Is There Cash in Your Closet? A Vintage Expert Gives Advice on Selling Clothes
Hanging in my closet is an authentic antique 1960’s Jackie Kennedy-style yellow bridesmaid dress. I’m never going to wear it, so it’s just taking up space. I should sell it for big bucks, right?
Not so fast.
In my last blog, Amy Mayberry of Viva Vintage Clothing schooled us on the best way to store clothes. In this blog, her advice will demystify the process of selling clothing—vintage, designer, and just regular stuff.
Comparing my dress with a 1970’s purple suede outfit that a client of mine wanted to sell, Amy pointed out all the pros and cons of each piece.
In short, no, I cannot sell that bridesmaid dress for any amount that would make the effort remotely worthwhile. Best bet: donate it to a children’s theater as a costume.
My client’s outfit, on the other hand, is marketable and would likely sell online through a vintage dealer.
What is selling well these days? In Amy’s vintage world, she knows these are good bets:
What doesn’t sell? Obviously, bridesmaid dresses are a no! The other things that Amy finds lots of people have but that there’s no market for are:
How much does it sell for?
Here’s the rub: secondhand clothing—vintage, designer, whatever—just doesn’t sell for that much money.
“But I know there’s gold in my closet!” you say. “I have designer labels!”
I get it. You paid good money for it or it’s really sentimental and you'd like to get something for it. But let’s get real. A couple of years ago, I sold some of my late father’s Brioni suits—about $5000 new—online and was lucky to get $50 each. As Amy says,
“If it doesn't belong in an auction, it's probably not as valuable as you think it is.”
On her site, prices range from $12-15 for men's ties up to $395 a 1940's rayon Hawaiian print jacket. Note, these are retail prices. In order for a shop to make money, they will pay you about ¼ to ⅓ of what an item can sell for. Remember, they’re doing all the laundering, dry cleaning, mending, photography, marketing, selling, packing, shipping, etc.
So I caution clients that, while you may be able to sell some of your unwanted clothes, you’ll make pennies on the dollar. Once you come to terms with that, here’s what you need to know to make the sale.
How do I sell clothes?
If it’s vintage clothing, I recommend going to someone like Amy who knows how to evaluate the clothes, knows the market, and has an audience. You can find an online seller or someone local. Not sure how vintage it is or if it’s a desirable designer? Check with the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Label Resource.
For designer pieces, The Real Real is my go-to recommendation. Be sure to check the list of which designers they sell. Once you get the items to them (pick up, drop off, or ship), they do all the work of photographing, marketing, and selling. The Real Real is also the only place where I’ve had success helping clients sell mink coats for a good price.
For mid-range clothes, Poshmark’s app makes it easy to snap photos and list your items. The only caveat is that you have to follow through with communicating with buyers, packing, and shipping.
For mid-to-lower end, online consignment store ThredUp couldn’t be any easier. I just used them to clean out my own closet. I just threw everything into one of their giant prepaid mailer bags and dropped it off at the post office. You can choose to cash out or get shopping credit.
What should I sell?
Now that you know the ins and outs, start weeding through your closet! Use my handy decision matrix to help you figure out what to donate, recycle, or sell. You can do it!
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