Skip to main content

Green Ways to Stay Chic: Consignment and Resale Shops Save Money and the Planet

Nov 09, 2010 ● By Mayre Press

During these challenging economic times, many of us are turning to consignment, resale and thrift shops for budget-friendly clothing and other items. We’re also discovering that purging our own closets of unwanted clothes can help us declutter and free up space, earn us some cash and give usable outfits a new home—a green solution for everyone.

It’s helpful to understand the difference between thrift, resale and consignment shops. The National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops makes these distinctions:

•    Resale shops usually buy their merchandise outright from individual owners, and then resell it.
•    Thrift shops are run by not-for-profit organizations to fund charitable causes. They sell donated items.
•    Consignment shops accept items on a consignment basis and pay owners a percentage when and if the items are sold. Most shops pay from 40 to 60 percent of the selling price, with a policy of displaying goods anywhere from 30 to 90 days.

Where to Dress Best for Less

Susan Gerber and Gilat Zamost, two Highland Park moms with a passion for fashion, opened My Best Friend’s Closet, an upscale consignment shop, in February 2010. The boutique features high-end labels at one-third the price of new, and merchandise changes daily as consignees clean out their closets. Gerber notes that a Prada purse sold recently for $150, and Frye boots for $65. Premium-label jeans can be found for $50 and the store maintains a wish list for their regular customers.

Zamost and Gerber believe that resale is the ultimate in recycling and that their store benefits both the environment and the economy. “When someone gets an unwanted gift or has something that no longer fits, they bring it to us and buy something else they like,” Gerber explains.

Bargains increase as the seasons change, and sidewalk sales feature end-of-season items at deep discounts. Pieces that do not sell during the 90-day consignment period are donated to the Bottomless Closet, a not-for-profit group that helps homeless or low-income women find clothing suitable for job interviews.

People who work in retail for a long time frequently want to open their own store. Friends Laura Flores and Barb Kurczodyna did just that with Full DisClothesure, in Libertyville, which began welcoming shoppers in February.

“We enjoy it when customers find bargains,” advises Kurczodyna. “A Marc Jacobs purse that retails for $1,200 just sold for under $400. We’ve sold Burberry for $35 and premium denim for $38 to $78.” The partners also maintain wish lists for their customers.

Kurczodyna  adds that Full DisClothesure enjoys a lot of repeat business because it features unique finds that style-conscious shoppers appreciate. “People bring items to sell so they can have cash in their pockets,” she says. “They can buy more new things for the season and recoup some of their previous investments.” Unsold merchandise is donated to Misericordia, a Chicago community that is home to 500 children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities.

Before he passed away two years ago, Vivian Killibrew’s ailing husband told her that she had to, “…step out on faith” and open her dream store—a family consignment shop. On October 14, 2009, she opened the doors at Stepping Out on Faith, in Evanston.

“I’ve worked retail for 25 years—first at Marshall Field’s, and now Macy’s,” says Killibrew. “When my husband died, I was left with three kids.” She started gathering inventory for her store by ridding her own closet of unneeded items, and then asked friends for clothes they no longer wore.

Killibrew says a recent find at her store was a Giorgio Armani jacket that retails for $2,800, but sold for $200, and men’s Ferragamo shoes for $40 to $60. “Every day is a good day to shop,” she maintains. “We keep a wish list and call customers when something they’re looking for comes in.” Items that haven’t sold after 90 days are donated to Cornerstone Community Outreach, a nonprofit organization that raises the quality of life for low-income residents.

Déjà vu Resale Boutique, in Grayslake, is a consignment shop owned by Heather Lander that specializes in designer women’s formal, career and casual wear, including shoes, jewelry, outerwear and accessories. Many items are name brands, and everything is in excellent condition and in style. The store also features prom gowns, at a fraction of their retail price.

Lander says Déjà vu is arranged like an upscale boutique store to offer a fun shopping experience. Consigned clothing unsold after 90 days is donated to the Auxiliary of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.

Whether we’re clearing our own closets, seeking a unique wardrobe update, or trying to help the planet while dressing for less, area consignment and resale stores offer green, chic solutions.

Top Picks for New-to-You Finds

My Best Friend’s Closet, 1780 Green Bay Rd., Highland Park. 847-681-0002;
Full DisClothesure, 300 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. 224-513-5171;
Stepping Out on Faith, 1632 Orrington Ave., Evanston. 847-733-0980;
Déjà vu Resale Boutique, 10 N. Lake St., Grayslake. 847-231-6530;
Jordan Joseph Encore, 417 Sheridan Rd., Highwood. 847-926-8100;

Mayre Press writes about sustainable living. Read her Ask Eco Gal column in the Evanston RoundTable and her blog at