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? 

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

Image courtesy InspirationDC.

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