Resale isn't a trend. It's a reality. The appetite for goods is so ravenous that we give away, donate, sell and consign items just so that we can make room to buy more items. We are the American consumer, and we cannot be appeased.
Some people shop resale for the prices; others because it's eco-friendly; others want something nostalgic; others crave one-of-a-kind items. And then there are people like me who just love the thrill of the hunt (along with all of the above).
So with that, let's just say that demand has changed the supply. The gritty, slightly musty and crammed racks of resale past are past.
Not every resale shop looks like a high-end boutique, but most have styles and personalities that say more than "we sell old clothes."
The emergence of nostalgic pop culture and the rise of hipsters and yupsters (yuppie hipsters) has been a resale boon. It's no longer fringe to wear a 1940 Betty Draper frock for $20 when Banana Republic is selling replicas for $120. Naturally, this phenomenon creates a wider audience for the original.
And then there's the dirty secret that the latest collection of pendant necklaces from such designers as Trina Turk available at Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Piperlime, amazon.com and a slew of other outlets are strikingly reminiscent of the '60 and '70s costume jewelry on the racks at local resale shops for a fraction of the cost. And would you rather buy the 2012 Diane von Furstenburg printed wrap dress being sold in hundreds of stores today or a 1970s version that exists in just a few hundred closets?
We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Vintage shopping is not for the faint of heart. You need to stay hydrated, stock up on protein and possibly pack a snack. If you love clothes, you'll be entertained even if you don't make a purchase. If you hate shopping, we have some suggestions. If you love shopping, we've got more suggestions. If you hate vintage because you're a plus-sized woman, we have some suggestions and solutions.
Here are a few of our favorite stops that you should put on your resale tour.
THE BALE OUT
701 North 15th Street (fourth floor of City Museum, no admission to shop, stop at front desk for a wrist band), St. Louis, 314-258-3644, thebaleout.com
This is the kind of nutty vintage clothing store that you'd expect to find in the how-is-this-possible City Museum. It's zany and improbable. It's chaotic and inviting. The store includes an espresso bar, so you can recharge on the premises.
The inventory for the shop was collected more than five years ago when the late Bob Cassilly and his wife, Giovanna, got a call that more than 600 bales of clothing needed to be saved from the landfill. The building where they were being stored was being demolished, and it is the Cassilly way to recycle. So the Bale Out was born, and it is a delightful hodgepodge of eclectic eccentricity. The items range roughly from the 1930s to the 1980s, and it's a charming assortment of dresses, lady coats, men's jackets, sweaters, scarfs, skirts, vests, belts, flannels, hats, sport coats, shirts, jewelry and a mountain of men's ties. But be forewarned. Shopping here is an adventure. Each rack is relatively organized by theme, but you will find wool coats, cowboy hats, heavy cardigans, polyester shirts, sailor pants and Doris Day dresses within a few feet of one another. There's a surprise at every blink, and we love it here. Proceeds now benefit a foundation in honor of Bob Cassilly and his surviving art work and projects.
447 North Euclid Avenue, Central West End, 314-884-8436, boroughvintage.com
This vintage shop will appeal to those looking for the kind of ease that comes from boutique shopping. It's one of the best curated vintage shops in town. The shop owner merchandises according to current trends and features a variety of looks.
There's nothing hodgepodge or haphazard. The owner Dawna Sturdivant calls it "vintage with a modern twist." That's why she chose a metallic cocktail dress paired with jean shirt to represent her love of mixing and matching. The shop generally features four different trends at a time that are curated by racks for people looking to coordinate an entire outfit or pick up items to pair with something they already own. She's keen on working with customers to fit their budget and style. Prices start at $18 and typically top out around $128, unless it's a dress for a formal occasion. And for people who love vintage, but don't love the sizing, she has a separate alterations shop on the premises called, Apparel Doctor. The shop can create new items based on vintage patterns in any size your heart desires. Custom dresses, starting around $100, require about three visits and are completed in three to four weeks.
TFA, The Future Antiques
6514 Chippewa Street, St. Louis Hills, 314-865-1552, tfa50s.com
This shop is a mid-century modern lover's dream, and although the furniture is prominent, the clothing supply is ample. There's been a recent influx of 1960s geometric mod shift dresses just in time for the warm weather and neon trend.
But like most vintage, you never know what you'll find here. Dresses are plentiful, and there's a surprising variety of sizes. The store recently acquired a healthy collection from the estate of a woman who wore a size 16. The store is well-appointed and assorted according to color. It's heavy on dress with a respectable supply of tops and skirts. And there's a coveted no-fitting-room-required wall of handbags and hats in a surprising array of fabrics and styles. The store concentrates its clothing stock on 1950s to 1970s apparel roughly priced from $20 to $70.
9739 Manchester Road, Rock Hill 314-918-0575, shoprung.org
This newbie among resale shops has a problem. "People don't want to come in because they think we're a high-priced boutique," says store manager Kirsten Wylder. And we'd think perhaps she was exaggerating if we hadn't visited the store.
It's open, bright, cheery and it smells lightly of vanilla. The music is vaguely tribal, folk and rock but soothing, and we wanted to undress every mannequin in the store and take those clothes home. A size 8, double-breasted two-piece navy blue Tahari tuxedo-inspired pantsuit with black piping still had the original tags on it, and yet the Rung price was less than $70. The shop is first and foremost a nonprofit devoted to providing career clothing to women in need, but it's not the first thing you think of when you're shopping. There are original, new items from local female jewelry artists for sale as well. And for those who hate to shop resale because they hate the disappointment of rummaging through sizes, you can have a Rung associate compile clothing in your size before you arrive. It requires a small deposit ($25) that is applied to your purchase.
1710 South Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood, 314-881-0331, refreshstl.org
The two-tiered shop with a DJ booth on the mezzanine level feels more like Forever 21 than a resale shop. The open floor plan, contemporary youthful clothes and styling are designed to entice the budget-conscious who are still style-conscious. You won't find anything dated here.
This is not the place to shop for something vintage, but the nonprofit retail shop is run by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, which employs and provides job training for its students. Proceeds benefit the organization. Yet shopping here won't feel like a typical charity thrift shop; the vibe is young. The top floor is strictly formal and cocktail wear, including items for men and women — a great stop for the budget promgoer or even young ladies looking for a gown to wear to a gala. There's even a red carpet area and couch seating just outside the dressing room to make visiting the boutique feel more upscale. The shop recently started advertising its prices in the window — dresses starting at $10 — because people kept confusing the location across the street from Nordstrom Rack and Whole Foods as a trendy, i.e. costly, boutique. Trends, yes. Expensive, no.
Retro 101/Cherry Bomb Vintage
2303 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, 314-762-9722
This is a favorite stop for vintage clothing connoisseurs looking for an expansive collection and a free garment history lesson for the asking. Clothing ranges from the 1920s to the 1980s, but the emphasis is on authentic garb for those who want to wear it ironically or simply because they love it.
If you've been discouraged by a store mislabeling a 1940s frock as a 1960s house dress then these are your people. Eras are carefully studied and sorted. Among the stock you'll find an array of $20-$25 shifts, but don't be surprised to find a 1920s silk beaded gown in mint condition ($450). But the store owners said that by far, their sales are largely lower on the scale. And the store gets much praise for its extensive men's selection including Ricky Ricardo suits, vintage slogan T-shirts and Western shirts. Accessories are many splendid things and represented in broad arrays from bow ties and belt buckles to pendant necklaces and day gloves.
Other shops to visit
Byrd Boutique • 8117 Maryland Avenue, Clayton 314-721-0766, byrdstyle.com: High-end resale for fashionistas who covet Bottega Ventea, Miu Miu, Thakoon and Dries Van Noten.
National Council of Jewish Women Resale Shop • 295 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Creve Coeur, 314-692-8141, ncjwstl.org/resale.html: An unpredictable peek inside some mature upscale closets; career and party wear.
Potentials Resale, Westgate Shopping Centre • 12392 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur, 314-469-2024, potentialsresale.org: Nonprofit resale boutique supporting Youth In Need; recognizable department store labels for women, men and teens.
Upscale Resale Boutique • 10042 Manchester Road, Warson Woods, 314-821-6161, upscaleresaleboutique.com: If you've got your eye on last year's Lilly Pulitzer or Banana Republic, this nonprofit consignment shop benefiting Willows Way will have great appeal to you.
Tapestry of Community Offerings • 825 West Main Street, Belleville, 618-257-8626, toconfp.org: A community-based nonprofit that provides scholarships and class fees for students. You'll find a genuine mix of cool old clothes, dated old clothes and some contemporary finds.
Vintage Haberdashery • 3181 Morganford Road, St. Louis, 314-772-1927, vintagehab.com: A favorite stop for weekend browsing. Fanciful party dresses, feminine tops and lady accessories abound, and there's a modest but worthwhile menswear section. And if you're looking for a vintage costume, the price and selection are just right.
Eve's Apple • 1136 Washington Avenue, downtown St. Louis, 314-540-8953, evesapplevintage.com: A great stop for vintage that's not just wearable but a little bit sexy. The shop has some cheeky aspects and caters to a girl or guy who wants to be noticed. And they are known for periodic, superb giveaways like — if it fits, it's free.
Value Village (four locations) • 101 Kenrick Plaza (off Watson Road), Shrewsbury, 314-961-6935; 770 North Highway 67 (North Lindbergh), Florissant; 7400 Natural Bridge Road; 88 Western Plaza (on Old Gravois 2 blocks east of 141): Clothing starts at 99 cents and sometimes even those items go on sale, but this is the kind of shop where you'll still find an astounding number of designer fashions if you hunt. In fact, it's almost like panning for gold.
ScholarShop • 8221 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights, 314-725-3456; and 7930 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves, 314-961-2525: A must-stop for people looking for resale for a cause. Carefully selected stock ranges from St. John and Chanel suits to tennis apparel.
Women's Closet Exchange • 11557 Gravois Road, Sappington, 314-842-8405, womensclosetexchange.net: Nationally recognized, this is another great fashionista hangout for high-end goods at extremely reasonable prices. Label lovers will be giddy perusing the racks.
Miss Ohio Vintage • missohiovintage.blogspot.com has the apt slogan "vintage for the modern girl"; items sold online at Etsy, at craft fairs and at the soon-to-open Thirteen and Washington, located on those streets in downtown St. Louis.
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