Growing up the youngest of four girls in a small northern town, my life consisted of (what seemed to be) an endless supply of poorly coordinated "hand-me-downs". As creative as I tried to be there was only so much I could do with access to a handful of stores with name brand fashions and a limited teenage budget. With the nearest high end department store a three hour flight south, my fashion craving was satisfied by the Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines on the shelf at Shopper's Drug Mart.
Flipping through those pages I would imagine what it was like to experience the ultimate shopping "moment" ... when you find the garment (or outfit) that was MEANT to be yours. Just like Julia Roberts' red dress and white gloves in "Pretty Woman" or Carrie Bradshaw's Vera Wang wedding gown in "Sex in the City", you connect to the fabric, the fit, and the feeling you get wearing something that makes you feel invincible.
When I moved to the big city, that shopping "moment" became a reality! It was everything that I had hoped it would be ... and MORE! Unfortunately, so did the inevitability of the credit card bill faithfully showing up in the mailbox each month. Much like Rebecca Bloomwood in "Confessions of a Shopaholic", I had a moment where I realized I needed to curb my fashion obsession and find a way to match my craving for gorgeous garments with my budget. That's where I found fashion consignment!
To be honest, I hadn't stepped into a consignment shop in over three years. In the last few cities that I lived in I was sadly disappointed with the places I had visited and defaulted to a trip to Marshall's or Winners if I wanted to hunt for something to add to my closet. That's until I was introduced to Katie Evans at a recent Market Collective ... and discovered Clothing Bar Boutique.
Building "Community" Around Gently Used Fashion
Katie Evans, founder of Clothing Bar Boutique, exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit here in Calgary. Unlike others her age, finding comfort working for large companies in the city, she has taken her undeniable passion for "gently used fashion" and created a business representing who she is ... a budget-conscious fashionista, philanthropist, and community cultivator!
She grew up with sensibilities about money and couldn't wait to visit Value Village with her mom, curious about what they would find and how she could make the most of a small budget. By the time she was 14 years of age, Katie knew she wanted to own a consignment business (or be involved in one). The idea of connecting really good quality clothing (i.e., high quality brands, pieces that have obviously been well taken care of, and unique finds) with new owners at a good price inspired the creation of Clothing Bar Boutique in 2012.
As confident as she was about her career choice, she didn't jump into the venture right away, working for a high end consignment shop and an oil and gas company for a few years. When it was time she applied what she learned and launched her business by setting up small pop-up shops around the city, using items from her own closet. Over time her collection included contributions from friends and family who had fallen "out of love" with items collecting dust in their closets. She managed to organize one event every couple of months and began to grow her brand.
Clothing Bar Boutique (just "Clothing Bar" for its regular shoppers and contributors) became known as the "best friend's closet" that women from around the city had come to depend on. Customers would keep an eye on the Facebook page for newly acquired items, travel to various festivals and events throughout the city to try on clothes, and walk away satisfied with the amazing things they would find. In addition, as new items were going into their closets, many customers would set aside unwanted clothes and donate them to Clothing Bar Boutique instead of bringing them to a Goodwill drop off centre. Clothing Bar Boutique became a hybrid of fashion stop, recycling depot, and community gathering place.
As more and more donations were coming in (several bags a week from generous customers) she made the decision to open up a retail location in the trendy neighbourhood of Marda Loop in the spring of 2016. This was the perfect time for me to get a taste of the Clothing Bar "community consignment" experience!
A "Win-Win" for Any Budget Fashionista
Although I had shopped in consignment shops before, I had to remind myself that it would not be like shopping in Nordstrom or going to Chinook Mall with a specific purchase in mind. You need to go into the experience knowing the following:
- EVERY piece is unique and truly one-of-a kind,
- Each item comes in ONE size and ONE colour (if it doesn't fit ... there isn't another one to try on),
- DON'T get caught up with a stray string or slightly frayed edge (because it has been worn before),
- DON'T judge the size written on the tag (or inside the shoe),
- DON'T come into a consignment store if you are in a hurry (you need time to carefully look through the racks to find hidden treasures),
- Consignment shops typically aren't well organized (because of the unique nature of the items sold),
- EXPECT to be surprised when you get to the cash register!
As I mentioned earlier, I really appreciate high quality, beautiful clothing and accessories. I would go so far as to say I prefer "labels" and the guarantee of quality when I open my wallet to buy something. The same holds true for consignment shopping. Being that I was familiar with Clothing Bar Boutique's "style sense" I was cautiously optimistic about what I would find.
Well ... Clothing Bar Boutique is a seriously fun fashion adventure for people looking for everyday fashions and (specifically) mid-to-high end brands! The minute you walk up the stairs to her quaint location you know you're going to find clothes that have been given as much attention as you give your own beloved wardrobe. From the organized racks (separated by type of clothing and colour) to the cute displays of accessories and trays of candy to keep shoppers energized, you know this business means everything to Katie.
Needless to say, after three hours of exploring, I was able to narrow down my selections (i.e., Marc Jacobs, Free People, BCBG/Max Azria, Rock Revival, Matt & Nat, Banana Republic, Armani, etc.) but was surprised at how much I found that fit my style, my Six Foot Canasian limbs, and my budget! I ended up with an armload of clothes, shoes, and a bag for less than I would spend in one outing to Lululemon! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Good Quality Clothes Get a Second Chance
Until now, I had never really thought about bringing in my own "less than loved" clothing to a consignment shop to sell on my behalf. For me, it was easier to just drop a bag off at Goodwill and drive away than deal with all the "presumed" hassles involved. It wasn't until I spent a day at Clothing Bar Boutique that I realized how easy it can be ... at least how Katie Evans does it!
The Clothing Bar is always looking for contemporary, modern chic clothing, shoes, and accessories for women. Items are selected based on what current customers want, and represent the store's favourite styles. They begin accepting spring and summer clothing in March and fall and winter clothing in August!
Whatever they don't take is given back to the owner or they have the option to donate them to the Clothing Bar's charities of choice (i.e., Women in Need and Making Changes, just to name a couple). For more information on the consignment process with Clothing Bar, click here.
The very next day, I brought in four bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories that I was no longer excited about wearing (but was confident someone would love just as much as I did the day I first laid eyes on them)! Not only will my beloved pieces go to a good home, I also recover some of the cost when Clothing Bar sells it! I can either get that money e-transferred to me or I can use it as credit towards future purchases at the shop. SCORE!!
The Clothing Bar, an "in between home" Katie has created for clothing that was once dearly loved, is more than just a place that feels like your best friend's closet. It is one big community closet where people donate great fashion and find great fashion at reasonable prices. Katie takes great pride in helping to connect each piece with its new owner ... AND IT SHOWS!
If you’re curious about the Clothing Bar Boutique (or are curious about consignment), you can check out images on social media using the icons at the top of the page or you can check out the gallery below.