NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — An all-inclusive thrift shop has arrived in downtown New Haven, promoting plus-size clothes and an alternative aesthetic with a safe space for all — and it’s run by witches.
Witch Bitch Thrift, the women and queer-owned business, opened their storefront in New Haven on Friday. The highly-anticipated opening follows an impressive two years, as the shop gained traction online and made connections across the globe with over 75,000 followers on Instagram and a whopping nearly 200,000 on TikTok.
So, how did two women gain such a massive following in such a short time? It all started with too many clothes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a newfound confidence.
Virginia Semeghini, co-owner of WBT, said that the emptiness of the pandemic brought on lots of styling, and she realized she was brave enough to wear clothes she wouldn’t have normally worn out of the house. She said she had a “breakthrough” moment at home and grasped that she could dress-up and actually feel good about herself.
The occasion for dressing-up? Simply being alive, Semeghini said, noting that this sparked the idea of a clothing store to reflect this realization. She knew she wanted a plus-size shop that was all-inclusive and had a “witchy” aesthetic, and to her surprise: nothing like this existed yet.
Thus, WBT came to fruition. Semeghini started by selling her own clothes on Instagram, but quickly, the interest peaked among followers, and before she knew it, she was packing over 100 orders a week out of her living room. Semeghini, alongside her partner and co-owner Eva Ray, knew they had to upgrade to a bigger space.
Social media changed the game entirely. While thrifting clothes certainly had potential on its own, Semeghini’s online presence brought-in a whole wave of followers. It started with Instagram, and then TikTok took over, catapulting WBT into the public eye.
Semeghini shared videos not only displaying the clothes, but also how to style them — all while showing-off her quirky, fun personality.
While WBT held down a hidden shop in Bridgeport throughout 2021, it simply wasn’t enough. Through word of mouth and social media, more and more people were hearing about the shop and traveling from states away to see their clothing selection. In 2022, they knew it was time to move to a storefront, and New Haven was the answer they’d been looking for.
“New Haven has a huge alternative, queer, witchy, and plus-size community,” Ray said, noting that the Elm City was “their crowd.”
Whether they were in the pop-up shop, hidden store, online shop, and now the storefront, one thing has remained consistent: their customers. Semeghini said their followers have continued their support no matter what they threw at them and this new space will be no different.
Why do people keep coming back? In short, WBT is just something that has been missing in the plus-size community. Semeghini said there are a lot of alternative spaces for fashion, but they’ve always been very thin-oriented. Growing up in Brazil, she wasn’t able to find many plus-size options anywhere, and in the states, it wasn’t much better.
“I cried in so many dressing rooms,” Semeghini recalled. “Pants were always the worst. Just clothes shopping has been so traumatic in general.”
WBT is here to disrupt the system, Semeghini said, noting that the shop is meant to take a different approach. Sizes run from XS to 8X, and dressing rooms are catered to provide the most comfortable experience possible.
So, what can customers expect to find at WBT?
Semeghini said their inventory runs on a circular model. Customers can either trade or sell items, and everything in the shop comes from the community. Semeghini or Ray price the items and send the totals back to the seller. Then, the seller can choose to get 10% cash or 15% credit of the total value. Most people opt to get store credit, Semeghini said, for more of a “barter sale.”
All clothing guidelines for thrifting can be found via WBT’s website, but the pair wants the public to know that they’re not just looking for clothes with a “witchy” aesthetic. While they do get plenty of pieces with alternative vibes, the shop is open to all styles. They also want to change the perspective on what is and isn’t classified as “witchy.”
“It’s not just black clothes,” Ray said. “It’s not just flowy, Morticia draping.”
“We’re not catering just to one [type of person],” Semeghini echoed. “You can be witchy and dress like anything. You also don’t have to be witchy to come here. It’s all about the environment, the vibe, and what we stand for. There’s generally something for everybody.”
Aside from clothing, WBT will also open a room dubbed “The Witchy Alcove” filled with magic items sourced from other small businesses like witchcraft supplies, tarot decks, incense, candles, and books. They also have a community room in the works; this will act as a space for a variety of local events, including artist receptions, drag shows, concerts, game nights, karaoke, and more.
“We’re trying to make the world a little better,” Ray said. “Have this circular model, give back to our community, have our community help keep waste out of hands that would rather just burn if it they wouldn’t make a buck.”
Creating a safe space — while also shedding a little magic — is their goal.
WBT opened – fittingly – on Friday, January 13. During the storefront opening, the shop launched a collaboration with the New Haven-based pins and patches store Strange Ways.
The shop is open at 105 Whitney Ave. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit their online shop here.