by Sarah Nathanson
I’ve got a riddle for you, New College: what’s fun, affordable and environmentally friendly? That’s right: thrift stores. Instead of buying all your clothes from wasteful and expensive big-name clothing brands, why not turn shopping for your fall wardrobe into a city-wide scavenger hunt?
I’ve discovered thrift stores over the past few months, and have slowly but surely fallen in love with the concept. These are stores that help eliminate waste by letting you donate (or sell) old clothes, and then reselling them at far more reasonable prices. Plus, thrift stores are amazing for their communities — existing as places that give low-income families (or students) access to fabulous finds and contributing to charity and nonprofits. They’re definitely worth supporting.
In my “research” (read: I rummaged around thrift stores and then got to write a blog post about it), I found cute vintage clothes, name-brand items for under and clothes that actually fit me well, flattered me and made me feel comfortable. Below, find my three favourite thrift shops — shopped at, tested and Sarah-approved. All of these stores have both masculine and feminine clothing, so everybody can find something that works for them.
Black Market Clothing
Entering Black Market is like falling down a rabbit hole into the ‘90s. As you descend from its Queen Street entrance, you’re immersed in edgy-cool music (which is sometimes punk rock and sometimes spooky Halloween sounds) and surrounded by cool clothes. The best part? Everything in the store is or less.
When it comes to shopping at Black Market, you have to be in the right mindset. The atmosphere can be overwhelming, so be ready to sift through seemingly uncountable racks of various clothing categories to find the perfect item. As clothes are all , I don’t necessarily buy T-shirts there, but if you need a bigger-ticket item (like a fall/winter coat, or a pair of jeans), this is the first place you should come.
Address: 256 Queen St W, Toronto
Aesthetic: ‘90s grunge punk rock palace
Fave Find: My bright magenta, waterproof, fleece-lined coat! It’s versatile enough that I’m able to wear it through spring and fall, and unique enough that I love wearing it.
Kind Exchange, at first glance, looks like an upscale high fashion boutique where every price tag has three digits. Instead, I walked in and immediately found an armful of clothing that was affordable for the average college student and fit me well. Clothing ranges from to 0, depending on the type of item (coats and formal wear being slightly more expensive). Don’t worry, though — the average piece of clothing tends to sit in the to range.
Given the ethos of being kind to yourself, your community and your wallet, and with a team of lovely, knowledgeable salespeople, I would recommend Kind Exchange for a low-pressure, rewarding shopping experience. Come here if you’re just browsing, or looking for something small without wanting to break the bank.
Address: 378 Queen St W, Toronto
Aesthetic: High-end boutique that wants to undermine shop stereotypes
Fave Find: The jersey pencil skirt I found in the Kind Exchange clearance section. It fits me well, it was and it makes me feel like I’m in some kind of high-power profession. (OK, fine, it makes me feel like the ladies on Suits.)
Value Village is the ultimate thrift store experience. I had heard great things about what they had to offer before going there, but walking in was still a complete shock for me, as I was greeted with a massive warehouse filled with everything anybody would ever want to buy. Value Village doesn’t just sell clothes for all occasions, but also books, music, furniture, electronics, craft supplies, accessories, cooking paraphernalia, home decor — there doesn’t seem to be an end to the list.
Clothing prices range from - (although, once again, big coats tend to be more expensive). It seems to me that Value Village is the place to go for anything you need but don’t want to spend too much on. Hit it up if you’re moving into your first apartment, if you need Halloween costume ideas or even if you just feel like doing some treasure hunting.
Address: 1319 Bloor St W, Toronto
Aesthetic: The Labyrinth crossed with a no-nonsense warehouse.
Fave Find: A friend of mine needed a new formal blazer, so we went to Value Village and found a beautiful Calvin Klein jacket (in the correct size) for . I was wildly pleased with my dubious thrifting expertise.
Next time you clear out your closet, don’t throw anything away — go to a thrift store. On the flip side, next time you need new clothes and can spare a few hours, go to a thrift store instead of a mall or the internet. You never know what you’ll find, and you’ll be supporting companies that support local communities.
There are hundreds of thrift and vintage stores across Toronto, and I haven’t even explored a fraction of them. Let us know your personal favourites in the comments!