In a city starved for luxury flagship retail stores, consignment shops are the closest thing fashionistas have to getting the same haute couture looks worn by the world's rich and famous.
Although the fashions might not always be current, they are always a fraction of the cost of clothes found in the shopping districts of New York, Paris, London and L.A.
"The Roland Park area is ideal for this industry," said Betsy Wendell, owner of Octavia Cross Keys, a women's boutique in North Baltimore. Wendell frequents consignment shops in Roland Park and promotes them. The area has "a lot of wealthy high-end customers who end up with too many clothes in their closets. ... It's easier shopping. It's very quaint to be in those types of stores. It works when they are all close together."
Andrea Kaplan, owner of Love Me Two Times, opened her boutique in Roland Park in 2011.
"It allows all women the ability to have luxury affordably," Kaplan said.
Kaplan opened her boutique to share her love of luxury designers with others. A good amount of its merchandise is from her own collection, and Kaplan said she loves the adventure of hunting down designer finds and passing them on to her customers.
At nearby ReDeux, co-owners Jan Braun and Linda Eisenbrandt rely on a variety of sources to build their inventory.
"We go to a lot of estate sales," Braun said.
"We have some stores who consign with us," Eisenbrandt said as she showed off a gift set of Chanel perfume that a store recently brought to the boutique. This is a practice some larger retailers use when items do not sell or there is a surplus at the end of the season.
Jenny Teeter of Westminster is a longtime consignment shop customer. She's been shopping at Wear It's At in Pikesville since it opened in 2006. In addition to the designer merchandise, she likes the relationship between customer and staff that isn't always found at a mall.
"The people are a big part of it. They are very helpful," she said. "It is more personal. ... It's the people, first and foremost. They have great staff and customer service. They are tremendously helpful trying to find you the right item in the store."
Mary Box, a Phoenix resident, has been a customer of Vogue Revisited in Roland Park since 1993 and loves the Chanel pieces she has found over the years.
"Vogue Revisited has treated its customers and consignors as if they are the most important client each and every time for 20 years," she said.
Consignment shop owners say the key to finding great items is to shop often.
"I get new things in every day," said Chris Anderson, owner of Vogue Revisited "The inventory is always changing."
A sampling of some of the area's consignment shops
Love Me Two Times
600 Wyndhurst Ave., Roland Park; 410-323-1070; lovemetwotimesshop.com
Owner Andrea Kaplan has taken her affinity for designer clothing and turned it into a business. Her boutique, which opened in 2011, features an extensive collection of shoes — from Christian Louboutin to Dior — handbags and gowns. "That's part of the fun — not knowing what is going to come in here," said Kaplan, who has managed stores throughout the city and was a buyer at Octavia. "It's different every day."
Tip: If you're looking for vintage evening wear, this boutique has you covered. The shop is a treasure-trove of gowns from Anna Sui to Oscar de la Renta.
5002 Lawndale Ave., Roland Park; 410-323-2140; redeuxapparel.com
Jan Braun was inspired to open ReDeux in 2009 after visiting famed consignment shops in Los Angeles. Upon her return to Baltimore, Braun contacted Linda Eisenbrandt, and the two friends opened their consignment shop soon after. From Chanel to Etro, they continually carry some of the hottest names in fashion.
Tip: Braun and Eisenbrandt pride themselves on their ability to dress their customers in complete designer ensembles from head to toe. Don't forget to check out the boutique's section of St. John and plus-size options.
The Surprise Shop
122 Allegheny Ave., Towson; 410-828-9343; surpriseshop.org
At first glance, you wouldn't know that this 19th-century Victorian-style stone house contains an impressive collection of men's and women's clothing. But the Surprise Shop of Trinity Episcopal Church, founded in 1964, is worth visiting. In addition to benefiting a good cause — all proceeds support homeless outreach in Towson — there are great finds. It's not unusual to find Elie Tahari, Burberry, Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer. The "brand-name label room" has lines from Banana Republic and Anthropologie, among other retailers.
Tip: Shop here at the end of July. From July 21 to July 24, all merchandise is 50 percent off. The shop's annual Five Dollar Sale is July 25 and 26. During this sale, $5 gets customers a Trader Joe's bag, which they can fill with merchandise. The goal of the sale is to "empty the store in anticipation of fall inventory," according to Erin Woodward, volunteer director.
4002 Roland Ave., Roland Park; 410-235-4140; voguerevisited.com
The boutique, which opened in 1993, is set next to a tailor and homes. Owner Chris Anderson does a great job of packing the store with a variety of brands. It's not uncommon to find a J. Crew dress alongside a Tibi tunic.
Tip: Don't forget the jewelry. Vogue Revisited carries pieces from David Yurman, Michele watches and a lot of vintage and costume jewelry.
Style Finds Consignment
5455 Harpers Farm Road, Columbia; 410-715-4579; stylefindsconsignments.com
Janina McNinney's store, which opened in 2011, is split evenly between home furniture and women's fashion. Most of the top designer brands are represented. Coach, Gucci, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs and Dooney & Burke line the racks. The shop's collection of formal wear and jewelry are also of note.
Tip: Allow McNinney to help you put an outfit together. "Janina is known for her fashion knowledge," says Juanita Marquess, a sales representative for the store.
Owner Cris Werneck opened this shop in 2011. It specializes in brands typically found in malls. J Crew, J Jill, Juicy Couture, Lilly Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren, 7 For All Mankind, Steve Madden and True Religion are all represented. Werneck also mixes in European designers and vintage clothing. "You are going to find something that is unique and that no one else has," she said.
Tip: Be prepared for honesty. Werneck prides herself on helping customers find the best clothes to fit their figure. "When a person tries something on, we'll be honest so that we tell them what looks good on them," she said. "We want to celebrate their bodies and flatter them."
Wear It's At
49 Main St., Reisterstown; 410-526-2003; wearitsatshop.com
Alexander McQueen, Helmut Lang, Giuseppe Zanotti, Givenchy, Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent are among the brands found in this boutique northwest of the city. Owner Stephanie Torrible, who opened the shop in 2006, has expanded twice to neighboring buildings. The store features merchandise from more than 6,000 consignors.
Tip: Look for the color tags. Certain tagged items can be marked up to 75 percent off. Also visit the shop's designer room, which features designer merchandise from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
1017 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville; 410-484-9958
Owner Ella Rosson says she specializes in top designers in the shop she opened in 2000. "I'm big on Chanel, Louis Vuitton. Fendi, Armani," said the former clothing designer. Rosson has an old-school approach to her business. She encourages customers to visit the store and try on her merchandise. "Clothes need to be seen and touched, and tried on," she said. "You have to walk around in it. Things look good in pictures, but not necessarily on people."
Tip: If you are a fan of Louis Vuitton luggage and Chanel pieces, this is the shop for you. "I always carry between 15 to 18 Chanel bags in the store," Rosson said.
Known for her collection of St. John, gowns and winter furs, owner Jan Nuscher opened this shop in 2010. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cole Haan, Kate Spade and Escada can be found there. "We have two racks of St. John, gowns — a whole wall full of gowns — and a couple racks of furs in the winter," employee Debi Martini said. "That's a lot for a small boutique."
Tip: In some cases, the store will purchase your items directly instead of going through the consignment process.
La Chic Boutique
5614 Newbury St., Mount Washington; 443-869-2247; lachicboutiquemd.com
Mary Anne Barker opened La Chic Boutique in 2010 with designer merchandise in mind. A longtime consignment shopper, Barker has filled her store with Chanel, Prada, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Marc Jacobs. "It's very organized. It's very stylish," she said. "I love having high-end items at less of a cost."
Tip: Make sure you sign up for the "Wish List." Submit the name of the item you're looking to purchase, and Barker will contact you should it arrive in the store.