Unlike what the movies suggest (looking at you Cher Horowitz), not all of us are blessed with the gift of personal styling. And while TikTok is full to the brim with outfit inspiration, the deluge of content is overwhelming — the constant trend cycle requires time, money, and vision to parse through. This is especially true when it comes to sustainably minded and budget-conscious shoppers. Enter: TikTok’s thrift bundles, also known as style bundles or style boxes.
These clothing and accessory kits feature secondhand pieces handpicked and styled by thrift-fluent TikTokers with an eye for trending aesthetics. And while they can feature anything from Barbiecore baby tees and Y2K style denim jorts to Tomato Girl-esque linen sets and balletcore flowy skirts, it isn’t just a trend-first collection of wares. Each piece is inspired by a client’s Pinterest board, online mood board, and/or style needs. Think of these style bundles as the modern-day versions of fashion subscription boxes that were popular in the early 2010s — with a Gen Z glow-up. And they are quickly gaining momentum online. At the time of writing, the hashtag #stylebundle has 231 million views on TikTok, while #thriftbundle has over 31 million views.
Kalita Hon, a TikToker and stylist, started taking requests for thrift bundles in June. “[Since then,] I have shipped out over 100 orders and still have a whole bunch to complete,” Hon says. “The interest is so widespread that I had to put new requests on the waitlist for now.”
In addition to an inspiration board, the stylists may ask for a client’s style and fabric preferences, the occasion, personal interests and hobbies, and, most importantly, measurements before curating the outfits. In some cases, they may also request personal photos and Instagram handles. “It’s a good way to get a glimpse into [a client’s] everyday life beyond what they’ve shared on the form,” says full-time analyst and part-time TikToker Celeste Goyena.
In a video by KG Lillian that has 4.1 million views, you can see the stylist and songwriter reveal her client’s mood board and match it against each piece in the bundle. Inspired by the romantic vests, midi skirts, and edgy leather pieces in the Pinterest board, the curated box includes a vest with a lace back, a ruffled-hem midi, a sheer floral negligeé, and a red leather jacket.
@kglillian The purse?? The négligée??? I’m in love with this funky collection – thank you to Amanda for letting me build this one!! #thrifted #thriftedfashion #thrifthaul #OOTD #thriftedootd #thrifting #thriftfinds #thriftedpurse #thriftedjacket ♬ Dreams – lofi’chield
Delanie Alyssa also ordered a style box from Lillian. The brief called for clothes that would encapsulate the European summer vibe, to wear on her honeymoon to Portugal, but also translate into her everyday life in Chicago. “I struggle to find the clothes from my vision list — either I spend too much money on non-versatile pieces or just fail to find what I’m looking for,” Alyssa says. “I was very excited when KG nailed the brief. I’ve been back from the trip for months and have been wearing the pieces across seasons.”
Wondering how much this bespoke service will set you back? It depends on what you want in your bundle. Hon charges $55 for two pieces of clothing and a handmade accessory, or $130 for six pieces of apparel and two handmade accessories — plus an additional styling fee of $50. Meanwhile, Goyena offers two options that subsume the styling costs at $130 and $230, with the bigger box including four complete outfits and two accessories.
For years, this kind of personal shopping experience has been reserved for the rich and famous. Sure, luxury stores offer complimentary personal styling appointments, but only a small percentage can afford to buy the clothes they stock. And, although the creators don’t call themselves personal shoppers, the experience is so intimate and tailor-made that they very well may be.
Lillian curated her first style box back in 2020 but started seeing strong interest only this year. TikToker and trend analyst Tariro Makoni reckons it has to do with the current socio-economic climate. “We tend to see innovation and democratization in creative industries during periods of macroeconomic destabilization. Currently, we’re battling inflation, and the ‘will they won’t they’ of a recession is taking a toll,” she says. “With style bundles, you’re innovating the way that younger consumers are able to shop, whilst democratizing an experience [personal styling] that is traditionally way too expensive for them.”
The popularity may also have to do with the pressure of keeping up with the consistent churn of new trends on social media. Many people don’t have the patience, time, or eye to find secondhand gems that mimic the styles they see online. These creators bridge the gap, bringing their visions to life on a budget.
@esmecarpenter First thrift bundle everr #thriftbundle #stylebundle #greenscreen ♬ original sound – Esme Carpenter
Hon’s ultimate goal is to build a career as a stylist. So, in addition to making her followers happy — “it’s so amazing to see people’s reaction to their style boxes”— posting videos of the bundles she creates is a low-cost and efficient way to spread her name. “I’ve always been interested in fashion and now I’ve finally found a way to exhibit my work,” she says. “In just over a month, I have gathered clients within America, as well as Europe and Australia.” Hon spends her days scouring the local thrift shops to find pieces, but creators will also often extend their search online to platforms like Depop, Poshmark, Vinted, and Circle of Style.
While the idea of receiving a personalized fashion box is exciting, there are some potential downsides. There is the struggle to find the right fit, especially at a time when sizing is inconsistent across brands. After all, there’s only so much accuracy stylists can promise when they haven’t seen someone IRL. “Rescuing clothing from a thrift store and giving it a new life is always a win, but I think to order a thrift bundle you need to place a lot of trust in the creator to get this right,” says fashion trend analyst and TikToker Mandy Lee. “There’s a lot more at play than just good fashion sense. Getting a surprise box of clothes that don’t fit right or are too small or big could really disappoint the buyers.”
It also doesn’t help that the majority of style bundle videos, similar to thrift shops, don’t prominently feature plus-size options, prompting several users to leave comments asking if bundles are even available in bigger sizes. Lillian wants to make clear that this is a misconception. “A lot of people think I only make bundles for smaller sizes because of the photos they see on the Pinterest boards. The vision boards mostly feature petite, blonde, and white models, and this stays with people,” she says. “I curate bundles for every size and I want people to feel free to reach out to me.”
The surprise element in style bundles can also be a hit or miss. The creators interviewed for this story all say they would try to rework the bundle if their client was unhappy with the selection. However, having experienced disappointment in the past, Goyena realized transparent communication with the buyers is key. “I decided to do away with surprise thrift bundles because they don’t always work,” she says. “Now I have a constant back-and-forth with the clients. I send them photos of each piece to make sure they’re receiving clothes that they actually like and will wear. I don’t want to contribute to the waste system with my work.”
The end goal for each of these creators is to deliver a hyper-niche fashion box that brings the client’s mood board to life and makes great content. Unlike unattainable personal styling services, thrift bundles democratize entry into working with a stylist while promoting secondhand shopping and offering an element of discovery. When it comes to your 2024 fashion look, there’s no need to look outside of the box anymore.
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