BY Leanna Hayes and Emily Hartford
Categorized by brand name, color and style, racks of used clothing line the window of Plato’s Closet. Hardly – or never – worn name brands can be found hidden in the racks. Some even have the original price tags still attached.
Shoppers, arms laden with potential outfits, bustle around the shop. Women’s clothing takes up most of the store, but convenient signs point in the direction of men’s clothes toward the back.
Better yet – price tags show clothing is a fraction of the price purveyors of new clothing charge.
For college students living on a budget, such stores can be perfect. At a time in their lives when tuition and books account for so many of their monthly bills, students may allocate little to purchasing clothing.
“Clothes are the last thing on the list,” said Alison Boley, a UNF international studies junior.
Boley said living away from home put her on a tight budget, and she finds she can save money by taking the time to sew new outfits for herself with fabrics and patterns from Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts.
But you don’t have to be crafty with your hands to get cheap clothes, just crafty with your head. Although the beloved St. Johns Town Center is just minutes from campus, price tags are high. And while shopping sales, clearance racks and discount stores like Ross can save some cash, there are even cheaper alternatives.
Austin Sale, a UNF political science senior, who normally shops at places like Target and American Eagle, said he has noticed that with the economy in its current state, thrift stores and consignment shops are thriving.
A slew of thrift stores scatter Beach Boulevard between downtown and the beach, from the more well-know shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army, to the smaller ones like the Jacksonville Humane Society Thrift Shop and the Community Hospice Thrift Shop.
Not only can second-hand clothing be purchased for cheap – shirts for under $10 and pants under $20 – the community benefits from each buy.
The revenue generated at the stores goes to six job junctions in North Florida with the mission of job training and placement services.
Karen Phillips, the vice president of administration and marketing at Goodwill of North Florida, said Goodwill served over 35,000 people served last year and placed more than 10,500 into employment.
She said thrift shops offer great prices and see higher activity as more people are now having to do more with less — to stretch their dollars.
Another alternative to expensive department stores is consignment shops. There is a handful in Jacksonville. And while usually a little pricier than thrift stores, they are pickier about the clothing they take in and lend to fewer racks of more contemporary clothing.
Plato’s Closet is one such store. It purchases and sells clothing geared mainly toward teenagers and college students. The franchise has stores sprouting up all over the nation, including three in Jacksonville.
Sean Driscoll is a co-owner of the three stores. He said he has seen an increase in first-time shoppers, including college students. He believes a lot of students come in for the first time to sell things they are no longer wearing to make room in smaller closets and get cash for other necessities by selling those items.
“[Our stores] allow [students] to get styles and stay fresh with their wardrobes and stay within their budget,” he said. “It offers them the ability to still afford the brands they look for.”
Driscoll said although the apparel may not be as up-to-date as what one sees in the mall, it is still relatively current, stocking styles from the past eight to 12 months.
They sell the basics — tank tops, short-sleeve shirts and shorts, he said. Skinny jeans and rompers have become popular, as well.
Other consignment stores in Jacksonville include Kloset Karma in Atlantic Beach, Round Robin in Orange Park and Puttin’ on the Ritz and My Best Friend’s Closet in San Marco.
My Best Friend’s Closet is a specialized shop targeting plus-size women, which is a rare find, said UNF alumna and store owner Sandy Myers.
She said most stores stop at size 14, but hers starts at size 14.
“We are a market that’s been forgotten about,” she said.
Now that you’re feeling cold as the temperature drops, save your piggy bank the beating and trade out those worn threads for clothes even the smallest amount of funds can afford.