If taking the trouble to present oneself well is an individual's gift to the world, then On the Other Hand (8126 Hampson St., 861-0159) is owner Kay Dunne's present to such visual philanthropists of all economic levels. She opened the boutique in January 1987, long before consignment shops became popular in the city, and has been clothing value-minded customers looking for top-quality clothing and designer styles ever since. The store, which is much larger than its small storefront hints, offers all types of clothing -- from furs to casual wear -- as well as hats, shoes, jewelry, handbags, a few knickknacks and other fashion accessories.
"It's a recycling of designer labels," Dunne says. "Here you don't have to feel the guilt of buying a $100 blouse; you can get it here for $10. It allows people to experiment with different styles and colors and combinations. It takes awhile for us as adults to find our changing style."
Dunne receives her clothing from all over the world and from all types of people. She receives a lot from locals as well as tourists who stumbled onto her shop while visiting the city. Recently, she received a trunk from a costume designer that was filled with outfits worn by movie stars Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and Tom Cruise. Dunne's shop is well-known to movie and theater wardrobe crews who have long used her store as a resource for finding exceptional costumes within their usually-strapped budgets, including the wardrobers for a movie Nicolas Cage filmed in the city recently.
The shop also has a large selection of wedding gowns, cocktail dresses and formals that have only been worn once or twice. "A lot of people here will buy evening gowns for an occasion that they attend with their circle of friends," she says. "They've invested a lot of money, but they can't really wear it again because all their friends have seen it. Here they can put it on consignment and recuperate some of their fashion investment. I've had some customers buy a evening gown, wear it to an event, then send it back to me to resale for them." When it comes to wedding gowns, Dunne says she doesn't accept consignments of dresses that originally retailed for less than $1,000. The wedding dresses she sells start at $300 and range from vintage 1920s to today's runway designs.
"It's a smart value," she says. "And every wedding gown I've ever sold, the marriage has done well. [Getting a designer gown for hundreds less than retail] shows that the wife is frugal -- and still ends up with a beautiful dress."
Dunne isn't leaving the men out when it comes to fashion values. She recently began carrying men's suits, slacks, shirts, cufflinks, button covers and other items and hopes to expand her offerings steadily as word gets around. She recently acquired a four-piece cashmere men's suit that originally sold for $3,400, which she will sell "for a fraction" of that sum. "We're starting to do a few things for men. They were feeling left out; they want great-looking things to wear that they can afford, too."
Instead of being a standard retail business, Dunne considers On the Other Hand to be more of a service provider, offering low-cost designer clothes to an economically conscientious public and providing those who have invested in top- quality apparel to enjoy a return on their investment. "There is a need out there to recuperate fashion dollars," she says. "This business is inflation-proof -- for the customers and for the consigners. When you cleanse your wardrobe, you can see what you have, and it's kind of a purge. You can see what you have and what goes together. People also are trying to downsize their lives and prioritize."
The store is packed with unexpected delights from designers such as Donna Karan, Halston, Victor Kosta, Issey Miyake, Roberto Cavalli, Romeo Gigli, Moschino, Gucci, Mark Eisen and others. Customers will find bargains such as a Yeohler silk satin blouse in mint condition that originally retailed for $475 but is only $50 at On the Other Hand. A $1,600 pair of Italian leather thigh boots are marked $200, and a Moschino cocktail dress worth several hundred dollars is only $38. To complete an outfit, Dunne selects vintage and semi-precious stone jewelry, a wide selection of hats (an accessory the store owner is rarely without), gloves, designer shoes, scarves and more. Everywhere you look, there are racks of clothes and groups of accessories. Although it appears compressed, the merchandise, which ranges in size from 0 to 28, is arranged in easy-to-decipher size and style groupings, which Dunne characterizes as her own personal Dewey Decimal System. There's always a sale in progress at the store, the staff is open to negotiating prices and the shop offers lay-away.
The boutique owner's philosophy is simple: everyone should be able to dress well. But her motivation is a love of beauty and the fashions that can enhance that. "It's a gift we give the world -- our wardrobe," she says. "We get up in the morning and have a blank canvas, then we dress and paint a beautiful picture. Life should be a chain of anticipations.
"I try to reach every echelon of society. It makes me happy for just anyone to come in and be able to buy a Chanel jacket, for people to be able to dress the way they want to on a fixed budget."
- Proprietress Kay Dunne believes that everyone deserves to feel and look beautiful without going broke and her resale boutique, On the Other Hand, offers 'gently worn' designer apparel for a fraction of the original cost.