Traditional resale stores operate by taking your not-too-tired, usually name brand clothing and accessories on consignment. You bring in your former favorite shoes, shirts, ball gowns, etc., staffers determine what they think they can and cannot sell, and you leave them for the store to price. You’ll sometimes need an appointment, but many stores also offer drop-in consigning.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule on what price tag retailers will slap on garments; much depends on how much the item originally cost, its age (more-dated pieces sell for less, and things older than five years or so probably won’t get taken at all), and what’s popular in their shop (e.g., a groovy black jumpsuit might be more likely to sell in a downtown shop near the clubs than at a boutique out in the burbs). A good general rule is that things get priced one-half to one-third of their original price tags.

Shops usually try to sell your items for three months; you’ll get a portion (usually 50 percent) of the price either as store credit or a check. The latter is usually issued every few months or sometimes on-demand. Some retailers are moving toward keeping funds in PayPal accounts or other “wallet”-like services. Items that don’t sell are usually donated to charity after a few months; check with the shop if you’d like your stuff back, but know that many places won’t return them—it’s simply not worth their time and effort for clothing you probably don’t want anymore anyhow.

Less common, but also popular in Castoff Clothes Land, are cash-upfront resale stores, which include national chains like Buffalo Exchange. Instead of consigning your gently loved garb, you peddle it directly to the store. Whatever staffers accept is then priced at two to four times what you receive. This option, while an easy way to purge a lot of stuff quickly (and get some money in hand), probably isn’t going to net you the highest payback. One of our secret shoppers took a $71 Banana Republic silk shirt that was still for sale on the store’s website to a local consignment shop and was offered just $6 for it.

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