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Back on the rack: the best ways to sell second-hand clothes | Tegan Forder
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Back on the rack: the best ways to sell second-hand clothes | Tegan Forder

It’s a Saturday morning and I’m pulling clothes out of my suitcase and hanging them on a rack. Around me are three others attending their own displays. We’re all here for the same purpose – to find a more sustainable way to part with the clothes we no longer need.

Selling my secondhand clothes at rent-a-rack stores is just one approach I took over the past year in my quest to find alternatives to my local overflowing op shop.

Most of us have seen the images of towering piles of clothes dumped overseas in places like Kantamanto, a market in Ghana’s capital, Accra. It definitely made me think twice about where my discarded items go, and encouragingly, there are now more ways to make room in your wardrobe.

Having worked in the textile and education field for more than 30 years, Sandy Donlan, owner of Adelaide-based rent-a-rack boutique ReFab Circular Fashion, founded her business to reduce the amount of quality clothing going into landfill.

“I wanted to provide an option where clothes could be preloved, rather than following a linear fashion model where the clothes are made, purchased, and often discarded,” she says.

While money can be made selling secondhand clothes, in Donlan’s experience, many of her sellers are happy to just rid themselves of their unwanted items.

“I found that people feel guilty about the fact that they’ve got clothes in their wardrobe. But we’re always evolving. So being able to let the clothes go is important for people.”

Get someone else to do it

Consignment stores and secondhand sellers offer a hands-off approach to decluttering. They select the pieces they think will sell and once sold, take a cut and give you the rest in cash or store credit.

Dress for Success director Vicki HartleyView image in fullscreen

Be prepared for them to judge your clothes – it’s not personal, but they know what will hit the mark.

One store with a slightly different model is Swop, which will purchase items directly from you. “We follow strict criteria around the brands, items and styles we buy to ensure that we can confidently resell those items,” says Swop’s Emma Regolini.

“This means we don’t accept any fast-fashion brands, underwear, business attire, or anything that isn’t suitable to the local climate or season.”

Items that sell well are those on-trend within the last 12 months, or items that were on-trend and are now considered relevant vintage. Vintage staples including boots, tees, denim and handbags are all in demand.

Corporate clothing can be hard to shift second hand, so a good option is to seek out local charities in need of items.View image in fullscreen


I enjoy the process of selling clothes in rent-a-rack stores, where you rent space in a storefront for one to four weeks. The rent prices vary, as does the cut the business will take on the sale of each item.

Donlan says her business offers an option for people who think a piece in their wardrobe might be too good to donate. But she advises there is a window of saleability, with the fashion trend of a piece between three to five years (with a maximum of 10 for some pieces).

“Versatility sells. People will go, ‘Well, I’ve got this at home – what will go with that?’ So people are actually starting to think about it as opposed to randomly buying something,” she says.

Sellers should make sure clothes are contemporary, in season, softly worn, clean and without tears or missing buttons.

Try selling on Instagram

The platform has a thriving secondhand resale market. I bought a few pieces through individual sellers but didn’t have as much luck getting rid of my own. Again, shoppers have definite ideas about what they’re looking for with the market skewed toward branded casual attire and luxury items.

Use the hashtags #prelovedvirtualmarket, #prelovedshop and #prelovedseller to find sellers and buyers.

Sellers should make sure clothes are contemporary, in season, softly worn, clean and without tears or missing buttons.View image in fullscreen

Corporate clothing can be hard to shift secondhand, so a good option is to seek out local charities in need of items.

Dress for Success, which has affiliates in each Australian state, aims to empower women by helping them to find a job and become financially independent. Providing free clothing styling to help women get ready for a job interview is one of their signature services.

“First impressions are so important – unfortunately, if you don’t look the part, you can almost automatically get rejected on sight,” says Vicki Hartley, board director for Dress for Success Sydney.

“We want our clients to feel really special and proud,” says Hartley. “It’s really about empowering them and watching them come through the door and seeing their shoulders go back and their heads go up … It’s a confidence boost.”

Be patient

While it may have taken me a year to find new homes for my clothes, I found the process enjoyable – almost becoming slightly obsessed.

The items I was unable to sell or donate included dresses suitable to wear at a wedding (but sadly too small for me now), some older-style coats and jackets, active wear and basics like T-shirts. I reconsidered whether I needed to get rid of a few pieces and they’re now back in rotation, while I might try selling the dresses online (if I get the energy up).

When it was time to drop off my half (small) bag of clothes at the local op shop after 12 months, it came with much less guilt. My wardrobe now makes more sense, and I’m more considered about what I buy, asking myself: Where will I wear it? What will it go with? How long will it last?

Source: theguardian.com