Spotlight on Rummage:
Bargains High and Low in Women’s Clothing

Carrie Hughes


It’s easy to find bargains in women’s clothing at the Kenilworth Union Church Rummage Sale, whether you’re looking for high-end brands—St. John, Christian Dior, Lilly Pulitzer—or for a bagful of basic pants and tops.

Liz O'Toole

Liz O’Toole

And if you need a coat, “We have so many coats that no one in the Chicago area should be cold this winter!” said Liz O’Toole, a co-chair of the Women’s Department at the Rummage Sale, scheduled for July 14 and 16.

There are two places to shop for women’s clothing at the sale, the Women’s Department and the French Room.

The Women’s Department is “the high volume place. We are so high volume it’s crazy. We have so much merchandise it’s hard to put it out so everyone can see all the good stuff we have,” Liz said. “We have stacks of knit tops and pants. Name a sport, we have clothes for it. Golf, yoga, workout clothes; we’ve got it. For people going back to work, we’ve got lots of suits and blouses. We even have a whole box of scrubs. ”

French Room, by contrast, is all about elite brands and designer clothes. Of course each year is different; the selection depends on what is donated. But other brands that regularly show up here are Kate Spade, Prada, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Escada, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Dana Buchman, Ralph Lauren, and Banana Republic.

Nancy Allen

Nancy Allen

“I’m constantly amazed at the quantity and quality of items that come through and the generosity of people giving these beautiful, beautiful things,” said Linda Ransford, co-chair of French Room along with Carrie Hughes and Gina Gooden.

“We got a beautiful full length silk nightgown and robe that looks like it hasn’t been worn,” Linda said.  There are also high-end handbags, other accessories and special coats.

“And we got furs—jackets, scarves, and vests—plus a wedding gown, a lot of fancy ball gown dresses, shorter night time dresses, and lots of cashmere. We have a whole cashmere section!” said Carrie.

That’s not to mention racks of good trousers, skirts, jackets, suits, sweaters, outerwear, swimwear, intimate apparel, and shoes in the French Room.

Both departments say they’ve seen an increasing number of younger shoppers in recent years. French Room has numerous brands that appeal particularly to younger shoppers, like Theory, J. McLaughlin, and Free People.  The Women’s department finds that shopping rummage has become chic among teenagers, particularly those who love to find “vintage” clothing.

“They have so much fun shopping. They’ll yell across the room to each other, saying, ‘Look!’” said Liz, who co-chairs Women’s with Katie Nahrwold and Hope Poor.

Linda Ransford

Linda Ransford

Liz said the Women’s Department has great variety—maternity clothes, plus sizes, lingerie, and bathing suits, to name a few. Some things, like pants, knit tops, and active wear are stacked on tables by size. And others are on hanger by type—coats, blouses, dress pants, and suits.

Tips for shoppers?

In women’s, “I definitely recommend bringing a friend. And pace yourself; it’s overwhelming. You’ll see so much,” said Liz.

In the French Room, Carrie advises, “Come early. The really good pieces go really fast.”

Linda adds, “Everything is categorized by brands, so go right to the brands you like and see what’s there.”

Shoppers will have two opportunities to shop:

  • At the Premium Presale on July 14 from 8 a.m. to noon, where shoppers get maximum selection in exchange for paying a 50 percent markup.
  • At the official Rummage Sale on July 16 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., where bargains abound, particularly toward the end of the sale when half-price and bag sales are common.

Both sales are at Kenilworth Union Church at 211 Kenilworth Avenue in Kenilworth.

For more information about rummage, see the rummage web page and particularly tips on shopping Rummage. Also see Spotlight on Rummage for stories about Rummage and its people.