As the school year begins, back-to-school shopping commences. For sophomore Rachel Phelan, that means thrifting.
A frequenter of Goodwill, she sets aside an hour or two to peruse through the store in search clothing she likes.
“Everything comes in bins and you get gloves, masks and dig through it,” Phelan said. “And you pay by the pound so then you get a lot of clothes for pretty cheap.”
But Phelan is no regular thrifter. Her thrifting Instagram account, @_thrifty_gal_, has over 3,000 followers and acts as a vintage clothing marketplace. To ensure credibility with followers, she posts pictures of her customers receiving their clothes.
“I couldn’t find a job on campus for the longest time, I missed the requirements to get on campus jobs. I decided that it would be a good idea to start a thrift account on Instagram and start selling clothes. And I had always liked thrifting and upcycling clothes so that’s how it started,” Phelan said.
There are different ways to purchase from @_thrifty_gal_.
She sells on a first-come, first-served basis through Instagram stories in which the customer pays a set price.
Phelan also occasionally has Instagram live videos in which she holds a live auction and the highest bidder in a certain amount of time typically wins the item.
She also uses posts where one can bid on an item or pay BIN (buy it now) price. The bidding lasts from 24 to 48 hours.
“It’s fun to me, it’s a pretty straight-forward and makes it kind of a competitive process,” sophomore Ali Strickland said.
Payment is made through mobile payment services like Venmo or PayPal.
She periodically does giveaways in which she gifts cosmetics or free drinks.
Phelan also lets customers choose a charity to donate 10% of her profits to for the month. She initially lacked the profit but is now able to give back.
“If I’m going to choose to spend my money at a regular thrift store or someone else, I’d rather do it with her so that part of the money can go to an organization,” said sophomore Sophie Butler. “As a college student, I know it’s probably hard to give up that money to do it but I think it’s great that she does.”
Phelan’s thrifting also has a environmentally conscious focus. By buying used clothes, she saves them from going to the landfill.
“I don’t buy from fast fashion or retail stores, so I find all my clothes and accessories from thrift stores,” Phelan said.
Her best purchase was a pair of vintage Dr. Martens she found for $15. But not every find comes in such good condition.
“There could be shirts that have stains on them that are minor, but I can crop, rework the hems, just to make it look more updated to the trends,” Phelan said. “I had some basic skills with the sewing machine, but I had to watch some videos to upcycle clothes.”
And as a business major, Phelan believes that having learned the ins and outs of customer service through an online medium and understanding how to promote and market have benefited her academically.
“When I started, the majority of people that were buying stuff from me were Gonzaga girls so we would schedule meetups after they bought something,” Phelan said. “Through that I was able to meet a lot of new girls on campus. And now during quarantine, random thrift accounts, I’ve made friendships with them, so been really cool.”
Some followers have even messaged her on matters unrelated to purchasing clothing and she has been able to give them advice and be a friend to them.
“I would be nice if I could do this for a while,” Phelan said. “I really like doing it. Maybe if I get really good at reworking stuff, I could make a brand.”