City Desk

Clothed for Business

Clothed for Business: Thrift Shops Boomed During Shutdown

The shutdown has been tough on anyone who draws a government paycheck, but it’s a great time to pick up a lightly worn J. Crew collection cropped moto jacket at a fraction of the original price. A string of local consignment shops are enjoying a boost in inventory, thanks to well-heeled furloughed feds who are emptying their closets for cash in lieu of a paycheck.

Mint Condition, an Alexandria boutique that traffics heavily in secondhand Tory Burch, noticed an uptick a week into the shutdown. “Our business took off,” says floor manager Sarah Hallee. The store counts a lot of government workers among its regulars, most of whom pop in on their lunch breaks. Now they’re coming in at all hours and lingering. “It’s been more like a social hour,” Hallee says. “They have nothing else to do.”

Same story at Current Boutique, which has locations in Clarendon, Alexandria, and on 14th Street NW and peddles working-woman staples from labels like Ann Taylor and Theory. Consignments are up by about 10 percent, owner Carmen Lopez estimates, and from conversations with staff and customers, she thinks most of them are both government workers and first-time consigners. “We’ve gotten a ton of consignments in from government workers just trying to make some extra cash,” Lopez says. “We have also heard that a lot of people have time on their hands, so they’re cleaning out their closet.”

At Current, this has translated to more stuff coming and some less frequently seen items: “Things you normally would hold onto,” Lopez says, like classic trench coats.

Caitrine Callison, owner of Secondi in Dupont Circle, is reluctant to attribute the influx of treasures and Chanel bags into her store to the shutdown or to hardship among federal workers. “It’s always hard to know what to write these things off to,” she says. “I’m sort of timid to ask people, ‘Are you bringing me these beautiful clothes because you’re broke?’ I don’t know if it’s people going through their closets out of boredom.” But, she adds, “We are certainly seeing more business than usual. We are seeing more beautiful clothes than I have ever imagined.”

Callison ticks off some items that have found their way into Secondi since the shutdown: a Givenchy sweater, a shearling vest that originally retailed for $2,598, a Dior dress, an Etro jacket. “One woman brought in stuff that takes your breath away,” she says. “I had the feeling she had never consigned before, and there was an unhappiness in it. And I don’t want to quiz people on it.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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