As befits Washington, D.C., a city of many secrets, the inventory for the city’s oldest consignment shop arrives discreetly, often brought in by chauffeurs.
Dr. Inge Guen (above), a psychologist, created Inga’s Once Is Not Enough, an haute couture resale shop, 24 years ago. It is spread over two townhouses along MacArthur Boulevard in the city’s Palisades neighborhood.
Dr. Guen insists on meeting consigners before she agrees to sell their high-end clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry, but subsequent deliveries often are done by their drivers. Other merchandise arrives, with tags on, from boutiques across the country, or shipped in from consigners in Palm Beach or New York.
Additionally, “We’re able to reuse magnificent clothes from fashion shows and trunk shows and give them another life,” Dr. Guen said. “Washington is the nucleus of the world and there’s a need for ball gowns and beautiful clothes.”
She doesn’t advertise, noting that hotel concierges and embassy networks spread the word about the shop. Savvy buyers from New York arrive by train, bus and even limousine to examine the top label clothing, all in extremely good condition. “I wouldn’t receive anything that I wouldn’t wear myself,” Dr. Guen says. She has mastered the difficult skill of turning down beautiful clothes because they are too old for the younger clientele. It’s a universal problem, with yesterday’s couture not fitting today’s less formal lifestyle.
“I do not like people to feel rejected,” Guen said. She is a kindly psychologist who set up the store as a healthy diversion from work and because of her love of fine clothing.
There is small men’s section with top brands and pristine pre-owned suits, shoes and ties.
Prices are higher than regular consignment stores because nearly every item is a costly brand, such as Gucci, Escada, Chanel and Armani. Looking through the racks is a lesson in high fashion, workmanship and quality materials. There are some 15,000 garments and 400 pairs of shoes — including many Jimmy Choos and Manolos — in the shop.
Shoes are $100 and up. Pants, sweaters and jackets typically are $50 to $1,200. Dresses and ball gowns range from $100 to $2,500. Clothes are kept for three months and then returned or donated. Consigners receive 50 percent of the sales price.
The shop is definitely the place to acquire a couture item you could never afford at retail. If you are looking for a specific occasion, ask staff members, as they know what’s on hand. Despite the fancy labels, this is not one of those snobby stores where you’ll feel out of place hunting for bargains.
For the truly thrifty, there are two racks of clothing, for $10 cash per item, with the proceeds going to charity.
Here is what we found on the $10 racks: a $1,250 tags-on Marchesa cream silk ball gown; an Oscar de la Renta sea foam sequined skirt; a Moschino brown lace sheath dress; a Carmen Marc Valvo little black dress; a tags-on never worn Asha couture white bikini, a vintage Halston purple sequined skirt; a Badgley Mischka silk beige sequined skirt and a Bill Blass black and gold satin ball gown from Neiman Marcus.
Any of these beautifully-made clothes would be the instant star of your closet. We welcome this shop’s democratic spirit of couture for all.
Inga’s Once is Not Enough, 4830 MacArthur Boulevard N.W., Washington, DC 20007. 202-337-3072. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.