Closet Case

The goods: Our clothes before they meet their fate.Photo: Joe Scafuro

When it’s time to cull your closet of outdated or pre-Atkins clothes, you’ll want to know which consignment shop offers the best deals and which will take the bulk of your giveaways. To find out, we went undercover: First, we raided our closets, then we hit the pavement armed with shopping bags full of unwanted pants, dresses, skirts, and shoes—from Chaiken to Joe’s Jeans to Prada. Here, we rate the policies and, just as important, the attitudes at the city’s best consignment shops.

Tokyo Joe
334 East 11th Street (212-473-0724)
Your cut: 50 percent of the sale price.
Tip: Call to ask which season they’re currently accepting and bring only what they want.
Pros: From a Louis Vuitton shirt to Jimmy Choo boots, they took it all—and were actually pleasant about it.
Cons: A little too quick to mark down. You may end up disappointed with your proceeds.
Rating: Three stars

21 Prince Street (212-334-9048)
Your cut: 45 percent of the sale price.
Tip: Beware: Everything’s marked down 20 percent after one month, 50 percent after two months.
Pros: If it hasn’t sold by the end of the season, they’ll contact you to see if you want them back or would like to donate them to Housing Works.
Cons: Items must be impeccable: After eyeing an eight-month-old (barely worn) Marc Jacobs jacket, one buyer said she’d price it at $100. “For that?!” another sniffed. “No way! More like $75.”
Rating:Two stars

1041 Madison Avenue, near 79th Street, second floor (212-737-7273)
Your Cut: 50 percent of the sale price.
Tip: The address should give you a sense of their taste: Think Chanel, not Betsey Johnson.
Pros: Of all the stores, Michael’s had the best pricing, usually a third to a quarter of retail.
Cons: When they say, “No rips, no tears, no stains,” they mean it. Our slightly scuffed six-month-old Marc Jacobs pumps were tossed on the reject pile.
Rating: Three stars

Encore Designer Consignments
1132 Madison Avenue, near 84th Street, second floor (212-879-2850)
Your cut: 50 percent of the sale price.
Tip: Don’t bother unless the merch is new or barely worn and from a top designer.
Pros: Essentially one-stop consigning: When sorting through our bag of Chaiken, Chanel, and Prada, the buyer cooed, “Ooh, we’ll take all of these!”
Cons: They refuse to quote prices unless you’re willing to sign a contract.
Rating: Four stars

Fisch For The Hip
153 West 18th Street (212-633-6965)
Your cut: 50 percent of the sale price.
Tip: Bring any closet staple that doesn’t fit like it used to.
Pros: When a salesgirl peeped at our Narciso Rodriguez black dress, she said, “We’ll always take classics like this.”
Cons: You’ll need to make repeated calls to get the status of your clothes. And to make sure your check really is in the mail.
Rating: Three stars

Insider Advice
Tips from Alessandro Mitrotti, owner, Transfer International.

1. Know your neighbors. Stores on Madison Avenue sell more classic and conservative clothes. The East Village (surprise, surprise) tends to have a hipper, funkier selection.

2. Have a rough idea of what your stuff is worth—if you can’t get the price you want, don’t let yourself be pressured.

3. Find out if they have a markdown policy.

4. Don’t be turned off by the attitude of a shop’s staff—it’s just business.

5. If all else fails, there’s always eBay.

Closet Case