The Allure of Pre Loved

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story


Greetings from a rather soggy Sunshine Coast. We have had rain for nearly one week now. When this happens, I feel so sorry for the holidaymakers whom I am imagining are holed up in some two-bedroom apartment, looking out of their sliding glass doors onto a small swimming pool accumulating on their balcony with a fine mist of never-ending rain blurring their view. Those facing the rear wall of the adjacent apartment block may find this an improvement in their view; others may find their view has been depreciated somewhat.

This is Blog #21. And I’d like to share with you today, fabulous readers, my love of pre-loved shopping. Or as the Americans call it, consignment shopping. My photography tendencies are nothing but quirky, and the photo accompanying this blog post was taken almost exactly one year ago in Santa Barbara , a very lifelike town in southern California. It’s known for movie types and wine country (brilliantly combined in the movie Sideways, which if you haven’t seen it… well, I could digress for the entire posting about that film, but I shall resist. Except to say: see it!).

I stumbled across two consignment stores in Santa Barbara (and we were only visiting for a couple of hours – so howzat? My laser-like honing device for consignment stores is something to behold. I can spot one from a moving vehicle at 100 paces) neither of which offered up anything for me on the days I visited, but both were still worth the look.

What I love about consignment store shopping is it’s like a treasure hunt. You never know what gems you are going to uncover. The underlying great thing about consignment stores is they are (almost always) full of quality clothing. They aren’t like thrift or charity stores, where the quality of the clothing can be variable and many of their clothes started their life new in discount department stores. Consignment stores carry designer label quality clothing in great condition. I have purchased many a loved item of clothing, sometimes purchased NWT (New With Tags) – never been worn.

The downside to consignment shopping is sizing. If you find something you love and its not in your size, you can’t ask for them to search “out the back” for the same item in your size. I have walked out chagrined from many a consignment store having found something gorgeous (usually animal print) in a size too small. Things too big can usually be altered (although depending on the alterations, they can cost as much or if not more than the original purchase). Things too small – well, short of an amputation, can’t be altered to fit. (and the body parts that would need to be amputated are generally considered vital, or at least, desirable, to keep).

Dallas. In Dallas in August 09, I found two consignment stores, both of which I visited twice, once with my friend Katherine and her aunt Helen, where we spent a fun-filled few hours trying things on and modelling for one another. (just like guys do in hardware stores and car parts wrecking yards, right?). Visiting these stores was such fun that I had another whack at it on my own. Well, Dan (husband and driver for the day) was waiting outside with a newspaper. These stores – Re-threads and Clotheshorse Anonymous (great name huh?) – provided hours of entertainment. And the thing was – they were so much larger than the consignment stores in Australia (which btw, are often called pre-loved clothing stores).

The downside to these Dallas consignment stores was many of the items were in sizes too small for me – American size 4 – 6 seemed to be the size of much of the items in store. This is roughly the size of a appropriate-weight-to-height-ratio 10 year old boy, and I can only assume that many of the Dallas diva’s who consign their clothing to these stores are thin as rails. I did find some fabulous items including:

  • an Escada silk animal print shirt – NWT (never been worn) – $50. Equivalent new would be over $500
  • two pairs of designer jeans, both my size and both hemmed to the right leg length – amazing! $20 each. Equivalent new (including alterations to fit me) would be over $120 each
  • the most amazing pair of animal print slides, faux-patent (wanky fashion talk for “shiny”), with diamante detailing on top. Never been worn – $25. Priceless (if I were a pair of shoes, I’d be these)

Pre and now Me Loved. Four of my gorgeous animal print jackets and 3 turquoise jackets were purchased pre-loved and they’re some of my favourite pieces. (and if you are wondering, the answer is “of course a gal needs 3 turquoise jackets when she lives in tropical Queensland“. and the other answer is “yes, I do have more than 3“). I can’t name all the beautiful items in my closet that I love that previously belonged to someone else, there’s so many. These are different to sale items. Pre-loved clothing are like foster children who never found the right home – until now (well behaved, designer foster children, I might add.)

I have found consignment stores tucked away on side streets, and inside cute little locals shopping arcades (which is where the Santa Barbara one was) – they are often off the beaten track, and almost always worth a visit. The USA in particular is a great place to go consignment shopping, if you have the patience and time (and curiosity. And don’t mind being chagrined from time to time when a stunning gotta-have-it piece is too small for you. A good chagrine won’t kill ya, I’ve found.)

And then there is the money….The final great thing about consignment shopping – apart from the magical mystery tour it takes you on, is the pricing. You can find sensational, quality, stylish, unique items at greatly reduced prices. I have a pair of Fendi high heels, that new would be out of my price range, that I purchased for $120.

So, gotta love consignment shopping. Right?

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