Last Friday, The Man (also known as work) released us a wee early so I took advantage of the extra time to run a few errands. For weeks, I've been driving around with three bags of clothes in my car to be taken to consignment or donated. I jaunted over to Evanston and little did I know I'd hit the jackpot at Crossroads. Gah! Rebecca Taylor, Bebe, silk blend tops, embellished dresses...need I continue? Consignment shopping is one of my preferred ways to acquire fabulous items on a budget. Many of my absolute favorite pieces have been pre-owned which I think is pretty neat. (Plus, I really enjoy impressing my friends responses to compliments with things like "$5.00 - swear.") Until recently, I though everyone consignment shopped but when a style blogger I admire posted about her very first (!) experience and a friend said something like "But isn't it gross?" I had to faciliate. Consignment shopping is like a Cliff Notes version of the best of the mall and internet. And no, it's not gross, stop being bratty ;) If you already do it, awesome - I knew I liked you! If you don't, well, you're missing out. And I secretly hope that if you wear a size 8.5 shoe and live in the Chicago area that you don't start. ;)
Without further ado, here are a few tips and tricks for a successful shopping trip.
- Don't go with expectations, you'll most likely be disappointed. If you're on a mission for a certain something it's worth a browse, but realistically you'll probably find 5 things you weren't searching for instead, which is all part of the fun.
- Check fabric and care labels. Tags may have been removed by the previous owner. When in doubt, dry clean. Tip: Fabrics like silk and linen are usually underpriced, grab 'em up!
- If it's perfect in every way except your size, consider alterations. A good tailor can be your best friend.
- Try on everything. Some stores don't accept returns or exchanges, confirm any policies before paying.
- Inspect items thoroughly before purchasing. Most pieces are in mint condition, however, you may find an occasional stain, tear or missing button that the associates missed or experienced fitting room abuse, it happens. Assess any repairs needed and request a discount if necessary.
- Prepare to be heartbroken (sometimes.) That gorgeous pair of leather of boots that would look perfect with your (fill in the blank)...one size off. Bummer!!
- Don't skip the clearance rack. In most shops, markdowns are taken based on the length of time an item has been on the floor, not necessarily the seasonality of it. Half off an in season chiffon top in a 'so-hot-right-now hue'? Don't mind if I do!
- Support your store! If you shop there, sell there. We all have a fabulous item (or two) still hanging in our closet that was purchased hoping the right occasion would pop up (where are you white party??) - why not trade it in and allow someone else find a use for it? You may find something just as fabulous and more suitable in the same trip.
- Always take the trade credit. When you sell items, most chain stores offer cash or trade credit instantly. The cash value is less than the trade credit so take the gift card/certificate and start digging. (Or save it for future trips.) The bang for your buck is much better that way. After trading in several items I ended up with enough credit to purchase all of the above without ever opening my wallet!
- Visit more than one location, often. We're lucky to have several locations of my favorite shops around town and by this point I've pretty much nailed what I can expect from each one. (Evanston has fabulous summer dresses, Wicker Park has the best unique/one of a kind items, Lincoln Park is hit or miss.) This isn't your local Target. The assortment changes daily and is never the same at each location. While it's not always true, locations such as a college town or affluent neighborhood could be an indicator of the types of brands you'll find there. (Think Abercrombie versus Diane Von Furstenberg.)
- My new favorite vacation treat is to consignment shop in different cities. When traveling, why hit the same chain retailers when you can find awesome pieces on consignment from the locals? A recent visit to a shop in Santa Monica changed my life. (Okay, maybe that's extreme, but seriously - it was well worth the effort to get there.)
- Don't forget about the boys! Trading men's apparel is one of the ways we've ended up with gobs of store credit - it seems they're always in need and the selection is more focused. Disclaimer: I cannot be responsible for arguments related to or caused by a female's decision to edit her male's closet without his knowledge.