Wardrobe mistakes are inevitable. Nearly every closet contains at least a few pieces of clothing that are too small or too big, seemed like great bargains when you bought them, or were ill-fitting gifts from well-meaning friends. You can easily donate the things you don't wear to charity, but sometimes you'd rather try to recoup your losses.

Enter consignment stores.

The Twin Cities area has a thriving consignment business with dozens of shops, some that specialize in designer clothing, others in vintage. However, many of them are choosy about what they take. So how do you decide which pieces to try to consign? Ask yourself these questions:

Is it a recognizable brand name?

Most consignment stores prefer well-known brands and labels, in part because those tend to sell more quickly.If you've got a gorgeous sweater that was made by a brand that no longer exists, or even a high-quality foreign brand that most shoppers in your area wouldn't recognize, it's simply less likely to sell. Mall brands (such as Ann Taylor, Gap, J. Jill) are always good bets, as are any designer items you're prepared to part with.

Is it in good shape?

Consignment items needn't be 100 percent flawless, but they must be free of rips, stains, damaged hardware or zippers, or anything that makes them unwearable. If you have something in such poor shape that you can't even donate it, consider repurposing it or even throwing it away.

Is it contemporary?

Some of the trendier, fashion-forward consignment shops (see list) will accept vintage items, but many want only contemporary clothes and accessories. And no shop wants clothes that are woefully out of date. Most Twin Cities shops prefer clothes made within the past three to five years.

Ready for the rack

Once you've determined you want to consign some brand-name pieces, you've got to persuade the store to accept them. Be sure your clothes are:

Clean: Consignment store employees will give your items the sniff test. Offer only washed or dry-cleaned items and make sure accessories and shoes are clean and without odors.

Pressed: Wrinkles are a total turnoff. 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. Invest $8 in a sweater shaver to get rid of pilling. Trim any stray threads, and make sure buttons and hardware are properly affixed.

Select your shop

Before you pack up the car, explore your options. Some shops will take your items, sell them, and pay you afterward. Some will evaluate your goods on the spot and hand over cash or credit immediately. The percentage of the sale price that you will receive can vary by shop, but don't assume that larger or more well-known shops will give you the best deal. Sometimes smaller shops will pay more for pieces they know will appeal to their clientele.

Here are some of the local consignment stores and chains:

Turn Style (turnstyleconsign.com)

This chain, with several Twin Cities locations, offers office wear, casual wear and basics. Most are mall brands, with a few high-end pieces mixed in. Classic items and recent trends are accepted for consignment.

Buffalo Exchange (buffaloexchange.com, 612-871-9115)

The Uptown shop caters to a young, hipster-heavy clientele and takes vintage items. It's also a good place to sell (and buy) cult favorites, such as Fluevog shoes and Anthropologie clothes.

June Resale (juneresale.com, 612-354-3970)

Prices are higher at this small shop, but so is the quality. Expect to see brands such as Chanel, Prada, Kate Spade, Balenciaga and Burberry. This is the place to bring your designer duds.

Plato's Closet (platoscloset.com)

With its focus on hot trends and popular brands, this chain caters to teens. It's likely to accept clothing from mass-market stores such as H&M, Forever 21 and Target, as long as they're on-trend and in good shape.

Nu Look (nulookconsignment.com, 612-925-0806)

This multi-floor consignment gem stocks mall brands, but also has a respectable designer section. Expect a mix of work wear and casual wear, with a few unusual pieces thrown in. Just about anything goes in terms of selling, so long as it's quality and in good shape.

Clothes Mentor (clothesmentor.com)

Another consignment franchise, Clothes Mentor uses an automated computer system to generate prices and pay out cash for garments and accessories. Business and casual items are accepted. The shops generally sell maternity and plus-sized garments, too.

Rodeo Drive (rodeodriveconsign.com)

This high-end shop focuses on designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Think Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Manolo Blahnik. If the "Sex and the City" gals wouldn't wear it, don't try to sell it here.

Fashion Avenue (fashionavenueresale.com)

A mix of high-end and mid-market brands fills these two consignment shops, although the emphasis is on designer names. Better mall brands (Banana Republic, J.Crew, Eileen Fisher) will likely make the cut. Lower-end ones (Old Navy, American Eagle) probably won't.

My Sister's Closet (mysisters closetmn.com)

Yet another place to take your vintage garments. Although this local chain accepts most clothing that's in good shape, they adore vintage items, especially designer vintage.

gh2 (shopgh2.com)

This offshoot of Grethen House specializes in designer items, with an emphasis on unusual brands, such as Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela and Stella McCartney. They won't turn down your Prada heels, but they'll probably decline your Nine West boots. Politely.

Sally McGraw is the Minneapolis-based author of Already Pretty (www.alreadypretty.com), a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image.