by Trista Peterson

I love clothes, but I might love shopping even more. Especially online shopping. I love scrolling through pages of pictures of beautiful garments until– aha! –I find something that’s just right. An intriguing colour, a fun detail, a pattern that draws me in. I love the thrill of pressing ‘submit order’ and— the anticipation of the package’s arrival. Unwrapping the tissue paper and brushing my fingers against the soft fabrics, experiencing the satisfaction of the perfect fit revealed in the mirror.

But for many, fast fashion’s short and wasteful lifespan has made secondhand clothes more appealing. Or maybe the price tags of luxury items leaves some feeling like Carrie Bradshaw forgoing her rent payments in favour of a pair of Manolo Blahniks, minus the fiction.

For me, it’s both.

So I shop consignment. A lot. Maybe I have a problem –  or maybe, I tell myself, I have a hobby. I browse online consignment platforms like The Real Real, Poshmark, and Thredup almost daily in search of the perfect additions to my closet. I hang them with the pride and admiration of a hunter mounting an impressive rack of antlers upon the wall. And when I no longer love them, I consign them. The lifespan of these treasured garments continues on, at least for a little while longer.

But for all the time I spend sorting through online consignment stores, I haven’t really explored Edmonton’s brick and mortar second-hand merchants. This week, I decided to put an end to my ignorance. I grabbed an iced peach green tea (non-sweet) from Starbucks for energy, masked up, and visited five consignment stores. Here’s what I found.

Vespucci Consignment
12529 102 Ave, Edmonton, AB

The first stop on my list was Vespucci. My heart almost stopped when I realized they are one and the same as VSP– Canada’s premier consignment store, where the costumes of the Emmy-nominated sitcom Schitt’s Creek were consigned. As someone who waited, unsuccessfully, in line for that limited time auction (with my eye on Alexis’s Isabel Marant cropped sweater from the finale) and lives mere blocks from their High Street boutique, I practically galloped to their doors.

Vespucci is overwhelmingly large, yet somehow too small for how much stock they have. I immediately realized that one trip wouldn’t be enough to completely sort through the racks stuffed full of mid-range to designer goods– from J. Crew to LoveShackFancy to Prada,

Vespucci has something for everyone (except those who are after menswear– you’re out of luck here). The prices vary accordingly. While older or less-luxurious items go for $20-$30, their designer goods are often hundreds of dollars. They offer a wide range of styles, from athleisure to business casual to formal gowns. But be aware: the sizes don’t seem to go beyond XXL.

Vespucci carries plenty of brand-new-with-tags items (a recently-shuttered high-end clothing store just consigned the last of their stock) and many more in great condition. And many, particularly designer, pieces that look well-worn: Chanel pumps with visible foot-indents and scuffed toes, Prada wallets of faded leather. But I gawked with the enthusiasm of a child seeing exotic zoo animals nonetheless.

A knee-length, pleated leather skirt by Alice + Olivia called to me, priced at a very reasonable $70, considering that its original owner likely paid over ten times that price. But I had just bought a faux-leather skirt last month, and does a girl really need two? Priding myself on my self-discipline (what little I have), I moved on.

Good Stuff
10704 142 Street NW, Edmonton, AB

Next, I hit up Good Stuff Consignment. It’s small but well-stocked, and it’s clear that their limited space makes them picky about what they buy: every item was in immaculate condition, many still with tags on from their original retailer. No stains, pills, rips, or general wear. They offer only women’s clothes, and don’t seem to have a wide range of sizes.

While I came across the odd (collection-worthy) Zara piece, Good Stuff carries a nice selection of mid-to-high-end clothing brands. As I thumbed through racks of mid-range labels such as Banana Republic, J. Crew, and Citizens of Humanity, I came across a decent number of smart Theory and Vince silk tops and dresses, though the prices reflect the luxe-factor– a flowy, silk Joie top is priced at $88. Not bad considering that new, those blouses are worth several hundred dollars, but too steep to tempt me.

I winced upon discovering a green, linen army jacket identical to one I bought off Poshmark months ago, but priced at only a third of what I’d paid. I guess that’s what I get for not shopping local.

This would be the place to go for someone building a wardrobe for a new office job. But since I sit in front of my computer in a bathrobe and my “daytime pajamas” all day, there’s not much here for me. I thanked the attendant and headed out to Whyte Ave.

Red Pony
9940 82 Ave, Edmonton, AB

I opened the door to Red Pony to a short flight of stairs lined with shoe-packed display shelves leading to a tiny and eclectic boutique lined with racks of clothes. I assumed at first that everything is sorted by size, so I abandoned the first rack after a preppy, silk Kate Spade blouse catches my eye, but in the wrong size. I soon realize that everything is sorted by colour, which I actually like given how bogus women’s sizes are: one brand’s large is another’s small. I return to where I started.

Red Pony is unique in that everything is similarly priced, regardless of brand. They host a nice range of labels: a few pieces from Zara, more yet from J. Crew and its laid-back sister company Madewell, some boho finds from Free People and Anthropologie, with some more high end designers thrown in and a few vintage tees for good measure. All the blouses I look at are around $30, dresses and sweaters slightly more. Everything is in great condition, but again, lacking really inclusive sizes.

Red Pony seems to find its niche in cool-girl (sorry, guys) casual wear. Sweaters, jackets, summer dresses, and jeans. In fact, a pair of AGolde skinny jeans with a tempting $28 price tag (worth over $250 new) caught my eye. I draped them over my arm to try on, and an attendant offered me a fitting room. I hemmed and hawed in front of the mirror, inspecting my reflection from several angles before deciding to pass, trying to honour my new ethos of giving myself at least 24 hours to consider a purchase. Catch and release.

Three days of regret and turmoil later, I returned to purchase the jeans. The woman who showed me to the fitting room days earlier laughed when she saw me standing sheepishly at the till, remembering me from before.

10462 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB

I then traveled south on Whyte Ave to one of the newest players in Edmonton’s consignment game. Wrinkled appeared only about three months ago, and their newness allows for a type of millennial-trendiness ungripped by other stores I’ve visited.

Their stark white walls are contrasted with metallic clothing racks that wrap around the tiny room in two layers. Delicate gold jewelry hangs off stands on top of the checkout counter and the far wall is occupied by rows of shoes and bags. A long rack stretches through the middle of the room, host to exclusively dresses. As I browsed, the century-old hardwood floors creaked under my feet, triggering some sort of dopamine response in my brain obsessed with all things old.

A friendly attendant, steaming clothes before hanging them up, welcomed me, and I began to thumb through the racks. Wrinkled seems to specialize in casual wear, even carrying some athleisure, but has a small selection of more formal dresses and skirts. The Canadian every-girl’s favourites, Lululemon and Aritzia, frequent the racks, though higher and lower end labels hang among them.  The odd Forever 21 skirt or H&M top find their opposite in Kate Spade, Michael Kors, even vintage Burberry (only $42?!).

Suddenly, we were plunged into darkness– the garment steamer had tripped the breaker. The offending appliance’s operator laughed and disappeared into the back room and in a minute, the lights returned. The oak floors are likely not the only antique components of the building’s construction.

I came across a soft, oatmeal-coloured sweater from Aritzia’s house brand Wilfred. In immaculate condition (like everything in the boutique), it just begged to be worn on an overcast spring day, but I passed. I liked it, but did I like it enough to pay $50? Not really.

Again, the sizes are not exactly inclusive, but the decent selection of accessories, jewelry, and shoes may be of interest to some. If you’re on the hunt for men’s clothes, you can browse a small selection on their website.

Plato’s Closet
10338 80 Ave and 10834 170 Street NW, Edmonton, AB

For many, Plato’s Closet is synonymous with thrifting. An international franchise with two Edmonton locations, Plato’s is the destination for those seeking mall brands at unbeatable prices – rarely do their prices exceed $20.

Neither location– smaller off-Whyte Ave shop nor more warehouse-like west-end store – is particularly boutique-like. They’re a more traditional thrift store like Goodwill or Value Village, with a less-curated feel and that distinctive smell of second-hand clothing hanging in the air. Some pieces are brand new, some look barely-touched, and others yet are shrunk so badly that they would look more at home in the doggy-sweater aisle of a pet store. But to me, these are minor trade-offs for the rock-bottom prices.

Plato’s Closet’s many, many racks are sorted by type of clothing and size. They have a well-stocked section dedicated to larger sizes as well as a men’s section from which my partner has bought many t-shirts with silly logos and phrases – his all-time favourite being a grey t-shirt commemorating the mad cow disease outbreak of the early naughts.

Both locations have a small corner dedicated to Aritzia. It’s usually picked-over, but there are treasures to be found, such as a pair of brand-new jeans retailing for $275 that I scored for $22, or the black, high-waisted faux-suede Wilfred shorts for $14 that are on heavy rotation in my summer closet.

Edmonton’s consignment and thrifting scene didn’t disappoint. I was impressed by the ranges of labels, many of which are even hard to find brand new in Edmonton.

Will I forgo online consignment shopping in favour of these stores? Well, probably not. I like being able to seek out specific items, compare prices, and make the purchase from the comfort of my sofa.

But many people like an excuse to leave the house and shop around, anticipating the rare but potent thrill of finding an unexpectedly perfect piece. Wherever you fall on the online/offline debate, I hope this guide inspires you to check out some of Edmonton’s fabulous consignment and thrift stores.

Maybe I’ll see you there.