Why That Consignment Store Buyer Is Rejecting Your Clothes

I spent an inordinate amount of my youth trying to sell my clothes. Partially because I liked making my own money, and partially because I really just loved hanging out at vintage stores. I’d spend hours filling up garbage bags and lugging them on the L train to Beacon’s closet, only to lug a much-fuller bag all the way back home, after not selling most of what I bought and spending the rest on new (old) stuff. Unlike some, I did not finance my college education by selling my clothes.

I’m a buyer now, and I can finally tell you from the other side of the table what I (and many people) didn't know about the process. As excited as we are when we discover a mint-condition Halston piece, we get equally turned off by a single-button short oxford, that smells a little too much like an animal. That’s why we always look a little grossed out when we are going through your bags; we’ve seen our share of ick, and our defenses are always up.

Want to avoid inducing this look while also getting the most cash as possible for your cast-offs? Below, find the eight things that will get your clothes an automatic "No, sorry — but thanks for coming in!"
Photographed by Ama Samra.
Stains & Smells
Always clean everything before you try to sell it. Funky smells and mysterious stains are immediate 'no's' to most resellers, no matter what label is inside. Remember to look on the inside of clothing for stains as well as out, especially on items that have patterns. My personal secret weapon is Grandma’s Stain remover: It’s a strong, odorless stain remover that you apply before you wash the clothes. As far as odors, you should always wash everything before you try to resell it. But if a spin cycle doesn’t get the stink out, you can always try filling a spray bottle with a little vodka and spraying it on your clothes. The alcohol kills odor-causing bacteria, but doesn’t leave a residual smell and I promise your clothes won't smell like a frat couch on a Sunday morning.

Off-Season Styles
Most vintage stores are packed to the brim already, so they’re not going to hold on to anything they can't sell right away (for example, don’t bring in your faux-fur coat in the middle of July). When you’re selling clothes, you are going to want to take into account both the current season as well as the upcoming season. So, if you’re heading into a store in July, you can include cotton eyelet dresses (summer) as well as a tartan pleated skirt (fall), but you may want to leave your wool-lined boots at home (winter). Many spring clothes are wearable all year round, such as light blazers.

The Wrong Vibe
There are different kinds of resale stores: Bulk buy outlets, designer consignment shops, and antique vintage dealers all have different merchandising techniques and look for different items. Take a look at what they already have on the floor, and try to only bring items that seem like they'd fit in that shop. For instance, if you are selling to INA in New York City, you’re going to want to only bring high-end designer pieces that are in really great condition. If you are going to Painted Bird in San Francisco, you’ll want to haul your favorite collection of vintage tees and that leather jacket you may or may not have stolen from your ex.

Damaged Duds
A damaged item could really turn a buyer’s decision. Keep in mind, they see tons of clothes every day and unless the piece is exceptional, buyers are not interested in spending the time fixing something they could probably find intact. If you need to replace a button, do it! Focus on matching the color and size of the button if you can’t find an exact match. If you don’t know how to sew a button (no shame) check out this video: It has a huge button in it and it is quite helpful. Replacing shoelaces is another way to increase your buyability; they can make the shoe look newer which is what buyers are often looking for.

Boring Basics
Many vintage clothing stores are looking for statement pieces, and not just your formerly favorite T-shirt (even though a vintage Michael Jackson concert tee will be bought pretty much anywhere — more on that at another time). Items like avant-garde cocktail dresses, fascinators or pillbox hats, or patterned jumpsuits are all pieces that are difficult to find in good condition, and are always a good addition to any vintage stores’ inventory.

Obscure Labels
You know how when you come across a pair of rag & bone jeans in your size at your local vintage haunt, you scoop them up right away? So will buyers! Always bring in well-known, mid- to high-end designers. This means brands like Alexander Wang, Thakoon, LeSportSac, DVF, Kate Spade, J. Crew, and Madewell are usually going to be a “yes” for most resellers. Beware of obscure designers that you may personally love: Just because you paid a month's rent for it, doesn’t mean someone else will, especially if they have no idea who they are.

If you are selling high-end designers such as Alexander McQueen, Margiela, Carven, or Alaïa you are going to want to consign. Consignment shops want to carry high-end designers but are not going to want to pay for them outright, so even though you’ll have to wait for it, you end up getting more cash.

Cheap Fabrics
Remember, the buyers go through clothes quickly, and they are looking for things to pick out, assuming that the entire bag is a “no.” Pick fabrics that immediately feel good. Try to stock your bag full of natural materials like cotton, velvet, cashmere, or wool. Items that have tangible imperfections such as pills could potentially derail a sale.

Rude Sellers In A Rush
If you are really trying to make some real cash, make a day of it! Plan ahead and make a list of a few shops to hit in one day. Luckily vintage stores tend to stick close together, so you can hit a few in a few hours. Without being too pushy, ask why they didn’t take certain things, collect information for next time so you can get as much bought as possible.

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