The Holy Grail of Resale

By Auretha Callison

by Auretha Callison

Finding the divine in resale clothing. AND: Consignment—a user’s manual

callison_consignmentHere’s what I would refer to as The Holy Grail of Resale: Finding a steal of a deal on a designer piece, never worn with tags attached, that you l-o-v-e and fits you perfectly in your best color and unique style that’s machine-washable. Um huh. You know what I’m talking about! This is a kind of cosmic miracle. One recent example: I was visiting my favorite consignment boutique, noticed a scarf I liked, tried it on and loved it. Upon seeing the tag I was delightfully surprised to see that it was made by my favorite designer, Missoni. I now receive compliments on that scarf every time I wear it.

Here’s what I would refer to as The Holy Grail of Resale: Finding a steal of a deal on a designer piece, never worn with tags attached, that you l-o-v-e and fits you perfectly in your best color and unique style that’s machine-washable. Um huh. You know what I’m talking about! This is a kind of cosmic miracle.

One recent example: I was visiting my favorite consignment boutique, noticed a scarf I liked, tried it on and loved it. Upon seeing the tag I was delightfully surprised to see that it was made by my favorite designer, Missoni. I now receive compliments on that scarf every time I wear it.

Why? Because not only is it beautiful, but it is an exact vibrational match for me. People recognize these things without knowing it. Finding the value in something that someone else overlooked or unloaded is a feeling a victory.

The adrenal rush for The Treasure Hunter is finding the find! I’ve had the same rush shopping at Second Hand Chic, finding a $15 vase that was destined for me in everyway—like a lost extension of myself manifesting itself in physical form. That’s the kind of shopping I do.

Up for a resale shopping trip? This is what I recommend: First off, make sure that you’re up to a treasure hunt. Ensure that you’ve nourished and watered yourself before an adventure that could last three hours to get in and out and do it properly. (Take a water bottle and an energy bar.) Nothing is worse than being right in the middle of a successful hunt than getting called out because you’re starving or you have to pick up a kid. Create the time and space for your creativity to play. Leaving means you have to start all over again. This is especially true for Deseret Industries (D.I.) or a full consignment shop like Cassandra’s Closet. When I’m in the treasures and in the flow, I like to hunt the whole store at once. This task is not for the faint of heart.

Determine your best shopping venue and time limit. Again, find your vibrational match. What shopping locations have you found to be the most fun? Garage sales or small stores or vintage finds downtown at misc (pron. “missy,” which happens to be the name of the owner). Clothing swaps? D.I. (“Dona Italia,” as a popular patron puts it) is not a match for me for clothing, but it is for housewares. I much prefer Consignment Circuit or some of the small boutiques in Park City and Salt Lake as I value uniqueness and quality—which you can find at the thrift stores, but you must work harder, or be very lucky, to do so.

Look at the quality of the clothing pieces in your preferred venue. Develop your energy reading skills— does this piece feel “abundant” and well-designed, or cheap and low quality? People who buy quality items in one area tend to buy quality clothes. A garage sale with nice things will usually yield nicer clothes. Things that are pressed and hanging up tend to have been better kept. I avoid looking at any clothing that’s lying on the ground on a blanket. (That’s what I call a “drive-by” garage sale.)

Much like a date, you want to look for a long list of qualities before an item comes home with you. Items ideally will be clean, nice smelling, machine washable when possible, good colors near your face, stain-free, a great cut for your body and a good fabric. (Most cheap knits suck and will last about 10 washes.) Always look in very good light for spots and stains and check armpits and crotch especially for stains, fit and tears. Make sure button holes fit the buttons, (not too easy or too difficult to undo), watch for broken zippers or fading from sunlight on the tops of shoulders or one side of the garment. (Watch out for clothing racks just inside a window getting direct sun.) Look at whether the lining is coming out or the hems are falling and need to be re-sewn. How much work and time are you willing to give to “fixing” a piece to make the price worth taking it home?

Consider the season you would be wearing the garment and the “sweat and skin factor.” Would you want it against your skin? Does it breathe? Washing and drying wear down clothes, so take a look at whether there’s enough life left in each piece. If it smells strongly, my experience says that it can be really hard work to get the smell out, if at all possible. 1970s polyester is a different animal from today’s polyesters. Anything heavy that restricts movement will not be fun. I have one 1950s red three-quarter sleeve wool coat that is terrific for extremely cold nights with a dress but is uncomfortable for any other reason. Again, read the energy. (Read this dual-purpose article again later with dating in mind the second time!)

{quotes}Take time and energy to ruthlessly scan clothes before the fitting room. Trying on clothing is a workout and can be hard on your self-esteem in bad lighting. You want to get in and out of there! Have your water at the ready. {/quotes}Choose the largest fitting room you can find. Wear a lightweight travel purse with a tiny, clean mirror for seeing yourself from the back. Wear socks and slip on shoes. Wear your best, smooth-fitting undergarments. Spanx body-shaping undergarments, no matter what you may resist about them, make you feel and look better under the crummiest of lighting and help show off the true “lay” of your clothing. You get to see your clothing at its best potential, as well as your arse!

See past the wrinkles. See quality of fabric, always choosing the best colors for you near your face. Is it something you could buy anywhere any season, like a white blouse, or is it a costume piece with intricate detailing or a leather vest that fits you perfectly that you’ve never seen in a store before? Is it a great vintage fedora? Those hats are always in style somewhere.

The value for me is often determined by the rarity of the item. Is it wool? Lined? I have a pair of Japanese-made wool slacks that fit my body every time I wear them. They have the perfect amount of stretch in high quality wool to adjust to figure waxes and wanes. The curvier you are, the more you need to take into account that finding used clothing may be a little more challenging. Many of the cutest vintage pieces that have survived seem to be smaller in size, so don’t be discouraged.

What if you find something that is so heavenly that you would wear it on your album cover? Something you’ve never seen before in your whole life and your heart is broken when it doesn’t fit or has some fatal flaw like a rip? There are creative options. Have a replica made. My clothing designer/tailor can make something starting at about $130. The more sewing detail, the higher the cost. She can make a pattern from any old or worn-out item that worked for you in the past and you can sew it yourself or have it remade. There is hope for fatal flaws!

For the final purchase stage, consider this. Resale is often no returns. Also think: How much space do you want to designate for your clothes? I’ve often been asked if a nice wardrobe requires a huge closet. No, it doesn’t. I have a five-foot closet and two additional tiny hanging closets for seasonal clothing—and I’m a wardrobe stylist! How much space do you have to designate to clothes that are only worn briefly or costume pieces? You have to ask yourself, “How much of my life do I want be dealing with, buying /selling/ trying on, wearing, caring for, cleaning, fixing and storing my clothing?” Many treasure hunters end up getting buried in way too much clothing because they are paying so much less than for new clothing. You have to know your limits. Design a time and space budget that should help you evaluate how much storage and clothing items are required for your life. If you’re a costume-type person and get a lot of enjoyment from playing dress-up, then by all means create more time and storage space for your clothes. Visit D.I. every weekend. Call it play time.

If you’re a more practical person like myself, you may want to take note every time you notice something is missing, make a list and then go out and get those things in your allotted time and money budget. While you’re exploring is the time for fun finds! I notice the fun vintage resale pieces I have are the ones that grab attention and get me the most points on looking good! The key is to notice what you find value in before you go resale clothes shopping. For myself, I look for fit, color, star quality and good fabric. I take really good care of my clothes. I spend next to nothing on dry cleaning because my mom and grandma trained me in excellent clothing care. Many of the items in my closet are over five years old because I collect classic pieces that will stand the test of time.

The ultimate determining factor for Buying the Divine in resale? Ask: Would you buy it at full price?

Consignment—A user’s manual

Consignment is a great way to pass along what’s no longer working for you and make money at the same time. However, there are a few simple guidelines that you must follow to make it worth your while. If you’re not interested in doing these things, then drop your items off at your favorite charity. Quickly getting rid of items that don’t light you up is the main thing! Get that stuff out of your energetic field as quickly as possible and into the hands of someone who can use it. If you’re the type who likes details—and making money from your clothes—here is what you need to do.

Examine your clothes in bright daylight, front and back, inside and out. Notice any fading, stitching issues, missing buttons, broken zippers, stains or hems that are ripped or falling out. Take it to alterations if it makes the cut and get it sold. Look at the item as if you were going to purchase it yourself. How much would you pay for it? If the item still has tags, you’ll have better luck.

Shoes and belts: How new do they look? Wipe them down inside and out with a wet-wipe and shine them.

Sniff. If there is any smell, whether perfume or incense or smoke, that means dirty. Make sure there is no smoke or animal hair in the car you take them in, or package them in plastic for the drive. Do not put them into the car until the day you have your appointment.

Wrinkle free and on hangers. Make sure the hangers fit so the clothes don’t fall off and don’t get stretched out with shoulder nipples. If you are talented at ironing, do it. Otherwise, have the cleaners do it.

Seasonal and current. Consign­ment stores are usually small, so they are picky about taking things in season. Vintage would be the exception to “current styles” within the last two years. Time is of the essence. The longer you keep clothes you don’t want, the more they lose value.

Designer or brand new condition. Generally speaking, most consignment stores are looking for gently used or new items two years old or newer. Some look for vintage or unusual items from the 1960s back. Some stores may buy your new items outright. Better condition will get you higher dividends, depending on the store.

Consignment stores vary in quality and price. Check them out and see what the split is. The average is 40-50%, which is great considering they are paying the overhead! After 30-90 days, your clothes will be drastically marked down, so keep up with your dates. If they don’t sell, pick them up or have the store donate them to charity. For items over $150, I would say try first on eBay, which has a global customer base, or KSL or Craigslist. Remember to take a great photo that makes your item look its best. The selling price most stores will start with is a third of current retail value.

Many people over-value their old clothes. For the rest of us, if our clothes don’t look nice, we don’t look nice. This is why I’m such a stickler for quality: best colors and best styles for your body type. Clothing is a serious investment of time, money and energy and should not be taken lightly, just like the investment of a home. Consigning clothes will help you realize this and inspire greater clarity when purchasing.

Auretha Callison is an image stylist living in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally published on March 31, 2010.