A GROUP OF Kildare teenagers spent last night at the National Concert Hall, celebrating the conclusion of a project that saw them delve deep into where their clothes come from.
As a result, the dresses and suits the seven boys and girls – aged 13 to 17 – wore were all bought in a local charity shop, Vincent’s in Athy, and cost them just €25 each.
Pic: Steven Fahy
Although there is often a stigma for teenagers around wearing charity shop-bought clothes, the past number of years have seen somewhat of a resurgence in interest in second-hand items.
The teenagers of Athy Youth Project wanted to show that dressing up for formal occasions doesn’t mean spending hundreds of euro – and two of the girls even found their own debs dresses in the shop, helped by manager Joan McDonald-Prendergast.
Team leader Steven Fahy from Kildare Youth Services explained that the group wanted to challenge the wasteful nature of the clothing industry but also the societal pressure around not wearing second-hand clothes.
It all began in Athy Youth Cafe, explained Fahy: “A young person was complaining about how much people were spending on debs dresses or wedding dresses, as they’d heard of from their relatives.”
That started them looking at where clothes come from, with the teens researching the subject and finding out more about disposable fashion, cheap clothes and the benefits of charity shops.
When the teens told the team leaders that they didn’t have formal events to go to themselves, the leaders arranged for them to go the National Concert Hall, giving the project an extra-special purpose.
Fahy explained that though the teens once would have felt stigma about wearing second-hand clothes, they learned a huge amount during the process – and have gone back and bought more items.
“They hadn’t realised the difference between clothes that are made of higher quality and clothes that are made to be disposable,” said Fahy.
They hadn’t got any knowledge of where their clothes come from. Some of them had read tags, and understood the concept of working in different countries and developing countries to make money.
The event was a big experience for them as it was their first time seeing an orchestra play live. The whole project has been an educational one on a number of levels, and ties into the Kildare Youth Services focus of doing things with the teenagers that are not only enjoyable, but benefit their development and learning.
Pic: Steven Fahy
Last night, the girls’ outfits comprised a dress, shoes, a stole and a handbag, costing €25 in total, while the boys were outfitted in suits, shoes and a shirt for the same amount. All the money went to St Vincent de Paul and the teens just had to donate €10 themselves – the youth centre looked after the rest.
Last night was a pilot event and it is hoped that a similar programme will be rolled out amongst other youth groups.
In order to prove how much things had changed, one of the teenage girls wore a charity shop purchase out and told the others afterwards she had received 23 compliments on it – and that she told everyone exactly where she bought her outfit.