New ways to wear your old suits
So you can get the most bang for your buck
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By now, you’re probably aware that the fashion industry is not the greenest. As a society, we send an unforgivable amount of clothing to landfill. Often, that includes stuff that’s still functional, but for whatever reason they’re no longing being worn.
Which is fair enough – we all grow out of stuff, literally and figuratively. But that rarely means your clothes have reached the end of their shelf life. In fact, they could be worth something. Studies have put the value of unworn clothes in UK wardrobes at more than £10bn. And there are a host of ways to turn your dust-gathering garments into cash. Some side-hustlers have turned second-hand clothes into a six-figure salary.
You might not be ready to quit the day job, but it's easy enough to earn some pocket money and earn back some valuable wardrobe space. Then, when you spend that money on something you do love, it's almost like getting it for free. Almost.
So, you’ve got a bunch of clothes you want to sell. Maybe they no longer fit, or it’s not your style anymore, but chances are that your rubbish is another man’s treasure. Of course, certain brands will have more resale value than others (here’s looking at you, Supreme), but just because something isn’t designer, that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone, somewhere, who’s willing to pay for it.
That said, your DIY t-shirts, hole-ridden jeans and bobbly jumpers are probably not those pieces. Those, you should recycle. Anything that’s in good nick, however, could find an audience. Anything hard-to-find – think band t-shirts, souvenir caps or old designer finds – have universal appeal. Certain fabrics also hold their value more than others, so prioritise leather, denim, cotton and wool over polyester.
Think like the end buyer and make sure you showcase your clothes in the best light. Literally. “Take pictures in good natural light, with the item fully visible and preferably hung on a wooden hanger, not flat on the floor,” says Thread stylist and frequent seller of second-hand clothes Toby Standing. “Show off any details that will help sell the item, so things like embroidery or a special lining.”
Consider the background too. A plain white wall is perfect, but if it’s for something that you can’t hang up, then a wooden or concrete floor can also look slick. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s clean and unfussy. Crop the image if you need to, and feel free to use a simple photo editing app, like Facetune, to tidy it up. “You want to make it look as appealing as possible, and not just like a throwaway picture of an old item,” says Toby. Avoid over-editing, though – if someone thinks they’re buying a blue jumper, and a green one turns up on their doorstep, expect bad reviews.
You especially shouldn’t edit out any flaws, the buyer is going to see it eventually and you could wind up getting a bad reputation. On sites like eBay or Depop, Paypal protection usually means that you don’t get the funds until the buyer has said they’re happy with their purchase, so it really is a waste of time sugarcoating your wares. Instead, do IRL editing. Photoshopping a stain out is bad. Letting a dry cleaner actually remove it isn’t.
Price your items too high and they won’t sell at all. So ask a fair price and help people feel confident to part with their money. “Info is key,” says Toby. “Make sure you’re talking about fit, how old something is, how the fabric feels.” Do a quick search online to find out things like composition, country of origin, and recent sale prices.
Bargain-hunters flock to eBay, so put your more valuable clothes where they’ll find a more discerning audience. For designer and streetwear pieces, Toby swears by Grailed, where the audience is more brand-savvy. This is also where you can do some mental gymnastics to justify your expensive tastes; heritage and independent brands are far easier to flog than generic high street labels. And while you’re unlikely to make a profit on an item unless it’s very rare, you can at least minimise the initial outlay by recouping around 50-60% of the retail price.
Words: Theresa Harold
Illustration: Haley Tippmann
Because price doesn’t always equate to transparency