Secondhand style: 6 DC-area consignment shops worth your while

WASHINGTON — August signals the end of summer, ushering in back-to-school sales. But if you’re searching for a cheaper way to revamp your closet, look no further than your nearby secondhand store.

Carmen Lopez is the owner and president of Current Boutique, a chain of consignment stores in the D.C. area that aims to modernize secondhand shopping with a “welcoming” environment.

“I didn’t think there was a space that didn’t make you feel inferior for shopping secondhand,” Lopez said. “So I really wanted to make it nice and have curated sections.”

The Current Boutique in D.C. on 14th Street features purple walls, black-and-white curtained dressing rooms, and perfectly lined shoes, bags and jewelry displays among racks of “pre-loved” clothes. The space stands out among many secondhand stores in the area that may seem chaotic and unkempt by comparison.

Current Boutique Here’s the thing about a lot of consignment shops: It sometimes feels like the more curated the selection, the higher the prices. And sometimes those prices seem to come from nowhere — one blouse recognizably from Topshop may be a steal at $15, but another top with the same tag is more than double the price. Um, what? Current Boutique doesn’t keep you guessing about where the monetary value comes from, though. Their policy is that they sell items for roughly a third of the original price, which makes any piece feel like a steal. The boutique doesn’t feel like a secondhand store with its stylish, curated look. The painted walls, chandeliers and perfectly-lined shoe displays make shopping at these secondhand stores a pleasant and easy experience. The racks aren’t overstuffed and the options are clearly picked carefully to ensure that everything offered is in season. Basically, you won’t find that questionable shirt covered in broken rhinestones from 2003. Current Boutique has multiple locations in the area with shops in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. And you do not need an appointment to sell items to the shop; at Current Boutique, you can show up, mail in or have someone come to you. For more information on the consignment process, visit the website. (WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh) (WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh)
2104 18th St. Northwest
Washington, D.C. Meeps has been in the District since 1992, accepting vintage and costume clothing for a wide array of stylish shoppers, according to its website. In 2011, the owners of Treasury Vintage acquired Meeps and reopened it with what its website calls “a newly-infused curated aesthetic.” It’s a small shop located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, but it’s clear that every piece on the racks are picked carefully. From stylish, classic 40s-era dresses, to colorful printed button-downs and trendy Midi-skirts, there’s something for everyone. Looking to sell at Meeps? Buying is appointment-only, so before you lug a giant bag of goodies over to 18th Street, email or leave a voicemail at 202-265-6546. (WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh) (WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh)

Scenes from the Store today : @kendelashton

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“You can find great, quality items shopping consignment — once someone starts to consignment shop, it’s hard to go back to shopping at a regular store and paying full price,” Lopez said.

While Lopez has been spent more than a decade in the industry, she said the popularity of buying secondhand is a recent phenomenon.

“I’ve seen more acceptance shopping secondhand, and I believe the younger generation … we’re sharing cars,” Lopez added. “We’re sharing meeting spaces. We’re sharing vacation spots. So why not share clothing?”

And at easier prices, it may be a great option for those tight-wallet folks who are considering purchasing those risky wide-legged pants.

“Consignment shopping is a great way for someone to step outside of their comfort zone and try styles one normally wouldn’t try,” Lopez said.

Secondhand shopping is not just about gaining a wider, more eclectic closet, though. If that summer vacation hit you hard, consider selling to the next secondhand store you visit.

Consignment shops buy the items that have been figuratively gathering dust in your closet — and make sure it’s not really gathering dust because stained, torn or low quality items will not be accepted.

“We look at fabric, we look at stitching, we look at hardware,” Lopez said.

Veterans of consignment may have turned their backs after one-too-many shops turned away piles of seemingly great items. But rest assured knowing all the buyers at Current Boutique are professionals with degrees in fashion or design and know what they’re doing, Lopez said.

“We’ll go through your items on the spot,” Lopez said. “You can ask us questions, as to ‘why did you accept this?’ Or, ‘why did you accept that?’ We usually have an answer for you.”

Already planning on a closet clean-out? Lopez had some tips for those hoping to receive cold, hard cash for the items in their closet that may have been ignored for far too long.

“If you have some items in your closet, like cashmere sweaters, or really great shirts, or tops, or dresses that you’ve worn maybe once for a certain occasion [and] can’t wear them again, we’d love to take a look at them,” Lopez said.

“We’re always looking for great, fun party dresses, hand bags especially … Definitely color; anything with color always does well.”

The best piece of advice may be to simply put yourself in the shoes of another shopper. If you were a stranger at a secondhand store, would you buy the item you’re trying to sell? What do you look for when you’re shopping secondhand?

Lopez said most shoppers are looking for timeless pieces.

“We always have people looking for timeless classics, so whether it’s a trench coat, or a really good blazer … Those wardrobe staples, I would call them, we’re always looking for those,” she said.

Current Boutique on 14th Street is open every day, so stop by and get your new favorite piece before someone else gets it first. For more information about locations, hours and the consignment process, visit its website.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated a boutique called “Violet Boutique” was a consignment shop.

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