Hem fatale: Why some brands’ resale programs don’t accept clothing that’s been altered

Altered items are rejected by ThredUp and by resale programs at the Gap, PacSun, and Tommy Hilfiger, but Poshmark, TheRealReal, and eBay accept them.
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Grant Thomas

· 4 min read

Shopping for used clothing may once have been considered a pastime for a select group of devotees with a high tolerance for “thrift-store smell.” But today, it’s so fashionable that even fashion brands themselves have thrown their ready-to-re-wear hats in the ring.

  • Vera Bradley, Lululemon, Tommy Hilfiger, and Madewell are among dozens of brands that have launched resale programs in the last few years.
  • The resale apparel market grew 58% YoY in 2021 and will double by 2026, totalling $82 billion, according to a May report from ThredUp, the online secondhand retailer, and GlobalData.

So brisk is the market now that nearly three out of four (73%) sellers of secondhand items also purchase them, according to an August report from Recurate, a two-year-old tech startup that helps brands launch their own resale programs.

Recurate calls these buyers-slash-sellers “circulars,” and they’re apt to purchase clothing with an eye for something more traditionally associated with car and home shoppers: resale value.

And one way to hurt the resale value of clothing—especially if you’re hoping to sell it through the resale programs of brands themselves—is to alter it.

Tailor miffed: ThredUp sells on a consignment basis, with sellers sending a box or bag of clothing for free, but it directs them not to send items that are stained, smelly, stretched—or altered.

  • ThredUp has partnered on resale programs with ~29 brands; these include the Gap, PacSun, and Madewell, which also state that they don’t accept altered clothing.

Unlike eBay, where shoppers may start a shopping search that is brand-agnostic with a search term like “gray polo shirt,” shoppers who go to a specific brand for resale may do so because they have found a perfect size fit with the brand.

“From a brand-owned resale standpoint,” as Recurate's Karin Dillie, vice president of partnerships, told Retail Brew, “people are buying because they know the fit of the brand. And so they want that fit of the brand’s, like if you know you’re 32 long, you want a 32 long. You don’t want a 32 long altered slightly.”

So Dillie said clothing that has been altered is “not great,” from Recurate’s perspective, but rather than reject altered clothing, Recurate’s partner brands tend to accept them, but require the seller to disclose they’ve been altered.

  • One brand that works with Recurate, 7 For All Mankind, gives sellers this guidance: “If you have altered your item, please specify in your seller description. For example: ‘These jeans are hemmed to hit me at the ankle, I am 5’4.’”
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Field of seams: When it comes to selling clothes that have alterations, other sellers are as relaxed as the fit of a pair of pre-loved Levis 550s.

At TheRealReal, which specializes in luxury resale, they only don’t accept apparel with “non-professional alterations,” meaning as long as you didn’t use staples and chewing gum to hem that Stella McCartney mini dress, it’s welcome.

Poshmark, the resale platform with social-media elements where users are encouraged to follow one another and like and share listings for clothing, allows alterations, according to Kelly Mason, its director of corporate communications.

“The experience is different” from “buying from a single brand where you might have expectations around, ‘Their size medium fits me,’” Mason told us. She also noted that rather than presume that shoppers will know how certain brands and styles fit, Poshmark instructs sellers on how to properly measure aspects like waists, sleeves, inseam, and bust to include in listings.

If the shoe fits. Recurate’s Dillie previously worked at TheRealReal, meaning that while she is focused on brand-led resale platforms today, at TheRealReal, she was focused on shoppers who may have been shopping for a look rather than a particular brand.

And as the resale category keeps maturing, sellers and shoppers will get more sophisticated about which platforms suit their preferences—including which ones discourage alterations, and which ones don’t. Like the clothes themselves, in other words, it’s about finding the right fit.

“Not all resale is going to be for everybody,” Dillie said. “There’s going to be different types of resale for different types of consumers.”—AAN

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