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How I’m earning extra income by selling clothes on Instagram

From selling preloved to reworked clothes, here’s my experience running an online store.

Stacey Tay

When she’s not writing articles, you’ll find her at home using her sewing machine.


Published: 13 August 2021, 11:31 AM

Being a shopaholic, I have the urge to buy clothes that I don’t really need. These clothes began piling up in my wardrobe for months. 

I spent so much time at home during Circuit Breaker being unproductive which eventually forced me to deal with my messy wardrobe. 

Sensing an opportunity to make some extra pocket money while clearing my wardrobe at the same time, I thought of starting an online store via Instagram, especially since more and more youths – especially those in their late teens or early twenties, have started doing so. 

I decided to hop on the bandwagon and created my store, Tay.fits. The inspiration behind the store name was a combination of my own surname – making it more personal – and my idea of selling affordable clothes.

What seemed like something simple and harmless, however, turned out to be something trickier than expected. 

While it hasn’t been So far, I have sold over 25 items that are both pre-loved and upcycled. Here’s my experience selling clothes online.

1. Clearing out my wardrobe

Before starting the Instagram store, I “Marie Kondo-ed” my wardrobe by sorting all my clothes into keep, donate and sell piles. 

In the “for sale” pile, there were preloved clothes that I felt were trendy and in pristine condition to sell. Since my store is catering to teenagers my age, these pieces include sling bags, floral camisoles, denim jeans and other similar items. 

For the clothes that I wanted to keep, they had some form of sentimental value. I kept a yellow graphic T-shirt from my first trip to Korea when I was 14. Although the shirt is really loose on me now, the shirt holds a lot of fond memories from the holiday.

 

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Usually, the prices for my pre-loved items would range from $5 to $25. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/ STACEY TAY

 

Letting go of some of my clothes was a struggle as I would tell myself to save them for a special occasion and end up never reaching out for them. 

Given the pandemic, online thrifting has become a trend amongst the youth on Instagram. It is a sustainable and ethical alternative to supporting fast fashion. This enforced my decision to sell instead of keeping the clothes.

2. Setting up my Instagram clothing store

The vision I came up with for Tay.fits was being a size-inclusive store, and a place where people can buy my items at reasonable prices. 

To me, I noticed that most stores offer sizes that are small or medium. Being a store that sells clothes of a larger size creates a good first impression amongst potential buyers and it sets myself apart from others.  

Before a launch, I would craft a theme to decide which pieces would go into each collection. For example, the theme for my second drop of clothes was retro and the third one was floral.

Having a theme was easier for me to categorise the clothes that I had in the “to sell” pile and for my Instagram feed to look consistent for buyers to follow. Each collection includes ten pieces. 

Another step to running the store is taking photos of the clothes I was selling. I set aside two hours to model some of the pieces. 

By taking clear photos, this makes each piece more eye-catching to potential buyers and they can see how the product looks.  Between a product and a picture, the picture is everything. 

With a $30 tripod from Shopee and natural lighting, modelled photos will give potential buyers a better visualisation of how the piece looks rather than putting it on a hanger. 

 

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Some of the pieces would be laid flat if I couldn’t fit into them anymore. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/STACEY TAY

 

For each post, I spent half an hour coming up with captions. The captions would describe the material and suggestions on what to pair the item with. I would also provide measurements. 

Something that I learnt from writing captions is to include relevant hashtags. These hashtags include the brand’s name, and the decade the item is from to increase the exposure of people visiting the online store. 

Having an honest, yet catchy, description of the product helped to gain awareness and trust with my customers. 

To market my items, I use Photoshop to edit the photos according to the theme. This was a tedious process as I researched for inspiration first before editing. I tried to replicate how other stores market their items. 

 

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When I’m editing the photos, I would add a new background and design the layout according to the theme of the collection. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/STACEY TAY

 

One of the milestones I had achieved in July last year was that all my items for the third collection were successfully sold, I saw a growth in followers and likes. 

My friends were very supportive and helped me to promote my store along the way, which made me feel very grateful and more motivated to expand on my ideas for the store.

3. Reworking my preloved clothes

Learning how to upcycle my clothes soon became a hobby and it encouraged me to sell some of the reworked items. 

For my 18th birthday, my aunt bought me a sewing machine so that I could pick up a new skill over Circuit Breaker. Using some old oversized T-shirts, I practised upcycling them by learning how to crop and make a simple hem.

I started learning how to sew by watching several tutorials on YouTube first. 

Sewing with the machine ended up being an endless trial and error. It was challenging to work with different materials such as silk. Sometimes I get frustrated when the material gets caught in the machine, I would have to disassemble the machine to get it out. 

It took me about a month to finally get the hang of it. 

One of the tricks that I picked up from the tutorials is to use washi tape as a sewing guide. By marking the tape on my fabric, it helps to make sewing in a straight line a lot easier by following the tape. 

Sewing has helped build my self esteem as it takes planning, focus, and patience to see a project through to the end. I can be proud of my own handmade work and feel a sense of accomplishment that I can create something more.

On top of being a confidence booster, I save a lot of money from splurging at retail stores when I can make the clothes myself.

 

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Reworking clothes helps me to expand on my sewing techniques and creativity. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/STACEY TAY

 

When I became more confident, I started deconstructing my clothes into two-piece sets and ruched tank tops.

 

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After work, I spend two to three hours reworking my clothes for the store. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/STACEY TAY

 

From just selling preloved items, my store progressed to working on reworked collections. I wanted the store to stand out amongst other thrift stores. 

Other stores that follow me on Instagram helped to reshare my work on their Instagram stories and I saw a boost in engagement and followers. 

When pricing my reworked pieces, I would consider the hours spent and the quality of the materials used. Unlike fast fashion pieces that are mass produced, these pieces are one-of-a-kind. 

I managed to sell some reworked prototypes and sold them for a profit of between $10 and $20. 

This made me feel proud that my hard work is being recognised. Sewing is a great skill, and it doesn’t hurt anyone to have an extra skill set.

4. Arranging for payment and shipping

As a seller, I am responsible for the mailing of my customers’ items. Interested buyers would leave a comment on the post and make payment by messaging me. 

Surprisingly, this was the easiest step when running the online store. 

There was a level of trust that has been established between me and the buyer as I would send photo evidence that the package has been mailed to the post office. 

Tay.fits also has terms and conditions where buyers would have to read and comply with. Based on my experiences from Carousell, people took ages to confirm their order with me and send their address details.

I did not want to encounter the same problem with my store. I created the terms and conditions in which the buyer have only 24 hours to make their payment before the item is unreserved. 

 

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I have received several positive feedback from my buyers for the packaging and the item, which made me feel like my efforts are worth it. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/STACEY TAY

 

Once the transaction is complete, I pack their items into white reusable envelopes. I also write thank-you cards and free stickers to show my appreciation.

Although running an online store is not as easy as it seems, managing my time to sell clothes as a side hustle has helped me learn the ropes of running a business. My mother is also happy that I’ve stopped asking her for more allowance money. 

Reworking my own clothes has not only taught me about sustainability but I have found an avenue for my creative expression.


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