The Art of Thrifting (Part 1 of 2)

With the rampant rise and fall of Gucci Gang in 2017, it’s been a tough year for wannabe fashion icons in the modern age—especially on a student’s budget. Throughout history, it has always been this way. The rich and the elite are of everyone’s envy, and thus, we all crave for a small glimpse into their lifestyle. What they eat, what they wear, etc.

But what about the people that want to look trendy and want to look fashionable, but can’t afford five pairs of designer t-shirts that are each only worn once? What about the people who are so far in-debt with student loans but still want to have their Cinderella moment at the top of the stairs?

Luckily for all of us, there is a simple solution to this dilemma: thrifting.

What is It?

For those of you who are new to the concept, thrift stores are places that are constructed just like a regular old boutique but instead sell second-hand clothing for a discounted price. To thrift, or go thrifting, is exactly how it sounds: to go to a thrift store and shop around.

Where Did It Come From?

Thrift stores take on various different names throughout history, the most notable being charity shops. Charity shops were existing around the time of the first world war, but only really became prevalent towards World War II. Charity shops were constructed with the idea of raising money or funds for organizations or establishments.

One of the first charity shops in the world was set up by blind people to generate more funding for the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind in 1899.

The first YMCA charity shop in Plymouth. Photo credits.

The Red Cross, arguably the most well-known establishments who openly vouch for thrifting as a sustainable form of generating income, have roots that actually extend all the way back to the first World War; moreover, they ended up establishing over two hundred permanent locations during World War II.

As decades pass, more and more second-hand stores arose, most of them with the sole purpose of collecting donations for notable organizations. It’s safe to say that thrift stores, along with the thrifting culture as a whole, originated as an act of selfless aid and the modern age continues to uphold the honorable act.

Modern Stigmas

However, nowadays more and more people are concentrating more heavily on the secondhand aspect of the culture, and not so much on the heart of it all. Common concerns are as follows: the clothes that are on sale at thrift stores are dirty, or all the clothes are worn-out and old.  

Personally, I don’t see the point of buying something cheap but second-hand when I can buy something a little more pricey but worth it.

Let’s focus on the first one for starters, as it is the main reason for much of society’s hesitation. Trinity Yeo, a sophomore at SAS, confesses, “I don’t understand why people our age would willingly go to thrift stores when there are stores like H&M and Topshop around.”

Another student adds, “Thrifting has never really intrigued me. I know a few people who are addicted to it, but personally, I don’t see the point of buying something cheap but second-hand when I can buy something a little more pricey but worth it.”

In a quick questionaire sent out to 20 random students with the simple question (“Would you go thrift shopping?”), five of them answered yes, eight answered maybe, and seven replied no.

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“Would you go thrift shopping?” pie chart.

The people who replied no were then sent an additional survey inquiring Why Not? with the top two most common myths as potential answers. Six out of the eight people who replied no chose the reason that the clothes are thrift stores are dirty, with the remaining two claiming that the clothes are old, and therefore unappealing.

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“Why Not?” pie chart.

It is no lie that the clothes that find themselves in thrift stores are clothes that the previous owner was willing to part with. However, this doesn’t immediately classify them as ‘dirty’. In fact, if a donated piece of clothing or item is seen to be less than appealing, it will not be taken and re-sold by thrift stores—yes, even thrift stores have standards.

The second myth is that all of the clothes are worn-out and/or old. The age-old image of thrift stores is embedded into our minds so unconsciously that we don’t even realize it. The vintage scent drifting out through the windows, unpolished glasses with Queen Victoria’s seal printed on the bottom, the faded fabric hanging from the shaking racks, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, thrift stores, in reality, actually contain various assortments of clothing and decorative pieces from your grandparents’ generation to the present one. Spanning from precious delicates to contemporary simplicities, thrift stores really do try their very best to cater for everyone.

The Lucky Plaza Bazaar is one of the more well-known, local thrift stores in Singapore. Photo credits.

Anjali Swarstad, a sophomore and regular thrifter, explains, “I see a lot of designer brands at thrift stores that are being sold at a really good price. I once found a Louis Vuitton purse for $25, and that was the most expensive thing I saw in the whole store.”

Once people get over the initial hesitation and start to embrace the notion that new does not immediately constitute it as being better, thrifting might rise as a sustainable form of acquiring clothes and/or items for some people, especially the younger generations.

As a matter of fact, nowadays a new wave of fashion is emerging in which vintage clothing and thrifted looks are in vogue. However, it’s going to need a much bigger platform if thrifting is going to emerge as a prevalent culture.

Thrifting 101

So now that the most common myths have been (hopefully) debunked, how does one make their break into thrifting culture? It might be a little daunting to step out of your comfort zone—especially in those initial few seconds when you walk into your first ever second-hand shop–so it is strongly recommended that you enter this new chapter of your life with a friend.

There is nothing more thrilling than rummaging through piles of clothes and accessories that you otherwise might never have had the pleasure of seeing in your life. Because experimenting is always a little tough, here are a three solid, local thrift stores (listen in no particular order) that will never let you leave without feeling absolutely satisfied:

1. Red Cross House

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Red Cross thrift shop locations in Singapore.

This famous establishment has two thrift stores in Singapore,  but their branch located at 15 Penang Ln (Singapore 238486) serves as the more popular one of the two. Average prices at the Red Cross House vary from as low as $1 for accessories to up to $10 for a full outfit. The only downside is that their only opening hours are extremely limited: Wednesdays, from 11am to 4pm.

2. Salvation Army

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Salvation Army thrift shop locations in Singapore.

The Salvation Army has numerous thrift stores in Singapore and is mostly known for its higher quality (and therefore, higher price range) clothing. The stores are expertly located at opposite ends of Singapore, ensuring that wherever you are, you will never be too far from a Salvation Army thrift store. All of the shops are open every single day from 10am to 6pm with the exception of Sunday.

3. Something Old Something New

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Something Old Something New thrift shop locations in Singapore.

This small thrift shopping community is headed and funded by the Singapore Anglican Community Services and prides itself on hiring people who are recovering from psychiatric conditions to train them. The stores are open every single day from 9am to 5pm, with the exception of Sunday.  

With an extensive knowledge of the art of thrifting and a guide to three of Singapore’s most notable thrift stores, you are more than prepared to start your own journey! May the thrift gods be ever in your favor.


Author: Anyu Ching

Anyu Ching is currently a senior in high school, and this is her third year as a reporter for The Eye. This year, she joins the staff as the Editor-in-Chief. Anyu was born in Singapore, but grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and spends most of her time flying back and forth between the two. Some of her hobbies include rewatching How I Met Your Mother for the seventh time, listening to The Strokes and rating coffees. Although she prefers phone calls, she can always be contacted at

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