Students shuffle over to their seats, pulling out their notebooks and laptops as they wait for class to begin. In walks a student with eccentric clothing and a personable demeanor that demands attention. She’s never the first to arrive to class but never the last either.
As the lecture begins, her own attention is divided – partially toward the professor posing questions and making intelligent remarks – yet all the while perusing various social media platforms and runway looks on her smartphone.
Sophia Casella, 20, is a fashion studies senior with a knack for thrifting and vintage clothes shopping. Donning a thrifted red cardigan paired with a striped mock-neck sweater, tattered Dr. Martens and some cherry earrings to top it off, the Swedesboro-turned-Bloomfield native relished in her nostalgic memories.
Throughout her younger years, Casella’s aunt would hold yard sales. She admired how one man’s trash became another man’s treasure, and this realization ultimately held an influence over her going forward.
There came a point where Casella decided to check out Plato’s Closet, a popular consignment shop, because she wanted to be more trendy for less money. From there, Casella found a hobby she was able to feel passionate about.
She continues to thrift once or twice a week, oftentimes bringing her roommate, Lea Mellon, along.
“Soph expresses herself through styling herself and others,” Mellon said. “When she is in her zone [while] thrifting, she gets very creative and tries to see the potential in every piece she picks up.”
Mellon mentioned that Casella has an eye for taking a garment that some may consider off-putting and unsightly and is able to transform it into a trendy, fashion-forward outfit.
Casella spends a majority of her free time thrift shopping in the New York/New Jersey area, scavenging for the most abstract pieces that she can find.
“I usually just jam to some music, and I bring my headphones,” Casella said. “Whatever my music mood is, is my [thrifting] mood. If I am listening to more emo music, I am going for very dark pieces, very grunge, and if I am into my hip-hop mood, I am getting very fun pieces that pop.”
Thrift shops with rows upon rows of boxes with briskly written labels require Casella’s full attention, as well as time and patience. Jeans become mixed in with T-shirts and hidden gems run amok, playing a hide and seek game of sorts with determined shoppers.
Consistency is not key when it comes to thrifting for the fashion connoisseur, who always ends up with something different while she is on the prowl for intriguing pieces.
The fact that the clothing she is wearing at any given time could be that of a person who is six feet under, or those of a celebrity who felt that their clothing was void of significance is major cause for her excitement.
“Every piece has a story behind it,” Casella said. “You never know what you’re going to get your hands on.”
After attending an event where Casella brought a suitcase chock-full of thrifted finds in hopes to resell them, she was surprised that about half of her products were sold, despite not having any pricing method or sales approach. She received unexpected support from strangers, which left her with the idea to turn her hobby into a full-fledged business operation via Instagram or Depop one day.
While Casella shops with a singular purpose, to keep herself and her own tastes in mind, she has confidence that the style of those who follow her on social media will be akin to her own selection whenever she chooses to resell.
“I usually just shop for me,” Casella said. “If people like it, they’ll buy it and if they don’t, they don’t.”
Casella wants to pick the weirdest things and make them work. She spoke at length on the details of her own outfits, as well as some of her favorite thrifting finds with the knowledge of a fashion historian one might catch themselves overhearing while passing a guided tour at a museum.
Casella remained chipper and at ease, just as if the mere action of talking about thrifting is a safe haven for her and the actual process of doing it is a place that she calls home.