Why We Should All Be Obsessed With Consignment Stores

Ummmm...aren't used clothes--I don't know--used? Yes--yes they are, but I swear consignment store shopping can change your life. Well, maybe not like Hallelujah! kind of life change but certainly one that will shake up your closet and make you smile.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Ummmm...aren't used clothes--I don't know--used? Yes--yes they are, but I swear consignment store shopping can change your life. Well, maybe not like Hallelujah! kind of life change but certainly one that will shake up your closet and make you smile.

First, let's get a couple of things straight. (A) Consigned clothes do not smell. If yours do, you may be at a donation center, at which I hear has some totally sweet pieces, but frankly, I'm not really into that much digging; (B) There are some things you buy used, and there are just things you don't. If your local boutique sells lingerie, I'd check twice on the door to make sure you haven't walked yourself into the red light district. I also think shopping for used jeans should be relegated to our college days when we looked adorable wearing guys' used Levis. Oh, the best were the ones that had a circle imprint on the butt pocket from where the guy carried his dip can! (I'm from the South--just go with it). But now, with all of the amazing brands that shape our booties so perfectly and don't have dip can marks, go and let someone who actually knows women's bodies help you wade through the sea of blue and buy a fresh pair of denim; (C) We all know that consigned clothing is probably a quarter of the price from when it shone glimmering on its original hanger, but that doesn't mean you need to bring a grocery cart. The beauty of wading through racks of lovingly pre-owned frocks is finding just a few key pieces that accent what you've already got. Oh, but you do walk out feeling like you made money (which I frequently tell my husband that I did) and (D) Find a shop that has a high-end designer section. There are boutiques that say they cater only to couture, but I find most of the pieces are not that couture and the shop thinks they can still charge you an offensive price. No, go funky but also one that will surprisingly carry labels that you'd never think you'd be able to own.

Ok, now you've found your Pied á terre of used frocks, but here comes the only hard job--finding pieces that bring out a part of you that you didn't even know you had. We all can head to our favorite department stores or adorable boutiques, which I definitely do, and find the things that everyone is wearing. There is definitely a special place in your wardrobe for these, but there are only so many white shirts, beige cashmere cardigans or navy slacks that one girl needs. So maybe mix those staples with something that you would never expect. I'm talking about creating something, a style, a look--that is all you.

As we start begin turning that thirties-forties corner, I think we are looking for something, not sure what it is, but something to make us feel creative. I know I never thought I had a creative bone in my body--in fact I have always been the antithesis of creative. Everyone assumes being creative means painting flower watercolors in the middle of the park, or shooting edgy photography which then sits on your digital 30mm. But creativity can mean whatever makes you feel accomplished, and well, happy. And yes, that can mean putting together an outfit that no sane person would ever do!

A couple of ground rules: First, buy high-quality staple pieces. They may break the bank, but they are wonderfully made, and I promise you will wear them for years. Second, dig deep and try on things you would never try in a million years, but are items that seem to draw you in when you see them. Listen to that little feeling--it means you could be headed for a gem. Here are some of my fav finds:

1) A long Oscar de la Renta cream silk charmeuse skirt. It definitely looked like the bottom half of a beautiful wedding dress. Ok, it's a wedding skirt--where would I wear it? Huh, how about on a hot day with a sleeveless T-shirt and gladiator sandals? Yep--so I cut it off and saunter around in the hot Southern sun with my Oscar silk. Oh, and I throw it right in the washer on delicate. It looks even more irreverent.
2) A good 'ol fashion Gap brown leather jacket. I'm talking old school leather jacket. On the thicker side, hitting at the hip and a perfectly worn brown. But, wearing it with jeans gives me hives because that is way too predictable, so what do I do? I wear it with my Oscar skirt and flats. Sweet and a little rough around the edges. Me likey.
3) Fur stole. $100. Need I say more?
4) A pair of St. John's navy knit wide-legged pants that I wear over a swimsuit. No ubiquitous tunic cover-up for me.

I've made a lot of fashion mistakes in my life--some very costly--but they were all learning experiences, in my opinion. I used to wear things that looked good on other people, but horrible on me, and I did it just because I didn't know who I really was and what worked for me. I dressed like everyone else because that's what I thought you did to fit in, to be included. But then I decided--I didn't want to be them, I looked ridiculous and I wanted to be me. Creativity and self-expression doesn't necessarily mean going Goth or sporting blue hair (which I totally dig)--it means finding the pieces that make you feel amazing and comfortable in your own skin. So, who cares if people wonder why I'm wearing a wedding dress with a $5 T-shirt? I feel cute and most importantly, I don't look like anyone else. I look like me.