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A Crash Course in Consignment

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By encouraging shoppers to both repurpose their clothing and make a little extra money from its resale, consignment clothing stores have become increasingly popular in times of environmental and economic uncertainty. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about the word "consignment," a term that is often (incorrectly) used synonymously with descriptors like "vintage," "second-hand," "retro" and "deadstock."

If you're interested in becoming a consignor, there are several tips you can follow to maximize your clothes' resale value -- more on that later. But before you haul a garment bag full of clothes to the local consignment shop, it's best to brush up on the following terminology to better determine what the store does and does not carry.

Vintage: An original period garment that is at least 20 years old.

Second-hand: Any garment -- whether it's one month old or 100 years old -- that has been worn before and is now being resold or swapped.

Retro: A new, contemporary garment that looks like a vintage item.

Deadstock: A past-season clothing item that still has the original tags and has never been worn.

Consignment: The act of selling an item on behalf of another person; in the event of a sale, the profit is split between the consignor and the consignee at a mutually agreed-upon percentage. (My store offers a 50/50 split.) Consignment thus refers to the mode of inventory acquisition, not a specific type or age of clothing. For instance, my consignment store stocks both vintage garments and contemporary designer labels; some of the inventory is brand new or recent deadstock, some of it is second-hand.

So what makes for a successful consignor?

1. Leave original store tags on your garments until you decide to leave your home wearing that item. Original tags give greater value to a consigned item and make it more attractive to a prospective buyer.

2. Treat your clothes with respect. Read the laundering directions on the label and abide by them. If you're not into that, washing in cold water and hanging to dry is always a safe bet. Use stain-removal products that are safe for both the environment and your clothes. Avoid bleach as it breaks down fibres.

3. Clean and polish your shoes regularly -- this helps the leather last longer and keeps your shoes looking cleaner. Keep original box and dust bag that come with the shoes, and use them for storage. Not only will this extend the life of the shoe significantly, the inclusion of the dust bag and/or shoe box will increase their resale value considerably when consigning.

4. On a related note: repair footwear before it's too late. Leather-soled shoes and boots demand high-quality care. Have a cobbler apply a thin rubber sole to the bottom to help the sole last a lot longer. Replace heel caps before they get to the metal nub and before you ruin the fabric on the back of your heel. A shoe with scuffed leather at the heel is not suitable for resale, unfortunately.

5. Be kind to the interior of your purses. If you carry make-up in your purse, put it in in a Ziploc or a make-up bag. (I've seen some amazing bags come into the store that I've had to reject due to a concealer explosion that totally ruined the interior liner of the purse.) Keep the dust bag for your purses also; when the purse isn't in use it should be stored in the dust bag and stuffed with tissue paper to keep its shape intact.

6. Mend holes and rips, and replace buttons.

7. Finally, empty your pockets and purses. Used Kleenex = gross.

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