Thrifting together an interview outfit: for students

Thrift stores a valuable source for budget-aware students

A man learning how to repair and alter clothing at the Frameworq and UBC workshop. Photo by Anita Zhu
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Reported by Anita Zhu

Thrift stores and homemade clothing alterations are becoming a more popular source for students wanting to improve their selection of professional clothing due to tight budget constraints.

Thrift stores are proving to be a valuable resource to students on a budget. Jane Cronin, a volunteer with HOB Thrift Store, said, “a recent graduate from university with her first job came in, she got a whole wardrobe here for a hundred dollars.” Cronin’s co-worker, Irene Regin, added, “I think it’s appealing because of the price point.”

Langara student Elize Sonsini, who prefers to shop second-hand, said, “I really find good stuff like good things for a good price in a very good condition.”

Interview Outfits

However some people, like Langara student Deep Kur, disagree.  “I wouldn’t consider going to a thrift store to get my interview clothing, because I find that all of these stores don’t have good quality.”

Kur said she prefers to buy new, shopping for professional attire at H&M and Banana Republic.

Heather Workman, the chair of the Co-op and Career department at Langara, said that thrift stores are fine to shop at, but it depends on the workplace you’re applying for.

“As an individual that’s interviewing, you’re trying to understand what the workplace looks like and how people interact,” Workman said.

Sustainable Clothing

Additionally, more college students are learning how to make alterations to their clothes before an interview. Frameworq is an organization that runs workshops on recycling and reusing clothing.

Irina Mckenzie, the founder of Frameworq, said, “[Making alterations] helps with the wallet and that’s really fantastic because that just means somebody doesn’t have to buy new stuff all the time. They can just use a little bit of creativity and some skill to make something new.”

Amy Robichaud, the director of Dress for Success Vancouver, an organization that provides free interview clothing to women, agrees.

“The ability to make or do modest alterations yourself can make a huge difference to your wardrobe. With YouTube and a plethora of online tutorials being able to do really modest and basic alterations can make a huge difference to your wardrobe,” Robichaud said.

“Price, value, sensibility, and professional appearance has much more to do with how our clothes fit and not necessarily how expensive they are. If you can do that yourself you can stretch your dollars really really far.”

Fabrics: Green or Mean?

Before throwing away your old clothes you may want to consider the type of materials used. Certain materials can have a negative environmental impact both in their production and the pollution they make when they end up in the landfill.

Cotton

Cotton is one of the oldest fabrics and while many people may think cotton clothing is environmentally friendly, Jun Yin, a regional hydrogeologist working for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations, and Rural Development, said otherwise.

“To produce cotton, a large amount of water is needed, adding stress to those water scarcity areas,” Yin said.

Polyester

Polyester is harmful to the environment because the production of polyester uses fossil fuels. When thrown away, microfibers from polyester become problematic, Yin said. “Because [microfibers] are not biodegradable, they will be discharged to the ocean through hydrological cycle.”

Leather

While leather may be natural, growing cattle livestock generates excessive amounts of methane. “Methane is a strong greenhouse gas, and its global warming potential is 100 times greater than normal greenhouse gases such as CO2.”

Yin concluded, “as long as it is a product, it will go through processes and each step generates waste and produces a carbon footprint – more or less.”

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