How To Monetize Your Plain Old Non-Designer Used Clothes

I am not going to presume you have designer clothes to sell.
Publish date:
October 12, 2014
ebay, weekend, How-To, Sell Clothes, Secondhand Clothes

Some articles about selling your clothes are written by authors who presume your clothes have fancy labels on them to make them inherently worth money -- and then there’s me.

I’ve never bought a non-used designer clothing item in my life. I grew up eschewing used clothing in favor of the clearance racks at Ross, Marshalls, Mervyn’s (RIP), and Kohl’s. When I realized that I might be able to acquire more variety in my wardrobe for less currency and with less environmental impact via thrift shopping, I started down the secondhand path -- with a few exceptions -- and have never looked back.

Despite the fact that I don’t spend much on my apparel to begin with, I've had some modest success in making money from clothing that I no longer wanted. I also picked up some tricks from working for an eBay consignment company.

Before You Start

Lower your expectations. Barring very special circumstances, you won’t sell your item for even close to how much you originally paid for it. Unless there is specific demand for your particular item or brand, your profit margin will be slim. Ask yourself if you’re the type of person who wants to go through the hassle required to put together good listings and manage auctions/sales in exchange for relatively little profit. It’s okay if your priorities don’t match the effort. I definitely do a lot less selling now that I’m employed full-time.

Set It Up

If you are that kind of person, you should get yourself set up. There are multiple steps in the process of becoming a seller on any site, especially the part where you ensure that you get paid. Generally speaking, you will need 5-10 business days to get everything squared away. What you want to avoid is having money that you can’t touch when you need it -- and you will need it, since you’ll be fronting the cost of packaging and shipping.

For sites that use PayPal, if you want to avoid the delay from fund transfers between PayPal and the bank, you can get a PayPal debit card for free. This will empower you to buy postage directly using the amount you were paid and/or to bypass the transfer process by pulling the funds as cash from an ATM.

Packing & Shipping

Buying brand-new envelopes and boxes from the office supply store -- or worse, the post office -- is a surefire way to flush your profits down the toilet. You may not even make any profit at all if you charge high shipping rates. Think like a customer: it feels psychologically wrong to many people to pay $10 for shipping on an item for which they paid $2. To keep costs low, save the packaging that you get when you do your online shopping for reuse. If you don’t shop enough for that, try asking around. Some online shopper you know probably has a stash of envelopes and boxes that they no longer need -- or they can at least start saving their packaging for you.

There is no need to be ashamed of reusing packaging or (non-damagingly) cramming items into flat-rate mailers. Warn your buyers ahead of time by adding a blurb on your seller page about how you keep your prices low and help the environment by using “recycled” and “cost-effective” packaging. Just be sure to keep Sharpies and mailing tape on hand, since you’ll have to black out the old shipping marks and seal the packages with tape rather than a built-in sticky strip.

Protecting Yourself

I don’t recommend allowing returns or for payers to send payment for any more than a few days after the auction or sale is made. That’s a recipe for courting bad buyers. Include a policy on every listing that discourages returns and emphasizes that all items are as-is.

Getting Your Clothes Found

Know why eBay & Etsy sellers add all the trends that only apply to the item if you’re being overly-generous to its title and put the title in all-caps? Because it's a cheap tactic that works. All-caps catches people’s eyes and the more terms you load into a listing, the more likely you are to have your item found by a prospective buyer. For sales purposes, it's a STEAMPUNK GOTH LOLITA GRANNY CHIC HIPSTER BANDAGE DRESS, dammit. I know it hurts, but you can save the pedantry for the xoJane comments and get more hits on your item this way.

For auction listings, especially on eBay, always start the bidding at $0.01 or $0.99. If you start any higher, your auction is much less likely to be found by buyers. And because most people browse shopping sites at work, post your auction during typical business hours and on a weekday. Noon PDT is a good bet.


The goal here is not dissimilar to the goal of a good dating profile: to make what’s being sold look as good as possible in the picture without the image being outright deceptive.

Carefully shave any pilling in the fabric with a clean, dry razor. Pivot heads are the best to prevent accidentally chopping out chunks of fabric. Tug the fabric to tautness as you shave. Cut off any hanging threads and remove any stains to the best of your ability.

Take a front and a back version each for flat, hanging-from-a-hanger, and on-a-body pictures. For the flat pictures especially, you will want a background that is unfussy rather than busy -- but that also provides enough of a contrast to bring out the fabric’s color and texture. Any details such as embroidery, lace, noticeable wear, and/or flaws merit a zoomed-in, focused picture of their own. Natural lighting is better than artificial, artificial is better than flash, and flash is better than dark.


If you didn’t know what I meant by “NWT” earlier, you should probably brush up on your lingo.

As most of us here know, size is not always helpful in determining if or how well an item fits. Take accurate measurements by using a tape measure. Do not be generous and be sure to emphasize that the measurements are of the garment, not for the person who is to wear it. If there is any stretch at all to any area of the garment, take stretched measurements and include them, too. At the very least, include armpit-to-armpit, waist, and hip measurements. Whether or not you’ll need other measurements depends on the garment. It might be worth noting the circumference of particularly tight sleeves or narrow neckholes, for example.

Whatever your personal feelings on the matter, anything that could fit an about-average size 12 or above should be listed as "CURVY" or "PLUS-SIZE." Larger women tend to search using those terms and may ignore listings that don’t include them.

However precious you might think ModCloth’s clothing descriptions and styling suggestions are, that personal touch never hurts. You can also suggest accessorization, appropriate occasions, or makeup looks. "This dress, along with some black tights, took me through last Christmas season -- now you can shine in it, too!" may sound cheesy but helps to spark the buyer’s imagination. After all, it’s hardly as if people choose to buy particular things for entirely logical reasons.

So there you have it. Have you sold non-designer duds for profit? What else can we share on the subject?