People may remember browsing thrift shops for cheap furniture to customize their first home, or they may know someone who loves to shop at vintage stores around the holidays to create the perfect ensemble. However, consignment shops have a lot of benefits that extend far beyond that once-a-year trip to the local Goodwill or vintage boutique. These stores have expanded their niche in recent years, making them an excellent option for finding some fresh fall fashion pieces without breaking the bank.
Shopping consignment is smart. While thrifting, we’re thinking about the environment because it’s sustainable and reasonably priced. Not to mention, it’s just enjoyable. The thrill of the hunt to find that one-of-a-kind piece is like nothing else. So, that’s precisely what we set out to do — day trip-style.
While there are great consignment stores in Baltimore, there are also quality spots just a short drive or bus trip away. We ventured out to Washington D.C.’s prominent U Street Corridor, which is known for its ample selection of thrift and consignment finds.
U Street is a hip and bustling nine-block stretch located in the northwest side of the city that has been attracting locals and visitors for its lively music and nightlife scene for years. It’s not uncommon to see musicians playing on the street corners or hear music from restaurant rooftops.
And, today, this portion of the city is as vibrant as ever, anchored by the active 14th Street corridor to the west and the revamped Howard Theatre bordering the Shaw neighborhood to the east. Walk down U Street on any given morning and bikers and pedestrians will line the crowded sidewalks. Stick around a little longer and the intense aroma of freshly brewed coffee and sweets will begin wafting out from inviting cafes.
On each corner, a range of funky shops abound in the form of bright, boldly painted structures for clothing, decor and records. Then there is the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, known for its mural showcasing the district’s rich history with influential figures like Harriet Tubman and the Obamas. Here, on U Street, we chose three shops: Crossroads Trading, Good Wood and Current Boutique.
At a Crossroads
Crossroads Trading is a popular store showcasing a glorious hodgepodge of cultures and fashions through the ages. There’s an overall downtown-meets-urban-chic vibe, yet it offers everything from casual wear to Bohemian, from rocker to preppy styles.
“Right now, we are focusing on bold colors and trends like wide-leg pants and the ripped look,” says store associate Dria Dellily. “But we are always looking for styles that fit the season.”
A favorite find at Crossroads was a pair of black floral embroidered leather boots from Zara. In a sea of black and charcoal-colored shoes for the fall season, the embellished material made them stand out from the rest. Even better, these boots are a steal at just $18.
Another gem was a genuine leather dress from French Connection, priced at $24. One can never have too many little black dresses in their closet, and this LBD has an edgy refresh. A simple round-neck dress, it is made of super soft leather, giving the clothing a smooth texture and structured shape. Small pelt detailing runs down the length of the dress and across the chest, creating a lengthening effect. It’s a perfect day-to-night staple — swap boots for heels to take this dress out for a spin on date night.
Another must-have fall essential is the Soskin plaid trench coat, priced at $28. Trench coats are all over the street-style scene these days, and fall is the best time to work one back into an everyday look. It’s a lightweight and layer-able piece for transitioning that wardrobe into cooler weather. The coat even cinches at the waist with its built-in belt, making it a staple that pops.
Prices at Crossroads mainly range from $10 to $50, with the most expensive and designer items hanging in the back of the shop. They also have a huge inventory of scarves, belts, jewelry and bags to finish off any look, which gives this store some major bonus points.
Walking into Good Wood, customers might mistake the shop for an antiques or furniture store, but if they kept looking, they would discover an impressive selection of both artisan and modern clothing and accessories scattered throughout.
We kind of get the feeling that fall never escapes this autumn-color-splashed haven. In fact, the store actually feels warm — with its dark wood and a common color palette of golden yellows, deep blues and maroon.
With its combination of vintage, consignment and newer styles, this store has everything from long European- inspired linen and cotton dresses and peasant tops to 1950s action-flick murals and velvet couches.
“People come in looking for furniture, and then they end up walking out with a dress or a bottle of perfume or
some stationary,” says store associate Julian Comanda.
And we can vouch for that. This is the spot for floral or flowy dress aficionados. Among the rows of restored tables and rustic vases are an impressive amount of antique wooden racks full of boho and artsy dresses.
One of our favorites from its selection was a faded, soft-blue peasant-style dress by Lazy Bones, $70, with open lace work on the top and delicate embroidery along the waistline and on the sleeves. The lining along the center accentuates the waist, where it then flows out to around mid-calf length. It has a light, earthy feel and is a particularly flattering style for all body types.
Another store favorite from the same designer was a patterned dress with rows of little floral designs. There’s a loose, half-knot bow at the top neckline, adding a special touch and giving the dress a playful vibe. Priced the highest on our list at $115, the garment’s special organic cotton material and timeless appeal makes it a worthy investment.
The last stop on our shopping itinerary was Current Boutique. The store feels a lot like stepping into a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-inspired dream closet, with many bright colors, cool mirrors, retro posters, hardwood floors and, of course, hanging chandeliers.
This quaint little boutique was a perfectly perfumed and air-conditioned refuge from the summer heat. On a busy Friday, the store was bustling with plenty of customers, basking in the attention of the sales staff while pawing over different fabrics and textures and trying out trendy dresses, jewelry and hats.
And, Current is the perfect spot to build an ensemble for a cocktail-style evening out or fancy date night. It even has a particularly great collection of dressy heels and delicate jewelry to give any outfit just the right amount of glitz. One particular item on the must-have list was the Basic’s reloaded jumpsuit in the color sage. Class up this khaki jumpsuit, $69, with a blazer and some statement jewelry. Or dress it down for ladies’ night with a pair of sparkly flats and some bold makeup.
And because everyone needs at least one pair of black heels in their fall closet, we were pretty enthused to discover some Schutz black suede Kelma ankle pumps for $68. They wrap at the ankle with a playful draping-tie closure, providing a unique twist on the classic strapped heel. Pair them with just about any style of dress or mid-length skirt to spice things up without taking away from any other standout wardrobe pieces.
All in all, we were pleased with the U Street finds. Only an hour’s drive from Baltimore, it’s a quick, fun day trip worth taking for some one-of-a-kind outfits to show off this fall.
WHILE THRIFTING …
We all know that shopping can sometimes feel like a sport. When it’s time to fuel up between stores, head to Busboys and Poets for a fresh cup of Joe. A coffee-shop-meets-restaurant-meets-bookstore/poetry venue, Busboys and Poets is a D.C. essential (and coming soon to Columbia). It has a full menu of classic coffee choices along with seasonal and house-specialty options to keep that shopping spree going all day. Plus, with its charming and well-stocked bookstore in the back, guests can pick up that newly released book they’ve been dying to read, all while supporting a local establishment.
Food with a View
When it’s time for some afternoon sustenance or, at least, a momentary view that doesn’t include dressing rooms or clothing racks, The Smith along U Street is a reliable choice. This postcard-worthy French eatery is quaint with a classic and open Parisian-style indoor/outdoor seating arrangement. Try out one of the delicious salads or sandwiches while taking in the fresh air and watching the city buzz.
The U Street Corridor is also known for its music scene, so it’s no surprise that the city’s best record stores are located in this area as well. For self-proclaimed audiophiles, Som Records, an underground vinyl shop, has an impressive selection of records — from oldies to dance and indie. The prices are fair, the space is particularly unique, and patrons can find a gem for themselves or a great gift for someone else. With some of the best fall consignment finds, it’s a must-hit stop before the trek home.
CHARMING CONSIGN FINDS
After Style traveled to Washington, D.C. to check out consignment shops there, I returned to Baltimore’s own consignment scene to find out what is trending. To no surprise, business is busy for local vintage shops around the area. What’s selling? Dresses are big right now. And, no kidding, fanny/hip packs are regaining popularity.
In Roland Park, ReDeux owners Jan Braun and Linda Eisenbrandt say a lot of their bestsellers include dresses and handbags with brands like Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Michael Kors, Dooney and Bourke, JPK, Missoni and Chanel. Customers also can find Burberry quilted coats and belts, among other items.
“Dresses are doing really well right now, and we have a great selection from every day to dressy cocktail styles,” Braun says. “We will also help style them with a full outfit, pairing dresses with accessories, bags, things like that.”
Chris Anderson, owner of nearby Vogue Revisited, also likes to sell a “bit of everything for everyone” and sees her customers picking an entire outfit rather than just one item. The boutique does a great job with a variety of accessory options, its most famous being jewelry, with styles from David Yurman as well as Michele watches and a lot of costume jewels.
Anderson wonders if the hit Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” may have had a recent influence on consumers and be the reason the number of consignments she receives has risen. Which is another way of saying it’s a good time to go shopping.
Another Baltimore hot spot is the fashionable La Chic Boutique in Mount Washington. The shop is filled with Chanel, Prada, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Marc Jacobs, among other top sellers, and also sees a high number of consignors every day, keeping it “different, unique, and vibrant,” says manager Lisa Shannon.
“Right now, sundresses are the trending item. Women are looking for a dress that is not clingy but that still has shape. Lily Pulitzer is very popular,” Shannon says. “Women are also looking for dresses they can wear to work but can also be worn out because versatility is key. People usually want to pair dresses like this with a fun pair of chandelier earrings to help dress it up.”
She adds that other popular items are colorful pieces or outfits with a lot of bead work in the fabric. Another on-trend look is “pretty, spunky and artsy with lots of light-colored clothing,” she adds.
While she can’t fully predict what is in store for fall, people usually go for pieces that are patterned or textured, Shannon says. Why? Because things “can’t be black all the time,” she says.