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Making ends meet

Clothing consignment can satisfy the wardrobe and the wallet

Clothing consignment can satisfy the wardrobe and the wallet

March 13, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

I approached the world of consignment clothing warily. It happened sometime between the births of my third and fourth children. I had piles of baby and toddler clothes I had deemed necessary during my early parenting years, but a growing family and limited closet space got me rethinking how much clothing a child actually needs.

For infants, the list had narrowed to a picture-worthy outfit, a handful of Onesies, and some soft cotton layette gowns. Toddlers needed a couple changes of finger-painting clothes, a few endearing casual sets, and something presentable for church and holidays. The rest had to go.

Hosting yard sales had long since lost its novelty for my husband and me. So when I heard acquaintances speaking favorably of consignment shops, I perked right up, eager to find a good home for my ex-necessities.

I was not sure what to expect of these shops. I imagined a pageant of women clad in mom jeans peddling slightly stained rompers; I thought shopping might entail browsing through screeching racks of pilled sweaters.

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So imagine my surprise when I entered one of these stores locally and discovered well-coiffed, fashionably dressed women offering their children's designer sundresses - turned down, to my further surprise, due to flaws such as a tiny spot, barely perceivable to my somewhat finicky eye.

These striking women were not only consigning clothes, they were shopping. And not just for "OK" clothes, but for quality, brand-name clothing at thrift store prices. I was captivated.

I had only planned to sell clothes at the shop, not buy them. Before long, I found my preconceived notions slipping away as I perused racks for my children and for myself.

And so, for several years now, I have been hooked. I keep a running basket in my closet. If my kids, my husband or I have an article of clothing that hasn't been worn for a while, I carefully fold it and place it in the basket. When it is full, I take a stash of clothes, shoes and accessories to sell.

On occasion, if I spot something irresistible, I'll make a purchase. I feel as if I've received a windfall when a check arrives in the mail at the beginning of the month. While not a significant amount, it is enough to put gas in the tank or buy a couple of pizzas for movie night.

Many of my friends have found themselves similarly intrigued by the idea of getting stylish, quality clothing at consignment stores without battering the budget.

In an even simpler step, some have carried the hand-me-down concept from children's clothing into adulthood. Women who have gained weight, lost weight or just grown bored with a favorite frock are passing it on to a friend.

It's the fun feeling of a high-school-best-friend closet raid, with the satisfaction of giving a great-looking garment to someone else who will wear it well.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is alnotarianni@aol.com. Making Ends Meet will run in The Herald-Mail twice a month.

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