How to sell your old clothes online

You used to love that little black dress. Now, not so much. Time to cash in on those old fashions lurking in your closet

by 1
Getty Images
1. Wading through the pile

Assess your unwanted clothes and assign them to a general category. Is the garment contemporary, designer, retro or vintage? Contemporary might include labels such as Banana Republic and Liz Claiborne, from their recent collections. Designer, meanwhile, includes higher-end brands such as Coach, Kate Spade and Diane von Furstenberg. Retro is a term given to any kitschy, costumey items from another era, such as ’70s disco spangles or full-skirted ’50s party dresses. (Generally, it’s not considered truly vintage unless it’s at least 20 years old.) Where appropriate, make sure to list the item across multiple categories, such as vintage and designer. Include the brand name or label and identify the garment in the title, for example, “Vintage Op Art 1970s Lanvin Paris New York Shirt-dress Size 8.’

2. Understanding the basics

You’re going to need daily access to a computer and the internet, a digital camera and a tape measure. For the amateur seller, eBay is the way to go: It makes the process simple with helpful tutorials on how its online auction system works. For vintage designer and couture pieces, consider selling the garment to one of the established online vendors at Resurrectionvintage.com, Decadesvintage.com, Paperbagprincess.com or Vintagecouture.com. You’ll probably get more money from them than you would as an unproven vendor on eBay. Before setting your reserve price – the minimum amount you’ll accept to part with an item – browse around eBay to see the final bid prices of similar items.

3. Telling the whole truth

Is it NWT (i.e., new with tags, or unworn)? Nearly new? Gently used? Assess the condition honestly and note any pulls, stains, tears or repairs. Mend as necessary (you’ll command a higher price), but if a stain is persistent, consider donating instead of selling. Vintage and designer goods are the exception here: Minor stains or wear will not make clothing less desirable to a collector if it’s the right item. Note any and all relevant aspects of the condition in your listing. Full disclosure now prevents a disgruntled buyer and potential problems later.

4. Sizing up the garments

Since sizing varies wildly from country to country and manufacturer to manufacturer (and since vintage sizes are often much tinier than today’s standards), list the garment’s country of origin and provide its measurements along with the size and name on the label. Lay the garment on a flat surface and take measurements from seam to seam across the bust, hips and waist; for length, measure from the highest point of the garment to the hem or cuff; measure the inseam of pants, as well. The more details you provide in the listing, the fewer questions you’ll have to field from interested parties. The same goes for material: List all the fabrics noted on the content label; if it’s missing, take a guess, but tell people that you’re guessing.

5. Dressing outfits to sell

Think like a boutique: No matter the hanger appeal, clothes sell better when they’re shown on a three-dimen­sional body. (That’s why retailers put mannequins in their window displays.) If the garment fits you or a friend, play model and take photo­graphs against a clean, uncluttered background such as a white wall; you can crop the head later, before posting, for privacy. Take several angles, including front, side and back views, for a true display of what the item looks like. If there is a pattern or texture in the fabric, take a close-up of that detail.

6 Turning clothes into cash

Most eBay and other web buyers prefer to make their purchases with PayPal. Once you sign up for a free PayPal account, for a small fee, roughly 2.5 percent of the selling price, the service acts as an intermediary and masks credit-card or bank-account info on both sides of the transaction, so no personal account information is ever revealed. Payments received prompt an email notice and accumulate in your PayPal account; you can then transfer the funds to a personal account.

7. Giving stuff away

If an item is beyond its sell-by date, give it away. Freecycle.org hooks up people looking for items with those looking to get rid of them. And of course you can always donate freshly washed clothes in good condition to your local women’s shelter or Goodwill; in the case of gently used and clean cocktail, bridesmaid and evening gowns, find a prom charity to donate to, such as B.C.’s Cinderella Project or Toronto’s Corsage Project.