Because Mindy Epstein knows how hard it is for observant Jewish women in Pittsburgh to find modest clothing at an affordable price, she is opening a consignment shop, called The Modest Exchange, in the basement of her Squirrel Hill home.
A similar shop in another Squirrel Hill resident’s home closed its doors, so Epstein purchased the remaining inventory and some racks. A basement bathroom will be dedicated to a fitting room.
“Dressing modestly is an important part of our culture; especially living in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to find modest clothing,” said Epstein. “Living this lifestyle can be very expensive, and people have a hard time affording clothing. I am aiming this for the population who wants to dress nicely but doesn’t want to spend an outrageous amount of money.”
Epstein will purchase new or gently used clothes from customers and will enter into a contract with the seller, who will get 60% of the sale price. If the item fails to sell within six months, that is the end of the consignment; the customer has the option to donate it somewhere, take it back or ask Epstein to put it on clearance.
Epstein will only accept clothing that meets the standards of modesty: The neckline needs to cover the collarbone, sleeves must cover elbows, and dresses and skirts need to fall below the knee when sitting or standing. With her skills as a seamstress, though, Epstein said that she can alter most styles to fit the standard.
Her inventory will consist of children’s clothing from size 8 to women’s plus sizes and everything in between. She may sell a few scarves and hats at some point but for now, the stock is primarily clothing.
Epstein calls herself a “sifter” — she likes to shop at thrift stores and find nice gently used or new clothing, but that means of shopping is not for everyone. And while women can shop at department stores, it’s not unheard of to shop all day and come home with nothing, she said.
Running the Modest Exchange is an ideal fit for Epstein, who is also an accomplished seamstress. She always wanted to open a business like this but the timing wasn’t right. Now, with the help of her daughter, Nechama Epstein Huber, who owns a business called the Pop Cakery, she is ready to make a go of it.
“I have been doing alternations for all these years, and l always wanted to see what I could do with my talent, plus I love thrift shopping. This is my niche,” said Epstein.
Since she has absorbed the inventory from the other now-closed shop, she said that she is pretty well stocked and she is currently open for business. Eventually, she will post specific hours, but for now, anyone interested in checking out The Modest Exchange can call her at 412-759-0812 or email her at Mindela123@yahoo.com. pjc
Hilary Daninhirsch is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.