I have decided to get into the Selling Game!
My Upcycled Costumes, Vintage Clothes, Pre-loved High-End Clothing, Sewing Patterns, and Notions...plus little girls' dresses! (I can't resist cuteness!)
I want to take you along on this journey from the very beginning so you can learn with me.
I'll be updating this post on a regular basis so you can see what I works for me, or doesn't work--or even if I can make money doing this.
So let's get started and see where I end up in a year!
Covid and The End of My Business
Covid killed my business. Harsh word, right? Killed?
How else can I describe what it felt like to have started a local costume rental business pain-stakingly stitch by stitch, hour by hour, and sleepless night by sleepless night?
Sacrificing any free time.
My family 'just having to understand' this building phase is just temporary.
My friends not seeing me for a couple of years.
My body aching from all the hunching over.
Family and friends thinking I was crazy to take on a feat of sewing over 1000 costume pieces!
After 'being in the red' for 4 years, things started to turn around for year #5. My strategy of working 'word of mouth' on social media and of direct marketing outreach via directly emailing school teachers was working synergistically! and the revenue amplified as a result of my efforts. I was on my way to living in a 'positive' cash situation.
To boot, I had competition: a brick & mortar shop with years established in the community and other hobbyists who rent from their homes--as was part of my business model. I was well on my way to supplant the hobbyist and starting to financially impact the local shop. It's business. But to spread good will, I always referred my customers who looked for costumes I did not provide.
a couple of racks of costumes on my driveway ready for delivery!
costumes at a local school waiting to be picked up by eager students
I won't be going into the history of how I started CostumeTakeOut If you are interested, click on the image below to take you that story.
What kinds of costumes did I rent out?
Only historic ones...and 95% for children and 10% for mothers, grandmothers, and teachers. (Teachers always rented for free! That was my 'volunteer/donating/giving back to the community/paying it forward' effort. I can't tell you how much I appreciate teachers and what they do...they deserve perks!)
Up here in the Sacramento, Northern California area (I live about 20 minutes North-East of Sacramento), re-enactment learning is a big thing. In particular, the California school curriculum includes learning about the Spanish Missions (with sensitivities emphasized), Gold Rush Era, and Pioneers.
There are a few beautiful areas in the Sierra Foothills where 4th grade children can go overnight and re-enact the Pioneer days and panning for Gold. They need costumes. So I made well over 400 rentable Pioneer pieces.
samples of my Pioneer costumes...
(permission for photo publication granted by wearer or parent of wearer)
Colonial costumes were also a big part of my rentals. Schools contract with an outside education vendor to host a day where the 5th grade students "Walk Through The American Revolution", learning each phase of the Revolution, step by step.
samples of my Pioneer costumes...
(permission for photo publication granted by wearer or parent of wearer)
Studies of the Ancient Worlds are part of 6th grade curriculum. Once again, students dress up as Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, battling it out in a game-like learning.
me trying on my interpretation of Horus and,
an Egyptian collar upcycled from thrifted Indian textiles
Pioneer, Colonial America, and Ancient Worlds make up 75% of my rental business.
Another 10% of my business are requests for Medieval and Renaissance costumes for the 7th and 8th graders (frankly, I have not had the time to grow out this area of my business, but so much room for growth!)
The last 15% of my business which had room to grow as well, is/was 'Wax Museum' when children dress up as their assigned American History Character--which can be in ANY era. These costumes were my favorite because I could finally dabble in Civil War or Victorian Era dress...or any late 19th-century or early 20th-century figure.
Helen Keller as an adult and Statue of Liberty
Early 20th-Century President and Late 19th-Century President
Emily Dickinson on a date with WIlbur Wright and Annie Oakely
Do I Really Have to Sell The Costumes?
I work from home. My studio is in my house. My costumes are on-site in my garage--my house specifically been bought because of the enormous garage to convert into my costume warehouse.
Do I really have to sell my costumes??!!
Aside from the romance of owning these gorgeous costumes that I created (a sense of enormous pride), there's the very practical side of business--ugh, the finances!
In California, Costume Take-Out is an LLC. I have to pay $800 a year just to have the right to own a business. I could have gone 'Sole Proprietorship', but having an LLC as an legal entity entitles certain protections as a business that a 'Sole Proprietorship' doesn't. Namely, my company is it's own person, so to speak. Loosely speaking, there no legal attachments to me with the exception if I don't pay the annual fees, it would be dissolved. So this means all tax implications go towards the business, not me personally--even if I am donating the money to run that business. This is super simplistic explanation (PLEASE CONSULT WITH YOUR LAWYER FOR YOUR BUSINESS DECISIONS.)
Now add the local permit fees, the insurance, and the myriad of expenses, Covid is bleeding out my business--hence the word 'killing' my business.
I don't want to shut down Costume Take-Out completely.
There's hope that things can return to normal. But I need to mitigate the financial bleeding through selling.
Selling ALL My Costumes?
I don't have to sell all my costumes.
Being a thrifter, I have acquired quite the collection of vintage costumes over the years. Some are not ones that I would rent: i.e. beautiful Flapper Dresses or the whole suite of costumes created for Lion King Jr. 6 years ago. Or how about the HUMONGOUS 'Kah the Snake; from Jungle Book Jr.? Oh, and the multiple beaded and sequined Evening Gowns!
As easy as it was to thrift costumes, I also thrifted Vintage Clothing--the difference between the vintage clothing and vintage costumes sometimes negligible. For example a I have a gorgeous 1930's velvet gown, and 1940's day dresses, 1950's plumed hats, and 1970's hippie dresses. But I only specialize in historic costumes for children, so I can let these articles go for fair prices. Oh, and I have a super special bedroom peignoir set--it's a beautiful Coral. 1950's gorgeousness.
Will it hurt to let them go?
No, it's time to share what I've collected. Besides, most (98%) I will never wear--not because I don't love them! But because I live out in the countryside with NO WHERE TO GO except the grocery store, and Home Depot, an occasional dinner out with my husband, and maybe a dinner party or two at home, and well, out thrifting?
And although it will be hard to part with beauty, it's just a collection.
The Hardest Goodbye will be to my lovely Gunne Sax Dresses!
well, maybe those will be last on my chopping block!
vintage late 60's printed skirt and early 70's hippie dress--original clothing (NOT costumes)
Other Items For Sale?
I have amassed a GINORMOUS vintage sewing pattern collection.
Since I know my focus for my rentals are a narrow focus, I can let go of my 1950's, 60's 70's and 80's patterns, oh and my little girls' costume patterns like for Disney Princess Characters...and sell inexpensively. I am always shocked at how inexpensive some are. One store was selling them for $0.10 a piece! So these will be sold for a $1.00 or so plus shipping. Fun to pass along the excitement and the cost savings along.
I've enjoyed this McCalls pattern and have several to sell...
I used the sleeve patterns on the orange blouse to make my top from a dress!
Click on below image to take you to that blog post:
Selling My Personal Collection of Pre-loved Clothing
This is a super fun adventure for me! I have really nice clothing--contemporary, quirky, campy and vintage--that need new homes to make room for the next items in line. Again, my opportunities to walk the Tuileries Garden Pathways during fashion week in Paris are quite limited--like non-existent.
My collection is highly curated... meaning I pride myself in wearing something that is unique, first attracted to pattern, then fabric quality and lastly the style. And this method has brought me great styling success!
Because my personal items have been relatively inexpensive for me to purchase, I would love to 'pay it forward' and release these for just the amounts I paid them for--enabling me to continue my thrifting habit ; )
These are amazing jeans! Too bad Covid put 12 extra pounds on me : (
And Lastly, Selling Little Girls' Dresses
Absolutely random, but I can't help myself but pick up the darndest, stinkin' cute little girls' dresses.
These aren't just regular dresses. I have a high standard on these searches--they have to look like dresses sold through Anthropolgie but for little girls.
Ruffles and florals, and laces, and vintage inspired and, and.....you get the picture.
Maybe I do this because neither of my girls would ever let me 'style' their wardrobes. I had one tomboy who only wore grey, black and blue. And the younger, threw on what I now know as the Lagenlook--layers and layers of color and ruffles and leggings underneath. Then we called it her 'gypsy' phase, but now I know she just had a voice, like my older one....
....and as it turns out, Tomboy morphed into a girlie, feminine teen (not throwing shade at tomboys...we supported her and did not mind her choices. And gypsy evolved into a minimalist, yet stylish model like teen.
my two dolls almost all grown up!
Part 2 of the Selling Journey?
I have my selling journey parts all outlined. But as I have learned in life, I can't plan it all. There will be twists and turns. I hope you join me on this journey.
And maybe through my journey, you can find some gems that will help you either catapult you into selling your items or just give you some confirmation or dissuasion.
I know it won't be easy. I know I will regret selling something below market value, or not being able to sell something at all.
My goal in this series is to grow as an individual (yes, even at 49 years of age), and grow as a business woman. You will find out, this is not my first rodeo. Nope. I have had several business experiences in life, all culminating now. Here's a spoiler for you--I was on the Food Network...