Find $10,000 in Your Closet

by Jean Chatzky
Martha Wright in the New York City apartment of Elizabeth Frogel, who helped Wright sell her unwanted designer clothes on eBay. One example: the $2,000 Prada dress Wright is holding. She wore it only once.
Photograph: Photo: Ian Allen

How to Sell Clothes

Martha Wright has never minded spending money on clothes. “I’ve always been into fashion,” she says. “I just kept buying anything I could afford. My mother was the person who would sew two scarves together and wear them to a formal party where people were in $20,000 ball gowns. I wanted the $20,000 gown.” But now Wright, once a corporate trainer, is starting a new career as a life coach, and she’s looking to finance the change by unloading some of her collection.

Wright organizes her closets twice a year, and in the past, she gave away anything that was not working. “If I’ve moved something out of storage more than once and never worn it, out it goes,” she says. Each batch of castoffs generally contains some Miu Miu and Prada, a little Jil Sander, maybe even The Row. There will be at least one handbag (“When I switch to a new one, I never go back,” she says) and shoes, often Christian Louboutins. “I buy for a life I do not lead,” Wright admits.

Wright and I take about 20 pieces—including a worn-once black turtleneck from Akris, a Narciso Rodriguez shift and a grommet-embossed Jimmy Choo handbag—to show Elizabeth Frogel, who runs a business, CenturyMomNYC.com, selling high-level designer clothes on eBay. The three of us discuss which items are most likely to sell and what the minimum bids should be. (Frogel passes on a dress that is “too worn” and several pairs of pants.) For handling the whole process—from listing the clothes to shipping them—Frogel charges 50 percent of any sales, a typical fee for this kind of service.

The auctions go online a few days later. Some items, such as a pair of Prada sunglasses and nearly new Louboutin camel patent leather pumps, get immediate bids. Others, like a pantsuit from The Row, don’t sell. Total sales: $2,696. Wright’s take: $1,348, a fraction of the $15,000 she spent on the items when they were new, but still good money. “I am so excited about letting go of all those clothes!” she says. “My life coaching business feels like a new beginning, and I’m glad that these things I don’t want can help me move forward.”

How can you re-create Wright’s experience with your unwanted designer pieces? First, always save everything—original sales tags, shoe boxes, flannel bags, those envelopes of buttons or thread. Next, sell an item sooner rather than later; you’ll get more for pieces that are on trend. Finally, look for “Top-rated” eBay sellers. For example, if you have a Chanel handbag to auction, go to eBay, type “Chanel handbag” into the search box, then scroll down and, under “Seller” on the left, click on the link that will give you only the top-rated sellers. Send messages to a few with details on what you have, and ask if they work with people in your location (which is necessary if they want to examine the goods in person, as Frogel does). If that proves unsuccessful, your next stop should be your local consignment shops—but visit the stores before you commit, to make sure they have items in the same categories.

Or you can post on eBay yourself. Here are some tips.

•?In your listing, include: the name of the designer and the item if you know it (Balenciaga Motorcycle Bag), “NWT” (new with tags), “authentic” and anything that can identify which collection it’s from (a picture of a model wearing the item on the runway is always a plus).

•?If there is a good backstory to the piece (you bought it on a recent trip to Paris, for example), that’s helpful; it makes the item stand out for buyers.

•?Don’t bother listing pants. They rarely sell, because it’s hard to gauge fit—and everyone knows at least one woman who never wears underwear.

 

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Comments

Melissa Gans05.11.2011

I guess I don't see how a $1,348 return on a $15,000 investment is "still good money." The article seems to caution readers against spending too much on clothing that you may only wear once. So much for finding $10,000 in your closet.

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