Q: What’s the difference between a vintage store and a resale or consignment store?
A: Driving down my street on trash day, I’m often surprised by the number of perfectly good items people throw away. Vintage, resale and consignment stores prevent usable clothes, furniture and home goods from ending up in a landfill. Embracing “old stuff” and turning trash into treasure can be fun, rewarding and educational. But first, it helps to understand the lingo.
What is vintage?
In fashion circles, vintage refers to clothing that is more than a decade old — think cropped jackets, mini dresses and flowing tunics from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s. It’s hard to imagine my discount-store jackets or party dresses lasting another 20, 30 or 40 years, so I’m willing to invest in a few pieces that are built to last. Vintage clothes will cost a bit more than the other two options, but the construction typically is much better. I’ve found that most prices are comparable to what you would pay in a department store, so it won’t really break the bank. Also, I like the idea of supporting local businesses that help me add unique touches to my wardrobe.
I will always treasure my vintage, four-strand beaded necklace by Miriam Haskell. The enterprising designer built an accessories empire in the late ’20s, rubbing elbows with fashion icons like Coco Chanel. Each time I wear her necklace, I feel a connection to the past. Plus, it’s a much cooler story than, “so there was this piece of plastic in China that wound up in a gazillion U.S. department stores …” Haskell may be gone, but her company’s commitment to handmade jewelry remains. Newer items are out of my price range, so I’m glad the previous owner of my necklace didn’t throw it away because it was old.
Sites like Posh Girl Vintage offer enough eye candy to keep anyone window shopping for hours, but it’s best to closely examine vintage gear before making the purchase. Make sure the item isn’t too worn or damaged, and that it fits perfectly. Alterations can be costly. If you do venture online, shop armed with your exact measurements and study the return policy.
What is resale?
Resale stores offer fashion finds from the current or previous season. It’s a great way to stock up on casual summertime staples such as funky $5 T-shirts or gently worn premium denim that’s been stripped of its sky-high price. These stores also will buy your clean and gently used clothes in exchange for cash or a store credit toward more gear — consider it the fashion circle of life. In a previous column, I explained why resale shops make sense for style-conscious teens on a budget. But it’s really an option that makes sense for anyone these days. Just be sure to wear a thick skin during the selection process. Resale staffers have a keen eye for what sells, so don’t be surprised if most of your “stylish threads” get turned away. Unlike thrift stores or The Salvation Army, resale stores focus on moving merchandise, so your threadbare socks won’t make the cut.
If you are looking for baby clothes, premium denim or business items, target resale stores by neighborhood and shop strategically. For example, resale shops in heavily residential areas tend to have a great selection of baby gear. (Look for banks of strollers parked in coffee shops!) I offer a few more savvy shopping secrets in a previous column.
What is consignment?
Consignment stores incorporate the best of vintage and resale. The assortment ranges from nearly new to practically ancient. Shop owners share a portion of the purchase price, so they are even more selective about their inventory. Consignment stores are a great source for designer handbags, dining room tables, artwork and home décor. Consider this option the next time you want to unload something without the hassle of posting it on eBay or Craigslist.
To be honest, it’s much easier to get in the car, drive to the nearest mall and load up on T-shirts, necklaces and jeans that still have that new-clothes smell. But where’s the fun in that? Driving by heaps of so-called junk on trash day inspires me to take the greener road less traveled and make my own fashion statement.
Photo: Huzzah Vintage/Flickr