Susie Monagan, a teacher at Ithaca College and a mother of two teenage sons, is an regular at secondhand stores in Tompkins County. She has been shopping for almost 40 years since she started as a teenager in the late 70s. Back then, the punk aesthetic and vintage style was trending. Funky hats and bowling shirts were easy to come by, and the more beat up the clothing was, the better. As a person who easily got bored of her clothes, Susie found secondhand stores to be wonderful since one can buy “a variety of things to wear and experiment with different looks” in an inexpensive fashion.
One of Susie’s great finds is an elegant, long grey-coat that she found on the racks of a local reuse store. She spotted it, didn’t really know what it was, but tried it on anyway. To her surprise, it fitted her perfectly. Last year, when she had to do make a presentation for more than 90 people in Ireland for the Fullbright Education Program, she wore the grey coat. Since she was there because of art and creativity, she felt that it was a funkier piece that well-suited the occasion.
Susie interacts with reuse stores for more than just personal shopping. For instance, one summer when she was on vacation in Maine, she and her friends all ended up in a secondhand shop. They were just going through the store having a fun time saying, “Oh, you’d look good in this!” Another example is when her son came home from college, she went through all his belongings with him and made a huge pile of clothes to donate to a reuse store.
Susie not only reduces her waste by shopping reuse and donating, but also tries to minimize the need for consumption in the first place. If a shirt has a hole or is missing a button, she will repair it. She also knows the value of things. She says, “If you’ve got a silk blouse, you should keep it around. It’s something that’s going to stay in style and be a classic.” Having an eye for what’s your flavor of the month fashion versus what you’re going to be wearing for a while is something that Susie believes essential when shopping secondhand and reducing one’s personal spending and consumption.
Article by Kelly To and Susie Plotkin, GYGB interns