Doing a spot of spring cleaning? When it comes to the closet, it’s easy to get rid of things that are stained, ripped, or otherwise un-savable—it’s the things that are in good condition that are harder to deal with.
Do you save an old prom dress just for the sentimental value? Do you hold onto old clothes just because they might come back into fashion again? And when you’ve accumulated a pile (or two) of garments that you’re comfortable with letting go of, what should you do with them?
Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or your local thrift shop are nice backups, but there are many deserving causes out there that could use the donation, and depending on what you’ve got to give and how desirable it is, you might even be able to make a few bucks off of your family’s old things. And once you’ve made room in the house, think of all the amazing new stuff you can buy!
Not the same thing as thrift stores, consignment stores sell gently used or like-new merchandise, giving the seller part of the profits. They’re unlikely to take everyday clothes, unless the garments are brand-name and currently in fashion, but they’re always in need of big-ticket items that customers are more likely to want to save on, such as prom dresses, formalwear, wedding gowns, first communion dresses, kids formal attire, and dress shoes.
Women fleeing abusive or unstable homes often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back, so women’s shelters always need donations of women’s clothes and clothes for children, from newborns to young teens. Shelters welcome donations of garments in good condition, and will take donations of clothes from any season and in any size.
If your closets contain business-attire items, donate to a worthy cause. Dress for Success collects gently used women’s professional attire—pants, skirts, suits, blouses, coats, shoes, and handbags—to give to women who are transitioning out of homelessness, correctional facilities or drug programs, back into the workplace. Since many low-income women don’t have interview-appropriate clothes, the organization ensures that every woman trying to get a job can put her best business-friendly face forward.
Career Gear offers a similar service for low-income men, accepting donations of slacks, suits, collared shirts, work shoes, ties, overcoats, and briefcases for men in need. Several organizations collect gently used formalwear and accessories to help low-income teens attend proms and formal dances. Visit Donatemydress.org to find a donation center near you.
Community Theaters or College Theater Programs
What to do with old dance recital costumes? Bridesmaid dresses? Zoot suits? Halloween getups? Grandma’s wigs? Donate them to a theater, which will use them for costumes. Non-profit theaters are often strapped for cash, and pieces they can use for costuming actors for plays and musicals are always appreciated—the more vintage or out-of-date an item is, the better. At the very least, skilled seamstresses volunteering for the theater can use almost any clothes as raw material from which to create new, original costumes. If you have ‘80s prom dresses or 1950s housecoats sitting in a storage box, there’s a show that needs them, so consider supporting the arts and making your local aspiring actors very, very grateful.
Day Cares and Kindergartens
Schools spend their money buying the essentials, not fun extras like supplies for the dress-up bin. If you’ve got fun, whimsical garments laying around—especially hats, glasses, gloves, feather boas, capes, or other unusual apparel items—consider donating them to a school or daycare. Although fall is the typical time to refresh classrooms at schools and daycares, some offer large summer programs to older children of working parents, and now is a great time to donate for the season.