Using Vintage To Your Advantage: Turning Grandma’s Closet into Extra Cash She Can Use

vintage clothes from grandma's closet
vintage clothes from grandma's closet
Image credit: Shutterstock

“Everything old is new again.”

Modern fashion is fabulously inclusive. The New Look – a full skirt with a cinched waist – dominated the 1950s. Shoulder pads reigned in the ‘80s. Today, I’m not surprised when both looks walk by me in the street, sometimes on the same person. This recirculation of fashion means unprecedented opportunity for your well-loved clothes.

Further, online shopping has given local consigners and thrift shops global reach. But, they’re not alone. Internet platforms like eBay and Pinterest enable everyday Americans like you and me to turn our closets into micro stores. Vintage hunters the world over can visit our virtual shops and give our clothes second lives. This brand new world is a win for both your pocketbook and the environment.

Here’s how you can use vintage to your advantage.

“What goes around comes around”

First, select the items you’d like to part with. They should be:

  • Clean: Soiled, smelly, or wrinkled will need some tender love and care.
  • Desirable: You don’t want them anymore, but if you still think they’re great, someone else will too.
  • Photogenic: When you’re selling online, the only impressions are via the photos you provide.

“One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure”

After you have gathered the items you want to sell, you have the choice of many platforms to set up shop. Large, well-known sites like eBay and Craigslist are now flanked by nimbler competitors like Poshmark and Threadflip. When you choose, consider the following:

Audience: Poke around to see what’s available. What you see is what people who shop there want.

Price point: You can buy a shirt for $2, $20, or $200. Take a look at what you’ve got, and what is on the site. Comparable items will sell for comparable prices.

Convenience: Some places are full-service, but get to keep a bigger cut of the sale. Others are do-it- yourself, but you pay less to the site. What do you prefer?

“Going, going, gone!”

Let’s take a look at your options and how best to use them.


  • Audience: huge. On the upside, millions of potential buyers. On the downside, hard to stand out.
  • Product: Everything is available. All styles, price points, and departments.
  • Merchandising: You take the photos and you provide the description.
  • Good for you if: You have a motley assortment of items to sell, you want to stick to one site, and you don’t mind doing the work of selling.
  • Word to the wise: eBay sellers build their reputations based on the ratings that their buyers give. If you don’t have any ratings, you may have some trouble attracting your initial clientele.

If you choose eBay, preparation is key. Grab a digital camera and take photos of each item at various angles and distance. Then crack open your laptop and compose a winning description of each item. eBay’s own advice on what your descriptions should include says:

If possible, describe how the item feels when worn. Be sure to let buyers know if a major size difference exists due to vanity sizing. Encourage them to read the measurements and compare them to their own. Try to describe the item in enough detail that the description could stand alone if no photos were available. List the age, original retail price, and place of initial purchase, if available. It is crucial to list any tears, stains, or other damage. From: http://www.ebay.com/gds/Tips-for-Selling-Vintage-Clothing-Online-/10000000178525185/g.html

After you sign up and post your items’ photos and description, track your sales. If customers have questions, respond promptly and directly. When you have a sale, fulfill the order fast. Then, make sure you secure a good rating from your satisfied buyers.


  • Audience: local. On one hand, you can only reach your area with one post. On the other hand, proximity means you have the possibility of selling in person.
  • Product: A wide variety of products, organized well.
  • Merchandising: Forgiving. An open page awaits, and you can fill it with what photos and text you’d like. eBay is far stricter with formatting and standards.
  • Good for you if: You don’t mind a smaller audience, you like the free-form ad, and you want to keep 100% of proceeds. Also, good if you want an item on the same day or value supporting local shoppers.
  • Word to the wise: Craigslist is organized by the time that ads are posted, so choose your timing well. If something doesn’t sell by the time the free ad expires, you can repost (for free). Tuesdays are the best days


  • Audience: Women interested in an infinite closet
  • Product: A wide variety, including the occasional celebrity hand-me-downs. That said, users are in a tight band of age and taste, so the market may be limited.
  • Merchandising: Strong, iPhone-based photos
  • Good for you if: You want a shot at an original Rachel Zoe piece owned by Rachel Zoe
  • Word to the Wise: Poshmark allows a rotating closet. You can use the app without spending any new money. You can use only the money made from Poshmark sales to purchase new items. Twice, Threadflip, Copious, ThreadUp, and Tradesy offer similar services

If you’re like most people, you have a treasure trove of clothing, shoes, and accessories from several eras.

Maybe you are tired of your old stuff, and maybe you’ve outgrown them. Either way, somebody out there wants them. And finding your buyers is easier than ever before. Use vintage to your advantage.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Shayne is a certified aging in place specialist with degrees from Harvard College and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne is cleaning out his closet right now.

  1. Nick Lyons

    Sometimes procrastination on spring cleaning really does pay off! (if you procrastinate for 30 years!) But seriously, this is a really good quick start guide to getting your feet wet with online selling.

    1. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      An awful lot of online selling ties in nicely with the notion of waste reduction – I follow a woman on FB, for instance, who makes a living selling items on eBay that she finds while dumpster diving. Thanks for stopping by, Nick!

  2. Tracy

    If you are looking to get rid of 50’s New Look dresses send them to me! I adore 50’s fashion – I wish it were easier to find vintage pieces from that era. I’ll definitely have to check out poshmark, that’s one I haven’t heard of before!

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