Spring Clean Your Closet: Selling Tips from Vintage Buyers

© Bella Harris

After the winter of discontent, Spring is finally starting to flit around Greenpoint. Maybe you’re eyeing a new floral print dress, a vintage leather backpack, or just something that isn’t a puffer coat of epic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man proportions?

Get your Spring on and clean out those closets. With a little cash on hand for your gently loved clothes, you can score new pieces (or vintage finds) anytime. I rounded up some of my favorite buyers and Brooklyn shops to get the best advice on where and how to sell back your clothes, and not to mention, the best and weirdest finds in the shop.

Sybil Domond, People of 2morrow (65 Franklin St)

GP: Walk us through the buying process. What do you look for?

Sybil: Items we look out for: floral dresses (all decades), jumpsuits/rompers, Hawaiian tropical blouses and shirts, denim overalls, vintage t-shirts, plaid and floral skirts, premium denim jeans, ie: Acne, A.P.C. , J Brand, Current Elliott, Rag & Bone, minimalistic graphic and solid color sloughy dresses, and shirts.

GP: What are some tips you have for prospective sellers?

Sybil: Come check out the store and get a feel of the type of pieces we carry. It’s better to get a true understanding before bringing your previously loved items over. Make the trip worth your while.

GP: What is the coolest item you’ve found while buying?

Sybil: There have been so many AMAZING pieces that have come and gone. The most memorable piece we can remember is a Jean Paul Gaultier, mint condition, women’s tailored suit…think cropped trousers (so good). At the time, the Brooklyn Museum had a exhibition of his unbelievable past work.

GP: What is the weirdest?

Sybil: During the holidays. An adult size pink velvet bunny zip-up jumper. Think: “A Christmas Story,” —  too funny. It sold the same day. 

Beverly Hames & Marissa Johnson, Fox & Fawn (570 Manhattan Ave)

Fox & Fawn

GP: Walk us through the buying process. What do you look for?

Beverly & Marissa: The buying process consists of three points: Season, Style, and Condition. Right now we are buying for spring, usually we start buying for the season about six weeks before it begins. If an item is in season we next evaluate it on style. Style is a little less cut and dry, we are looking for on-trend items, the sorts of things people are currently wearing. Vintage items, contemporary street wear, and designer items are our big three. Since we are a small boutique we don’t buy in a lot of fast fashion clothing, we don’t take items from stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Old Navy and we are pretty selective when it comes to clothing from Urban Outfitters and similar stores. If it’s in season, on trend, and in good condition there’s a good chance we will take it in, but our buying process also takes into account current stock. If we are super full on a particular item, we may be a bit more selective.

GP: What are some tips you have for prospective sellers?

Beverly & Marissa: To make the process easy for us we ask that everyone bring their items contained in a bag. It helps if they are neatly folded and it is essential they are clean.

Don’t take it personally if we pass on your things. We’re highly trained to spot all the little stains or snags or other condition issues that might be missed by a casual glance when packing up a bag to sell. Trust us, if we think it can sell, we will buy it in. Sometimes the reasons why we pass on things aren’t clear immediately, but it’s never ever personal.

Pay attention to season! Don’t break your back lugging in your collection of vintage wool coats in the spring. The start of fall probably seems like a good time to get rid of all those sandals you didn’t end up wearing over the summer, but if you can’t currently wear them, we can’t sell them.

GP: What is the coolest item you’ve found while buying?

Beverly & Marissa: Some of the coolest things we’ve scored aren’t things we normally buy like a palm reading handbook from the early 1900s, a Hudson Bay Company blanket, and a ceramic Groucho Marx bust that currently hangs on the wall by the register. We try to exercise restraint, but everyone who works for us has scored some amazing things. A few that come to mind are a 1940s rayon crepe jumpsuit with a beautiful red sparrow print all over it and an amazingly thrashed vintage 1981 Peter Tosh Wanted Dread & Alive tour tee.

GP: What is the weirdest?

Beverly & Marissa: We’ve seen some gnarly things in our day. Thankfully our customers don’t bring in anything too scandalous or embarrassing. At an old buy-sell-trade job I had someone accidentally packed a dildo, it must have been in the shirt drawer he cleaned out and someone tried to sell in a (thankfully) unused antique douche bag! 

Carrie Peterson, Beacon’s Closet (74 Guernsey St)

Beacon's Closet © Carly Rabalais

GP: Walk us through the buying process. What do you look for?

Carrie: When we are buying clothes, we are simply looking for items that our shoppers are looking for.  Many of us have basics that are covetable, but also maybe have a pair of wearable stretch pants that have pilled and faded.  The former we are looking for, and the latter, not so much. Things that are in demand tend to be items that have been in stores within the past two or three years, vintage items that are unique, and also designer or classic items.  We are really just looking for what you are looking for.  And we try to buy things that are in good condition that are currently in season, though sometimes we compromise on those two factors depending on the overall demand for a piece.

GP: What are some tips you have for prospective sellers?

Carrie: Advice would be to make three piles when sorting clothes at home, a pile to sell (would someone I know shop for this), a pile to donate to a charity (maybe the old stretch pants) and a pile for the garbage (old socks with holes).  Bring us the pile of things someone would shop for.

GP: What is the coolest item you’ve found while buying?

Carrie: Coolest is subjective, but one of my favorite finds was a pair of dulled metallic A.P.C. Boots, but we’ve also gotten in a Dior gown that one of our employees ended up wearing to one of our holiday parties.  We see a lot of designer samples too , for upcoming seasons.  That’s always exciting.

GP: What is the weirdest?

Carrie: Weirdest also subjective, but I’m going to say used tight whites.  We definitely aren’t buying those.

Aja Flick, Buffalo Exchange (504 Driggs Ave)

Buffalo Exchange

GP: Walk us through the buying process. What do you look for?

Aja: Selling at Buffalo Exchange is super easy. You don’t need to make an appointment, and we buy from the public during our business hours every day. You need a valid federally issued id (driver’s license, passport, military id card) in order to sell, and you must be 18. We buy a mix of current trendy styles, great classic pieces, and fun one of a kind vintage and retro items. All items must be clean and in good shape with no holes, stains, or missing buttons.

GP: What are some tips you have for prospective sellers?

Aja: Bring in items that you could see yourself buying again. The misconception is often that we’ll take an item because it’s a designer label, but we’re really looking at the shape, color, and relevancy of the garment. We spend a lot of time watching what our customers are buying from us to learn what styles we need more of in our store. Chances are if you’re ready to get rid of a specific style of clothing there are 30 other customers getting rid of the same item that day and we try to not over represent a dying trend.  And don’t take it personally! We’re looking for clothes that we hope will sell within a week or two for us, so if we pass on your items and you’re confused, just ask! We love to educate our customers, and we don’t have any secrets about the way we buy or what we’re looking for. More often than not we will pass on a piece because it’s already represented on the sales floor, in poor condition, or a style that we’ve noticed our customers are bringing in to sell more than picking out from the racks to buy.

GP: What is the coolest item you’ve found while buying?

Aja: The coolest item I’ve found while buying is a tee shirt from the 1978 World Series of Rock that has a really amazing illustration of Fleetwood Mac on the back. I actually stopped wearing it to work because I would have customers offering to buy it off of me! But this is a question that I could answer a million times, every day I find the coolest things and every day tops the day before!

GP: What is the weirdest?

Aja: The weirdest item I’ve come across was a taxidermy aardvark bag. It was really strange, and had these little gem stone eyes. That was a piece that really drew a line in the sand; you either thought it was amazingly macabre and awesome, or you were horrified by it.

 

 

Illustration by Bella Harris.

About Stephanie

Stephanie is a poet & pathological daydreamer. Her books Hotel Ghost and Waiting For the End of the World are available from Bottlecap Press.

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