The story below is a preview from our May/June 2021 issue. For more stories like it, Subscribe Today. Thank you! 

If you keep an eye on celebrity style, you might say that secondhand fashion is having a moment.

Maybe you’ve spotted photos of Kendall Jenner in ‘90s Jean Paul Gaultier, or Meghan Markle in a swingy ‘60s trapeze coat. Even Princess Beatrice opted for a throwback look at her wedding last summer, floating down the aisle in her grandmother’s Norman Hartnell-designed dress.

It’s safe to say that “old” is the new … well, new.

There was a time when pre-loved fashion–vintage, consigned or thrifted–was sometimes considered a touch gauche. If you shopped at charity thrift shops, many people assumed you did so simply to scout out a bargain.

But those mindsets are changing.

Socially-conscious shoppers–even very fashion-forward ones–increasingly steer toward pre-loved style as a more ecologically sustainable and ethical choice. Sarah Jessica Parker famously told The Edit that she’d committed to buying only secondhand clothing for her son after watching The True Cost, a documentary detailing the harsh labor conditions under which fast fashion can be made. And a mounting body of research suggests that younger shoppers are powering a surge in resale, with 80{0c50a39dd584ba5fb4b6467726ffaa15c472727d41971bd60f72623a9464340d} of surveyed Gen-Zers stating they saw no stigma attached to secondhand fashion, according to a recent consumer survey by GlobalData.

So what if you want in on this socially-conscious movement, but you’re not sure where to start? Here are the tricks and tips you need to venture into the world of pre-loved fashion, right here in the Roanoke Valley. It might just revolutionize your wardrobe!

Never been thrift shopping?

Start at the shallow end.

Traditional charity thrift shops are full of jaw-dropping designer finds and rare vintage pieces, often for less than the cost of your daily latte. There’s a catch, though: unearthing those gems can mean pawing through long racks of cast-off garments, many of them dusty or damaged. It’s the kind of shopping that appeals to the intrepid style-searcher–someone who really loves the thrill of the hunt.

If that’s not you, though, there are still ways to find killer secondhand steals without getting your hands quite so (literally) dirty in the process.

For starters, begin at consignment shops and smaller secondhand stores. These tend to command a slightly higher price point than true thrift shops, but in exchange, you get cleanliness, curation and a staff that’s ready to help, often in a space that feels less cavernous.

Take the Discovery Shop, for example–a neat-as-a-pin shopfront benefitting the American Cancer Society, located in the Townside Festival Shopping Center near Montano’s.

“You don’t have to work that hard [to shop] here,” says store manager Amy Peck. “One customer told me once that she loved to shop here because someone had already shopped for her.”

At the Discovery Shop, donated clothing is curated by an all-volunteer staff–unwanted donations are passed on to the Roanoke Rescue Mission, Peck says–and then it’s organized by garment type, size and color, streamlining the hunt.

To keep shopping simple, try popping into your favorite store on your lunch hour. After making a speed-pass through the racks, you can treat yourself to a single fun find, probably for less than the price of a lunch out. Do this a few times a month, and you’ll have a radically different closet in no time … without feeling like you’ve spent much effort getting there.

Give yourself permission to go bold.

The magic of secondhand shopping is that it allows you to encounter truly unique pieces that you wouldn’t spot in your average mall franchise. And because it offers those options at bargain prices, you might just find yourself willing to take a few bold new style risks.

“It kind of gives you the opportunity to evolve your style … because it’s not just what’s trending or what’s popular that you’re exposed to,” says Katelynn Lewis, owner of New to Me, a favorite consignment shop in Grandin Village. Her racks have featured everything from classic cardigans to vintage sundresses to Jimmy Choo stilettos, giving shoppers permission to develop a wardrobe that’s a little bit different.

Think, for a minute, about the styles you’ve always wanted to try, but perhaps felt a little too shy to purchase. Maybe you’ve got a secret yen for gauzy silk caftans glittering with embroidery, or swishy vintage skirts or eye-popping electric colors. These are the kinds of items you might not try on (or even see) in a department store, but they’re the exact sort of pieces that will leap out at you from the racks at a secondhand shop, where low prices lead you to a more experimental mindset.

“You’re not taking a financial risk,” says Peck. “You’re paying five bucks for it, so if you get it home and it stays in the closet for a couple of months and you don’t pull it out, bring it back … We’ll give you a tax deduction!”

Get more tips for vintage and consignment shopping in our latest issue, on newsstands now, or continue on in our digital edition linked below.

The story above is a preview from our May/June 2021 issue. For more stories, subscribe today or view our FREE digital edition. Thank you for supporting local journalism!