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Like other eco-conscious consumers, I try to buy secondhand often but, tragically, I lack the patience and keen eye necessary to really excel at thrifting. Admittedly, I’ve never been particularly good at sorting through racks of clothing for hours on end, and even the pieces I do manage to take home are left languishing in my closet when I’m inevitably struck by indecision and unsure how to incorporate them into my existing wardrobe.
So, when I first came across “style bundle” videos on TikTok, I was immediately intrigued. I watched as my “For You Page” became flooded with videos of creators putting together thrifted assortments for clients seeking western-inspired or blokette looks, as well as any and every other aesthetic, from ’90s to boho, granola girl, and fairy grunge.
Thrifted bundles allow consumers to outsource the searching and selection of secondhand clothes by hiring someone else to do it for them. The process is seemingly straightforward: Simply provide your stylist with a Pinterest board of outfits you like, along with your clothing sizes and measurements, and you’ll receive a curated selection of items tailored to your tastes.
On TikTok, the bundle trend is (unsurprisingly) dominated by Gen Z and millennial creators—often with a background in sustainability, fashion, or both—who are popularizing a new approach to thrifting that emphasizes individualized styling, and are getting hundreds of thousands of views in the process. The trend is a part of a fast-changing used-clothing market that has seen impressive growth over the last decade. According to a report by fashion resale website thredUP, secondhand purchases represented just 3 percent of the U.S. fashion market in 2013, which grew to 9 percent in 2023, and is expected to double to 18 percent by 2033.
With millions of tons of clothing hitting landfills every year, thrifted bundles allow consumers a unique method of sourcing used clothes—one that’s convenient, stylish, and, as importantly, sustainable. Perhaps best of all, the service is often relatively budget-friendly, with some bundles starting at $100 for a selection of pieces. Erica Lubinic, a 25-year-old TikTok creator, created her first thrifted bundle for free before she felt confident enough to introduce it as a full-fledged service online. “The algorithm just started to push them out,” she says. “And people loved them.” Lubinic also runs an online shop, Saint Ivy Vintage, so creating thrifted bundles was a natural extension of her work that didn’t add too much time to her typical routine—not to mention it kept costs down. However, there are limits to what she can do in such a short amount of time, she says, stressing the importance of setting “realistic expectations” with her clients.
Emma Heines, 22, worked as a lead educator at a low-waste store before launching her own online thrifted fashion shop, 2nd Life Studio. She describes thrifting as a “lifelong journey” for her, but it was when she began learning about sustainability in college that she started to really understand the “privilege and convenience to not only see clothes as disposable, but to acquire so many items for such a small price.” Heines sees creating thrifted bundles as a way to encourage consumers to view secondhand clothes as a viable alternative to fast fashion brands or mass-produced clothing. “There’s so much high-quality clothing sitting around in thrift stores that matches today’s trends—it just needs someone to find it and dig for it and save it. That’s what I do,” Heines says. “If you want to dress like you live in the ’90s, you can go find the pieces from the ’90s.”
The trend has led to more than a few viral videos, with creators like Esme Carpenter, 28, racking up a waiting list of several thousand clients hoping to use her services after a TikTok she posted of her first-ever thrift bundle gained 1.8 million views and more than 245,000 likes. Though her day job is at a nonprofit, her side hustle selling thrifted bundles could quickly become more as her follower count grows steadily and brands continue to approach her for partnerships. Carpenter’s ethos centers around the idea of “building a forever closet” made up of timeless pieces that bypass the constant churn of microtrends dominating fashion at the moment. “I hope that the pieces I find will be in people’s closets forever,” she says. “I even sometimes fantasize about my own clothes being sold to someone in their 20s or 30s in my future estate sale.”
Paying others to cook your food, cut your hair, or paint your fingernails are all transactional services that contain their own intricacies, but I had never paid someone to dress me, and thereby entrust them with the personal details of my waist and hip measurements and the aspirational contents of my Pinterest board. When I received my style bundle in the mail, I saw a new version of myself represented: some items were almost exactly duplicated in vintage form based on the photos I had submitted (a pair or red gingham pants, a slinky black maxi skirt), while others I might never have picked out myself, but were in fact just the thing my wardrobe was missing (a sleeveless mock neck top, a long gauzy scarf in muted tones). In the subsequent days, I found myself experimenting with new styles using the clothes my thrifter selected, and even in my existing wardrobe, I began trying new combinations with a renewed sense of sartorial possibility.
According to the stylists I spoke to, clients seek out their services for a range of reasons. Some, like me, might be hoping to reinvigorate their wardrobe after falling into a style rut; some might be chronically ill or otherwise unable to shop for themselves, while others might be hoping to collect a few new pieces for an upcoming vacation that flatter their body type.
Lubinic, a self-described “curvy girl,” recalls working with a client who had measurements similar to her own. “When she received her bundle, I got great feedback from her that she loved all of the pieces,” she says. “That makes me so happy: boosting someone’s confidence in their body, because I know firsthand how that feels.” For her part, Lubinic has put together dozens of bundles in the last few months, and argues the trend is here to stay. “There’s always been a demand for it…I don’t think that will necessarily go away,” she says.
Despite the growing popularity of style bundles, Heines thinks there’s still plenty of room for others to enter the space and meet consumer interest. “We need as many people as possible trying to save these clothes from going into our landfills, and communities all over the world are being overrun by piles of clothing,” she says, before adding that it takes a village. “I’m on a mission to make a sustainable and circular lifestyle as accessible to as many people as I possibly can.” Apparently it all starts with a bundle.
Sejla Rizvic is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Cut, Slate, and The Daily Beast.