When Janet Easter from Ever Thrift was in high school diving through thrift store racks to find vintage t-shirts and boldly-patterned skirts, she never imagined that years later, as a new mom with toddlers underfoot, she would still be thrifting — only now, for other people!
Looking back to her early days of thrifting, Janet sees the providential ways in which her passion for finding beauty in everyday life, her desire for all women to know their inherent worth, and her experiences in the fashion industry (including interning with ELLE Magazine, co-founding Verily Magazine, and working as Verily’s first style and beauty editor) have converged. What began as a hobby has transformed into a growing thrift e-commerce brand that has monthly online sales of curated thrift and vintage collections that often sell out within minutes.
Although I am someone who has prided myself on not giving extra thought to my wardrobe (which I would characterize as a healthy balance of running clothes and dresses with pockets!), the joy with which Janet selects and styles vintage clothing (and how she makes wearing vintage so accessible!) has inspired my tomboy self to think more carefully and creatively about what I wear and where I shop. I sat down for a conversation with Janet to learn more about where this joy comes from, and how we can learn to thrift as joyfully as she does!
To begin, can you tell us about the role that fashion has played in your life?
Ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, I loved beautiful things, and playing dress-up, or drawing clothes. I’ve just always been attracted to beauty — specifically with clothes. At the same time, I have always been creative and have loved using that creativity to sketch out-of-the-box designs or to wear pieces that no one was wearing.
My love for thrifting began in high school when I went with some guy friends to a thrift store for the first time and learned how to pull out funky shirts and crazy accessories. I loved to surprise people and would wear something that was totally unexpected, like floral midi-skirts (which were not in style back then!), or Pizza Hut T-shirts, or things that I would tear and then resew.
I wanted to be different, have fun with my clothes, and not care what people thought! But as I went through high school and my body started to change, I began receiving a different type of attention than I had before, especially from boys. Unfortunately, the more popular I became, the less interested I was in exploring and expressing my own style because I just wanted to fit in.
Going into college, I had lost that original, innocent love of fashion, which was really a love of expressing myself creatively. Instead, fashion had become a means to get attention or to look pretty enough to feel loved. I was still interested in fashion, but it was stressful.
In college, by the grace of God, I landed an internship at ELLE Magazine. I remember writing about designers and their new collections and wondering, “What is the point of all this? What is this doing for women? Sure, it’s pretty — but there’s no life in this.” It was a cruel and cut-throat culture — just very toxic.
For me, it was not until the end of college and in my 20s when I experienced a huge reversion in my faith life that I was able to find peace between these competing loves — for fashion and for wanting something more for women. I learned more about the Church’s teachings on the dignity of women and realized that my lifelong gravitation towards beauty was really this attraction to truth and goodness.
All of it was making sense in the context that the human person has inherent dignity and that the tangible things of this world communicate God’s love. And something as “frivolous” as fashion is a powerful tool to communicate who we are and who we want to be — without having to say a word.
Fashion became so exciting and life-giving for me again! It became a way to express the beauty of the human person. I became deeply passionate about helping other women see their dignity, know their dignity, and then dress to reflect that.
Fashion is woven beautifully into your life story. Your most recent venture — Ever Thrift — welcomes others into your love of thrifting and styling. How did Ever Thrift take shape?
Ever Thrift really fell into my lap organically. I never set out to start a thrifting company! As a new mom, I would drop off donations at local thrift stores and, because I have always loved thrifting and the creative challenge it presents, I would quickly take a lap with the stroller and find amazing, unique pieces! But I often would not buy them because I didn’t need them or they weren’t my size.
I remember taking a few Instagram videos in thrift stores and friends asked me to buy something I had found and save it for them. I just had a blast, and so I kept doing that. And, since the end of 2018, it has just grown.
I have help now, too, as it continues to grow. I would love for Ever Thrift to be a company that works with all sorts of artists and ethical small businesses that together point to the beauty in everyday life, which is really the meaning behind the name, Ever Thrift — living out the eternal in the tangible things of this world.
Ever Thrift has grown from you following your passions and celebrating beauty how you naturally find it — in fashion. Why do you think this passion project has resonated with so many?
Part of the beauty of thrift is that it’s unrepeatable; these are one-of-kind pieces. There is something really beautiful about wearing a piece that is totally unique, which I think reflects the uniqueness of our hearts and our desire to be known as individuals. And today, we live in a time where we can mix different eras and colors and patterns in what we wear, so thrifting is great for that!
There also is a huge movement in support of sustainable, ethical fashion. People are learning more about the perils of the “fast fashion” industry and the exploitation of the human person that often lies behind clothing production. Once your eyes have been opened to the disregard for human dignity that exists in that industry, it is hard to flippantly buy something just because it is cheap. In thrifting, we are finding homes for clothes — giving the clothes new life, in a way — when they otherwise would end up in landfills.
And, finally, I think that people feel overwhelmed and frustrated when they go into a thrift store. So, it is good to have people like me who enjoy diving into the clothing racks and finding little treasures. I take out the work for people and curate pieces as if I were pulling for a photo shoot. I want women to feel confident in wearing vintage clothes that look effortless and modern. Many people have told me that they never thought they could wear vintage clothes, so helping to make these pieces wearable and less intimidating is a real gift.
Thrifting (and wearing thrifted clothes) brings me a lot of joy. I think more people should wear clothes that bring them joy, rather than trying to fit themselves into a mold of who they’re not. Let your clothes reflect the dignity of who you are, and others cannot help but be attracted to that.
Your monthly collections have dozens and dozens of beautiful vintage pieces that include everything from dresses and skirts to pants and accessories. It is evident that you are an expert thrifter! Any thrifting secrets to share?
Yes! Do not think that you have to go through every rack in the store. Just pick a few sections to make it more manageable. Only look at dresses and skirts, or shoes and coats, for example. Then, I like to quickly scan the racks with my eyes and look for neutral colors: gray sweaters, creamy blouses, denim skirts. I pull those hangers and look at the fabric, the fit, and so forth. Every so often, there is an amazing floral skirt or another patterned piece that grabs me, but I mostly stick to neutrals.
There also are lots of times when I go into a thrift store and I don’t find anything. It’s easy to lose heart when that happens, but that’s the thrill of it all! It really comes down to the fact that the more often you go, the more pieces you’ll find. You’ll have better luck if you thrift more frequently, while still keeping those trips short, to catch different sales and pieces right when they drop.
Follow Ever Thrift on Instagram to hear about future sale dates, and shop the collection at ShopEverThrift.com. $1 of every purchase is donated.