Homecoming treasure hunters

Savvy students save on styles at consignment and vintage shops

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 14, 2016


METRO DETROIT — Homecoming is right around the corner, which means another pricey outfit will likely be in order for teens across metro Detroit.

With homecoming dresses reaching upward of $500 at some stores, more and more students are heading out of the malls and into resale shops to find a look that will impress without breaking the bank.

At The Clothes Exchange in Fraser, owner Linda Bittner said lots of savvy moms bring their girls into her store this time of year to look for a low-priced formal dress. And while the store is consignment, there are plenty of modern styles to be found — some never even worn.

“What we do with our formal wear is, well, we don’t take donations. People come here to sell things, and we’re very selective with what we take. We work with (individuals), but we also work with bridal stores to get brand-new gowns in, which we sell for a third of the price.”

And a third of the price can make a huge difference. Bittner picked up a brand-new Jovani purple gown with tulle and sequin embellishments. The price at other retailers is $450, but at her shop it’s just $225.

“We have a wide range of pricing on the dresses; some are $58 or even $24,” she said. “We try to get dresses in a variety of styles and a variety of sizes as well. You always have some girls who come in and they don’t care what the dress costs because it’s not their money, but some girls pay for their own dresses. Here they can get something that’s cute and affordable, then they can bring us a few dresses back and get some money back for them.”

The attitude of today’s teens has changed in the past decade, according to Leah Damiani, owner and stylist at Leah’s Closet in Royal Oak. They’re more open to shopping at stores with lower price points, as long as they can still find a look they love. 

“They’re not as obsessed with labels anymore — I think it’s more important to them to be original,” Damiani said. “Most of the dresses here are $150 and under, and I’m hearing some girls are spending $400 or more at other stores.”

When Damiani opened her store about three years ago, she dressed a few curious students from nearby Berkley High School for their homecoming dance. Once word spread, Leah’s Closet became the go-to spot for unique vintage finds, and Damiani has even been known to track down garments for fashionistas with a certain vision in mind. 

There are more perks to shopping at vintage shops than just cost savings, Damiani added, like quality. Dresses made generations ago were better made than many of the lines sold in stores today, despite the steep price point. 

And the items in Damiani’s store come from vintage dealers and private sales, never bulk orders from clothing companies, taking away the dreaded worry of seeing another gal wearing the same frock as you on the big night.

“If you want to make a statement, come see me, because you’ll find something that’s pretty much one-of-a-kind,” she said. “It might not be the only one made, but it’s the only one around now.”