What if you could get all of the beautiful clothes you could ever want for low or NO cost? That is our featured “save more” segment of this podcast. My guest says she has not purchased a new piece of clothing in 20 years and yet she’s a well-dressed woman. Please welcome Kate Bryer to Easy Money. Hi Kate!
Kate, tell us about your real job, first, so people can get a feel for what you’re all about.
I am the Associate Artistic Director at Imagination Stage, a children’s theater in Bethesda, MD. I have been at Imagination stage for 20 plus years and I run the professional theatre aspect of the organization. I direct two shows a year with professional actors performing for children. In addition, I hire all the designers, help to pick the season and work with a casting director to cast all the shows.
So you’re a creative type and you’ve gotten creative about how you buy clothes. Explain what you do.
My big thing is actually thrift stores and ebay—i love buying clothes so need to get rid of a lot and do so on ebay. I dont make a lot of money but enough to play and keep my clothes hobby going. And i dont think i have bought a new piece of clothing in 20 years. Every piece of clothing i own is thrift store or ebay bought!
In fact, you say you spend little or no money on clothes at all. How can that be?
I am a major penny pincher. Always have been always will be. I sell clothes in order to buy more clothes, so that the money coming in and going out are similar. I love finding treasures at thrift stores and rummage sales. Well made beautiful things and clothing are an addiction. I have been told I have a good eye— I know good quality when I see it.
The other benefit is that your home doesn’t get too cluttered, right? Since you’re always selling things to buy something new?
Well, not sure my husband would agree…I have a lot of stuff— clothes in particular. But I try to keep it organized and in places that are not the public areas of my home. Sometimes it can take a while for something to sell— that is the down side because it means you have to have space to organize and store things until they sell. I do occasionally take things to a local consignment shop where they will buy clothing and give you 50% of what they can sell it for. They give you cash right there and it’s good because then you are not having to store these things and wait until they sell.
Ah, so it sounds like you buy some extra clothes to sell as a little side hustle rather than just buying clothes for yourself? Is that worthwhile?
Let’s provide a visual for people. What is your style and what brands or designers do you like these days?
Brand and designer names sell best on eBay. It is very hard to sell something if it does not have a label. So, things like designer hand bags (coach, Kate spade, Brighton, , etc) do well. Basic stores like Ann Taylor, Banana republic, j crew, north face, Patagonia, REI, GAP , Ugg, lulu lemon, do well though there is not a huge profit. Remember you pay 20% in eBay and PayPal fees every time you sell something. Plus people have to pay for shipping so the customer may be getting a good deal but shipping adds to their cost. I like selling clothing best because it is easy and cheap to ship—I buy polyurethane bags on eBay and can mail 1st class (under 13 oz) for about $4
You spend next to nothing on clothes, and yet, would you say you’re a stylish person?
Yes, stylish but comfortable. I am not really into super high end designer clothing myself because I just don’t feel comfortable dressing clothes that are thousands of dollars—but I love finding something from Anthropologie for $3. I would NEVER shop in that store— even on sale their clothes are ridiculously expensive.
Can you give me a couple examples of your best buys of all time?!
I bought a beautiful vintage Missoni sweater dress at a rummage sale for $5 that I wore a couple of times and then sold because I didn’t like the way it looked on me. It sold for $400
And, how about selling. Any major coups where you made good money?
I recently sold a petit point evening bag for $250 that seemed a complete fluke! I didn’t know that much about it cause it was vintage and had no label but I put it up for sale and it just kept climbing and climbing in bids. BTW, the eBay app will often give you a recommendation for a price to start at when you put all the info in the listing. It doesn’t do that for vintage stuff so you have to do a bit o researching by looking on eBay to see similar things are up for sale
eBay is one of your stores of choice. What are the best and worst parts of shopping for clothes on eBay?
I think that the worst part is that you have to make sure you are not being cheated. There are a lot of sellers there trying to take advantage of others so you have to be vigililant, Read seller reviews and don’t bid on offers that look suspicious. Remember— if it looks too good to be true, it is. Also I don’t buy anything that lists as originating from China. First of all, shipping time is ridiculous and second, these are often sellers who might be frauds. eBay does have a protection policy and if anything does go wrong, you can call them and they will most likely rule in y our favor and give your money back
The best thing about shopping in eBay is that I will often decide I want something ( I see it in a store or a friend has it) and if I know exactly the size, color, brand name, etc, I can find it on eBay for a fraction of what it costs in the store. And I can just go on line, buy it and have it within a couple of days. I love that.
You said you also frequent Thrift stores. Are you methodical about it in order to find the gems? Or do you just go when you can?
I am not methodical but I do go 2-3days a week. And I love rummage sales because I can get a lot and I am giving to charity at the same time. I also organize clothing swaps . We have instituted one at imagination stage that happens now twice a year, in fall and in spring. We all bring in clothes and accessories we don’t want and everyone can take what they want. We each bring snack and drink and have a little happy hour getting a “new” wardrobe. Whatever is left at the end gets bagged up and brought to the local thrift store. It takes a bit of organizing and people pitching in to help but it is fun and a good way for people to clean out their closets
What do you say to the people who are uncomfortable with the idea of buying and wearing used clothing. You know they’re out there!
Sometimes I find clothes that have tags ( more often than you might think) but usually I just wash them before wearing and don’t have any issue. I inspect clothing closely before buying but sometimes I will buy something that has a tear or a button missing and I will repair. I just bought a Marc Jacobs trench coat for $6 moved some button around and resold it for $25. I disclosed in my description that I had moved buttons— very important that if you sell something that is not perfect that you point out all flaws!
Give my listeners some tricks and tips for selling clothes for the most possible money.
Look for clothes that have brand names and are in good shape. try to sell things in season. Be honest and up front always with any flaws in what you are selling. Treat others as you would want to be treated. You want a really good deal on really high quality well cared for clothing— make sure you do that for others.
And, now let’s flip that over. Can you give me some tips and tricks for BUYING great clothes for as little money as possible?
Look for sellers who are just people selling things and avoid buying from companies. Read listing carefully and read reviews of who you are buying from. Know what you are getting. I avoid buying high end computers, electronics or jewelry because it is too risky that something might be a fraud, Broken or not last.
In episode 26 I interviewed a consignment shop owner and now I’m so glad to have heard from a consignment and thrift shop customer. Kate Bryer, master of fashion-for-free or nearly free, thanks so much for being my guest on Easy Money!