Consignment shopping can be tricky.
Consignment stores like Goodwill typically carry large collection of donated clothes (i.e., markdown merchandise) from major department stores like Forever21, JCPenney’s, Sears, Gap, Old Navy, and more. They carry an assortment of blazers, dresses, slacks, high-waisted pants, blouses, sweaters, pencil skirts, accessories, and much more.
Meaning, if you peruse the racks of a Goodwill store located in an affluent neighborhood, you’re likely to find the same apparel from your local department store.
Why? Because we live in time where fashion is made and consumed at such an alarming rate that excess fashion, i.e., unsold merchandise is donated to textile recyclers like consignment stores and charities instead of given the opportunity to accumulate.
Or, have author Elizabeth L. Cline explain the consumerism phenomenon it in an excerpt from her book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
What American doesn’t have something hanging in his or her closet worn only once or twice, a pair of pants waiting for a diet, or even a brand-new dress or jacket with the tags still on? Common sense and everyday experience tell us that we have so many clothes that a majority go underused and neglected. According to a 2010 national survey in ShopSmart magazine, one in four American women own seven pairs of jeans, but we only wear four of them regularly. Not surprisingly, charities regularly see brand-new clothes come in with tags still affixed. “We see people throwing away new stuff every day,” Maui [Michael Noneza, a Salvation Army assistant supervisor] says.
There is an enormous disconnect between increasing clothing consumption and the resultant waste, partially because unworn clothes aren’t immediately thrown out like other disposable products. Instead, they accumulate in our closets or wherever we can find space for them.
Most Americans are thoroughly convinced there is another person in their direct vicinity who truly needs and wants our unwanted clothes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Charities long ago passed the point of being able to sell all of our wearable unwanted clothes. According to John Paben, co-owner of used-clothing processer Mid- West Textile, “They never could.”
Instead, there are thousands of secondhand textile processors in the United States today, mostly small family businesses, many of them several generations old. I visited Trans- Americas Trading Co., a third- generation textile recycler in Clifton, N.J., which employs 85 people and processes close to 17 million pounds of used clothing a year. Inside Trans-Americas, there is a wall of cubed-up clothing five bales tall and more than 20 bales long. “This is literally several hundred thousand pounds of textile waste, and we bring in two trailer loads of this much every day,” Trans-Americas president Eric Stubin told me. The volume they process has gone up over the years alongside our consumption of clothing.
Without textile recyclers, charities would be totally beleaguered and forced to throw away everything that couldn’t be sold. Charities might even have to turn us away. The only benefit to this doomsday scenario is that our clothes would pile up in our house or in landfills, finally forcing us to face down just how much clothing waste we create.
So, what’s a fashion conscious woman to do whose currently found herself a slave to her budget? Profiteer in the phenomenon by expertly shopping at consignment stores.
If you’re unprepared for the task, their large collection of clothing can seem daunting unless you have a well-planned game plan.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to leave a consignment shop with pieces that transition fluidly into your wardrobe.
Build an outfit from an accessory
A brown leather skinny belt worn at the waist makes an otherwise plain dress appear styled. The same can be said for a adding a statement bag or shoes with said dress. Tip: When shopping for leather accessories, check for irreparable damages like water wear.
Granted, wearing clashing prints can make you appear like a fashion victim. However, you can wear prints subtlety. The rule of thumb is to make the print piece your statement item, and mute your outfit with subdue shades (like black, white, or nude). If you’re more brazen, choose one color from your print’s color scheme to highlight. Tip: When buying prints stick to an item that has no more than two colors.
Find an oversized sweater
An oversized sweater can be very versatile. It can be worn as a tunic, a pullover, or as a dress with the right accessories. When shopping for one, stick to sweaters in a neutral palette for an easier transition into your wardrobe. For a more daring outfit, try a colorful sweater and wear it with black leggings and knee-high boots. Tip: When choosing a sweater, check for tears or excessive shedding.
Grab a sharp blazer
In terms of power dressing, a blazer is the ultimate investment item. It intrinsically dresses up any outfit, and can be worn in a multitude of looks. When choosing a blazer, select a color like nude, black, or gray for an easier transition into your wardrobe. For an effortless look, pair it with denim shorts and a v-neck t-shirt, or wear it with tapered pants and platform heels for a polished look. Tip: Choose a blazer that’s tapered at the waist for a less boxy appearance.
Invest in a lady-like blouse
Not just for librarians, a lady-like blouse aids in adding an air of sophistication to any outfit. Wear it with colored skinny leg jeans and platform pumps for a sleek look. Or, for a professional look wear it tucked inside a knee-length pencil skirt. Tip: Select blouses in such fabrics as silk and chiffon for a more refined appearance.
Select bright colors
A consignment store carries an array of brightly colored items that are great for adding a burst of color to any outfit. For example, consider an orange blazer. On the rack it seems intimidating, but if you wear it with skinny leg jeans, a white v-neck t-shirt, and nude platform pumps it makes a stylish outfit. Tip: Stick to one bright color for an easy transition into your wardrobe.
Buy a little black dress
The ultimate staple in a woman’s wardrobe, the LBD adds sex appeal. When choosing a little black dress, shop for two categories: sexy and conservative. Conservative LBD’s include dresses that are mid-length to enhance your curves or dresses with scoop or sweetheart necklines. Dresses that include cut outs, or mesh or transparent fabrics add an element of sexiness without appearing gaudy. Tip: If the color of a dress appears faded, do not buy it.
Share your thoughts: Is consignment shopping for you? Why or why not?