Dress for Success-Welcome to Consignment Store Shopping 101

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Consignment Store Shopping is a great way to get great brands for less-than-retail prices. I used to be a frequent shopper at our local women’s consignment stores. But now that I work from home and have to say (with much relief) that I don’ t need to worry about business attire anymore (insert loud cheer HERE).

However “back in the day” when dressing sharp was a necessity and the budget was tight I became a Consignment Store Shopping Maven. I’ve taken the best tips I can think of and compiled them right here for you to see. If you are a “I don’t buy used” thinker, please keep an open mind when reading this. Buying gently used it a great way to get amazing clothes and even more amazing prices. Buying “previously loved” is a great way to stretch your clothing budget, save $$, and even MAKE money by reselling.

Top Tips for Consignment Store 101 Clothes Shopping:

Consignment Store Shopping

Have a Game Plan: Before you leave on your shopping adventure, have an idea of what pieces you need in your wardrobe. Don’t tie up precious dollars by buying a black silk tank if you already have 3 at home. Make note of the piece you need on a “hit list” to avoid doubling up.

Know Your Brands: By being aware what brands are top shelf can very useful when making buying decisions.  Knowing the difference between Faded Glory and Anne Taylor or Target and Coldwater Creek is handy when judging if a price is a good deal or not. The idea is to get the best quality clothes you can without the full-blow retail price.  You may have a Wal-mart budget, but you can dress like you stalk the upscale boutique if you know what to look for.

Inspect In Unflattering Places. Check pockets for rips, make sure zippers zip, check linings, hems, seams and buttons and yes…I’m going to “go there” and tell you to inspect the ::ahem:: “crossroads region” on pants. I am not saying to do a full-on-face-plant THERE, but as gross as it sounds it’s even grosser to think you’ve scored on the perfect pants, only to get them home and find our someone had “leakage issues”….

Hopefully you didn’t just hit the back button after reading all that.

If you are still with me, here ‘s more critical (and not so graphic)more  tips for Clothing Consignment Store Shopping 101:

Read the Label, Mable: Be conscious of the dry clean only garment. Some you will be able to skate by on using a product like Dryel and your dry at home, but if not be mindful that that fact will add another $7-$10 to the price every time you need to get it cleaned. Granted if it is a SUPER awesome brand like Misook, Gucci, Chico’s, Burberry or any other REALLY high-end clothing, it will be totally worth it  to pay to keep it pristine and clean.


**side note: I read somewhere that working women need to have a wardrobe that is like an art collection. Add pieces that are more of an investment, and pieces that make your heart SING.

Be willing to consider alterations: But ONLY of the piece you are considering is worth it. Basically you are not going to want to spend $20 to alter something that retailed for $40 in it’s hay-day. Alterations are fine if you keep them minor like hems, cuffs and sometimes zippers. Major alterations are rarely worth the money spent.

Sniff test. If you are blessed with a super sniffer, great. But if not be sure and give garments a sniff before you buy. Cigarette smells are disgusting, but you can get them out. Musty and mold smells…not-so-much. Avoid stinky stuff.

Be a Regular: If you have a favorite consignment shop, take the time to get to know the staff. Relationship building takes time, but the pay-off down the road could be advanced noticed of sales or when primo donations come in.

Mums the word: I treat my favorite thrifts like my “honey hole.” I rarely tell people where I scored the gorgeous $150 suit I am wearing for $10. I feel like the FBI when I say this, but my sources are a closely guarded secrets. The main reason being, many of the thrifts I frequent are volunteer run. These people work incredibly hard, but have no knowledge of what brand is better than others. That being said, the price based on item (shirt, pants,) instead of brand. A Eddie Bauer shirt is the same price as an Wally World one.

A Word About Shoes: Honestly, buying used shoes creeps me out and I try avoid that completely unless there’s a “like new” pair of very high-end shoes available. If you are OK with buying gently used shoes, let me give you these words of caution. Most shoes are worn with a “barrier” (socks) between the foot and the inside of the shoe, but not always. And if you see sandals with with deeply-indented, sweaty toe marks….AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. That’s all I got to say ’bout THAT.

Consignment Store Shopping

Be Mindful of Seasons: Many of us thrifting divas find the best deals on the clothes that are not in season. Why? Because people tend to clean closets as soon as the seasons change. Just be wary of trendy fads and wild colors because, by the time you can wear the item again, it might be blatantly out of style. That QVC Quacker Factory Halloween shirt may be new-with-tags, but it was cute two Presidents ago.

Whenever Possible, Try It On: All the nice consignment stores I know of have dressing rooms so take advantage of that whenever needed. You may have found a high-end-name-brand, simply gorgeous, to-die-for dress..but if it fits you like an over-sized Drift Sock it’s hardly a good use of your hard-earned money.

Go With The Gut: If you find a seemingly awesome thrift or consignment store, but the second you walk in your internal warning bells start to sound, go with your gut. If a store is dark, cluttered, smelly, and unorganized they chances of you finding that “clothing gold” is pretty slim. Remember, this is not American Pickers. We do not need to dig through dust, filth, and mouse turds to find our “treasures.”

Fake It, Baby: If you like buying used purses (I haven’t bought a purse retail for 20 years) here’s something to keep in mind. Many of the top expensive brands can be (and are) faked. That many look like a Chanel, Juicy Couture, or Louis Vuitton, but there is a very good chance it’s not the real McKoy. If you don’t care, awesome. Rock the fakey and don’t think twice about it. The issue comes at “resell” time when YOU go to resell it. Unless you are 100% positive it’s real, don’t claim it is via eBay or any other venue you may be selling it at.

Here’s Some Brainerd Lakes Area (and beyond) quality Consignment Clothing Shops:

Common Goods. 


Bargains on 7th (Brainerd)

Worth Repeating (Pequot)


Linese Clothing (In The FitQuest Baxter Building)

About Becky Flansburg

Becky Flansburg is freelance writer, blogger and virtual assistant living in Northern Minnesota. A dedicated mom to two beautiful kids, her veteran blog Franticmommy.com is filled with laughter and love about the joys parenthood. Becky is also committed to helping women realize their work-from-home dreams, enjoy life beyond the cubicle and find clarity in the work/life/family balance. Connect with Becky via her website, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest