Designer Cast-Offs Get a Second Chance in the Palm Beaches
By: Janet K. Keeler
Dina Capehart gets attached to the inventory in her West Palm Beach boutique. Each broad-brimmed hat, each vintage evening gown, each bejeweled evening bag has a story.
That’s because everything in Dina C’s Fab & Funky Consignment Boutique came from someone else’s closet. Someone with good taste. Her store on West Palm Beach’s Dixie Highway, or Antique Row as it is called, bursts with treasures that Dina has selected with the precision of a museum curator.
Ruffle through the racks and find designer delights as you go. Where else might one get to try on an authentic flamenco skirt or a 1960s-era Oscar de la Renta sequin jumpsuit? Or watch as Dina models a hat sprouting with miniature red roses? Mystery woman sunglasses are de rigueur.
A customer clips on a pair of red chandelier earrings and Dina nearly winces. “I hate to see those earrings go,” she says. But go they must to make room for more.
When you’re just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Palm Beach, one of the nation’s wealthiest playgrounds, there’s always more. One person’s junk is another person’s treasures hardly seems cliché when a shopper bags a pair of barely-worn Manolo Blahnik classic black heels for under $100. The giddy buyer knows they retail for $600.
It’s just a guess, but still it’s likely there are more Chanel bags and Pucci faux wrap dresses per square mile here than in any other part of the country. And bargain hunters benefit when the women who bought them new get tired of them after one season.
Dina C’s is one of at least a dozen consignment shops in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach that are stocked with high-end, designer castoffs. A lookiloo may quickly transform into a buyer during a daylong consignment store safari. It’s difficult to resist that $50 Lily Pulitzer swing dress when it fits perfectly and appears to have never been to a party. After all, it goes for nearly $200 brand-new.
There’s a difference between consignment shops and thrift stores, and that’s clearly defined at Dina C’s. People cart in shopping bags stuffed with hats, clothes, jewelry, purses and other accessories. Dina accepts about a third. Maybe. She likes to say she is giving old clothes new life, but not all offerings end up on her racks. She’s choosy and hunts for styles from the 1940s to the 1990s that other stores won’t have. Remember that Oscar de la Renta jumpsuit? It came to the store with a clipping of a newspaper photo of the designer’s first wife, Françoise de Langlade, wearing an identical version. She wore it belted and unzipped provocatively along with a long strand of pearls.
The dresses and hats that Dina, and other consignment shop curators, don’t want end up in thrift shops that accept just about everything. Prices tend to be lower at thrift stores, too, and social service groups or churches often run them.
Take the Church Mouse on Palm Beach, just off Worth Avenue where Tiffany, Cartier, Gucci, Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton cater to the super rich and really famous. The Mouse, as those in the know call it, raises money for Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and its end-of-the-season sale is legendary. Michael Kors, Escada and St. John duds are marked down as much as 90 percent from their already reduced prices when the Mouse closes its doors in late June. It opens again in October when the swell set begins its migration back to the island.
That’s a seasonal pattern that should be noted by visitors. Palm Beach is decidedly quiet in the summer and that affects hours at popular island consignment shops such as Razamataz, Classic Collections, Attitudes and Paradise Lost (where a white tuxedo jacket with tails was spotted for $60). They are open year-round but shorter hours and Sunday closures are likely.
Another interesting stop for the bargain hunter is Palm Beach’s Goodwill Embassy Boutique. There are several Goodwill outlets in the county, but the receiving warehouse in West Palm knows where to send the “good” stuff. Designer clothes, shoes and bags that likely began life in fashion-conscious Palm Beach boomerang back. A recent stop uncovered no whimsical, crystal-encrusted Judith Leiber bags, which have been sighted in the past, but there were several shelves of designer shoes. Mostly under $100, they included a pair of Burberry rain galoshes and strappy Yves St. Laurent stilettos that initially sold for 10 times more.
A swing by Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club on South Ocean Boulevard just to punctuate the location, and we head back to West Palm over the Southern Boulevard bridge. The two cities are less than two miles miles apart but might as well be on different planets in vibe and annual earnings. The consignment store stock, though, doesn’t know the difference and travels back and forth without worry about class or what’s in your wallet.
Tami Rowe’s City Girl Consignment beckons with its bubblegum pink cheeriness. That our clue that there’s a vast Lily Pulitzer section inside. The brightly colored clothes initially designed by socialite Lily Pulitzer have become a symbol of the laid-back, beachy Florida lifestyle. At City Girl, most Lilly Pulitzer pieces are in the $50 range. When the company started in the 1950s, the clothes were manufactured in Miami from fabric hand-printed in Key West. Lilly Pulitzer died in her Palm Beach home in 2013 at the age of 81.
The store is divided by color and type of clothing and the long rack of designer dresses reveals Valentino, Sonia Rykiel, Stella McCartney and more. A Louis Vuitton bag in pristine condition is tagged at a gulp-eliciting $1,900. That is until the shopper finds out it started life close to $4,000. What a bargain!
Farther down the road is the new Stitches & Rust, which bills itself as affordable vintage. Owner Heidi Ferguson calls to customers with a sign perched on top of a yellow convertible parked on Dixie Highway. Make your way around the corner and you’ll find Stitches & Rust in a wee cottage.Whe
Heidi, a former commercial flight attendant (she still attends to private planes), is a lover of 80s kitsch and any other era that strikes her fancy. A row of vintage airline bags (remember Pan Am?) is a nod to her profession. Original artwork sits side-by-side with KISS memorabilia. Look down, look up but don’t look away or you will miss some banging cowboy boots that are already broken in.
Like Dina C’s, Stitches & Rust shows the personality of its curator. And that’s what makes a consignment store romp through Palm Beach and West Palm Beach so much fun. The proprietors can tell stories about that embroidered red toreador hat you just can’t resist. And then you can tell it at your next party, especially about how you got it for a song.
When you go...
Accommodations vary widely in Palm Beach County from the historic Breakers in Palm Beach where rooms easily hit the $1,000-plus-a-night mark to economic chain hotels in West Palm Beach for about $110. The Embassy Suites by Hilton near the Palm Beach International Airport is a good deal, both for its location and full complimentary breakfast buffet. Ask for a room up high and you’ll have a view of the city and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Grab lunch or dinner (or both) at Joy Noodles and Asian Cuisine in the middle of West Palm Beach’s Antique Row. A large selection of organic teas can be prepared hot or cold. Try the pomegranate lemon for a mid-shopping spree lift. The curries are outstanding. The chef caters to vegetarians and those with allergies.
Photos by Scott Keeler for VISIT FLORIDA