find stuff that is at its last stop before the landfill,” Weston said.
The market brought in a large crowd. Even as the event began to wind down around 4 p.m., there was still a stream of people coming in and out of the old church building. Many customers were Western students who heard about the event through social media posts and Weston’s widespread poster campaign on campus.
One of these students was Sarah Michele who had attended one of the previous clothing markets. According to Michele, thrifting is important because it helps her stay away from fast fashion. She also finds that it’s easy to give back and donate thrifted clothes.
Many of the other customers at the market are also driven to shop more consciously than the average buyer.
Marilyn Romaker is the manager at the local YWCA thrift store, Y’s Buys. While the YWCA does focus on women and women in need, a large portion of the customers at Y’s Buys are students and those who enjoy thrifting.
“There’s things I was never aware of. People will look at a label to see if it’s organic cotton, where it was made. There’s a lot more awareness of what kind of resources were used [during the production process],” Romaker said.
Events similar to Weston's markets can offer a boost to local thrift stores as well. According to Romaker, the traffic brought into town by these events leads to more people coming into the store looking for more thrifting opportunities. Especially when it comes to thrifting, any leftover inventory can either be used again at another market or donated to other community programs.
This is the case with Romaker at Y’s Buys who donates the clothes and items that aren’t flying off the shelves to Whatcom programs such as We Care and The Hope House. These organizations allow those in need to get donated items for free or extremely low cost.
Dates and locations of future thrift markets run by Weston can be found on her Instagram, or you can browse her online store at any time.
Hayden Hester is a reporter on the city news beat for The Front this winter quarter. He is a fourth-year journalism pre-major who is also shooting for a political science minor. In his free time, he plays on the WWU rugby team and loves cooking for friends and family.
You can reach her at HaydenHester.TheFront@gmail.com