A Guide To: Consignment Store Shopping

Friday, June 10, 2011

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. 
Happy Shopping! Now, who's up for a consignment store outfit post linkup??


  1. So many good tips - I love thrift and consignment store shopping. I'm actually on a thrift and consignment store only diet until September.

    xoxo ~ Courtney

  2. I LOVE a good consignment shop-I've found cheetah coats and my favorite Isaac Mizrahi bouclé coat with gray fox fur collar at second hand shops! It can be an amazing place to find steal, deals and absolute treasures!

  3. This is great! I love to hit the thrift stores too. I can find nice quality items and not feel as guilty for wearing them out quickily! Plus if they've lasted this long, they're certainly better than all the old navy stuff I tend to stock up on.

  4. I'm in for the link up!!! You'll love this deal? I went "thrifting" on Sunday with my mom, and got a brand new black Ralph Lauren Rugby dress (with the tags still on) for $25! What was the price on the tags? $175. Gotta love the thrill of an awesome deal.

  5. Great tips, Ashleigh! When I first came to the States, my first shopping trip is the thrift store! I still have the red sweater and it still fits 'coz it's a few sizes bigger. As a broke foreign student back then, I don't wish to spend a lot of money on unnecessary clothing!


  6. There is the cutest little consignment store minutes from my house, and I've yet to get up the guts to go in. I don't know why I find consignment stores intimidating, I think I'm just afraid they'll be overwhelming and I won't know if I'm looking at a good deal or not even if I find something I like. But you've just inspired me to browse this weekend! Here's hoping I stumble on something cute =)
    Rumor has it they also sell vintage jewelry, so my wallet may be in serious danger.

  7. consignment shopping can be so addicting. I love finding bargains!

  8. i'm up for that post! :) i've been to crossroads here a couple times, and i found some good stuff! thanks for these tips! :D

    <3, Mimi

  9. I've been to Crossroads and have found awesome shoes there too! So stay on the lookout for those next time you go! I'll definitely be headed back for a dress!

  10. This is such an amazing guide! I've been counting down the days for a post graduation day off that I can go around shopping and I'm so happy you posted this because now I know what to look for!

  11. Can you share some of your favorite shops in and around the city? And do you have a great tailor? I'm still hunting for one I love! Great post. I really need to do this more.

  12. really cool tips! happy shopping!

  13. I've heard of Crossroads before. Sadly we don't have consignment stores here or none I know of.

  14. consignment shopping is my favorite way to shop, hands down. i got the marc jacobs top i wore for our engagement shoot at my favorite consignment store in SF (cris of polk--GO THERE!) also if you're in nocal for a visit stop by painted bird and think of me. everything is fabulous and practically under $8.

  15. My sweet girl, great tips on thrift shopping. Remember how you and I cruised consignment/thrift stores long before it was so popular? Its a treasure hunt and so fun w/someone. LUV IT

  16. I love this--what a great post. Your first point is my fave and, in fact, when I don't go with expectations I often have much better experience finding things I like/love. Crossroads!! There's one in my neighborhood and it's on my list. sweeeet!


  17. Love these tips! Great write up!

    Hope you're well darling!

    I Live For It

    Xx. Jewls and Liza

  18. This post is amazing. I've never been to a consignment store (I know, I know!) but I certainly have to give it a whirl now!

  19. Great tips and I must say probably over half of my wardrobe is thrifted and I have found tons of great deals on ebay for great vintage finds!



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