The RealReal’s Senior Fashion Editor, Lauren Bradshaw, shares how consignment kick-started and shaped her love of fashion.
As a 22-year-old living on a very small salary, in a very small apartment in New York, there were only two things I wanted to do on the weekends: 1) Go to 7-Eleven for a Slurpee, a requisite in the dog days of a Manhattan summer and 2) Shop consignment. Done together, they made for a mind-numbingly delightful day. So every Saturday, I would stroll to Chelsea to visit Housing Works, Angel Street Thrift Shop and a corner market that sold vintage clutches. I loved the idea of scouring racks to discover that one exquisite piece everyone else had grievously overlooked. There was the silk Armani dress I wore home for the holidays, because it made me feel grown-up and sophisticated around my high school friends; the granny-cool Miu Miu lace-up boots I still can’t part with ten years later (even though they’re incredibly painful); the white Versace skirt with silver thread which was three sizes too big but sparkled under certain lighting. All became beloved pieces in my closet, a small indulgence from the typical items my just-out-of-college budget could afford. I mean, the skirts and dresses had lining.
In many ways, consignment was my first real-world exposure to designer fashion. It was one thing to see a beautifully intricate Valentino dress in the issues of Harper’s Bazaar I stored under my nightstand. It was another thing entirely to witness it in all its glory at a luxury consignment boutique, run my hands over the individually constructed pieces of appliqué. Suddenly, after years of questioning why someone would buy a $2,400 dress, I got it. I could marvel at the craftsmanship up close, feel the heft of the fabric when I put it on in the fitting room. I loved the romanticism of it; not only the pieces themselves, but the idea that some truly fabulous woman had imbued the piece beforehand with her stylish aura and was now leaving it for me to find and make my own. And best of all, because it was consignment, in many cases, I could actually afford it.
Even though it sounds cloying, it’s a feeling I still get when I walk through The RealReal warehouse — which obviously has more racks than I could possibly ever absorb. The site has become my new Saturday routine, and through it, consignment continues to welcome me into the world of designer fashion and teach me. The pieces tell the stories of fashion houses first-hand, the memorable collections that made headlines, how styles and collections have evolved with shifting trends and creative designers, from Céline pre and post-Phoebe Philo to YSL versus Saint Laurent.
As a result, I’ve started to view myself as more than just a shopper; I’m a curator, a collector. There’s the Chloé sweater with soft pink appliqué flowers that I had been hunting for months after spotting it on a blog. I fell down a rabbit hole of Google research trying to discern the collection it came from (Resort 2014) and jumped when I clicked into a RealReal sale one afternoon to discover it waiting for me on the top line. Or the red Issa maxi dress with abstract stars, which I purchased for a trip to Hawaii after seeing it in one of the sales images. Or the Moschino question mark earrings which started as an impulse buy — I usually wear simple studs — but have become new favorites and conversation pieces. (Women have approached me at the bus stop, more than once, to ask where I bought them.) That’s the thing about consignment — when you discover a piece that fits your style or your personality, or simply just fits, it feels like kismet. There’s only one, so how could it not be? And while what I wear and the labels I love have evolved since I was 22 and first dipping my toes into the world of consignment and fashion itself, the thrill of finding that special piece has never changed.