The Lively History of Resale Clothing

Resale of previously worn clothing began in the 1300’s in Europe where newly made clothing was only afforded by the rich, and not open to the general population. Clothing was made by the poor for themselves using mostly wool, which was very itchy. Silks were only available by the rich.  The Guild, an organization that controlled the creation and sale of goods, began around this time and lasted over 400 years until 1789.  The Guild became a governing body of all sales and decided (quite based on popularity it is thought) who could create things and sell things, which included the tailors of the day.  Men were only allowed to be a part of the guild, women were considered not to be very good at sewing and construction of garments and so only created goods for their own families in the poorest areas. The Guild was disbanded for corporatism to ensure fair trade and eliminate monopolies by individuals and their businesses.  The resale of clothing came as a demand for more stylish clothing increased, and second hand became the most affordable option for those not wealthy enough to afford their own tailor.

Where It Began

Mass produced clothing in standard sizes started through production of military uniforms in 1812, and women’s and men’s wear shortly after this date.  Haute Couture is when clothing is created by a high fashion house such as Chanel, known best for the little black dress and Chanel #5 perfume, and Dior who was known for long flowing skirts with small waists.  These fashion houses made their designer clothing for specific individuals, which were then recreated for the masses for standardized ready-to-wear clothing.  Literally, Haute Couture means “high dressmaking’.

The Shift to Consignment Stores

Until 1999 North Americans have seen the resale clothing market in thrift, buy-outright or consignment stores as less than desirable and best suited for those that could not afford new clothing.  Something changed in 1999 and the United States saw an upsurge in growth rates of second hand clothing stores by 67%.

Why Do Consumers Shop at Consignment Stores?

  • The reprisal and aesthetics of vintage and retro wear from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s,
  • The love of finding a treasure; the pleasure of the hunt with every item being unique in the stores,
  • Environmental concerns. If 1 in 100 Americans shopped resale, it would save 1.1 billion pounds of CO2 emissions every year! This equals 24 million trees planted per year,
  • Seeking fashion authenticity that is much more challenging to find in ready to wear mass producers,
  • Economic impact to families may equal consignment as a first choice.

Wilder’s Consignment House wants you to find your perfect treasure.  Feel good about your choice to shop consignment as you are receiving a fashion authenticate item and saving the planet.


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