What Sells: Women’s Clothing

The online market for women’s apparel varies widely, but in general, clothing sells below retail. This is especially true for previously-owned clothing because styles change so frequently — by the time you or someone you might work with is tired of an item, chances are the rest of the buying market is, too.

The exceptions are classic items that don’t change dramatically from season to season: Burberry trench coats, St. John knitted suits, Levi’s 501 jeans and so on. Well-known designer brands tend to do well, though they rarely sell for close to their original prices.

Designer jeans are also strong sellers online. Popular brands and styles change from season to season, so last year’s “in” jeans might not sell. These brands are among the current leaders in designer denim:

Moderately-priced brands often sell for a small fraction of their retail price (if at all). This list includes widely available fashions from Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Bebe, Chico’s, Gap, INC, J Crew, Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and Talbot’s. If the item is truly exceptional and NWT, it can match the price of a higher-end designer item. Lower-priced brands from Old Navy, Target and Wal-Mart have very little resale value, so consider selling these lower-priced brands in lots.

Choose your garments carefully: dresses, sweaters, designer jeans and coats will usually sell for more than shorts, t-shirts and career clothes. If someone asks you to sell these latter items, consider offering them as a lot. Make sure each item in the lot is the same size and style, and, when feasible, the same brand.

Seasonal Factors

Most clothing is seasonal. Holiday-themed items should be sold one to two months before the holiday (be sure to allow enough time for shipping). Spring clothing (lightweight and sheer materials, pastel colors and floral prints) and prom gowns should be sold in March and April, and summer clothing (shorts, sandals and swimwear) from April through June.

Sell heavy sweaters, fur coats, boots and ski apparel from September through December. You may still get buyers in January, but you’re competing with store sales (and many people curtail their spending after the holidays).

Research Resources

For the latest in women’s apparel, look through the pages of People or US magazine — designers monitor celebrity fashion trends closely for ideas about what to add to their lines; what you see in the gossip rags often makes its way to the department store. InStyle magazine remains a great source of information on current trends. Also, be sure to visit the websites of the top designers listed above to view their current portfolios.

It is best to search eBay to learn what’s being offered for sale online, how items are bundled and marketed, and what’s selling.

For the latest photos of designer runway collections, visit the following websites


Inspect clothing carefully for these signs of wear and tear:

  • Stains and spots
  • Rips and tears
  • Dirty or torn hems on long pants, skirts and gowns
  • Snags in delicate fabrics
  • Moth holes in wool
  • Weak seams, loose threads
  • Missing buttons
  • Stuck or broken zippers
  • Odors
  • Alterations
  • Torn, faded or missing labels

Also, check the pockets of coats, jackets and pants.

Caring for Silk

For dupioni silk, lighter silks like chiffon, China silk, and crepe de Chine, and multi-color or hand-dyed prints, dry cleaning is usually the best cleaning option, if the item is soiled or stained. However, for other types of silk, while dry cleaning helps maintain the original texture of the fabric, it does carry some risks. To make sure the item gets proper treatment, be sure to tell the dry cleaner that the garment is made from silk.

If an item needs to be cleaned but is not stained and it is made of higher quality silk, it will tend to look better and last longer if hand washed. Do not hand wash it yourself. Instead, instruct the owner or the buyer how to hand wash the item.

Silk can be hand washed in cool or lukewarm water using a mild detergent such as Woolite, Ivory soap, or Dreft dissolved in the water. Because silk resists dirt and stains, only a small amount of soap should be used. Silk doesn’t tolerate abrupt changes in temperature very well, so stay with one water temperature throughout the wash. Avoid soaking silk as this can fade the dye.

Never use a dryer to dry silk as the friction and lack of humidity and can damage the fabric. Instead, roll the silk item up in a cotton bath towel and gently press the water out. Never wring silk. When the item feels almost dry, finer silk should be hung to dry, while coarser varieties, such as bourette, should be laid out on a flat surface to dry.

Key Details

Include these details in your listing:
  • Brand
  • Name of line (not all brands have these)
  • Type of garment(s)
  • Material (i.e., cashmere, leather, silk, lace, etc.)
  • Number of pieces (for outfits and lots)
  • Size
  • Predominant color(s)
  • Condition (New with Tags, New without Tags, etc.)
Storage and Shipping

Keep clothing in a well-ventilated room, away from children, pets, moisture, smoke and cooking odors. Never place clothing in direct sunlight or next to heating vents or air conditioners, since temperature/humidity changes can cause damage and light can cause silk to yellow. For long-term storage, keep silk in a cotton pillowcase or other material that can breathe. Avoid plastic, which traps moisture and can cause yellowing and mildew. Silk, like other natural fibers, is a favorite with moths, so store cedar chips or balls with your silk to keep the bugs away.

Items should be cleaned and pressed and left on hangers, or folded and stacked prior to shipment. Wrap each item in white tissue paper (do not use colored paper as it can bleed onto the item) and place it in a plastic bag to protect it from damage from moisture encountered during shipment. Place the bag in either a bubble wrap envelope or a sturdy box, depending upon the number of clothing items being shipped to the buyer.

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