Shoppers are increasingly taking advantage of the luxury resale market, scoring prime pieces for a stellar price—and extending the life of beautiful designer pieces in the process. But while shopping consignment can offer the opportunity to score a special piece at a fraction of the original cost, it can be easy to get seduced into an ill-advised impulse purchase while surrounded by pre-owned steals. For advice on how to be a savvy consignment shopper, we reached out to Norma Santamaria, owner of Richmond, Virginia-based consignment boutique Baggio, for guidelines on everything from finding the right fit to which items to never pass up.
Be prepared to use the fitting room. In addition to the usual factors that will affect size—designer, country of origin, style—often, the previous owner will have had alterations made to the garment to fit them perfectly, Santamaria says. Therefore, it is important to try on every single item you’re interested in before making a purchase.
Ask for advice. If you’re on the fence about a piece, talk to a salesperson, says Santamaria. They can tell you if a few simple tweaks by a tailor to a hemline or sleeve can address anything that’s giving you pause—plus recommend the right expert for the job.
Be in the present. The most common trap people fall into when shopping consignment, Santamaria says, is falling in love with an item that is too small and buying it anyway. Resist the urge to justify the purchase by promising yourself you’ll lose five pounds, and instead focus on what looks good in the dressing room now.
Buy the best you can afford. If you find a wardrobe basic that fits—think cashmere sweater, black blazer, timeless handbag—snap it up. “This item will be a staple in your wardrobe for years to come, and is worth the investment,” Santamaria says.
Visit often. The nature of consignment shops is that the inventory is ever-changing, often daily. You can ask each shop when they put out new merchandise, but according to Santamaria, your best bet is to visit frequently to browse the new arrivals.
Avoid impulse buys. “Don’t buy an item because it is such a deal. That’s buying on impulse, and most likely you will not wear it,” Santamaria advises. So even if you find a designer blouse at a great price, leave it on the rack if the color or style doesn’t truly suit your tastes.
Ask about layaway plans. Many consignment shops will offer layaway options on high-price or multiple pieces. “This will give you the opportunity to buy that item you always wanted, or buy an entire wardrobe early in the season,” Santamaria says.
Don’t forget to accessorize. Accessories are key to completing a look, and the supporting pieces have the power to elevate an entire outfit. “You may have the best-looking dress on, but if you don’t have an updated handbag, shoes, and jewelry to go along with it, the effort is a waste,” Santamaria says.