Have you ever walked into a resale store thinking you’re about to find a perfectly unique outfit, only to walk out hours later feeling overwhelmed, dehydrated, and worst of all, empty-handed?
Shopping resale stores can be an intimidating experience if you’re not well-versed in what to look for and how to go about digging through racks and racks of items with little to no consistency as to what’s hanging from them.
On the other hand, it doesn’t always have to be that way. According to Laura Walters, founder of Style Riot and the in-house stylist at The Toggery Resale Boutique, the endeavor can (and should) be enjoyable and even inspirational.
“I want to break down the stigma that shopping resale is too overwhelming, that the clothing is dirty, and that it can’t be a fun, luxurious endeavor,” says Walters. “Shopping resale can be a wonderful experience where you can find quality, high-end pieces at a fraction of the price.”
If you equip yourself with just a little knowledge and a few tips and tricks on how to hunt for hidden gems, you might be surprised by how quickly you catch the resale shopping bug and never look back.
“A thrift store, like Goodwill or The Salvation Army, takes donated clothing and gives it a value typically under $20. These stores are not usually curated. Then there are consignment stores, which accept items from the community and either pay cash up-front or take items on consignment, meaning the seller is paid for the merchandise after it sells in the store.”
First things first—not all resale stores are the same. When you start shopping, you’ll notice that some stores define themselves as being consignment, while others are labeled as vintage or thrift.
Sara Baldwin and Tori Sandler, the owners of Rebel Vintage in SoBro, encourage understanding the different types before you dive in head first.
“A thrift store, like Goodwill or The Salvation Army, takes donated clothing and gives it a value typically under $20. These stores are not usually curated,” says Baldwin. “Then there are consignment stores, which accept items from the community and either pay cash up-front or take items on consignment, meaning the seller is paid for the merchandise after it sells in the store.”
Baldwin and Sandler consider Rebel Vintage to be both a consignment shop and vintage store. They work with about 30 local handmade vendors who consign with them and source vintage clothing through their own individual brands, Lux & Ivy and Notorious Vintage, respectively.
“At a true vintage shop, you can expect to find a selection of highly-curated items from specific eras,” says Baldwin. “To be considered vintage, the items must be made before 1999.”
Pro tips of the trade
No matter which style of resale you’re shopping, all three women agree that giving yourself plenty of time to browse is key to not getting overwhelmed.
“Be willing to spend the time digging, inspecting, and trying on items,” says Baldwin.
Trying on clothes is another must when shopping resale. With one-of-a-kind items, sizing is inconsistent and oftentimes, the number completely irrelevant. Also, you should note that even standard American sizing has changed a lot over the years—so a size 10 from 1970 may not look like a size 10 made in 2020.
Plus, if you find an item you can’t live without that happens to be just a little too big or too small, it might not necessarily be a dealbreaker.
“Don’t let the sizing deter you from purchasing,” says Sandler. “You can belt a large dress or tie up a too-small shirt. Usually there is a creative way to repurpose the article of clothing so that it works for your body and shape.”
Rebel Vintage also has a partnership with a local seamstress, Kendra Sew Fine, so that if a customer finds something in the store they like but that doesn’t quite work, they can get a custom garment made to their exact measurements and fabric preferences.
Special items to look for
When Walters goes resale shopping, she tends to focus on a few key wardrobe staples like cashmere sweaters and white button-down shirts.
“I can’t tell you how many people bring brand new, tags-still-on white button-downs into the Toggery,” says Walters. “Resale is a great way to buy those closet staples you might not want to pay full price for.”
Handbags are another item you can often score big on at resale stores.
“You can find amazing deals on high-end designer bags and clutches,” she says.
Just make sure the bag of your dreams is the real deal and not a knock-off—if it’s the sort of thing that matters to you.
“Resale and consignment stores should always have a certificate of authenticity for really high-end bags,” says Walters. “So if you are buying one, make sure to ask for the certificate, as well.”
Where to shop
Lucky for us, Indianapolis has no shortage of incredible spots in all corners of the city.
Fountain Square is somewhat of a one-stop shop for resale with Zodiac Vintage and Vintage Vogue by Goodwill operating on the same block of Virginia Avenue. A little further north, Queen Bee Vintage is a mainstay in the Herron-Morton neighborhood.
“I really love Queen Bee Vintage,” says Walters. “The inventory is fun, whimsical, and I love her collection of vintage dresses. Not to mention her sunglasses selection is on point.”
If shopping from the comfort of your couch is more your style, a growing number of vintage shops are starting up online, selling their inventory through their websites and Instagram accounts.
“Aside from the numerous local brick and mortar vintage and resale shops in the area, there are also a large number of online Indy vintage brands,” says Sandler. “Some of my favorites are Flipside Estate and Consignment, RVTG, and The Desert Exchange Resale.”
Whether you want to add to your vintage t-shirt collection (or start one) or find a 1970s sequined dress for a night out, there’s something for everyone in the vast array of resale shops Indy has to offer.
Plus, when you shop resale, you’re not only upping your style game, you’re helping the environment.
“We get to keep perfectly good treasures out of the landfill,” says Sandler. “The sentiment, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’ couldn’t be more true in our world.”
Ally Denton is a regular contributor to Indy Maven who needs way more sparkly vintage dresses in her life.