I simped for a Poly Satin shirt on Instagram

This is a real-life account of a shopper unhinged, after browsing through all the thrift shopping pages, collections, and drops on Instagram. Reader discretion is advised.

Urban Dictionary defines the term simping as a word that everyone overuses without the correct definition. In another, helpful explanation of the term, simping comes close to defining unwavering devotion towards someone.

In my case, it’s a thing, and that thing is thrift shopping on Instagram.

I have simped for thrifted clothes on Instagram and I'm ashamed of myself. Guilty as charged.

Those of you who have the misfortune of knowing me in a personal capacity, I don’t need to state the obvious. For the rest, I live with an irresistible urge to buy outfits. People see them as some utilitarian need, and I see them as a whole power structure, a life-changing experience, that I’m always one step away from having in my possession. In context to recounting the perils of capitalism and labour history, this constant urge to be in possession of wearable goods makes me a bad Left ally.

However, if there’s a silver lining to any of this, then allow me to tell you that I am a ho for bargain buys. I have a strict cost to effort ratio; when it comes to shopping for clothes, some of my best outfits have been bought off the streets (literally) for as little as 10 rupees. I’ve dressed (and later undressed) in those outfits for dates and others.

After carefully evading that online shopping zone on the 'gram through the whole “pp” phase, I found a dangerous slope to escape. It's a downward curve between bargain deals and outfits that I think can change my life (newsflash: they cannot).

In essence, outside of the historical and traditional understanding of thrifting, the 2020 thrift shopping experience on Instagram is vastly inspired (or so we’re led to believe) through a conscious, “sustainability is sexy” approach. Instagram thrift shopping is a virtual marketplace consisting of young curatepreneurs (curators who double up as entrepreneurs as they bring to you things in a manner that you did not realize you needed aka deconstructing most of social media influencers and their brand). These curatepreneur sellers have pages dedicated to their thrift stores, where they’re able to display these items and lure the viewer into buying them.

Most thrift store owners and sellers have a vendor, who supply them one of a kind item—it could be a corset, trouser, bralette, shirt, dress, accessories, bag, swimwear—which could further be supplied from factory rejects, export surplus or simply donated and collected from the closets of celebrities and regular public. More often than not, these sellers hunt and fix their vendors in advance to source and procure items and build them into collections. The sellers then curate collections of these items and make drops for the viewers to be able to choose and buy from.

Each of these collections is further announced as an upcoming drop, in anticipation, commanding attention; think a “save the date” version of online shopping. When the collection does go live on the date and time announced by the seller, the customer/viewer can proceed to purchase the item, normally, in a 15-minute window of the “booking” the item and the seller accepting that call.

While this sounds fairly simple and looks easy, it’s a lot more tricky than that. What I have described is a standard process, an average of what most of these popular store owners and sellers do. However, not all work in this manner. Some of them have collections or items in stock available at all times and others are all out in half an hour of each drop.

This makes Instagram thrift shopping a lot like gambling. It is an addiction, mad perversion to get your hands on the sweetest deal for yourself and convince yourself that you need it. You get sucked into the game because this is just as addictive as watching a competitive sport. The only difference being, here you are a participant and your win literally depends on the hope that your internet will outwork someone else's broadband, who is the same size as you, and is eyeing the same outfit.

It’s also a bit of a risk; a hit and miss concept, insofar as limited photographs and quality condition descriptions are concerned. With extremely easy to sell approach and their respective policies (often no refund, no exchange, prepaid orders only) a majority of the sellers offer limited information, and that greatly prevents you from buying an item. When they do tell-all, they are extremely sought after with their collection selling out within minutes. This can render other serious buyers and followers frustrated.

I can confirm at this point that I’ve spent atleast 4 consecutive weekends trying to buy Poly Satin shirts being sold by Vintage Laundry where I have personally seen minimum 32 comments show up in the span of the first 29 seconds of the upload, each begging the seller to “book” the shirt, that she previewed a day before the “drop”. Each fucking time.

Naturally, it’s a game of luck, high-speed internet, and some hustling.

It’s not just Vintage Laundry, I’ve seen these stores and sellers who stock good collection and handpick each time that they sell out within minutes of them uploading their stock. Another thrift store Luu__Liu_ sells one of a kind corsets and bustiers, and is immensely popular among the thrift shoppers and influencers online. I can confirm, I have seen more variety and size inclusivity on their page more than any other in business.

I made my first thrift purchase last week, between dinner and bed, after six weeks of just window shopping. I saw a gorgeous micro-pleated mauve dress on a seller page (JOMO Thrift Store) that started following me a few weeks ago.

The process to get my hands on the dress was fairly simple and I did not have ward off 40 odd people vying for the same product, which actually helped me make this first purchase.

I reached out to the seller through Direct Message and had them answer my questions (whether it has any noticeable defect/stain, whether it is stretchable/transparent, can I get a discount, will they accept Google Pay gateway for payment) and within 12 minutes, I was done. They confirmed my order the same night and the dress listing was later edited to “SOLD”.

I received the dress over the past weekend, in under 4 days. The package shipped to me was wrapped in two protective layers to prevent any shipping damage. The store owner went above and beyond to write a personal note and added a small present (a bejeweled bracelet, actually goes well with the dress) alongside, to thank me for supporting their venture.

Losing my resolve to not buy clothes one personalized note at a time. First thrift shopping purchase from Jomo Thrift Store (IG: Jomo_thethriftstore)

While the dress itself was almost double my size (confirming I have body dysmorphia—no fault of the store owner), I was able to style the outfit with an existing belt. I shared the image with the store owner, thanking them for it and they requested if they could add it to their Instagram story, which remains up on their page’s Highlight as a client testimonial.

The next tryst with thrift shopping was serendipitous. One of the stores that I religiously follow for their brand aesthetic (StrawBabies) had shared an outfit by another store (Kiki Kloset by Krishna). No Kardashian was harmed in the naming of this venture.

That made for my next purchase; an animal print top from the Kiki Kloset.

This time, it was a bigger risk. A page had advertised another page’s shirt, which had been up for a few hours. This automatically meant the shirt would have been sold by the time I could get to it. This was double the usual visibility.

I repeated the same process, however, this time before the purchase, I vetted the item with my mother. In some ways, I needed affirmation that yes, you can wear animal print in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s totally cool. Far worse things have happened than for people to remember you are doing this.

For a person who’s made animal print filter into a huge marker for rejecting new people in life, I walked into a whole QnA with the store owner over Direct Message, almost hoping for her to say that the shirt is sold out. When she said otherwise, I asked her a series of questions (whether it’s kind on the skin, whether it’s sheer, how much is the shipping to Delhi, whether they accept Google Pay gateway and whether there’s any discount). Krishna, the store owner, answered each of these patiently and while this turned out to be more expensive than the dress with shipping added on the top, I locked this deal, with a strong sense of I-need-this-life-changing-personality-shifting-shirt-to-make-up-for-Fuschia-Poly-Satin-shirt.

Perhaps, I should consider bringing this urge up to my therapist instead of dedicating all this on a public forum.

The shirt is yet to be shipped, and I’m told it will arrive by the end of this week. I’ll hold on to that and if need be, perhaps revisit this page with a follow-up on thrifting as a hobby. Another 3000 words unsolicited essay on animal print shirts.

It is possible that you’re already lost in the sea of pages selling thrifted, vintage, upscaled, export, and sustainable garments and accessories and somehow find yourself cluelessly surfing the 'gram for deals and clothes. If I have learned anything from this, allow me to help impart it to you. Consider the following pointers from a seasoned deal hunter as helpful advice for your first purchase:

1) There is no outfit worth more than what you think you’d like to pay for. If you think a shirt is worth INR 2000 plus shipping, and you are one hundred percent satisfied, do go for it and fight your way through 20 other people vying for it.

However, if you think you can buy the same for less or that doesn’t fully impress, drop it. I’ve thought of purchasing atleast 50 garments before actually making a purchase and that re-questioning has somehow, always helped.  

2) Contradicting my first point, I wouldn’t recommend you spending anything more than 1k including shipping to buying anything that you see on Instagram. Moreso, if this is your first foray into thrifting online.

Unless you’re a seasoned shopper and are bleeding money, play with small stake and outfits that you know would completely fit your body and match with your styling aesthetic.

3) It’s also worthwhile to know your body and have your updated sizes written in a draft on your phone, so you can revert to that incase you’re doubtful about a certain item, in the middle of an amazing drop. You are competing with people in real-time so it helps to be self-aware. Be mindful of your size, the fabric that you're investing in, and how it falls on you to be completely sure before making a purchase.

4) At the same time, it’s completely okay and acceptable to ask questions to the seller about the available products. I would recommend being kind, gentle, and sweet. They are trying to survive in a very competitive ecosystem and have no previous experience in this business. It helps to go a long way in knowing that they have an understanding buyer and they will go out of their way to help you out. Ask questions, request for more details, if need be, and be nice to them.

5) Do make sure you do ample research on a store before you make that purchase or think about making one. Ideally, spend time reading their policies, see the existing Highlights on the page to know how they work and what payment gateways are accepted. It helps to see existing testimonials in place, so you know you’re not getting duped.

6) I would make a case against buying used upcycled footwear, lingerie, and jewellery. No impressive deal is worth the risk for allergies, infections, or even the quality—and I am yet to see an actual impressive deal in these areas in my months of window shopping. Admittedly, there is a lot to buy from, and yet, I don't think it's value for money. However, if you do, feel free to go ahead.

7) In an effort to understand thrifting better, As a rule of thumb for online thrift shopping, start small with purchases. You can hop from one page to the other by checking out who these pages are following. More often than not, they are supportive of others in the business and you will see start to understand how this works as they will share the best deals and stores around with similar aesthetic.

In addition to the aforementioned stores, I would highly recommend checking out Bombay Closet Cleanse (versatile collection, extremely detailed description, good store policies), Kisses and Cosmos (quality products, sweet deals, and size inclusivity, Bottom Drawer Vintage (customized crochet bralettes—you don't need to thrift and fight for these when you can have someone do it for you in your size and preference, and not overcharge you). These pages haven’t quite been infested by 30+ plus comments in a 20-second situation which means you actually have a chance at making a purchase and spending time before you make a decision. I have considered making a purchase from each of these stores and am on a lookout to try them out in the future.

Honestly, If I’d spent half this effort in my personal life seeking a relationship, I’d have been happily married with two kids today. Instead, I devoted this energy to shopping. In the middle of a whole pandemic, global climate, and political crisis, my Instagram thrift shopping skill and unwavering devotion towards the cause has me worried. I’m biding my time reading store policies, sifting through closets and collections just to be able to spot a good deal.

Again, I do not recommend simping for clothes but if you’re me, chances are, that it’s too late to go back to Tinder now.

 

 

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Anisha Saigal

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Pop-culture omnivore. Survived publishing, academia, film school. Struggling with the pandemic.