Environment, Minimalism

Why My Closet is Only Consignment

When I was growing up, my mom was, for the most part, a stay at home mom.  She had a part time job doing upholstery, but it was really only out of a passion for redoing antique furniture than for extra income. My dad was the one that worked full time. While he made a respectable salary, my mom took many measures to make sure the budgets were managed well.

Looking back now I realize how lucky we were and I can’t imagine not having her home with us as we got on and off the bus to school. During summers we lived between the beach and the horse barn down the road. When I was younger I was horse obsessed. While that hobby typically sounds like a tune of $$$$, she was able to find the perfect budget friendly set up so I could live out my dreams without breaking the bank.

Through a friend, she found a stable down the road where we traded feeding the horses to being able to ride the owner’s horses for free.  A little girl’s dream come true, she found a way to make an expensive hobby affordable.

All this to say my mom is one savvy shopper. As my brother and I grew like weeds, my mom brought us to consignment shops for probably 90% of our clothes.  I can remember occasionally going to Kohl’s but really only picking at the sale rack.  At that point, the prices at consignment shops were so ingrained in me that something new at full price seemed crazy.  I will admit, there were certainly times around 13 or so that I would hide that my clothes were consignment as girls around me were decked out in Abercrombie & Fitch. But my mom taught us the value of a dollar and how to make it go further.

When friends went to the mall on a Saturday and shopped for bags of Hollister and Abercrombie, I had no problem politely declining.  Even though a small part of me at that age didn’t want to admit my clothes were consignment, I still couldn’t comprehend spending hundreds at the mall.  Also, I really can’t stand malls.


Flash forward to adult life and paying for my own clothes. I will proudly scream from the mountain tops that I only buy consignment.  With the exception of gifted items, everything I wear (clothing, accessories, shoes, and purses) is from a consignment store.  I even got a stellar deal on my wedding dress 70% off retail price.

While I never actually made a decision to shop consignment only, it has become such a part of my lifestyle now that buying new clothes at full prices does not even compute in my brain anymore.  Over the years my trips to stores decreased until I realized my purchases over the past year or so have only been consignment. There are a ton of reasons to start this habit, but these are the top 4 most important to me.

Save Money

Well this is a giant duh. The savings can be shocking though, oftentimes you’ll save at least 60% off retail.  From my last visit, I took home two pairs of Ann Taylor work slacks, a White House Black Market blouse, and Calvin Klein heels for $60. I point out the brands to show that you can get the same brands you’re buying in the mall for a fraction of the price. What might these pieces go for buying new? Taking a conservative estimate for what each brand typically goes for:

Ann Taylor pants: $70 each x 2

White House Black Market blouse: $50

Calvin Klein Heels: $80

Total: $270

I saved almost 80% off full retail prices!

Quality for Less

One of the main tenets of going down the minimalism trail is the idea of investing in quality. By purchasing items made of a higher quality, you need to purchase fewer replacements down the line. Those $3 basic tees sound like a deal but may stretch out, not wash well, and fade leading you to just buy more and more instead of buying one. My goal is to produce less waste, I’d rather buy one jacket and have it for years than a new one each season.

I also work in a very conservative, financial role where business attire is required.  This absolutely plays a huge part in my consignment decision.  To dress accordingly to the role, I do not want to skimp on quality items.  It is always better to have a few quality items than 10 trendy, cheap pieces.

Ethical Problems with the Retail Industry

Speaking of those $3 shirts that may sound like a great budget deal, I highly recommend everyone watch The True Cost. This documentary will open your eyes to the deep issues in the retail fashion industry from human rights to environmental implications. The way companies can sell shirts for so cheap is through massive, unethical operations. 97% of clothing is made outside of the US where human rights are not regulated as they are here.  Garment workers are some of the lowest paid in the world.

Advertising has changed drastically in recent history and has created the need to keep up with trends. We now consume over 80 billion pieces of clothing a year, a 400% jump from twenty years ago. The more we consume, the more we trash. Americans dump 11 million TONS of textile waste each year. This industry is the second largest polluter in the world to oil. Don’t contribute to this industry, reuse what you can. Check out my recent post on how to break the shopping addiction advertisements got you into.

Source: The True Cost

Support Small Businesses

By buying at a consignment store rather than the mall you are supporting your local economy instead of retail giants.  Small consignment stores aren’t involved in the big business of mass clothing production and shipping.  They are doing their part to increase the reuse of clothing and reduce waste.  Do your part and support the good guys. It goes right back into your own community instead of the pockets of corporations.
Think you can make the switch? Don’t be deterred if you try your first consignment store and it doesn’t seem up to your taste. They can vary drastically. You will notice the difference in quality in items some places accept, some are pickier than others and only take better quality brands. Some take them all. I have had many fails but have found my goldmine in three local ones around me that I rotate through.

Bonus: done with your clothing? Make some money back by bringing your own used clothing to consignment instead of the trash! I have walked out with cash in my hand and new (to me) clothing without paying a penny many times!

Have you tried consignment shops before? Any tricks to finding the best steals?

2 thoughts on “Why My Closet is Only Consignment

  1. YES! I find way nicer things (brand names, higher quality, etc) at consignment and thrift places than I would ever spend money on at a mall. I buy everything either consignment, from Goodwill, or on eBay, and at this point I can never go back, because why pay retail prices when I don’t have to??

    1. I feel the same way! Looking at regular retail prices, even if they’re “on sale”, seem obscene now! I find much higher quality clothing for way less. Quality that lasts longer, less waste, less expensive – it’s the perfect combination.

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