Christmas shopping on a dime

Thrift store shopping as opposed to retail store shopping

By Erica Guth

Ah, the holidays. A time for family, food, parties, gifts and… waste. The holiday season is the peak of consumerism, and it’s an expensive time for all. Everyone wants to look great around the holidays, but often this can lead to some serious debt and, consequently, guilt over spending too much and damaging the environment by throwing out everything we don’t use.

Many Dawson students are dismayed by the wastefulness of the holidays. “[The holidays] are a load of shit and an excuse to buy more stuff we don’t need,” said Matthew Conti, a third semester Cin/Vid/Com student.

Others feel that the buying frenzy that is the holiday season gets in the way of the important elements of Christmas. “It’s kind of sad how the holidays have boiled down to just buying things for the people you love instead of simply spending time with them and showing them how you feel. Some of my friends don’t even have Christmas dinner with their families,” said Sean Mundy, a third semester Arts and Culture student.

But there’s a great way to look unique at all your holiday parties that allows you to save money, skip the lines, recycle, help the environment support good causes and avoid the guilt. Thrift stores are a great place to not only find unique clothes, but many of them also have a wide array of vintage jewellery, furniture and household accessories that can make inexpensive and original Christmas gifts. Buying second hand is recycling and all the stores featured here support different causes, not to mention that thrift stores are never very busy, so why not buy thrift?

There are many vintage or second hand stores around Montreal that support good causes while selling fabulous items that you would never find in a mall. Shopping second hand and selling or donating your clothes to thrift shops keeps waste out of the landfills.

Aside from helping you looking fantastic at every event, thrift stores can be great for finding one-of-a-kind, affordable gifts.

One fun place in the West Island to find beautiful clothes for budget-friendly prices is The Trading Post in Valois Village.

All the clothes are on consignment, which means that customers give their pieces to the store so they can sell it for them and the customer keeps a percentage of the sales. Because of this, you get quality pieces that aren’t always used. The owners hand pick items that can either be gently used vintage clothes or designer clothes that don’t sell in stores.

Most of their stock is women’s clothing and accessories, but they do have some men’s stuff. Since they don’t just take anything that is offered to them and the store is fairly small, it won’t take long to find the perfect item.

Furthermore, the best part is, after three months, if something doesn’t sell, it gets donated to different charities including the Mission of Love, the Great Shepherd mission and Chez Doris, the women’s shelter.

“The kind of people who shop here are creative and open-minded people looking for something that you won’t see ten of for a good price,” store-owner Laurie Leblanc McCullough said.

Thrift shopping is definitely for the more patient shopper because it involves lots of rifling through racks and racks of clothes looking for that perfect item. That being said, it’s a lot more fun than waiting in line for hours at a commercial store and battling for parking just to show up looking the same as everyone else.

“The kind of people who shop here are creative and open-minded people looking for something that you won’t see ten of for a good price,” store-owner Laurie Leblanc McCullough said.

On the complete other end of the thrift spectrum, there is Village des Valeurs. Normally, to find something great at Village, you need to dedicate a few hours to this store, but there’s a good chance that it will be worth it.

Village des Valeurs weighs all the bags of clothes they receive and gives a percentage of that number to the Quebec Diabetic Foundation. And all the items that don’t sell get packaged up and sent to third world countries. Not to mention the clothes are ridiculously affordable and the stores are so huge that there’s always a great find hiding in the next rack.

Village des Valeurs is also a great place to buy fur and leather, because recycling it is much more ecologically conscious than buying it new. They also have a “curio” section where you can find interesting Christmas decorations and quirky little stocking stuffers.

Village is a great place to go if you want an incredible outfit for less than fifty bucks. For a very glamorous look, I found a tight strapless black dress for $5.99, a faux-fur stole for 12.99$ and black and white heels for $4.99. That makes $23.97 for something that could easily cost you a couple hundred dollars in stores.

The key to pulling of a vintage wardrobe is to mix the era-specific pieces with simple modern items. For example, a classic flapper dress can be mixed with simple black heels or a well-fitted cardigan. Although velvet is really in right now and highly accessible in thrift stores, you’d be best to pair a velvet jacket with a fitted plain t-shirt and snug jeans to keep your look classy and to avoid going over-the-top.

Many other great thrift shops around Montreal that give back, too. The Salvation Army is another guilt-free place to shop, because your money is supporting a good cause and you aren’t buying new materials, which contributes to reducing pollution. Although the clothing section is small, it can be a great place to find gifts such as funky, unique furniture or toys.

Also, Eva B. on St-Laurent Street is a mecca for cheap, wild used clothing. They specialize in clothes from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and it’s a fun place for creative shoppers with and open mind and a flair for the dramatic. Many Dawson arts students shop there and at the other stores mentioned above, and were more than enthusiastic when asked about thrift shopping.

“I like looking for stuff and finding cheap clothes. You can find a really rad, warm sweater for like $8 [at Village des Valeurs],” Charlotte Forbes, a third semester Cin/Vid/Com student, said.

There is also a certain feeling of superiority that comes with shopping second hand.

“I buy second hand because it allows me to have a killer unique style, it fits with my love for the environment and it’s really fun to be able to laugh at people who paid ten times the price I paid for a similar item,” Melinda Heaven Pierre-Paul Cardinal, a third semester Visual Arts student, said.

It’s no wonder there are so many fans of this alternative to buying new. Thrift stores also have a great environment. Most of them have piles upon piles of clothes, shoes and accessories piled haphazardly in every corner and fun music playing. The air usually has a nice, musty smell to it, and everyone is very relaxed and excited to hunt for the next jewel in their collection.

Second hand shopping is a great way to do good for the community and the environment, save money and look your best during the holiday season and any other time of the year. Before throwing yourself into the holiday madness that takes over shopping malls and leaving with a horrible headache, consider the fun, relaxing environment of a thrift store.

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One response to “Christmas shopping on a dime

  1. hope you keep going on.

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