Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Squashing Secondhand Shopping Stereotypes

While I, personally, have never had an issue with secondhand shopping, I am empathetic to those who remain hesitant. I was raised in a very traditional, old New England, waste-not-want-not family where tag/ yard sales and consignment/ thrift shops were considered weekend highlights. Buying secondhand wasn't, necessarily, a financial necessity. It was more the "thrill of the hunt" and getting a good "deal" on new (used) treasures.
When my youngest child started preschool, I started working at a consignment shop I had haunted for several years. I was in the shop one day and joked with the owner that she would have to make a light fixture out of me or give me a job. She hired me and thus began my entre' to the inner workings of secondhand retail. Fashion Exchange is the oldest consignment shop in Connecticut and was the brainchild of the owner, Janet Falkenthal, who created this treasure trove of designer fashions 25 years ago. Yes, most of the clothing has been gently worn, but...unless you plan on leaving new tags displayed on your ensemble...the only telltale difference between her clothing and that you might find at Neiman Marcus, is the damage to your bank account. The clothing is always a fraction of what you would pay for retail, but it is the end of the season sales that induce a feeding frenzy in avid bargain shoppers. I was over at the shop last week, to take pictures for this post, and found the back room still stacked to the rafters with the $5 items. Okay, so what's the big fuss over finding $5 clothing at a consignment shop when you can snag stuff, at a yard sale, for $.50? I'm talking about Armani suits, St John's pants, Michael Kors tops & dresses, Carolina Herrera dresses & Coach handbags! Is Fashion Exchange the "norm" as far as shopping secondhand? Certainly not! Janet has set the bar as high as it could be, but she has single-handedly dispelled the stigma that so many associate with consignment/ thrift stores. Who knows what hidden treasures are lurking in your neck of the woods? Who knows? Those "frugal fashionistas" that are dressed to the nines and smiling knowingly!
Fashion Exchange
109 South Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470
(203) 270-0354


  1. Great post, Kim! Wow, I finally get to see inside the shop - it's really nice! Now where's a shot of Janet? Nice photos!

  2. Janet threatened to squash ME if I posted her picture :-)

  3. What a fun shop!!! I've gone consignment shopping myself... when I left my full-time job in Boston, I just couldn't justify spending big $ on fancy clothes I wouldn't be wearing often. And you can imagine the fancy clothes that end up in consignment shops here on the Cape (we're talking, the ladies with McMansions on the beach that wear their clothes once or twice, who take clothes CONSTANTLY to the consigment shops in return for some "spare change" lol... often the clothes still have the original pricetags on them)! =)

  4. LOVE this post, Kimberly! What a beautiful shop, too~~and what bargains, too! I always love a great deal!

    How's Gretel doing?