Secondhand shopping isn’t for the faint of heart: You have to hit a thrift store with an open mind and a sense of adventure. You could spend hours looking through racks of clothing and leave empty-handed, or you might come across that high-end designer item you’ve been coveting at an unbelievable price. Plus, what about those circa-‘70s platform boots you never knew you needed? The results are unknown until you start digging.
If you’re up for the challenge (and we highly recommend it), pay a visit to one (or all) of these Boston-area vintage and consignment stores, each owned by a woman with superior curation skills and an incredible eye. Better yet, go equipped with tips from these female fashion experts themselves, so you can shop secondhand like it’s second nature.
Castanet Designer Consignment
Open since spring 2016 (in the space formerly occupied by longtime neighborhood gem, The Closet), Castanet Designer Consignment provides local fashionistas with high-end secondhand items at a fraction of the retail price.
With hundreds of new items added every week and labels such as Alaïa, Céline, The Row, and Marni lining the shelves, a rookie consignment shopper might be overwhelmed initially. But owner Cassie Knight suggests that the best way to shop is to not closely inspect every single item on the rack but to scan the shop until you find that color or fabric that jumps out at you.
You can come in for great designer jeans for $50 (originally over $200) and cashmere sweaters for under $100.
“The items we have here are special, current, and in great condition,” says Knight. “Customers always walk away with a great deal.” For example, Knight says the store recently had a pair of unworn Isabel Marant boots that were $800 at retail and sold for $200.
“You can come in for great designer jeans for $50 (originally over $200) and cashmere sweaters for under $100,” she says.
South Boston consignment shop Covet offers a wide range of pre-loved items, from contemporary to high-end designer. To help shoppers navigate the high volume of items added in store daily, the Covet staff has fully embraced social media.
“We post a minimum of 10 Instagram stories a day to show customers our new, exciting items, without them having to come in all the time,” says shop owner Hanadi Hamzeh.
Even more convenient, shoppers can put items they see on Instagram on hold or shop straight from the platform using PayPal.
If you prefer to try and buy in person, Hamzeh says to “keep an open mind; you never know what you’re going to find, and that’s the fun of it: the thrill of the hunt.” Recently, a consigner brought in a Givenchy Antigona tote bag, originally $1,200, and after 24 hours, a customer bought it for $400. Talk about a total score!
40 South St.
Jamaica Plain vintage shop 40 South St., formerly named Gumshoe, has been supplying Boston with alternative vintage fashion for over 30 years.
With styles from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, owner Hilken Mancini says her shop is for those who thrive on taking fashion risks and want to think for themselves.
We’re a DIY, self-employed, grassroots business. No one is funding me, I’m not a corporation, and I handpick everything myself.
“It sounds a bit ridiculous because it’s shopping, but it’s true. You have to take a risk for yourself. It’s not Citizens of Humanity jeans, it’s a weird flower jumpsuit,” she says.
Mancini is a musician and former member and co-founder of local ‘90s rock band Fuzzy. Her punk roots have carried over to her business and shop aesthetic.
“We’re a DIY, self-employed, grassroots business,” she says. “No one is funding me, I’m not a corporation, and I handpick everything myself.”
With rare finds like wool button-ups and orange-tag Levi’s from the ‘70s, Mancini suggests customers try everything on, even if it looks like it won’t fit. She says, “If it fit someone else at some point in the past, it’s bound to fit someone else again.”
An eclectic mix of clothing, furniture, and antiques, Recollective Vintage aims to cut down on the fashion industry’s carbon footprint by sourcing and reselling quality vintage items.
The store is not all just oddities; high-end designers such as Fendi and Gucci are dotted within the store’s racks, as well as pieces by fashion industry legends such as Norman Norell, who designed between the ‘50s and ‘70s.
Take the time to try on, even if you think it won’t fit. Eighties sizes are not the same as sizes today.
According to store owners Hthaiwon Layne and Kate Straley Marx, the shop’s hottest item is vintage denim, which Layne recommends customers “take the time to try on, even if you think it won’t fit. Eighties sizes are not the same as sizes today.”
When sourcing clothing, both women check where it was made and what it’s made out of. Their most coveted materials are Indian cottons and leather from South America.
Two years ago, the duo scored a unique collection from a vintage dealer in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was eight or 11 boxes filled with designer clothing from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s,” says Kate. “Those items are mostly sold now.”
This fall, shoppers can look forward to finding more menswear items, vintage denim, and transitional pieces like sweaters and raincoats.
Owner Lisa Castagno founded Revolve in 2009 in Belmont and has since expanded with five other locations across Massachusetts, including one on Newbury Street.
The high-end consignment shop offers customers concierge services such as personal shoppers, private shopping, customer wishlists, and company-wide searches for specifically requested items.
“Because we take consignment every day, seven days a week, with no appointments, I suggest people pop in with regularity,” says Castagno. “My best customers have good luck finding things when they pop in often.”
In addition, she recommends that customers who are on the hunt for pre-loved gems follow the store on Instagram, where they continuously post hot new items like Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci belts. If shoppers see something they like, they can call the store, buy the item over the phone, and have it shipped directly to their house or the nearest Revolve location.
It’s a fun business; you never know what you’re going to get, and the quality of items people bring in just keeps getting better.
The flagship Belmont store has over 1,000 pieces coming in per week and around 8,000 consigners tapped in. With fall in the air, Castagno says she’s excited that this location recently took in three Burberry coats. Castagno adds that their newly opened store in Newton is a “real treasure trove,” too.
The Newbury Street location, although smaller, has young and fashionable professionals coming in to give up their pre-used wares like contemporary jeans and trendier items like Chanel sneakers and Miu Miu wedges.
“It’s a fun business; you never know what you’re going to get, and the quality of items people bring in just keeps getting better,” she says.