Ardis Yarger is an experienced bargain hunter. She can find a good deal in antiques, and she can spot one in clothing as well.
The Kansas University student shops used clothing stores fairly frequently and consigns clothing as well.
"It works out good," said Yarger, 1140 Tenn. "Rather than giving (clothes) away or throwing them away, you can get some money back on them to buy you something new."
And by browsing the racks of used clothing stores, she also comes across her share of bargains to take home. Her latest find was a top brand name denim jacket which would probably sell for $75 to $125. She paid $20 for a used one.
"If you go to the stores often enough, you can always find a bargain," she said. "Sometimes it takes a little hunting, but you can find one. I shop for antiques, so I'm used to shopping in `used' stores."
"IT'S A NICE little treasure hunt to see what's available," said Grace Marion, Eudora, who stops by a used clothing store once a month or so. "And the prices are great. It's like shopping back in the '50s."
On her bargain-hunting trips, Marion has come up with several good buys, including a Pendleton suit for $20 and name brand blouses for $8 to $10 each.
A few years ago, people might not have been so eager to admit they wear used clothing. But in an age of environmental awareness and recycling mania, used clothing isn't what it used to be.
Today, fashion- and cost-conscious shoppers are turning to used clothing stores for their family clothing needs. Locally, young and old alike can feed their fashion tastes and stay within nearly any budget.
For many, it's a fashion treasure hunt. Some do it to save money, paying as little as much as 33 to 50 percent of the retail price of new clothing. Others want to make a stronger statement and still others are seeking the thrill of the hunt.
THE NEWEST used clothing store in Lawrence sells clothes for the entire family, with emphasis on women's and men's clothing. Lasting Impressions Consignment Boutique, 711 W. 23rd St., opened in August. Owner Carol Broman said she is trying to fill what she sees as a void in the Lawrence business community.
"I was making a career change and moving to Lawrence and I discovered there was no consignment shop," she said. "That took me by surprise."
She considers her shop "upscale" resale and has already had about 700 people bring in items to sell. In its first nine months, more than 4,500 items have been sold.
"I think we've been well received," Broman said. "We've done well on consignments but we haven't really tapped the market for buyers."
People who shop at Lasting Impressions can't be categorized, she said. They have a wide range of income levels, including a Kansas City couple who want strictly designer clothes.
"We intend this shop to have something for everybody," Broman said.
THE RACKS AT Lasting Impressions are filled with everything from jeans and casual wear to business suits to dresses. The store also offers maternity clothing, lingerie and a few evening gowns and formals.
Many of the labels read like a who's who in fashion design Liz Claiborne, Guess jeans, Benneton tops. Broman said she tries to keep the merchandise as updated as possible and appropriate for the season at hand.
"The big sellers are separates tops and skirts and that kind of thing," Broman said.
Often the items are in such good shape that buyers question whether they're really used or new, Broman said. "They're really amazed it isn't new."
Besides cutting costs, it's an inexpensive way to add a little variety to a person's wardrobe, she said.
FOR PARENTS, buying recycled clothing can be a way to lessen the expense of clothing quickly growing children. A few years ago, family members would hand down clothing to others. But today people are more mobile and live further away from other family members, which makes hand-me-downs the exception rather than the rule.
Second Chance for Children's Clothing, 11 W. 9th, and Animal Crackers, 844 Ill., opened nearly a decade ago to serve the children's used clothing market. Both operate on a retail basis, in contrast to Lasting Impressions, which sells used clothing on consignment.
"We had people lining up at the door the first day," said Sue Kapfer, owner of Second Chance, which sells clothing for newborn through children's size 14 as well as maternity clothes.
Carole Boulton, owner of Animal Crackers, said her business met with similar enthusiasm. The mother of 11 children, she ran her business out of the breakfast room in her home for a few months before opening a store. Animal Crackers sells clothes for infants through size 16 boys as well as a few pre-teen girls sizes.
"IT'S BEEN very successful," Boulton said. "We have a lot of repeat customers. It continues to be a growing business. It's a growing trend all over the country."
The stigma of used clothes continues to diminish as more people become acquainted with such stores, Kapfer said. Parents, grandparents and friends are turning more and more to used clothing stores. As evidence of that change in attitude and a growing demand for the clothes, wholesale used clothing has become available, allowing stores to place orders for various sizes and styles.
And new customers continue to be surprised at the brand labels, such as Osh-Kosh and Healthtex on children's clothing, which are available at prices well below new retail.
For example, a consumer can buy a Sarah Kent dress, which retails for $60, for $20 or a $35 Ralph Lauren oxford shirt for $8, Kapfer said. Overalls, which start at $20 new, sell for $6 to $8 used. Some one-piece items for babies start at $1.50. While prices vary, many are in the $3 to $7 range, Boulton said.
"WE HAVE very nice name brand clothes. Everything is washed, ironed, marked and sized," said Kapfer, who does nearly 5 tons of laundry a year for the shop. "They're no different from hand-me-downs."
"It's very high class stuff," Boulton said. "Brand names are often what we get because they recycle best."
To make the most of the bargains, customers should shop frequently to catch any new arrivals.
"Smart shoppers check back on a weekly basis," Boulton said. "A lot of customers do that."
And items don't stay around too long.
"Something that's been here a long time has been here a week," Kapfer said.
Many of the local stores' customers are from outside Lawrence, including Kansas City, Topeka and Salina. They opt for used clothing stores rather than time-consuming garage sales.
Those who sell their used clothing to the stores get something out of the deal as well. Besides money, they know that their items are being recycled rather than thrown away or stored for years in a closet.
"They get a return on their investment, and they're thrilled," Kapfer said.