If you are anything like me, you know a little something about shopping. I’m not talking about grocery shopping or perusing the aisles of a hardware store for useful items like a step ladder or a tool bag. NON. I mean you know where to get your next fashion fix, whether it be that trendy item (or a budget-friendly dupe) that all the “it” people are wearing — or that one-of-a-kind accessory you spotted in a vintage French fashion magazine. If you’re not an expert shopper yourself, you probably know someone who is and they tell you where to shop. Your first stop is probably the internet. You can find just about anything and everything online and at a cost to fit any budget. In fact, it’s never been easier to spend money on fashion. Our ever-expanding wardrobes of unworn or barely worn items are proof. Sadly, the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is also expanding due to increased demand.
The statistics give pause for thought. A 2020 study found 87% of material used for clothing production worldwide was landfilled or incinerated after its final use, and less than 1% of material used to produce clothing was being recycled at that time. While “sustainability” has become an industry buzz word in recent years (New York is even trying to enact legislation — i.e., the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act to impose environmentally responsible practices on apparel or footwear brands doing business in the state), a recent Vogue article reported the industry’s emissions are still rising, with fashion contributing an estimated 4 to 8.6% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
Mass-market retailers of so called “fast fashion” — rapidly produced, inexpensive, on-trend clothing (think Shein, H&M and Zara) — are supposedly mostly to blame, but so are the consumers who buy them.
Knowing all of this has made me reconsider my shopping habits, and so should you. When I do make purchases nowadays, it’s from “slow fashion” brands who use local materials and eco-friendly practices. I am also a big fan of the resale market (secondhand and vintage stores) where you can find one-of-a-kind items at a fraction of the cost of retail. There are plenty of online options (Poshmark, Mercari, The RealReal, eBay, to name a few) but I prefer to shop at local businesses whenever possible. I also try to sell one item at these stores for every new item I purchase. That forces me to think before I buy while reducing closet clutter.
Here are my go-to resale stores in the DMV area with a short preview of each.
1. Current Boutique is a consignment store that’s a good place to buy and sell mid-range items. They seem to cater to a conservative professional clientele at their Bethesda location, while the 14th Street store is best suited for young, trend-conscious shoppers. I’m not familiar with their Arlington location, but I assume it’s like their other stores. They are well-known in the area, so items do tend to sell well and they have a large selection of seasonal inventory that changes regularly. Various locations; currentboutique.com // @currentboutique
2. Ella Rue in Georgetown is a treasure trove for all things posh. The owners take very good care of their merchandise and do a great job of consigning a wide range of classic to on-trend items for women. The price point and roster of designer items is on the higher end but always worth the investment. If you are a seller, you can be sure the shop’s high foot traffic and its loyal, fashion-forward clientele ensures your items will go quickly and for a good price. 3231 P St. NW, DC; ella-rue.com // @shopellarue
3. Reddz Trading is another secondhand store where I sell and shop. They have a great selection of items from mid-range designers, some high-end finds and a surprisingly good selection of designer handbags. They offer cash payouts or store credit when you sell with them, which is nice if you are looking for a quicker pay out than the consignment model at Ella Rue or Current Boutique (it may take several months to receive your first check). Like Buffalo Trading Company and Uptown Cheapskate (see below), they also buy and sell men’s items. I’ve sold plenty of forgotten treasures from my husband and son’s closets there. 1413 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 7801 Woodmont Ave. Bethesda, MD; reddztrading.com // @reddztradingstyle
4. Buffalo Exchange (Richmond, Virginia) and Uptown Cheapskate (Rockville and College Park, Maryland) are best for reselling fast fashion on the lower end of the price scale and like Reddz they offer immediate pay outs. My strategy is to take them whatever I haven’t been able to consign or sell and donate the leftovers. 9122 Baltimore Ave. College Park, MD; 1038 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD; buffaloexchange.com // @buffaloexchange + uptowncheapskate.com // @uptowncheapskate
Hopefully, this article has persuaded you to consider alternatives to mainstream fashion when you feel the urge to shop. Not only is it good for the environment and your wallet, but it’s also a fun way to find fashion that expresses your unique style.
Sylvia Colella is a former attorney and 50+ effortless style enthusiast. She runs an image consulting business and shares her love of fashion and travel on her eponymous Instagram @sylviacolella and her personal blog simplysylvia.com. She currently divides her time between D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Paris.