Windy City Thrifter Puts a Bow on the Brown Elephant
November 27 is Giving Tuesday, an international day for supporting the work of non-profits. This year we kicked things up a notch by putting a bow on affirming healthcare! To celebrate in bow-tastic fashion, we sat down with Kaitlin Stewart, a.k.a. Windy City Thrifter on Facebook and Instagram, to talk style, sustainability, and Brown Elephant’s work to support Howard Brown.
How long have you been thrifting? How did you get started?
I have been an avid thrifter for over a decade, and a lover of secondhand and vintage since I was a tot. I’m the oldest of three daughters so I rarely received hand-me-downs except for a few instances when I was given vintage pieces from either my grandmother or mother. It was truly my love for vintage (and my limited income) that got me interested in thrifting during college. Thrifting was a way for me to experiment with my wardrobe without breaking the bank. When I moved to Chicago I found so much variety in the secondhand shopping scene and am happy to say that I almost exclusively shop secondhand. I’ve found some incredible pieces in the last decade and I look forward to discovering more!
Are there any fashion icons or eras that you draw inspiration from?
I am very inspired by the 70’s because I love the silhouette of high-waisted bottoms and flowy pieces. As for icons, I am very inspired by Beth Jones of BJonesStyle (on YouTube and Instagram) because her whole style mantra is based in experimenting and playing dress up in your own closet. Like anyone else, I find myself getting into my own fashion ruts, so she inspires me to look at my wardrobe in a completely new way!
You call yourself an ‘eco stylist.’ What does that mean to you?
For me, being an eco-stylist means I help my clients build a more sustainable wardrobe by styling them with secondhand, vintage and sustainably made pieces. My mission with each client is to introduce them to a new way to fuel their wardrobe and a different way to look at consumerism. The fast fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, and the tenets behind the production of fast fashion clothing are far from ethical. When I introduce my clients to shopping secondhand I am showing them a way to build their wardrobe without succumbing to the fast fashion industry, as well as a way to do it on a budget.
How do you relate your work to Brown Elephant’s mission to support LGBTQ health?
I very often bring my clients to Brown Elephant because of their great selection but I also bring clients because of the Brown Elephant’s incredible mission. When working with clients I sometimes discuss the idea of conscious consumerism. I mention things like, only purchase pieces you love because those will be the pieces you pull out of your closet and really consider how often you will wear a piece before you consider purchasing it. The other side of conscious consumerism is being aware of where your money is going. I know that every time I shop at Brown Elephant stores that my money is going towards helping to bring access to health care to the uninsured and LGBTQ community. Access to healthcare shouldn’t be reserved for the privileged and yet it is. It is important to me that my money goes towards helping others, and I know that when I donate and shop at the Brown Elephant that there are people in the Chicago community benefiting from it.
What are your top 3 tips for shopping at the Brown Elephant?
My first tip is to shop off season and shop all sections. The Brown Elephant stores receive so many great pieces for all seasons and if you limit yourself to pieces for the current season, or if you only look in your size section, you could be missing out!
My next tip is to try everything on. The Brown Elephant stores have dressing rooms, which can be rare for a thrift store, so take advantage! Trying each piece on is the only way to really know if the piece should go home with you.
My last tip is to always check the display cases. The Brown Elephant stores often place their beautiful designer pieces in those cases and if you skip those you can miss out on some stand out vintage and designer accessories!
All proceeds from Brown Elephant stores in Oak Park, Lakeview, and Andersonville benefit LGBTQ health and fund care for the uninsured and under-insured at Howard Brown. For store locations and hours, visit brownelephant.com