Ever feel overwhelmed by secondhand shopping? Maybe it’s cheap, icky, or just not for you? Today’s modern parent might convince you otherwise. She’s a secondhand shopping expert and even teaches others how to fall in love with resale style. Be sure to check out all the knowledge she has to share about being responsible stewards to our planet by turning someone else’s trash into our own personal treasure.
I’m back with another edition of the Modern Parent Series, a collection of interviews with everyday parents who practice intentional living in a variety of ways. I love hearing from other parents who are taking life a bit more slowly, really digging into their priorities, and focusing on what matters most to them.
Let me introduce you to Nancy. Nancy has a passion for secondhand fashion and sharing it with others. As you can imagine, this is so up my alley. Interestingly enough, I was introduced to Nancy by my mom. How nice, right? I love what Nancy is doing and will let her tell you all about how she helps everyday people love their look.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, where you live, etc… What is the Nancy 101?
I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, with my husband and 14-year old daughter and our old, sweet yellow Labrador retriever, Max. I love to travel and explore the foods and cultures of other countries, bake, read, and spend time with good friends. At Nancy Dilts Wardrobe Consulting, I bring my passions – personal style, positive body image, and the environment – together to help my clients feel great about how they look, using an economically and environmentally sustainable approach. I focus on helping people of all genders make their wardrobes both functional and fun to express their authentic selves.
Can you share a bit more about the style services you provide to people in your area?
My tagline is Style for Everyday: new to you – true to you. The “true to you” part is that style is personal and reflects who you are. It is not about hiding “flaws” or conforming to a certain standard. It is about embracing who you are right now, feeling good about yourself, and being excited about how you look.
I specialize in practicing sustainable consumerism by making your existing wardrobe as functional as possible and with “new-to-you” personal shopping at consignment stores. New to-you clothing is environmentally sustainable because it keeps quality garments out of the waste stream and reduces demand for the manufacture of new clothing, which has significant environmental and human rights impacts.
I spent close to 20 years in environmental education and outreach where my work involved raising awareness about environmental issues and teaching about how our behaviors impact the environment. I have been practicing sustainable consumerism for years and share my approach with others in my services.
Do you have a background in style or fashion that led to this niche? How did this become your “specialty”?
I don’t have an extensive formal background in fashion or style. I often use the phrase “keepin’ it real” to describe myself because my experience comes from my own journey of leaving behind negative body image and understanding how much what we wear impacts how we feel. I pay attention to fashion because that interests me, but it’s not my priority. Feeling good is my priority – for myself and for my clients. It’s about finding your authentic personal style so that the awesome you on the inside is reflected in your clothing on the outside. The foundation of my work is one of trust and relationship – my clients and I work together to create a wardrobe that fits well, fosters confidence, and feels good.
People say I “have an eye” for putting together outfits and know what will look good on someone. I took multiple Art and Art History courses in college where I learned about color, composition, and balance of lines. I use this knowledge all the time in teaching clients and talking about how to put clothing together in a way that suits their body types and complexions.
I chose this work because I wanted to shift my career to be more relational – I wanted to work closely with people to make positive, tangible change. My work allows me to do this in the best of ways – I help people to feel great about how they look, and I model a more sustainable approach for your wardrobe. I love it!
Does your affinity for secondhand spread to other areas of your life or mainly just fashion? If so, can you share one great tip about purchasing secondhand (other than clothing)?
I try to shop secondhand for other things whenever possible, particularly for furniture, housewares, and books (if the library isn’t an option). It’s mind-boggling how much stuff we have – keeping items in the use stream for as long as possible is one direct and immediate way we can have a positive impact on the health of our environment. Plus, you can find very high-quality things secondhand – it can allow you to afford something you wouldn’t be able to if buying retail.
One tip for secondhand success is to crystalize in your mind the concept of the item you want, but to be open to how that concept will manifest. For example, if you are looking for a new-to-you accent chair for your living room, think about color(s), type (wood, or upholstered?), size, and general style. Then scope local shops, Craig’s List, and Facebook Marketplace with an open mind to the exact chair. You may see something you never thought of but is perfect. Also be ready to act fast – you don’t have the luxury of several of the same item in stock when shopping secondhand.
I’d love to hear about one or two of your most favorite secondhand finds. What were they? Where did you find them? And were there any secrets you employed in that search to score such great pieces?
One of my favorite secondhand pieces is a Fabiana Filippi cashmere duster I borrowed from a consignment shop in St. Paul to wear in a photo shoot for an article Saint Paul Magazine wrote about my business. It was at least $900 retail (!), and several hundred at the consignment shop. I didn’t purchase it after the shoot though I really wanted it because I watch my budget just like most folks. My husband surprised me with it a few weeks later as a Christmas gift. Not only do I love the piece itself (it’s gorgeous), I also love that it became a special gift to mark the success of my business. It is such high quality and so classic in style that it will last forever.
My secret for finding great pieces is to be intentional when shopping and open to surprises at the same time – and to trust my gut when I find something I like. Intentionality includes not settling for something if it doesn’t fit well or suit you – even if you love the piece itself – and making sure it is made well so it will last. It also includes knowing your personal style and recognizing what sparks joy (à la Marie Kondo) when you wear it. I keep a list of pieces I’m looking for in the Notes app on my phone so that I’m focused when shopping.
Are there any particular products or resources that make shopping secondhand easier or more accessible for you?
I have a list of Twin Cities consignment shops that gives the lowdown of location, the kind of clothing sold, pricing, sizes, and resale method. It’s a great guide for finding a Twin Cities shop near you that will meet your needs. NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals also has a national member directory for finding resale shops. Another way to shop secondhand is through social media groups – many neighborhoods in the Twin Cities have Facebook closed groups for hyper-local bartering, exchange, and resale. Hosting and attending clothing swaps with friends is a fun way to keep clothing in the use stream as well.
Through your styling services, you help other women find their style and build a closet that genuinely and simply reflects their desired style. Can you share one or two of your favorite or most rewarding experiences working with your clients?
I feel privileged to support others in their body image journeys. One of my most rewarding experiences is helping my clients see they are beautiful. Having clothing that fits you well looks amazing, no matter your body type. Having clothing that truly reflects who you are feels amazing. When you like how you look, it changes how you show up in the world. It can be transformative. It is the most gratifying experience for me to have a woman actually gasp with pleasure when she looks at herself in the mirror. Women especially don’t do that nearly often enough.
Can you tell us about one or two things you’ve learned about yourself or your own style through helping other women? How does your work also help you?
Last summer I started a weekly series on my Facebook page called Out the Door, where I post an outfit I’m wearing with style tips related to the outfit. It’s been a fun way to connect with people and offer inspiration because they see what I’m actually wearing and how I intentionally put pieces together. They also see that I’m a regular person keepin’ it real – not perfected and styled for social media in an unattainable way.
An unexpected outcome of Out the Door is that it has given me regular documentation of what I’m wearing, which allows me to see the bigger picture of my personal style and how I’m expressing it. It showed me when my signature style may have tipped into being in a style rut, and it encourages me to mix things up now and then!
My work with my clients also helps me to maintain my own positive body image. It’s so easy to get stuck in negative thinking about your body – helping others to shift their mindsets reminds me to do the same for myself. It’s like the saying, “If you wouldn’t say that to your friend, why say it to yourself?” Gaining the upper hand on negative body image has been a lifelong journey for me, so I relate to my clients. Together, we’re chipping away at those negative messages.
Anything else you want to share with readers that might help them transition to more secondhand shopping and find success with the treasure hunt?
Resale clothing is a wide and varied market – there is a big difference between thrifting and consignment shopping. If you’ve never shopped for secondhand clothing before, start with a consignment shop. The filtering for quality and current style is done before clothing goes on the sales floor, making the shopping experience easier. Go with an open mind about what you might find – I have found so many incredible designer pieces, including shoes, which are unworn. 90% of my clothing is secondhand – it pains me to buy retail now, knowing how much high quality clothing is available for resale!