Twice as Nice

Madison's secondhand and consignment shops offer thrilling indulgences—for less

Jul 30, 2009

Recessionista style may have a trendy new name, but the idea behind it is nothing revolutionary. Long before the Dow dropped, Madison’s secondhand shops were passing good style from one prudent shopper to the next. Bargain hunting is a hobby for all economies, providing a thrifty escape from economic woes or a celebratory indulgence for investments well managed. Either way, the outcome is smart and stylish.

“A lot of people come here as therapy,” says Beth Testa, owner of The Pink Poodle, a consignment shop that’s been around for seven years. “Ladies just love a good bargain and it doesn’t seem like the so-called recession has touched us.”

Don’t let it touch your style, either. If you’re new to secondhand shopping, check out the five fashion destinations below for a crash course in cheap thrills. The feeling—and the deals—never go out of style.

On-the-Go: The Upstairs Closet

Love A Stone’s Throw? Then step upstairs where its offspring, The Upstairs Closet, offers resale items as well as sale and clearance pieces from downstairs. Store manager Stacey Rowe stocks gently used, name-brand items meant for active lifestyles, making The Upstairs Closet the resale destination for yoga enthusiasts, working moms and athletes of all persuasions. Best of all, the tidy shop is organized by size and color—no shuffling through endless racks here. You’ll be better dressed and back to your activities faster than you can say “discounted downward dog.”

Frugal & Fabulous: Ibex merino wool zip up ($60), Patagonia organic cotton and hemp linen-weave slacks ($15), Isis seamless sport top ($15).

Store Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

The Upstairs Closet, 1925 Monroe St. 255-1925

Upscale & Original: Lady Moxie

A trip to Lady Moxie guarantees that you’ll never blend in with the crowd. Owner Elizabeth Wewerka stocks the store with irresistible, beautiful designer pieces and says her consignment motto is “If you can get it in every mall in America, I don’t take it.” That means you’ll leave looking upscale and unique. Check out the window mannequins for ensembles that will make you look and feel like you’ve hired a personal shopper.

Frugal & Fabulous: Chain-strap Rafe purse in lemon yellow ($79.99), Catherine Malandrino multi-stripe maxidress ($174.99), Adrianna Papell beaded evening dress in gunmetal gray ($64.99).

Store Hours: Tuesday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Wednesday–Thursday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Friday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Lady Moxie, 6706 Odana Rd. 826-4268

Funky & Fresh: Good Style Shop

Owners Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes run a tight and trendy ship on East Washington, where they opened this vintage gem in March. The couple hand-picks everything in the store, so you won’t be sifting through piles of unwearables. Indra says she looks for everything from the sixties (“new vintage”) to mid-nineties styles that are bouncing back among the twentysomething set. Don’t let funkier items (zebra leggings, anyone?) scare you away from pieces that can add a shot of color and youth to your wardrobe, like a teal terrycloth dress that would look great poolside.

Frugal & Fabulous: Tasseled teal cowboy boots ($28), Navy, white and rainbow-striped beach shorts ($10.50), Teal terrycloth waist-cinched dress ($16.50)

Store Hours: Tuesday–Thursday 12–7 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sunday 12–5 p.m.

Good Style Shop, 402 East Washington Ave. 441-1323

Bargain Favorites: Betty Bling

If you’re looking for a bargain on your favorite mid-range stores like Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Coach and Caché, Betty Bling is your place. Co-owner Laura Sterner says when she buys, she looks for cute, current styles as well as wackier items to keep things interesting. “We always try and have fun,” Sterner says. “We treat everyone like they’re friends.” With prices like these (hello, twenty-five dollar riding boots!), who’s not feeling friendly?

Frugal & Fabulous: Joan & David tall riding boots in chocolate/black ($24.99), Marimekko floral print wrap dress in olive/black ($19.99), Tocca floral trench in coral ($34.99)

Store Hours: Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday 12–5 p.m.

Betty Bling, 638 South Gammon Rd. 441-2384

Lap of Luxury: The Pink Poodle

When you don’t want to feel like you’re secondhand shopping, browse the luxurious racks of The Pink Poodle. Owner Beth Testa’s posh touches, like fully furnished dressing rooms and cozy waiting areas will make you feel like you stepped into the leisure class—and that’s before combing the racks. The store brims with evening and wedding gowns, fun costume jewelry and three cases of designer handbags. Testa makes sure to stock plenty of everyday favorites too, like embellished Chico’s jackets and economical pashminas. No matter what you pick up, a round of retail therapy at The Pink Poodle is a frugal luxury.

Frugal & Fabulous: Treesje white patent leather tote with gold hardware ($149.99), French Connection purple silk shift ($19.99), Floral scribble crystal cocktail ring ($69)

Store Hours: Monday–Wednesday 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Thursday–Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sunday 12–5 p.m.

The Pink Poodle, 6017 Odana Rd. 276-7467

Alexandra Graves is an editorial intern with Madison Magazine.

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