You may be a Main Liner, but not all of us have Main Line money—as in Katharine Hepburn-in-“The Philadelphia Story”-Main Line money.
Even those with that kind of dough may be feeling a bit of a pinch, with constant reports that we’re on the verge of another recession. (Did the other one end yet?) So it’s good to know that in tough times there are places that can help local fashionistas get their designer fix for less.
Patch recently took consignment junkie (and model for the day) Tara Endicott on a little shopping spree to two Ardmore consignment shops that are here to save the day, and your pocketbook, double-dip style.
The first was located on the edge of Suburban Square, a hot spot for vintage and current trends. On average, they price high-end designer clothes at about a third (or less, sometimes more) of the original retail price. For instance, a $3,000 Dolce & Gabbana leather jacket lists at Petunia’s for $895.
Petunia’s will consign clothing and accessories for about 90 days—if it doesn’t sell, you can retrieve the item. If an item of clothing doesn’t get claimed after some time, the store will donate it to Project H.O.M.E.
‘In these shoes?’
For about three years now Petunia’s has been giving new homes to barely worn designer duds just like that D&G jacket, which was only worn once. Not only does the boutique get amazing clothes from locals, they also work with a few local high-end designers, like Bryn Mawr designer Frank Agostino. One particular Agostino dress was priced for the Bryn Mawr store at $3,300; Petunia’s is selling it for $180.
The shop is also carrying a lot of clothing and accessories from former Philadelphia designer Tory Burch’s. Petunia’s priced an army green Burch shirt-dress at $94, similar dresses directly from the designer cost as much as $350.
In the short time in which Petunia’s doors have been open, it has been pretty successful, due to the high quality of the merchandise and barely any advertising expense.
“It was the timing with the recession,” explained former Petunia’s consigner and current employee Kim Rubens. “People still want to look good for less money, but we’re in an area that it has taken off, and we’re fortunate we have great consigners. And that’s half your battle right there.”
Petunia’s also provides all the high-end style without a high-end attitude. The store is whimsical and very laid back.
“We’re not here to pressure you—either you want it or you don’t,” she said. “We’ve created a boutique feel here so they’re [the shoppers] more open. A woman came in and ended up buying shoes, and she said, ‘I never thought I would buy used shoes.’“
If you happen to suffer from an excess of designer threads, Petunia’s is currently booking appointments with potential consigners, but they are booking up pretty quickly.
Endicott noted one of the fun things about consignment shopping is finding a particular amazing deal where even the store operator doesn’t realize its value.
At Petunia’s, though, “They know what they have here,” said Endicott. So you may not find that $5 Armani shirt hidden somewhere, but at least you know the quality is consistent, she said.
Guiding the ‘Smart Bride’
The bridal boutique features once-worn and even never-worn wedding gowns.
If you are on a budget for your big day, don’t feel your only option is the discontinued rack at David’s Bridal. The dresses at Sabrina Ann’s can range from $400 to $3,000 each.
Here’s how it works: The owner of a particular dress and the store agree on a price somewhere between how much it was when purchased new and what its current market value is. Once the dress sells, the cost is split between the two. Owner Sabrina Sigler admits they turn away more dresses than they take in due to the store’s high standards. Sabrina Ann’s looks for dresses that are good quality, still “sellable” and under two years old. While they carry a lot of big names in bridal like Vera Wang and Melissa Sweet, they don’t always focus on brand.
“We haven’t become a designer snob, so to speak,” explained Sigler. “We’re more [about the] condition of a gown, its ability to sell in terms of its fashion-forward look, and if it’s current, things like that.”
Sabrina Ann’s current inventory is filled with very modern dresses. Sigler noted that several of their gowns are currently in ’s display window, but not at the Suburban Square store’s prices. She also carries a healthy variety of dresses, so while a lot of the newer looks are a little funky and/or filled with ruffles, there are also plenty of traditional gowns for the princess on a shoestring.
“We still fight the ‘Most girls won’t come here’ thing, but once girls come here, and with this economy and the way it’s been, we carry a pretty nice selection,” Sigler said. “It’s all good, it keeps going in the right direction.”
Sigler describes most of her brides as “smart” brides.
“The girl that comes in here is already budget-conscious and open-minded, bright, and practical,” she said. “Most of those girls don’t care about the name brands—they just want a $4,000 dress for $2,000.”
Some of these numbers may still be out your budget for regular shopping, especially if you’re used to just picking up the latest look at Target, but there is something to be said about a few of these high-end designers. Sigler pointed out that the quality of fabrics isn’t as good in lower-end bridal gowns—something true of all clothing.
Petunia’s vintage collection illustrates this point nicely. It contains some fairly older pieces, prompting a question: When was the last time your Old Navy dress lasted two years? How about 30?
Another thing to keep in mind with shopping high-end: it doesn’t have to be your whole closet.
One designer blazer or skirt can lead to a ton of new looks, and consignment shops can become the budget-friendly option to get a few classic designs worked into your everyday wardrobe. Or on your big day.
Editor's note: For more on “frugal fashionistas” by writer Brooke Hoffman, about high-end secondhand stores in Drexel Hill, Media, Springfield, Newtown Square and Radnor.