How to Re-Sell or Recycle Your Denim

By Ann of Holier than Now—this post was originally published in January 2012.

I’m a big believer in wardrobe recycling, and I tend to feel most strongly about it after a weekend of heavy shopping. Although there are some vintage pieces that I’d never part with, for the most part I believe in truly wearing the things I own, and selling, swapping or donating the things that have fallen out of rotation.

I love the idea of my unloved clothes moving on to a loving owner, and I frankly use this system to finance my shopping. I resell a decent number of items each season, and I use the funds to buy new (or new-to-me used or vintage) clothes. I’ve written about my system on Holier than Now, but having just sold off some designer denim, I thought I’d share a jean-specific version here.

Following are my 5 tips for divesting of your denim. My process starts not when I decide I want to sell the item, but when I buy it.

1. Archive: If you’re investing in a pair of jeans, take the time to store away the tags and any accoutrements that came with them (like a cloth bag or extra buttons). Although you shouldn’t pass off your items as “new with tags” if you’ve worn them, it’s a nice touch to show a potential buyer that the item has the original tags, etc., and you might need to reference them for the style name and original retail price.

2. Take care: I generally try to treat my clothing as if it’s on loan. With denim, that means washing inside out, letting my jeans partially air dry after a bit of time in the dryer, and generally not beating them up if possible. You can read a few more tips on caring for denim here.

3. Pick Your Destination: Depending on the price point and condition of your used denim, there are lots of options to pass it on.

  • If you have high quality designer jeans and need some quick cash, consider taking them to a designer resale boutique. Some give you cash on the spot, while others pay you after the item is sold. These stores usually take a decent chunk out of the purchase price, so you’re paying for the convenience.
  • If you have time on your hands and want to try to make a good chunk of your money back, consider listing on eBay or The RealReal, where the commissions are far lower than at most designer resale boutiques.
  • For lower price point jeans in good condition, a resale boutique like Crossroads Trading will buy on the spot for cash or store credit. or ThredUP is a great online option for less expensive jeans.
  • Swaps are a great way to spend the day with friends – or you can swap from the comfort of your home with a site like
  • Charity donation is a feel-good option that can also benefit your bottom line, as many charity shops will give you tax receipt for your donation. As long as your jeans are in good condition, the Salvation Army or your favorite charity will be glad to have them.

4. Do Your Homework: If you’re taking your items to a resale store, call ahead to make sure they accept denim (and if you’re bringing non-denim items, ask what season they’re buying for). For online listings, search the designer and style name to see what similar items are selling for.

5. Prepare to Sell:

  • I always clean and press items I’m bringing to a resale store, and I pin the tags on (just don’t try to make it look like they were never removed- bad karma!). I think a nicely pressed item is an easier buy for the store (less work for them), and the price tag helps the buyer know how much the item is worth.
  • For online, look up the measurements of the jeans or take measurements yourself – including waist, inseam, and leg opening at the ankle. I’ve learned from experience that jeans photographed flat on the bed or a clean floor sell better than jeans photographed on my body – maybe it’s just my body! But I think in general, people are searching for jean styles they already like … so I don’t want to confuse them by showing them on a shape that might not be the same as theirs.
  • Whether selling to a store or online, make sure to inform of any stains, holes or other issues. It’s far better to disclose these now than get a call or email after the fact.
  • Have fun with it! I’ve found some of my favorite pieces at resale shops and charity outlets, so always stay a while and take a look around.


Do you recycle your wardrobe?  Are you an eBay power seller or a swap queen? Share your tips below!


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