The pandemic has sparked a rise in conscientious shopping and that, in turn, has transformed the vintage clothing business into a thriving industry accessible for anyone willing to rifle through massive bins of used clothing.
With vintage clothing continuing to be a part of a new generation of shopping, secondhand clothing website, ThredUp, reports that the secondhand market is projected to double in the next five years to reach $77 billion.
While vintage clothing stores have been around for decades, many new small businesses have found their way into the vintage market through popular social media stores.
Sophia Dudley who has owned her vintage Instagram store, Super Thrifty, has seen an increase in customers since the pandemic began. Her business Instagram now has 3,000 followers.
“So initially when I started Super Thrifty, I was a senior in high school in 2019, and I just did it for fun,” Dudley said. “It wasn’t really something I thought would become a business. But I just liked going thrifting, finding really cool pieces, vintage pieces, you know, maybe even some used pieces, you know, and making them my own, whether that was reworking or just using it as I had.”
The accessibility of vintage clothing has contributed to the surge of new customers to vintage markets as well. According to BBC, retail sites like ThredUp and Depop have allowed young people to shop for thrifted items online, opening up the market to people who may not have bought secondhand before.
College students are using this as a way to build their own business.
Carolina Downes, owner of shopcarolinas.closet on Instagram, is a full time student at the University of South Carolina with 10,000 Instagram followers. Downes said she was able to start her business from the interest of a few college students in Columbia.
“A bunch of girls from around town, local, bought from it (shopcarolinas.closet) and I was like ‘Hey, this is kind of fun and I’m good at it, like, why don’t I kind of do this,’” Downes said. “I find way too many things at the thrift store that I can’t keep for myself so why don’t I share it with other people so here I am a few years later.”
While Columbia vintage stores are booming online, in Charlotte. Old News Vintage is a thriving brick-and-mortar store selling merchandise for as much as $1,800.
Carter Seate, the 18-year-old co-owner of Old News Vintage, became a partner of the business in 2021 and has strived to set the businesses’ merchandise apart from more traditional vintage sellers.
“You got the true vintage people, which is basically the stores who have ’60s and ’70s gear. Then there’s us who have mainly 80s and 90s,” Seate said.
While many people may think that vintage clothing is strictly from the 1970s and before, many people deem clothing from more recent decades vintage as well.
According to The Vou, clothing is considered vintage as long as it was made between 20 and 100 years ago, making clothing from the ‘80s and ’90s legitimate vintage pieces now.
Vintage sellers acquire their merchandise from a range of different thrift stores, one of the main places being Goodwill Outlets, or otherwise nicknamed “the bins.” These bins are massive heaps of clothes that anyone can look through.
The clothing is priced at $1.89 per pound, making the profit from re-selling these clothes closer to retail price.
As the world of vintage clothing continues to boom, people like Downes say they still find community through their customers and other vintage sellers.
“I’ve made a lot of friends,” Downes said. “We have group chats, we do giveaways together, we do Zooms, have fun, talk to people around the world. It’s a really great thing.”
Sophia Dudley shows a re-done Harley Davidson sweatshirt that she created. Photos by Julie Crosby
Customers of Old News Vintage can find racks of vintage T-shirts, pants, shoes, patches and more.
Carter Seate, co-owner of Old News Vintage, and Christian Thropp, social media director for Old News Vintage, work hard to offer a variety of vintage items to their customers. Photo by Amber Lipscomb
Carolina Downes finds many unique items at thrift stores for her online shop, like this vintage Atlanta Braves bomber jacket.
Many vintage store owners have opted for online stores or pop-up shop events, transitioning from traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Julie Crosby is a fourth year multimedia journalism student from Charleston, South Carolina. As a former South Carolina State House intern, Crosby is particularly invested in writing stories that combine her passion for politics and education. She hopes to tell the stories of educators who are advocating for continued policy improvement for students in South Carolina. In her free time, Crosby enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends.
Amber Lipscomb is a senior Broadcast Journalism major with a Criminal Justice cognate from Clover, South Carolina. Lipscomb is currently the lead marketer for an Allstate insurance agency where she works with insurance agents statewide to reach their targeted audiences. She is a campus representative for Victoria’s Secret PINK and was a campus ambassador for Bumble. Lipscomb has hosted an entertainment segment for SGTV, a student-led news organization. After Lipscomb completes her undergrad, she plans on attending law school to become an investigative journalist or legal reporter. Lipscomb’s goal is to use her knowledge and experience to inform and protect the public.