Repost: How to Consign Your Clothes

It’s a national holiday here in the States, so here’s a tidbit from the archives. Enjoy!

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Purging your closet can feel marvelous. Jettisoning items that have gone unworn for months (or years) alleviates anxiety and guilt, gives you room to really see what you own, and allows you to focus on items that you truly adore. But if you’ve spent big on something and never worn it, or know it’s a quality item that just doesn’t suit you, it can feel frustrating to simply admit sartorial defeat. Donating clothing to charity is always, ALWAYS a generous and admirable choice, as is handing over quality duds to organizations like Dress for Success who can use them to help women further their career goals. But sometimes you just want to recoup your losses. Or some of your losses.

Enter consignment stores. Many major metropolitan areas have them, and they’re a great resource for items that still have life and value but might not be worth selling on eBay. How do you decide what items will work well for consignment? Here are a few tips:

Is it a recognizable brand name?

Although this may not be the case universally, the consignment stores I frequent are very brand-focused, and I can understand why. If you’ve got a gorgeous sweater but it’s made by a brand that no longer exists – like Petite Sophisticate, a thrift fave of mine – or even a high-quality foreign brand that most shoppers in your area wouldn’t recognize, it’s simply less likely to sell. Mall/high street brands are always good bets, as are any designer items you’re prepared to part with.

Is it in very good shape?

Consignment items needn’t be 100% flawless, but they definitely need to be free of substantial damage. Rips, shredding, stains, damaged hardware or zippers, or anything that renders an item unwearable means it should be repurposed or possibly just thrown away. (Thrift stores can’t resell truly damaged goods either, so don’t dump ’em there.)

Is it contemporary?

Some of the more trendy, young, fashion-forward consignment shops will consider your vintage items, but many want modern clothes and accessories only. In fact, my main consignment source is looking for clothes made within the past three to five years. The newer the better, in many cases.

Now, if you’ve got an item that is extremely trendy, made by a covetable manufacturer, and in pristine condition, you might consider selling it yourself on eBay, Bonanzle, Etsy, or another more direct route. Designer items and higher-end brands with loyal followings – like John Fluevog, Desigual, Coach, and similar – are good bets for direct sale. Think about items, brands, and styles that YOU might search for online to determine what would fit this model. I’ve only ever sold on eBay myself, and can’t offer any magical tips for success, but can point you to the site’s seller tutorial, which covers important basics.

So! You’ve got some items that you want to consign. You’ve still got to convince the store to accept them. Here’s what I recommend:

Launder : They WILL give your items the sniff test. Take washed or dry-cleaned items only. Make sure accessories and shoes aren’t stinky, either.

Press: Wrinkles are a total turn-off. Hang up all clothing and steam or iron every piece. Including scarves. You want your stuff looking as new and fresh as possible.

Touch-up: Bust out the lint roller for any stubborn pet hairs or dry schmutz. Invest in a sweater shaver to deal with pilling. Trim or mend any stray threads, and make sure buttons and hardware are properly affixed.

Before you pack up the car and head to your local consignment outlet, you’ll want to explore your options. Some will take your items, sell them, and pay you out afterwards. Some will evaluate your goodies on the spot and hand over cash or credit immediately.  Percentages will vary by shop and geographic location. Don’t assume that larger or more well-known shops will give you better deals! Sometimes smaller outlets have a better sense of what is truly valuable and what will work for their specific clientele.

A few consignment shops that I both sell to and buy from, many of which are national chains:

  1. Turn Style 
  2. Buffalo Exchange
  3. Crossroads Trading Company
  4. June
  5. Plato’s Closet

Do you consign any items from your wardrobe? How do you decide what to donate and what to consign? What gets sold on eBay or given to friends/relatives instead? Any other tips for successful consignment experiences? What are the best consignment shops in YOUR area?

Image courtesy InspirationDC.

  • ExecutiveKnitter

    So what can you do with non-contemporary items? I have an amazing Prada pant suit with shoulder pads, pleats – very late 80s/90s. Stunning and cost a fortune.

    Is it Vintage?

    I just keep holding on to it.

    • Sal

      Selling via eBay or Etsy would work, or if there’s a vintage consignment store or straight-up vintage shop you could try there. Brick and mortar consignment shops don’t typically take stuff from bygone eras, but that’s not true across the board so you could certainly ask!

  • Linda

    My experience is that the stores that pay you up-front are a total ripoff! I’ve visited several of them and all of them offered only a small fraction of their consignment value. Here’s an example…I was offer $15 – $18 for a handbag at three different stores which I thought was crazy. So, I went to a consignment store and it was sold in two weeks for $75. I received 40% ($30) which was twice the amount of the “pay up-front” stores!

    • Anneesha

      I worked at a consignment store and think that there’s value to BOTH ways…. a large amount of the inventory never does sell, and is just donated to charity if the consigner doesn’t pick them up within a certain time. Sometimes a person just wants/needs CASH and to get the unwanted items off their to-do list!

  • Cleo

    My closest consignment store has a minimum policy (they will not take less than 3 items), and only accept things in season (i.e. no boots right now, no matter how pristine or branded). They also only look at your stuff if you make an appointment in advance.
    Probably totally obvious, but that is something to think about if you’re as much of a newbie as I am, and do not anticipate this type of things!

  • Oksana

    Goodwill and such actually do want damaged items, they sell it by the pound to cloth using recycling operations

    • Sal

      I think that’s true of Goodwill, but not all thrift stores. If you’re going to donate damaged items – clothing or otherwise – it’s best to check each charity’s policies. Some will ship damaged items to the dump.

  • Megan Mae

    I only sell on eBay what I know will sell, and sell quickly. I hate selling there though because the fees from ebay on the final value, there’s now a fee on shipping charges (money you don’t get at all, they even charge a fee if you use flat rate boxes), paypal fees and they also hold your funds for different lengths of time.

    I’d love to straight up consign, but there’s no consignment stores near enough to me. We do have a plato’s closet two towns over, but they only really take Tween/teen brands and they don’t give you much for your stuff at all. It’s a supply and demand thing, and that’s mostly who shops at that store in that town.

    I’ll occasionally offer something up for sale through my blog, then maybe eBay, finally I just donate. I don’t have the space to store anything except my active wardrobe and a small amount of off-season clothes (sweaters, sundresses,etc).

  • Anneesha

    A couple of tips for consigners: please don’t argue with the employee if they aren’t taking your items…. there’s a reason, and the real reason might not be what you want to hear. Take “we find it just doesn’t sell” at face value.

    … and at the risk of sounding gross, consignment places DO check the crotch area of pants and know what’s going on down there! Any condition other than brand-spankin’ new-looking is going to be turned down.

  • Jane Jetson

    There is a new to my area store called “Clothes Mentor.” It is like a more adult version of Plato’s closet. They seem to have a lot of plus sizes as well as shoes and bags.

  • Angel

    I have sold on eBay a lot ,but considering consigning so i am looking around and we have several in our area,however I was under the impression that Platos closet was a teen/tween store?