CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Julia Roberts does it. So does Penelope Cruz. And so does just about everybody else these days.
They’re wearing and buying pre-owned or used clothes.
As the recession slogs on, shoppers are getting more savvy about finding deals. They’re trading preconceived notions about who buys used for brag-worthy deals on Diane Von Furstenberg dresses and Christian Lacroix heels.
A recent survey done by Harris Interactive for eBay revealed 75 percent of adults are purchasing pre-owned goods to save money. Nine in 10 adults surveyed see buying used merchandise as a form of recycling.
“It is the height of chic,” said Constance White, eBay style director. “A lot of stylish people are wearing ... used clothes now.”
Gone are the days of negative associations with second-hand clothing, White said. These days, it’s about saving money without sacrificing style.
Roberts took the stage in a classic vintage Valentino when she won an Academy Award in 2001. Cruz accepted her Oscar this year dressed in a 60-year-old Balmain gown.
“(Pre-owned) is ultra stylish,” White said. “It’s nice to say Penelope Cruz was wearing vintage, but she was wearing a used dress. That’s what it is.”
That same survey found 70 percent of adults say buying used is more socially acceptable now than five or 10 years ago, and 43 percent say it’s easier to buy popular items if purchased used rather than new.
New-to-you deals abound on Internet giant eBay, and a little closer to home, as well. Shopping options include thrift stores such as Value Village, Salvation Army and Goodwill, as well as hip vintage shops and more boutique-type
“I tell my customers, if you can get the quality and the name brand at consignment, you should never pay retail,” said Faye Wilson, owner of Penny Pincher Consignment. Wilson’s store has been on the Charlotte, N.C., retail scene for 25 years.
Buying pre-owned items doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buying used, eBay’s White points out. Often, shoppers can find items that were given to sellers as gifts, or were impulse buys that never made it out of the package.
“You can get special things that will really personalize your wardrobe,” she said. Among her favorite used purchases is an oversized clutch that really “makes an outfit,” she said. “I do not think I would have found it new.”
Savings can be as varied as the shopping experience. At thrift stores prices are generally lower, but items are minimally pre-screened, which can be a boon if you love the thrill of the hunt. Finding a Chanel or Michael Kors jacket for $5 is the exception, not the rule.
At consignment and vintage shops, the inventory has been screened on a variety of variables including brand name and physical condition.
Shoppers will pay a premium for the sifting service: Expect prices to be at least half off the retail price.
Business is up across the board, shop owners say, with a marked increase in shoppers and also a boost in the number of people looking to consign.
Consign by Design owner Beverly Sokol estimates she has more than 500 consignors who bring designer clothing and accessories to her store in Charlotte. Her shop, which carries labels such as Giuseppe Zanotti, Kate Spade and Rock & Republic, has been bustling, especially since she leased part of the space to Womb, a maternity consignment shop opened by Stephanie Clark in August 2008.