It's Thursday night. As you walk into the tiny and crowded house party, you're surrounded by loud music playing from the speakers and students who look like they stepped out of your Grandma Bertha's closet. The partygoers are wearing funky and old-fashioned clothing they found at thrift stores—the newest fashion trend at Westminster College.
“The weirder the article of clothing [and] the more unique you are, the better,” said Cassandra Yerkes, a junior arts and administration major. “How often can you wear red linen overalls and have it be considered cool and fashionable?" Yerkes asked, wearing her very own pair of red linen overalls.
Yerkes said thrift store clothing expresses the college's unique student body better than mainstream fashion trends could and said students rarely worry about being judged for what they wear.
"[Students] know that they are not going to get ridiculed for [wearing unusual clothing], and they know that people will accept them for it," Yerkes said. "It’s kind of a trendy and it is cool to do it.”
Anna Beyer, a sophomore public health major, said Westminster's party scene is driven by the funkiest of thrift store clothing.
“People get way more excited to go out and to have a party if there is a theme,” Beyer said. “There is always a Hawaiian-themed [party]. That’s, like, a constant. Like more than one per year.”
Staple items for Hawaiian-themed parties are Hawaiian shirts, bathing suits, lei necklaces and "weird touristy shirts" bought at thrift stores, Beyer said.
Beyer and Yerkes said thrift stores like Deseret Industries (D.I.) and Savers supply many students with their wackiest and most fashionable pieces.
“If you can go and get really unique, cool clothing items for $5 and less, then you are more inclined to do that than heading over to City Creek and buy a $40 dollar T-shirt," Yerkes said. "Like, you're going to get something cheap and also very cool looking.”
Thomas Calder, a store manager at Savers, said he thinks students choose thrift stores for a lot of reasons. Money is one of the main factors, but he said excitement for the unknown is the most attractive one.
“You never know what you going to find," Calder said. "That’s part of lure of going thrift shopping. You can’t order five of such and such; it’s just kind of what people donate, and for lots of people that’s like a treasure hunt.”
Because of the uniqueness of thrift shop clothing, Calder said people can experiment with their style in a way traditional department store or fast fashion options don't allow.
“They can find their own sense of style and their own sense of identity that no one else can copy,” Calder said. “It’s pretty cool. Maybe they will get in touch and learn about another American era through the clothes. They will be able to eat more than just Ramen if [they] shop at thrift store.”
Getting in touch with a new era is one thing, but some Westminster students said they find unique clothing options are a way to get in touch with their inner confidence.
“I think when people wear something super goofy, they are probably more confident with themselves because they are not trying as hard to look good; they just look goofy and express their inner wilder beasts,” Beyer said. “And it’s a good conversation starter, too. Like, ‘eh yo, that hat is so cool’ or like, ‘I love that jacket.'”
Beyer said she's seen the benefits of wearing thrift store clothing firsthand.
“I have this friend... whenever she wears silly clothing from [the D.I.] or Savers or some costume, she has more confidence,” Beyer said. “So she talks to more people and she is more likely to make friends or maybe kiss a boy at a party. Or maybe more. Who knows?”