Ten Cents an Item for High-End Children's Clothes


Some adults enjoy hunting through resale shops for bargains, and others hate it for all kinds of good reasons: much of the used clothing you see is out of style or worn out, and it often takes a lot of browsing to find something decent in your size.

But if you've been down on resale in the past, take another look once you become a parent. The resale situation for children's clothes and gear is totally different. Children -- especially babies -- wear each size for such a short time that they can't get worn out by just one kid. While kid's clothes are trendier these days, the styles don't change as quickly as adult clothing. A shirt with an applique kitty that was cute in 2003 is still considered cute today.

I used to visit children's resale shops and think I was getting a good deal paying $5 or so for a baby dress. And yeah -- that's better than the little Gymboree habit I had when I used to work across the street from one of that chain's boutiques. Rummage sale prices are usually much better than resale shop prices, but they have the disadvantage that you may have to run all over town looking at different sales to purchase a few gems.

This past weekend I hit the mother lode -- a mother's mother lode -- and it changed my whole children's shopping strategy. I'm now convinced that the absolute best way to shop for kids is at a group resale event. Many towns have events like these, run by a parenting-related organization. In San Francisco and some other areas, the Mother of Twins Club runs a big consignment sale once a year. In western Chicagoland, it's an parenting center and drop-in day care organization called Parenthesis.

These events offer the one-stop convenience of a resale shop, but prices closer to rummage or somewhere in between the two. A big church rummage sale can also be a kids' shopping opportunity, but these dedicated children's sales are better for several reasons: 1) You don't have to push past old ashtrays and porcelain poodles to get to the infant swings and school clothes and 2) participants in parenting clubs and organizations tend to be middle class or better, and they are unloading really expensive stuff.

Such events often have multiple shopping sessions with tiered pricing. For instance, I volunteered to help run Parenthesis' sale, and as a thank-you I got to shop a preview sale before the general public was allowed in. I loaded up on outfits for my preschool daughter with lables including The Children's Place, Gymboree, Baby Gap and even Ralph Lauren. I spent $72 on 30 items, the maximum I was allowed to purchase. Everything was like new. I looked up the Ralph Lauren jumper and found it retailed for about $50, so I figured that between that and a pair of Stride Right shoes I'd grabbed, it was like getting the rest of the stuff for free. Which was some consolation when my daughter and I lost one of the "new" hoodies the very next day.

But I wasn't done. The sale wrapped up on the last day with a half-hour "bag sale," where shoppers could fill a kitchen-sized trash bag full of stuff for $5. FIVE DOLLARS! I bought two empty bags and went to town. While a lot of the perfect and flashier pieces were gone, I loaded up on turtlenecks to wear under jumpers, as well as jeans and a few really nice items that the sellers had overpriced so much that no one bought them in the earlier part of the sale. I even snagged a winter coat and snowpants for a friend's child.

When I emptied my trash bags onto my dining room table, I saw that there were still plenty of high-end brands in there, and while a few items had barely visible spots and a couple needed to be washed, most were in much better shape than the hand-me-downs my daughters usually wear. I was almost ashamed at being too greedy -- I had five infant winter hats from Baby Gap and The Children's Place. Well, those baby hats are always getting lost! I counted things up and realized I had gotten about 50 items of clothing per bag -- an average of 10 cents an item. Needless to say, you can't get a pair of baby socks at Wal-Mart for 10 cents, much less the mint-condition Osh Kosh Bgosh spring jacket I got.

These sales are also a great place to get baby gear such as strollers, swings and even cribs. Many expectant couples register for all the expensive gear for their baby showers, only to receive piles of plush animals and tons of clothes instead. These sales can be a lifesaver in that situation. Like with any used baby gear, you'll want to check for recalls at the Consumer Products Safety Commission before using such items. Serious shoppers may even want to call the serial number into a spouse at home or into the company's 800 number right from the sale, to avoid losing the item.

In all, I spent about $70 on clothes for my own kids, and a few bucks more on gear (including a $10 portable playard). I have probably never spent that much on my kids' wardrobes in one year before, since what we don't borrow or receive as gifts is often a Target brand. And that Target stuff is just fine, but I also really appreciate the touches on the more expensive kids' garments: ribbons inset at the cuffs, for instance. Also, the expensive stuff doesn't get stretched out and faded as easily. Now that I know I can go back to this organization's sale twice a year, I'm not going to bother borrowing any more hand-me-downs. The sorting and returning clothes just isn't worth it.

Another thing I will never do, after working and shopping this sale, is buy infant clothing for a baby shower. I know people like to have pristine new sleepers to put on a brand new baby, but you should have seen the shoulder-high stacks of baby clothes on the tables at this sale. Everyone had tons of onesies and sleepers to get rid of, and no one really wanted to buy them, because most people receive way more brand new ones than they need. It all seems like such a waste.

I can't promise you'll find a resale jackpot like I did, but do check around your community for large consignment or rummage sales. You'll be glad you did.

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Julie Rains's picture

These sales are very big in my area, put on mostly by preschools but also by other groups(who may raise thousands or tens of thousands of dollars) over a 3-day period. There are bargains and when my kids were smaller, I typically did a season's worth of clothes shopping for $40-$70. Higher-end brands in good condition were usually pretty high though (over $5 an item) and if items didn't sell, parents had the option of taking them back and trying to sell at the next event.

Will Chen's picture

Welcome to Wise Bread.  =)

Myscha Theriault's picture

I've never heard of an organization sponsored event. Makes sense, though.

Great idea, and great post. Welcome!

Guest's picture

Cut out the middleman and find families that will round robin clothes year to year.

We have several people that forward their hand me downs to us. In turn, we cycle back clothes to others in our group. Everyone involved has the understanding that nothing is to be sold and that if some usable clothes can't be given away, they will be donated.

We have some friends who are big name brand buyers and other things can be very generic (does it really matter if a pair of grey sweats is from a Mart type store or from a big name?).

We find that shoes and underwear don't make their way around-- and some people are squeamish about the very idea. Seasonally, we all go thru our things and circulate-- then fill in the gaps.

We just got thru our big fall sorting. My eldest daughter ended up lacking in jeans and a nice dress or two for church- then undershirts and shoes. My 5 year old son just needed socks, underwear and sneakers. My two year old needed nothing-- but she'll be needing regular big girl undies soon. And my 5 month old needed sleepers.

All the needs and sizes are written on a master list and we begin working from the least amount of cost up-- starting with shopping at the Rescue Mission, etc then on thru the big box stores, onto middle level retail, etc.

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Guest's picture

I come from a culture where you should never use other people's clothes or reuse thrown away stuff. Instead we are thought it is better to wear the same thing that belongs to you rather than to wear all sorts of things that was previously used by others.

But over time, I learnt that Americans just use them once or twice, and forget about them. When I started out on my first job, I needed alot of clothes and shoes, so I bought all my stuff this way. I wore it once or twice and then got rid of it. This way, I wore many types of styles I would never otherwise, managed to have some branded names on my body and it felt good each time. Obviously I gotten over the cultural differences and curbed my insane desire to buy more and more clothes. Why pay so much when I can still look good at a fraction of cost. I used this method to buy things for the house too. I bought some dresser and bed from Craiglist and repainted them, varnished them and voila! it is as brand new. I think it is a crime to spend so much!

Guest's picture

i am a retired navy wife and learned early that rummage sale clothes were the way to go with young children. i could buy sundays best clothes ,like new, that my children wore to school. enjoy this time my friends because by the time the children go to jr. high they no longer will wear them. you must instill in them the joys of shopping kmart... shopko..... target...etc. no need to spend a months wages on the labels. if it is labels they have to have then they can find a job to pay for them. for too long the american public has let the media dictate to them and their children.. its time to take a stand. i feel its time for all schools to insist on uniforms.. catholic schools have done this for years with no visable harm to childrens egos.

Guest's picture

I love rummage sales. The best deals are at the church sales and the school sales where I live. If you think about it -- you have a huge population and economic group to shop from. And where I live (NJ) people think everything is so disposable. All the better for me picking up Lilly Pulitzer for 50 cents.

Don't count out the adult stuff in better towns. I've found new with tags Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters and Eileen Fisher items. You can also get some great vintage finds too -- items you can't get at "the mall".

Enjoy the thrill of the hunt! You'll be amazed what pocket money can get you at these events.

Rummage On!

Guest's picture

I am a huge fan of this store called Susie's Deals!

They carry clothes for everyone, men's, women's, and kids too. I always know that I can walk in to one of their stores a come out with a big bag of really cute stylish stuff for $25! Everything in the store is sold for $5.99 or less and you can even find things that are 2 for $5.99!

I have bought some really nice name brand things at this store and given them to friends and family for Christmas. People have NO idea that these nice items only cost me $5.99 each .. It's Awesome!

I urge you to check them out, because you only have one store on your site that carries clothing and this store appeals to everyone! And they have a web site where you can also shop online or snatch an e-coupon to use at the store, and if you spend $50 the shipping is FREE which is a definite plus!

Their web site is http://www.susiesdeals.com they have store in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah too.