$ense & $ensibility Monday: Resale Retail Therapy

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I love buying used and vintage clothing both because of the price tag and because it offers a world of creative and fun possibilities – when everyone on the street seems to be wearing the same sundress, used clothing allows me to express my uniqueness. However, a day spent doing some resale retail therapy this weekend brought up some questions about the differences between consignment, vintage, and thrift stores, so I thought I’d let you all in on the trade lingo.

Consignment shops are stores where individuals bring their unwanted clothing to sell. The store does not buy the clothing outright, instead acting as a dealer for the clothing and splitting the money made from the sale with the original owner. Consignment shops tend to carry higher-end clothing and accessories. These are the shops to look at for designer labels, special occasion dresses and great suits at a fraction of what their cost would be first-hand.
Vintage shops are privately owned and the owner buys the clothing and then sells it at a premium. To be truly vintage, clothing should have been produced between 1920 and 1980 (any older and it’s antique, any younger and it’s “retro”). Some “vintage” stores will have a mix of vintage and retro clothing, some may even have some new clothing. The bottom line, though, is that all the clothing is owned by the store and resold for more than they spent on it.
Thrift stores are run by a charity or non-profit as a way to make money. The items on sale were all donated and profits from sales benefit the charity in some way. Examples in the US include the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores.
I visit all three types of stores to find unique pieces for my wardrobe. And, when there’s something in my closet I no longer wear, I take it to one of these stores to either get money from it or make a donation. My three favorite resale finds have been a pink 1960s swing coat (perfect for channeling Jackie Kennedy), a classic handbag big enough to carry everything I need, and a gorgeous Philip Treacy hat for a small fraction of its original price. Do you have any great resale finds? If not, will you consider looking for some? Your wallet will thank you!
Katharine Albritton is a writer and art market specialist. Follow the art market with her at 360 Degrees of Art and follow her on Twitter.