One of my “20 for 2020” goals is to “sell designated items on eBay or similar.” This is something I’ve been wanting to do since last fall, but I procrastinated on it for many months. The task felt daunting because of the sheer volume of items that I planned to list, but I finally got around to making it happen during the second half of August. In today’s post, I share why I decided to sell wardrobe items online, what I’m selling and why, and the lessons I learned from my expensive shopping mistakes.
Why I Listed My Items on eBay
Over the last couple of weeks, I spent a number of hours listing thirty items – clothes, shoes, and accessories – on eBay. The time spent included taking photos of the pieces I planned to sell (or finding stock photos online), writing descriptions, packing things up, and setting prices. As with many tasks in life, this process took a lot longer than I thought it would. I have very little experience with selling items online, as I’ve generally opted to either donate my castoffs or take them to a local consignment store instead. So why did I decide to go the eBay route this time around? There were three main reasons for my decision, as I’ll detail below.
Reason One – Consignment Store Changes
The last time I drove to my favorite resale store with items to consign (pre-pandemic), they passed up almost everything that I brought in. Because of “fast fashion” and the high frequency of sales throughout the retail industry, such stores have had to change their strategies in order to survive. This particular store has opted to focus primarily on higher-end designer items, so they’ve stopped accepting clothing and accessories from mid-level retailers and brands. Since most of my wardrobe is purchased from those mid-level sources, consigning is no longer a viable option for me (as I suspect other local consignment stores have adopted similar practices).
When I look back, I realize that I never received much money for my consigned pieces anyway. After seeing printouts of what I sold on a few occasions, I was shocked to see how small the payout was per item. However, it was nice to get some cash or store credit periodically in exchange for handing over things that no longer worked for me (or maybe never did).
Reason Two – Expensive Mistakes
I continue to donate the majority of my wardrobe castoffs to a couple of charity shops, but some of my pieces were quite pricey and I wanted to try to recoup at least a portion of my losses. Most of the items that I listed on eBay had never been worn, but I wasn’t able to return them for a refund because they were either “final sale” or the return deadline had passed. They weren’t all expensive, but collectively it added up to a lot of money that never should have been spent!
The final sale items were mostly bought at end-of-season sales for the brand CAbi, which I became enthusiastic about in recent years after attending a few clothing parties hosted by a friend. The pieces are nice and well-made, but many of them have no place in my ultra-casual life. I also purchased them wearing “sales goggles” and got dazzled by a “good deal” (the end-of-season sale items are priced at half-price or lower).
Of course, I should know better by now, which is why these mistakes stung so badly. My thought process for selling items online was that if I could get back even a portion of what I spent on costly errors, I might be able to assuage some of my guilt. I know all about the “sunk cost fallacy” (that the money has already been spent and I can’t get it back), but I still felt like it would help me emotionally to be able to sell some of my castoffs. That may not end up being true, but it was part of my rationale for listing many of my items for sale.
I also thought that I could use the proceeds from selling my mistake pieces toward buying things that are more appropriate for how I actually live – or perhaps for something not wardrobe-related at all. Most of the mistakes were made in 2019 or earlier, but a few were from the beginning of this year, which hurts all the more. How long is it going to take for me to stop making these types of stupid mistakes?
Reason Three – “Penance”
Clearly, I’ve been making shopping mistakes for a long time. Even if you just go back to when I started Recovering Shopaholic, we’re looking at over seven years, but the truth is that I’ve been making ill-advised purchases for as long as I can remember. Yet it’s been all too easy to just dispense with my mistakes by making a quick trip to a local charity shop or consignment store. After handing over my castoffs at one of these establishments, the items could be “out of my hair” – and the guilt often went right along with them.
I wanted to “feel the pain” a bit more this time, though, in the hopes that maybe I would “get it” and learn more from the mistakes that I had made. It’s not really that I wanted to beat myself up, as I do more than enough of that already (it’s something that I’m working on!). Rather, I wanted to make it a little harder for me to get rid of my worst mistakes. If a short car ride is all it takes for me to get my bad purchases out of sight and out of mind, and then I just go out and buy more stuff, that’s a whole lot of waste and not enough learning and reform. I’m aiming for far less of the former and far more of the latter!
What I Listed For Sale
As I mentioned above, I listed thirty items for sale on eBay. The items can be broken down into the following categories:
- 7 pairs of shoes (2 new, 5 pre-owned)
- 6 pairs of pants/jeans (all new)
- 10 jackets/coats (7 new, 3 pre-owned)
- 2 cardigans (both new)
- 2 dresses (both new)
- 1 top (new)
- 1 purse (pre-owned)
- 1 necklace (new)
The pre-owned items that I listed are all in excellent, “like new” condition, and many of them were fairly expensive when they were purchased new. Here’s a quick look at all of the items:
Why I Listed the Items – The Issues
I always think it’s helpful to make note of why we purge garments, shoes, and accessories from our closets, as this helps increase our awareness of potential issues to be aware of when shopping. If we notice, for example, that we often get rid of items that are a particular color, style, or silhouette, that can alert us not to buy such things in the future.
When it comes to the pieces that I listed on eBay, there are four main reasons for my doing so: uncomfortable shoes, garments that are too small, unflattering silhouettes, and overall style issues. Several of the thirty items fall into more than one of these categories. Let’s look at each category one by one. I’ll share the items, the issues, and the lessons I learned from my expensive mistakes.
Both of the shoes shown below were purchased online. I love both of the styles, but the comfort was not up to par. In the case of the metallic peep-toe heels, I thought they would work when I first received them (back in 2018), but the strap in the back was very uncomfortable against my heel and gave me blisters. I tried getting the strap stretched by a cobbler, but it didn’t help much. I bought the red and black animal print shoes on Poshmark recently because of my newfound love of red, plus I thought they would work well with my black-heavy wardrobe. Sadly, the ankle strap is painful against my prominent ankle bones, so the shoes are a miss for me.
I learned three lessons from these shoes that didn’t work out for me:
- First and foremost, I should never purchase shoes that I have not tried on (like the red and black print sandals) and that I can’t return (Poshmark has a no returns policy). My feet are fussy enough to make such behavior a very risky proposition. I either have to know that something works (i.e. I’ve tried the shoes on previously and am confident of the size and fit) or I have to be able to return it.
- Ankle strap shoes rarely work for me due to the structure of my ankles. I love the look, but I think I just need to enjoy this style on others, at least until I’m back to trying on shoes in stores and can check for fit and comfort. We all have shoe styles that are risky propositions. For you, it may be ballet flats or tall boots instead of ankle strap sandals, but it’s helpful to know which styles to either avoid or tread lightly with when buying.
- If shoes aren’t comfortable right out of the box, they’re probably never going to be cozy to wear. We shouldn’t have to “break our shoes in.” Yes, shoes will loosen up with time, but if they hurt our feet from the get go, we should either not buy them or return them (if we ordered them online). It’s also a good idea to wear shoes around the house for a little while to see how they feel. Sometimes shoes will feel good when we first put them on, but not after walking around for even a short while, as was the case with my metallic peep-toe heels.
Too Small Clothing
The five items below were listed on eBay because they’re too small for me.
The only garment that I wore multiple times was the cobalt coat, which I purchased in early 2013. This coat would have been better for me in a size larger, but it was a one-off Nordstrom return from the previous year’s anniversary sale and was the only size available. It was always a bit snug when fully buttoned, but it worked fine until my post-menopausal weight gain a few years ago. I wish I could find this coat in the next size up, as the style is a perfect match for my personal aesthetic, but no such luck. Hopefully I’ll be able to find something similar this coming winter.
I bought the black lace coat and the red coat on Poshmark last year. I thought they would fit me because I was familiar with the brands and knew what size I usually wore in them. The red coat actually did fit when it arrived, but it had such a strong laundry detergent odor that I had to wash it multiple times to try to get rid of the smell. The coat was supposed to be machine washable and I used cold wash, gentle cycle, but it still shrunk considerably. The black lace coat had either been altered (it was supposed to be new) or that particular style from a familiar brand ran very small. In both cases, I was unable to return the coats, so I’m hoping to find takers for them on eBay soon.
The pants were both purchased at a CAbi end-of-season sale and they’re probably a size too small. Some people would wear them as they are, but I don’t like to wear super snug clothing. There are also style issues with both pairs of pants, which I’ll address in a later section, but I shouldn’t have bought them for the size issue alone.
The important lessons that I learned from these too small items are:
- Don’t buy items that almost Coats need to be comfortable when fully buttoned in case they need to be worn that way, as is often the case when I visit my family in Lake Tahoe (I usually wear my coats unbuttoned in temperate Southern California). Pants also need to be comfortable to wear both when standing and sitting. All too often, I’ve owned pants that are great when I’m standing or walking around but are painful when I’m sitting down. It’s important to do a “sit test” for all pants and jeans before buying them.
- Don’t buy things that can’t be returned unless I’m absolutely positive about the fit. It doesn’t matter if I’m familiar with a brand and usually wear a certain size. The fits for various styles within a brand can often vary, as was the case with the black lace and red coats.
- Only buy “new with tags” items when purchasing from online resale sites. Since I’m sensitive to fragrances, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners, it’s too risky for me to buy pre-owned items online. I wouldn’t have thought a wool blend coat would arrive smelling like detergent, as such items are generally dry clean only, but you never know. It’s better for me to stick to items that I know are new and have never been laundered.
Eight of the items I listed for sale were unflattering on me:
The only item above that isn’t new is the polka dot dress, which I wore just once, to my brother’s wedding in August 2018. I actually love the style of the dress, but the waistline came up too high on me, which is a common problem with my height, even though I’m relatively short-waisted. I ended up feeling self-conscious in the dress the entire time I was wearing it, and I kept trying to tug it down so the waistline would be in line with my anatomical waist. I should have tried harder to find a better-fitting dress for the occasion, but I left it too late and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I likely wouldn’t wear much.
Here are some notes about the other items shown:
- The joggers are too snug in the calves and the side stripes accentuate my hips, which I don’t want to do. I took a chance on these pants on eBay last year and am hoping another woman who wears a size Medium Tall will want to snap them up.
- The bomber is cozy, warm, and well-made, but the boxy style hides my slim torso and hits right at my hips, which isn’t a good look on me. In general, it’s good for me to try out new silhouettes so I don’t get into a clothing rut, but this one was a miss on me and I should have returned it while I could.
- The black trousers are too high-waisted and hip-hugging for my personal preferences. I took a chance on them because they were a tall size and a low price, but they were a miss.
- The cobalt top is totally my color, but I didn’t love the cap sleeve (my upper arms aren’t as toned as they once were) and the curved hem (if I were shorter, it might work, but it hit right at my hips and was unflattering). This item was the first one to sell on eBay, so I recouped some of my investment, but I wish I would have sent it back within the return window.
- The long mottled black/gray cardigan is the duster style that usually works well on my tall frame, but the horizontal ribs across my bottom and the flared hem only served to make me look bottom heavy (which I kind of am, but I don’t like to shine a neon light on it!).
- I love the style of the black asymmetrical dress, but it didn’t look very good from behind. I could probably make it work if I wore Spanx, but I generally feel that if I need shaping garments to wear something, it’s a no go. Life’s too short to feel uncomfortable in my clothes, and that’s how I feel in Spanx! The dress was an inexpensive sale item, but I should have left it in the store!
- Finally, the olive cropped pants were supposed to be the same style and size as a black pair that I own, but they were about two inches shorter and hit me across the meaty part of my calves. Since they were bought online on final sale, I’m hoping someone will want them on eBay.
You may have determined some of the lessons I’ve learned from these eight purchasing mistakes, but I’ll still encapsulate them here for you (and for myself):
- I need to give myself plenty of time to find an outfit for a special occasion, such as my brother’s wedding. Because I waited too long, I had fewer options available to me and ended up settling for a dress that didn’t fit me as well as it should have. That led me to feel self-conscious during the reception, which adversely impacted my enjoyment of that event.
- As I mentioned in the previous two sections, I shouldn’t buy things that can’t be returned unless I’m certain that they will work out for me. I’ll cut myself some slack for the olive cropped pants because I had the same style in another color and they should have fit me, but it was unwise for me to purchase the other two pairs of pants when I hadn’t tried them on previously.
- I need to be mindful of return deadlines so that I can return items that aren’t a good fit prior to that time. Some brands and retailers have very small return windows (for CAbi, it’s 30 days, and their end-of-season sale items can’t be returned), so I need to decide as soon as possible whether or not something is going to work for me.
- I need to always carefully check the back and side views before deciding whether or not to keep an item. Additionally, it’s helpful to get my husband’s opinion, as he knows that I’m sensitive about my lower half and will always be honest with me if something isn’t as flattering as it could be. It’s good to try new styles and silhouettes, but I need to be sure that something works before deciding to keep it.
Overall Style Issues
The final category of my purchasing mistakes is the largest one. All of the items below didn’t work for me because of style / aesthetic issues.
It’s important to note that they were all purchased prior to the style exploration and refinement that I did earlier this year (which I wrote about in this post and this one). As a reminder – or if you didn’t read my two recent style-related posts, I have selected dramatic, polished, and elegant as my three “style guideposts.” As you can see, some of the pieces shown above are not in line with those descriptors, including the distressed jeans, leopard print pants, and black bomber jacket. The shoes mostly don’t work with my newly defined style statement, either. As for the other items pictured, while they might adhere to my three guideposts, there were other issues with them.
Because there are so many items in this category, I won’t address them one by one. But here are the key lessons that I learned from the garments, shoes, and accessories that I’m passing on for style-related reasons:
- I feel frumpy and matronly in dressy flat shoes and patent leather. While such shoes can be considered polished and elegant, maybe it’s the lack of the “dramatic” that makes them a miss for me. I much prefer heels over flats because they help me to feel more in line with my style guideposts, but I can do a flat shoe in certain styles. I’m still searching for flat shoe options that feel dramatic, polished, and elegant.
- I don’t like toppers that need to be buttoned or zipped in order to look good. I like to wear my coats, jackets, and cardigans open most of the time, so in the future I’m not going to buy toppers that need to be worn closed.
- I like simple collars and necklines. If a collar or neckline is ruffled or fussy in any way, it’s not going to work for me and my style. And while I like open cardigans and jackets, I don’t really like waterfall styles, as they can be fussy and often don’t stay in place. Such styles don’t feel polished or elegant to me when they flop around.
- I like my purses to have some structure to them. If they’re too “floppy” and don’t hold their shape, I’m not happy with them.
- I need to not compromise when it comes to color. The burgundy coat is too warm-toned and the navy coat is too dark to pair with black pieces (it looks almost black), which are a big portion of my wardrobe.
- I also need to remember that I have very few occasions for fancier pieces and should stick to casual items. Both of the coats I mentioned above are too fancy for my lifestyle, so they wouldn’t be the best purchases even if the colors were exactly what I wanted.
- Most of all, I need to NOT be dazzled by sales or potential scarcity/FOMO. I have to remember that no matter how low-priced something is, it’s NOT a “deal” if it isn’t right for me. There will always be lots of other options available and many other potential deals.
I guess the best lesson of all is to never settle! Knowing our personal style aesthetic helps a lot, too, as I don’t believe I would make such horrible mistakes now after taking the time to define what I’m looking for in my clothes and my outfits. The time we take to get clear on our desired style statement is time well spent.
So far, only two of the items that I listed on eBay have sold. I got one low-ball offer on another item, which I promptly declined. I’m by no means an eBay expert, but I’m learning some things along the way on how to best navigate selling things on that site. I’ll likely do another post soon to share about my eBay experience, both in terms of the outcome of my listings and my lessons learned (about eBay specifically, as I already shared what I learned from my buying mistakes in this post).
If any of you have any tips or tricks that you’re willing to share, I’d love to read them. Also, if you have any insights as to whether Poshmark (or another site) is a better way to go than eBay, I would appreciate your chiming in. I’m not sure how much online selling I will do in the future, but I think it’s helpful to be informed, plus others who are reading may be looking to use these types of sites. Tips for buying clothes on resale sites are welcomed as well. And, of course, you can feel free to share any other comments you have regarding this post.