It used to be that buying used clothing was something done but not discussed. But these days, scoring high-end designer items for half the price actually offers a kind of cachet. You’re not only sophisticated—you’re savvy. And, hey, you’re recycling.
Every day, Baltimore’s fashionistas deposit their castoff Chanels, Kate Spades, Balenciagas and Missoni LBDs at local consignment stores where they’re snatched up by other Baltimore fashionistas.
“It’s a win-win,” says Andrea Kaplan, proprietress of Love Me Two Times, a high-end consignment store in Roland Park. The consignor gets rid of the item and earns store credit or cold hard cash without fussing with eBay or waiting in line at the post office. The buyer scores that very same item for far less than retail, and gets instant gratification—no waiting days or weeks for a package to arrive.
Stop by any consignment store and you’ll meet regulars who visit several times a week without fail, dropping off items and buying others. Some women even transport their loot in suitcases—Louis Vuitton suitcases, of course.
So cull your wardrobe and get hunting. We’re confident you’ll bag a bargain.
La Chic owner Mary Anne Barker rings up a customer in her pink fashion haven.
La Chic boutique
Owner: Mary Anne Barker opened La Chic almost three years ago, but she is already savvy about differentiating it from other area stores. She offers free layaway. And she has a “wish list” next to the register where customers note the items they’re searching for: “Birken bag,” “Lilly pants,” “any Chanel bag” and so on. Each week, Barker emails her 1,000 consignors to tell them the in-demand items. More often than not, she makes a match.
Vibe: Pinktastic princess. Barker wants the store to feel more like a new boutique than a consignment shop. There’s an abundance of pink dresses, charming tchotchkes on the wall and lots of (new) wall signs, candles and statement earrings.
On the racks: There’s one rack just for Lilly (this is Mount Washington, after all) and other racks have blouses, dresses and pants from Anthropologie, Bebe, Marc Jacobs and more. Shoes range from Dansko to Prada. Bonus: a men’s rack with vintage and high-end offerings from Hermes, Burberry and others. Many items are barely worn—and all are either current style or true vintage finds.
Typical customer: Girly-girls of all ages—though Barker says men often come in to buy gifts for their wives.
Killer find: Chanel Black Caviar Jumbo 2.55 single flap silver chain handbag—originally, $5,300, sold for $3,100. 5614 Newbury St., 443-869-2247, lachic boutiquemd.com —L.W.
With its “Forever 21”-vibe, Uptown Cheapskate is the go-to place for trendy (and savvy) teens and 20-somethings.
Owner: Uptown may be a national chain, but Timonium manager Rachael Williams says each location is unique. The variety comes from both the taste of the consignors (75 percent of the store’s merchandise comes from customers) and the discretion of the trend-tracking employees. “The buyer-trained staff is really the success of the store,” says Williams.
Vibe: The Top 40 music and high school and college kids milling about make Uptown’s clean, well-organized space feel more like Forever 21 than a consignment boutique.
On the racks: The shelves cater primarily to juniors and young adult guys and girls, with lots of Abercrombie and American Eagle. The stuff is cheap, with most items in the $10 to $15 range.
Typical customer: Teens and 20-somethings, but the clothes will suit anyone with trendy taste (and a reasonably small waist). “We have some hip grannies who come in the store,” Williams says, “and we also get a lot of parents shopping for their kids.”
Killer find: Chloe sunglasses ($70) and a Coach shoulder bag ($29.99). Act fast: luxury items fly out the door before you can say, “Is that a Kate Spade?”1830 York Road, 410-560-5890, http://www.uptowncheapskate.com —Kimberly Uslin
Love Me Two Times
Owner: When Andrea Kaplan opened Love Me Two Times in 2012, much of the inventory came from her own closet. A dedicated fashionista and former contemporary buyer for Octavia in Pikesville, Kaplan is a high priestess whose message is “high fashion at a fraction of the cost.”
Vibe: Sex in (Baltimore) City. Think vintage posters, designer stilettos and evening dresses. “It’s like a party in here,” says Kaplan.
On the racks: High-end contemporary designers such as Chanel, Hermes, Pucci, Tiffany, Missoni, Burberry and Prada.
Kaplan authenticates all items to make sure they’re legit.
Typical customer: A professional gal aged 25 to 55 who loves fashion. Some keep tabs on Kaplan’s Facebook and Twitter feeds to read up on hot items before they disappear.
Killer find: Limited edition Louis Vuitton graffiti mini Alma bag—originally $3,000, priced at $940.
600 Wyndhurst Ave., Suite 102, (410) 323-1070, http://www.lovemetwotimesbaltimore.com —L.W.
Owner: Chris Anderson is not into fashion, and she’s not ashamed to admit it. She bought Vogue Revisited from a family friend in 1993 because she wanted a job that would keep her on her feet—and her consignment store certainly does. At 20 years old, it’s the oldest of the area stores and one of the busiest—on Saturdays, the line for the dressing room is loooong. Anderson has 8,000 active consignors, some of whom send items from out of state.
Vibe: Homey and down to earth. Anderson often brings her dog and there are always plenty of regulars to offer an honest opinion about what you’re trying on.
On the racks: Anderson says she offers “something for everyone”—and it’s true. Want Trina Turk or St. John? They’re here. Want size 10 Danskos, an Old Navy tee or a David Yurman ring? Here, too. Sizes from 0 to 4X.
Typical customer: All ages, races and economic classes rub elbows at the racks.
Killer find: A lavender Michael Kors dress—originally $2,000, priced at $580. 4002 Roland Ave., 410-235-4140, http://www.voguere visited.com —L.W.
Modeled after famous L.A. consignment shops, ReDeux at Wyndhurst Station is filled with Burberry-loving babes.
Owners: Four years ago, Jan Braun and Linda Eisenbrandt opened a pop-up consignment store with plans to run it for one month only. But business was so good they kept on going. Located in Wyndhurst Station, which has become a high-end consignment destination, with Love Me Two Times and Little Lamb nearby, ReDeux does a gangbuster business on Saturdays, when folks (some of whom drive up from D.C.) snatch up the deals.
Vibe: The love child of Talbots and Ann Taylor. The store is airy and uncluttered with well-organized racks.
On the racks: Labels include Burberry, Kate Spade, Lilly Pulitzer and others, with prices ranging from $10 to $3,000. A full rack of designer cashmere sweaters start at $42 and a new high-end room in the back has cotillion gowns, designer suits and couture dresses.
Typical customer: Carpool moms, teens from the nearby private schools and Hopkins professors. D.C. types, too.
Killer find: Pink Ostrich Loro Piana handbag—originally $17,000, priced at $4,500. 5002 Lawndale Ave., 410-323-2140, http://www.redeuxapparel.com —L.W.
Aimee Bracken serves as Form shoppers’ style guru.
Owner: Aimee Bracken opened Form in 2007 after she noticed many of her friends were heading to D.C. or New York to shop at boutiques. The store originally sold only new clothes, but after the recession hit Bracken added designer consignment. Customers loved the more affordable (but just as stylish) clothes and consignment became a dominant presence.
Vibe: A taste of the meatpacking district in Baltimore. With its high industrial ceilings juxtaposed by elegant chandeliers and fuzzy rugs and its well-curated collection, Form fits right in with the Clipper Mill aesthetic.
On the racks: Women’s apparel and accessories both old and new. The designers are mostly what you’d find on the fourth floor of Nordstrom: Milly, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg and Theory.
Typical customer: Like Bracken, most of Form’s customers are trend current. Most of the shoppers are regulars, too, trusting the tres chic Bracken as their style guru.
Killer find: A beautiful burnt orange Vince shift dress—originally $300, priced at $114. 2002 Clipper Park Road, 410-889-3116, formtheboutique.com —Marisa hill dunn
Owner: After working as the visual display manager at Macy’s for 10 years, Beth Joy turned her love for shopping at consignment stores into a full-time job when she opened Fashion Attic in Fells Point. Her blog, off of the Fashion Attic website, offers a fashion insider’s eye to putting together outfits we can actually wear.
Vibe: Hip thrift shop. You might be overwhelmed at first by the sheer amount of stuff crammed into the store’s two small rooms, but take a breath and dive in. The racks are well-organized.
On the racks: Women’s clothes and accessories from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Gap, Anne Klein, Talbots, Liz Claiborne, 7 for All Mankind and more.
Typical customer: A 20- to 40-year-old stylish gal. Many come looking for one or two items to amp up their wardrobe and leave with much more.
Killer find: Work or party appropriate pointy-toed Sam Edelman heels for $20.
1926 Fleet St., 410-276-0817, http://www.thefashionattic.com —M.h.d.
Owner: Shopping for the latest trends is easy. Finding items to fit your personal style is not. Ella Rosson opened Last Tango in Pikesville 13 years ago to offer unique and vintage pieces that shoppers won’t find even at top-notch boutiques.
Vibe: The Neiman Marcus that Baltimore lacks. Tall racks stocked with chic suits, full-length mirrors and a wall of Louis Vuitton bags.
On the racks: Clothing, shoes, purses and jewelry. Designers include Armani, Manolo Blahnik and Stuart Weitzman.
Typical customer: A professional woman who works and plays hard. Most are regulars who have a clear sense of personal style.
Killer find: Black vintage Chanel clogs (in perfect condition) for $473. 1017
Reisterstown Road, 410-484-9958 —M.H.D.
Laura Agatstein and Bella Prekalsky’s Better Than New offers everything from Chico’s tees to Gucci gowns.
Better Than New
Owners: Longtime friends Laura Agatstein and Bella Prekalsky began considering consignment after their designer-stuffed closets could no longer accommodate even one more La Perla thong. Dissatisfied with the quality of other resale stores, they opened Better Than New in Towson in June to capture the “ambience and personal touch” of a high-end boutique.
Vibe: Cinderella meets Chanel. The vast array of designer items in the small pink room make it seem almost like a costume shop.
On the racks: A wide variety of women’s clothing and accessories, from basic Chico’s and Ann Taylor tops to Prada shoes and Gucci gowns. While couture pieces are a bit more costly, items generally run $30 to $70.
Typical customer: “Women who shop here generally know designer clothes well and can appreciate the discounts we offer,” says Agatstein.
Killer find: A gray sequined Sue Wong cocktail dress with tags still on—originally $470, priced at $180. 714 York Rd., (410) 821-7999, http://www.betterthannewtowson.com —K.U.
Wear It’s At
Owner: Named “Giving Goddess of the Decade” by the local nonprofit Suited to Succeed, which helps Baltimore-area women transition into the workforce, Wear It’s At owner Stephanie Torrible has more than just a passion for fashion. In addition to decking out local ladies, she donates hundreds of items each week to Suited’s welfare-to-work program.
Vibe: Goodwill and Bloomingdale as BFFs. The perfect combination of thrift shop and boutique, Wear It’s At is a bargain shopper’s haven: spacious, thoughtfully arranged and staffed with a friendly, fashionable staff.
On the racks: The front room of the Reisterstown store is stocked with White House Black Market/ J.Crew-quality clothing and accessories, while the middle section features plus sizes for full-figured fashionistas. A third room features high-end apparel (Gucci, Fendi, Prada), including a designer clearance section.
Typical Customer: Women aged 20 to 50. Some shop the $3 rack and others the couture section, where prices can reach $5,000.
Killer find: The $3 rack has selections from Betsey Johnson and Paper Denim. Also on hand: a brand new Alexander McQueen zipper dress ($150) and a discontinued Chanel tri-fold wallet ($695). 49 Main St., 410-526-2003, wearitsatshop. com. —K.U.
Five Tips for Consigning
1. Identify a store in line with your fashion sense (and budget) and develop a relationship with the owner. Learn which labels and categories the owner accepts. Learn which days consignments are accepted and the maximum and minimum number of items.
2. Study the consignment policy carefully. Consignors typically get 40 to 50 percent of the sale price, though some stores only offer store credit, not cash. Some stores discount every 30 days; some discount only during store-wide sales. Others require the consignor to keep track of the cut-off date and retrieve unsold items.
3. Check the store’s website or call to find out what season is being accepted. Some shops stop accepting summer clothes in June, for example. Other places will store items until the next season.
4. Clean your clothes before you consign them. Some stores also require them to be on hangers.
5. Try negotiating with the owner for a higher percentage of the sale price—or even payment on the spot—if you have a unique or particularly valuable item to consign.
From kids clothes to wedding dresses, these specialty consignment and thrift stores have what you’re after.
Local hipsters stalk vintage prey at Hunting Ground.
If Anthropologie opened a thrift shop, Hunting Ground would be it. Jessica Soulen and Jenna Hattenburg worked in retail for years before opening Hunting Ground in a former church in Hampden. The owners carefully curate their vintage offerings for the artsy set—everything from dresses ($20 to $30) and blazers to L.L. Bean flannels and a Christian Dior jacket ($200)—and offer vintage and new jewelry as well as a great selection of boots and shoes. 3649 Falls Road, 410-243-0789, http://www.shophuntingground.com
For a Good Cause
With its vast selection of women’s, men’s, children’s and babies’ clothing, kitchen apparel and other home décor items, The Wise Penny (5902 York Road., 410-435-3244, http://www.jlbalt.org) is like Target—only everything is “formerly owned.” The shop also boasts a vast collection of designer jeans. Buy them and your butt will look good and you’ll be supporting The Junior League of Baltimore, which has run the store since the 1930s. At Ruth’s Closet in Owings Mills, 100 percent of profits from the department store and designer-brand clothes benefit House of Ruth Maryland. Hot tip: Ruth’s Closet invites community members to donate one special item (furs, boots, jackets, etc.) for its “One Great Thing” event, this year Oct. 10-13. Pick up some fabulous fashions and feel good doing it. 9131 Reisterstown Road, 410-581-9780, http://www.hruth.com/ruths-closet-boutique.asp
Lily Pad is the perfect place for the preppy baby. The store sells girls and boys clothes from infant to size 10, with nearly everything under $30—even an adorable pair of mini baby blue Jack Rogers. 6909 York Road, 410-377-0025, http://www.lilypadoftowson.com. Little Lamb offers clothing for infants to teenagers, with brands like Pied Piper, Talbots and Lilly. The store also sells gently used cradles, headboards, books, room décor—and lacrosse sticks, natch. 5002 Lawndale Ave., 410-433-9086, http://www.littlelambconsignments.com. Kid to Kid in Cockeysville’s is part of a national chain of kids’ consignment shops and stocks gently used gear from onesies to baby strollers. 556 Cranbrook Rd., 410-667-0360, http://www.kidtokid.com/cockeysville
Instead of “something borrowed,” how about something “previously owned”? The Bridal Suite is Baltimore’s only consignment shop with everything a bride needs: gowns, bridesmaids dresses and jewelry. Owners Nolvia Benavides and Karla Rivas took over in June and has stocked her Federal Hill store with everything from the sweetly simple to the elaborately bejeweled by Vera Wang, Maggie Sottero and more. Prices from $100 to $2,000. 1126 S. Charles St., 443-759-5748, the http://www.bridalsuitemd.com. — M.H.D.