The new allure of "used" fashion 

Vintage, buy/sell/trade, consignment, “upcycled"… creativity reigns.

The facade was black and white and the sign read “Misred.” I entered, not knowing what to expect. What I found was vintage clothing, a butterfly necklace (that fluttered home with me), and a whole new outlook on shopping.

Soon after that fateful day, I discovered Revolve Clothing Exchange on 7th Avenue in Ybor City, where I have also snatched up some of my all-time favorite finds. Revolve’s three area locations (one on Kennedy in Tampa and the other on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg) carry a cool mix of vintage to current clothing. For my first trade, I brought in a bunch of gently loved clothing, the staff sifted through it while I shopped, and I earned enough store credit to cover almost my entire purchase that day.

Perhaps driven by the recession, new styles of boutiques have emerged. Misred Outfitters (on Central Avenue’s 600 Block in St. Pete), for example, is billed as “buy/sell/trade” and specializes in vintage, but the business has grown to offer reconstructed vintage pieces and Misred Black Label original designs featuring vintage fabrics and silhouettes.

Boomerang Boutique in Palm Harbor does mostly resale business, with merchandise suitable for a wide range of ages, but you’ll find new jewelry and accessories by local artisans to boot.

For me, the allure of vintage, buy/sell/trade, consignment and/or “upcycled” — meaning the garment has been modified or updated using recycled materials — lies in the originality it affords and in the amount of fashion you can score without breaking the bank. It’s true, you’ll find lots of Forever 21 and BCBG and other mall stuff at some of these places, prompting you to ask, “What’s original about that?” but you won’t find treasure without looking beneath the surface. And then you have to put your own spin on it.

The key to any good revolution is overthrowing traditional ways of doing things to forge your own path. Nothing’s better than finding pieces that no one else has (except for paying less when you do).

For Juli Halifax, owner of Fresh Threads Designer Consignment, which carries contemporary name-brand fashions (including some for men), the beauty of consignment shopping is in the thrill of the hunt.

“By nature, I think women are frugal,” Juli says. “I never brag about buying a $600 handbag, but I will brag about how I bought a $600 handbag for less than $150. Through consignment and trade shopping, we are able to buy high quality at a discounted price.”

Kevin Hecht of Revolve Clothing Exchange says buying recycled is “environmentally sound” and adds, “It’s a cost-effective way to upgrade and update your closet.”

Jennifer Williams at Boomerang Boutique revels in the originality factor. “You have more fun putting things together on your own than by taking the advice of a sales associate who dresses up a mannequin that looks like every other mannequin in every other retail shop in the mall.”

Tips for newbies

Jennifer at Boomerang Boutique: Ask the shopkeepers for help. They love fashion and creating new looks. Get help a few times in the beginning and soon you will be your own fashion guru.

Juli at Fresh Threads: Take your time looking through the racks; you’ll find a wide variety of style and brands. Be ready to try on clothes. Wear something easy to change in and out of. Look closely at the tags. Sometimes if you are within days of the next markdown, the lower price will be honored.

Sara at Misred: Take an honest friend and be prepared to try on everything. If you have never shopped this way it can be overwhelming. Sizes are different in older clothing and sometimes it takes a little vision to see what a piece could look like (i.e. after your tailor gets a hold of it). Try on pieces you love, try on pieces you love but never thought you could pull off, try on pieces that are too big, too long or too crazy. Then see how you feel. Have your friend give you an honest opinion of how things look and help you imagine what they would look like with a few minor alterations. Then only buy the things you absolutely love. This is how great wardrobes are built.

Kevin at Revolve: Look around. Be creative and don’t be afraid to mix and match. We encourage you to just try it on. Plus, since everything changes, it is probably most effective to drop by for a few things every week or two, rather than trying to buy a new closet of clothes at one time.

And this RED alert from Sara: Avoid buying things just because they are cheap! You will end up a hoarder with a house full of things that were “such great deals” (even though they are ugly), and piles of “projects” that are five years overdue to your seamstress.

How to create a closet revolution: Hang all the items in your closet backwards, says Boomerang’s Williams, and flip them around as you wear them. At the end of the season, or every six months, look to see what is still hanging backwards. Take those items in good condition to a resale/upcycle shop and trade for new-to-you things.

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