Fashion & Beauty

Consignment and Resale: A Manifesto

It’s been forever, I know. I’m sorry. Things have been really busy around here. What with the holidays and work and a weird compulsion I suddenly developed to slog through all six seasons of Gossip Girl in five weeks, I could hardly find the time to do anything productive. You know you love me, xoxo.

To be honest, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately. I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a topic with which to christen the blog this Year of Our Lord 2015. (I wanted it to be both interesting and useful, so you can understand why it’s taken me two months.) The topic I kept coming back to was one that I’ve had multiple friends ask me about: the world of shopping and selling second-hand. I’ve come to understand that this is something people may find intimidating and confusing. But fear not, I’m gonna tell you what I know.

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I would say somewhere between 50-60% of my clothing was originally owned by someone else (like a Saudi Arabian princess) (true story). Certainly the most valuable and unique pieces that I own are ones I’ve bought second-hand. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Why spend your hard-earned dollars on mass-produced, mediocre mall wares when you could score something way more awesome?

Well, turns out there are a few reasons, and they’re all psychological. That’s right, you’re crazy. Here are the concerns I hear most often:

1. I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start.
I hear you. Walking into a consignment or resale store can be intimidating, as they’re often organized differently than mainstream retail stores. Since the merchandise is all unique, racks are usually organized by item type and then subdivided by size. The good news is that you can look through all the size small sweaters at once, for example.

2. I can’t find what I’m looking for.
Here’s where you’ve got to redefine your expectations. If you’ve developed tunnel vision looking for the perfect LBD or a pair of great fitting jeans, you may miss out on the best of what’s actually there. These stores don’t often deal in basics, so if you’re looking for classic wardrobe staples it’s probably best to buy new. Instead, keep your mind open to the novelties.

3. I don’t know if I’m getting a good deal. 
The short answer here is yes, you probably are. Resale shops price clothing well below retail price– as they should, because it’s often (though not always) used. I would advise against buying brands like H&M, Gap, Banana Republic et al. secondhand– in fact, many stores won’t take them because they simply don’t retain their value after they’ve been worn. (Why buy these brands used when they go on sale frequently enough as it is?) Instead look for higher quality/designer items. This is your chance to score something you might not normally be able to afford. Most stores sell their merchandise at less than a third of retail price, and the luxury items are often priced to sell at even less.

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A recent (lucky) find.

Now that you’ve got your neuroses in check, let’s move on to the process of selling your clothes. I’ll first point out the distinction between consignment and resale. Consignment stores will pay you for your clothing if/when it sells, while resale shops will offer you cash or check immediately. While resale is obviously the route to instant gratification, I have found that these stores tend to offer a bit less because they’re assuming a risk if your pieces don’t sell.

In the spirit of actual research I checked in with an employee at one of my favorite SF resale stores: Wasteland, in the Haight.

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Erica gave me the following tips on selling your unwanted clothing:

  • Shops are looking for modern, on-trend pieces from luxury brands or designer vintage. They tend to eschew major brands.
  • Leather is always in style. Certain pieces like moto jackets do well, often regardless of season.
  • No low-waisted jeans. High-waisted pants and skirts are on-trend.
  • No basics, betches. Basic items simply don’t sell as well, unless they’re designer or super high quality.
  • Stores do their shopping ahead of season. Start spring cleaning now!

Another thing to remember is that while shops can appear fickle about the items they accept, they keep track of the items that do and don’t sell and often base their buying decisions off of these trends. You may find that working with multiple shops is the best way to sell more of your unwanted goods.

Happy shopping, and selling!

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Fashion & Beauty

Malibu

Anyone notice my new header photo? Apparently I’m the last person in the free world to figure out how to take a panorama photo on an iPhone! How cute and endearing!

You can stop guessing about the location; I spent a lovely 4th of July weekend with my family in Malibu. It was perfect because I’m one of those incredibly lucky people that has family members who would be cool enough to hang out with even if we weren’t related. I’m pretty sure this is a rarity.

In all seriousness, the women in my extended family– on both sides– are really cool, and have fantastic style. Each of them has such a unique and inimitable aesthetic that when I’m around them, I find myself feeling a lot like I did when I was young and clueless and still wearing Talbots. My outfits are like stirrup leggings and Keds compared to their effortless, eclectic chic.

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On Dana: J Brand tee, BB Dakota overalls, Converse shoes, vintage Coach bucket bag and bracelet, Madewell bracelet.

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On Megan: Le Specs sunglasses, “cheap Asian store” Marilyn Monroe crop top and maxi skirt, BC shoes.

We spent a gluttonous weekend lounging on the beach and hunting for celebrities (well, I did, because I’m declasse and also not accustomed to being around people who are on TV). Ladies, Brody Jenner ain’t all that. His bro, though.

And of course, there was a little bit of shopping. I got a couple of new cosmetics that I’m really excited about: Santigold for Smashbox’s Limitless Double-ended Liner in Azurite/El Dorado, and Benefit’s Cha Cha Tint and Sun Beam Highlighter. How beachy is this look?! (Ignore my unkempt eyebrows, please. Or don’t, ’cause summer is for letting loose, and I just can’t be tamed.)

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Benefit’s stains can double as lip & cheek color.

But anyway, here are some pics of my gorgeous fam.

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On Megan: Daughters of the Revolution caftan. On me: Tom Ford sunglasses, Rachel Roy caftan, stolen hat from my aunt and uncle’s beach house.

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On Dana: Prada sunglasses, Planet Blue bikini top, Zara shorts.

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On Tina: Old Navy Dress, Vix swimsuit, Tom Ford sunglasses, Wanawake hat, Stella and Dot tote.

And of course, Snackers, the unrequited love of my life.

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Hates me.

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Lately

A picture is worth a thousand words.

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Ocean Beach, SF at sunset.

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Ran from my apartment to the coast after work. Still kind of in awe that this is a real thing that I can do now. Unbelievable.

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ROGA (running+yoga) event on the Santa Monica Pier with celebrity trainer Juliet Kaska. Sponsored by Vionic. Working on a Saturday has never been so painless.

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ROGA is over for the summer, but picks up again in the fall. Check out http://santamonicapier.org/roga/ for more information.

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My neighborhood. The Richmond, SF.

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This weekend’s hike. Sea Cliff, SF.

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Rad Theory sweater that I scored for $20 at Wasteland (more on that obsession later). H&M necklace, Tahari pants, Vionic sandals (on sale now!).

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New nose stud and ragged hair. Passed the two month mark without a cut before conceding that something had to be done. Miss you, Lauren!

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Awkward face, double chin, fresh layers via The Cutlery SF. Highly recommended!

That’s all I got for now.

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Fashion & Beauty

Cheryl Lofton & Associates

If there’s one piece of advice that I’ve absorbed from What Not To Wear‘s Stacy London (a polarizing figure, I know), it’s that one should have her clothing tailored. As much as humanly possible.

Think about it: the fashion industry caters to a very limited range of sizes, and sizing between brands– and even between styles– is an often imperfect science. While I happen to have a body type that most would deem “easy to dress,” I’m also about the height of a fourth grader. Or a really big toddler. I don’t know, whatever, most children look the same to me. When I have my pants hemmed (which is an utter necessity, not a choice), there’s usually about eight inches of loose fabric to be axed. Enough to make a bandeau top, or at the very least one of those fake bandana headbands that we all wore in 1999.

Hemming, for many, is a given. It always has been for me. But what if all of your clothes could fit better? I bit the bullet a couple of years ago and decided that yeah, mine definitely could. From there, I set out to find the best tailor in the DC area. Because you know, go big or go home.

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Cheryl.

Well, I found her. Cheryl Lofton‘s custom tailoring abilities are second to none. She’s also a badass, and a lovely human being. I’ve known Cheryl for a couple of years now, and have taken countless garments to her shop in Shaw. Almost every coat in my closet and all of the dresses I own have been touched by her magic hands. Isn’t it expensive, having everything altered? Sure, but I’ve never been one for math or budgeting; numbers are ugly things. (But seriously-– I’d rather own less clothing and have it all fit like a glove.)

Cheryl comes from a long line of tailors, all of whom have worked for D.C. elites, including presidents and first ladies (like the lovely Michelle Obama). Though she tried to resist for a while, she couldn’t suppress the talents that run in her blood. Now she owns the family business, continuing a 75-year Lofton legacy. She was kind enough to share her fascinating history with me, as well as a few insider tips.

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The shop.

I know your family has been tailoring in DC for generations. Who taught you how to sew and build garments? Did you always know you’d go into the business?

I learned to sew by several different means. Of course you already know that my grandfather was a tailor, and he did teach me lots about sewing. But he was old school, and believed that women were to be seamstresses and nothing more. He spent time making sure I could be a good tailor’s assistant like all the other women who worked for him. In order to learn garment construction, a woman would have had to be enrolled in his tailoring school which was for veterans– most, if not all of whom, were men.

All the boys in the family got to learn how to build men’s clothes from the ground up, but not the girls. Well, I was born a feminist and a tomboy, so I was determined that I was going to learn to make boy clothes. I watched everything my grandfather did and then went home and tried to do it on my mother’s sewing machine. It also helped that my boy cousin (and the favorite to take over the family business) would show me things that he had learned about sewing boy clothes when nobody else was around.

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Custom suit and dresses.

My mom actually taught me a lot, not only about sewing but also about fashion. She was a mother of five and needless to say, there was no money for designer clothes. My mom could whip up an outfit in a heartbeat and was always fashion forward. I was always in awe of how that clump of fabric on our dining room table/weekend cutting table would be transformed into an awesome ball gown by the end of the week.

My father was in the upholstery business, and that helped too. I watched him for countless hours in the basement of our home transforming furniture from old and lack-luster into something bright and beautiful. He taught me everything I know about clean and piped edges.

I actually had no intention of going into the business. I used to see my grandfather and father covered in thread on a regular basis and decided that that was not an option for me. I wanted to be in advertising, and went to school for it. During my college years, I was able to make money by altering and making clothes for my friends, and that’s really where it began for me. I loved transforming ill-fitting clothing into perfectly fitted garments that made a statement. Immediately after I finished college, my grandfather became ill and passed in that same year. My father passed as well a few years later, and none of the boys in the family seemed interested in all that my grandfather spent his life building. I could not let the business die, and that’s how I came to be in it.

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Michele.

What makes up the majority of your business? (Weddings, custom gowns and suits, tailoring?) 

The majority of my business is definitely alterations. The wedding business is good, but it’s seasonal, where as alterations are all year round. I used to do more men’s than women’s alterations, but I have put a lot of effort into educating women about their need for alterations over the past few years, and now it’s finally paying off. Now women are finally starting understand the importance.

Tell me your pet peeves when it comes to fashion and fit. What are the biggest faux pas that you see?

1) Wearing a skirt that’s too big in the waist but fits in the hips. Why: Because unless its spandex, its still going to rotate on your body. Then you’re walking around with a vent that belongs in the back of the skirt in some weird place, like on the side.

2) A hemline that falls smack in the middle of you knees. Why: Because knees are anatomically ugly. I don’t care how pretty you think your knees are, they should not be the focal point of the outfit. Go above or below the knee.

3) Button up shirts that gap open right at the bust line. Why: Because people can’t focus on what you’re saying if their busy looking at your lace bra. I have developed the perfect fix for this. (The first commenter can get this on one blouse for free!)

4) This is the first runner up for the worst pet peeve: Jeans that don’t fit in the waist or the length. Why: I don’t which one is worse, jeans that drag on the ground or jeans that sit three inches away from your actual waist but fit in the seat. Jeans are meant to be sexy on men or women. That can’t happen if they don’t fit properly, and yes, jeans can be altered. Many tailors don’t want to do it, but keep looking until you find one that will.

5) Drum roll please… Wearing the sleeves too long on anything is hands down the worst offense. I have been known to run after people in the streets with a business card in hand for this one. Why: because it makes your entire outfit look both too big and unpolished. The proper sleeve length is at the wrist bone, give or take a little. Sleeves should not come down to the knuckles. Don’t ever tell your tailor or seamstress to adjust your sleeves based on raising your arms up in the air or driving or typing, whatever. If you do, I promise your tailor will talk about you when you leave. Sleeves should be adjusted with your arms relaxed and at your sides… period!

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Cheryl consulting with a customer (my mom).

What’s the best fashion advice you can give?

I would say that everyone should focus on his or her personal look. People all too often focus on the trends, and they may not work for your body type or your personality. You will save yourself a lot of time, money and heartache if you stay in your look lane and avoid having a fashion collision.

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Fashion & Beauty

Men’s Office Style: Volume Four

I saved this one for Friday because it seemed like kind of a Casual Friday look to me. (Full disclosure: these pictures were taken on a Tuesday.) I feel like if I were a guy, this would be the kind of oufit I’d try to get away with most often. Not that he doesn’t look great, but there is something to be said for comfort.

Alec

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Button-down: GAP, Shirt: H&M, Jeans: Levi’s 511s, Shoes: Clarks Chukkahs, Glasses: Warby Parker

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I feel like this deserves a caption but I don’t even know what to say.

How would you characterize your style?
Cool guy? I don’t know. My style is beyond characterization.

What are you influenced by when choosing clothes? Is there anyone whose style you admire and try to replicate?
I feel like I’ve succumbed to consumerism, but I honestly am influenced by what I see on TV and in movies, and in catalogues during the short walk from my mailbox on the first floor of my apartment building to my trash can on the fourth floor.

Is there any one person whose style I admire? No, not that I can think of. Maybe John Slattery. He is the coolest. But that’s more of an, “I wish I could dress like him,” than a thing I actually try to do. Oh and Jimmy Fallon. He has the best suits and his ties are nice too.

What’s your fashion philosophy? Do you prefer classic or trendy pieces, or a mixture of both?
I definitely do not think about fashion enough to have a philosophy. I like to be comfortable. I also like things that look sort of weird, I guess? Things with lots of buttons and zippers. But then I end up never wearing them.

Trendy vs. classic, I’m not sure. I don’t think I pay enough attention to wear trendy things, but occasionally I’ll see somebody wearing something and think it’s cool and want it. That’s how I found out about desert boots — I was at a stand-up show and the comedian was wearing them and I e-mailed him after basically saying “Yeah, yeah, good show, real funny, where’d you get those shoes?”

Also, usually when I get to something, my dad or someone older will say something like “Oh, we used to wear those when we were kids!” Mostly with shoes: Converse, which were my high school jam, and Clark’s, which are my thing now. And I’m like, “Sh*t, I thought I was being trendy for once!”

Do you have any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to fashion?
Uh, wear your size. Guys should not be showing skin except maybe a tiny part of their neck with a collared shirt. ONE BUTTON UNBUTTONED. Oh, and always always always slim-leg/skinny-leg jeans and pants. No pant legs flapping around.

What are the rules that you follow to make sure that what you’re wearing is office appropriate, yet not stuffy or super corporate?
My rule at the office for a while now has been to dress as casual as possible without getting in trouble. So far, so good. Yes, that means the occasional/not-so-occasional polo in the summer. The last time I tucked in a shirt and didn’t have a meeting to go to was a long time ago. But in terms of rules I follow to be office appropriate, they can basically be summed up with “no shorts, and close-toed shoes.” A friend at work told me a few weeks ago that nobody can get away with dressing like I do for work but me. I don’t know if that’s true, but I still beamed with pride.

Name a fashion trend that you hate.
This isn’t a trend as much as it’s a Thing That Has Been Happening For A Long Time And Always Will: dressing up fancy in the summer, when it’s a hundred damn degrees out there. Can’t we just have a gentlemen’s agreement to just dress down when it’s hot? We all want it, but we all just decide that yeah, we’ll all be equally uncomfortable when we could all easily just be comfortable. If we all wore jeans and polos to meetings, nobody would think it was weird! And we’d all be so happy! But instead we are morons, sweating in suits and ties.

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Fashion & Beauty

Men’s Office Style: Volume Three

Today I thought it might be fun to feature a look on the more conservative end of the spectrum. Tyler’s style is pretty classic and well-tailored. Fit and quality are two of the few variables men have to play with when it comes to fashion. Like, they can literally only wear shirts, pants, jackets, shorts and blazers, so they should probably make sure they’re flattering. Women’s trends are more fluid and diverse, and it’s easier to supplement a wardrobe with statement pieces. But I digress; we all know girls get more cool stuff. Anyway, here are some style tips from Tyler.

Tyler

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Loafers: Ferragamo, Slacks: Ralph Lauren, Sweater: Ralph Lauren, Shirt: Ledbury, Belt: Trafalgar.


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How would you characterize your style?
I’d say somewhere between Atlantic Coast Southern Preppy and London/New York traditional–both heavily influenced by growing up in the South and living in NYC and working in London. That generally means I prefer a more tailored look for sure, from suits to jeans.

What are you influenced by when choosing clothes? Is there anyone whose style you admire and try to replicate?
Certainly by travel and life situations. I moved to New York at 18 for college and worked there afterwards for nearly half a decade before moving back to Virginia. I worked for a London-based firm as well, so their more tailored style certainly impacted my personal style.

What’s your fashion philosophy? Do you prefer classic or trendy pieces, or a mixture of both?
I believe in a mix– a growth over time, if you will. I’d never wear a tailored suit at age 18, but I would in my late 20s for example. There is a time and place for a lot of different styles. There are some trends that will stay around and become iconic, others that won’t. Its deciding which of those new styles fits your mood/personality and have staying power.

Do you have any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to fashion? 
Never wear a black suit. I don’t own one– even my tux is midnight blue with black lapels. That is certainly the preppy/classic style preference acting up, but its one I’ve always lived by. Dark navy can do anything black can on a guy. I also don’t do shiny shoes (a little too intense for me). I also prefer loafers to lace-up shoes for day-to-day work.

What are the rules that you follow to make sure that what you’re wearing is office appropriate, yet not stuffy or super corporate?
Honestly, I don’t follow many rules.  I have worn flip-flops one day with jeans and a British tailored suit the next day, its one of the many beauties of our office. That being said, never a pair of shorts unless the AC is broken in the middle of August or you’re in on the weekend. Have to draw a line somewhere.

Name a fashion trend that you hate.
Really skinny jeans on guys that are out of shape. I don’t need to see all of that.

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Fashion & Beauty

Men’s Office Style: Volume Two

Finding styles that flatter your body-type is a tough but necessary task. It’s taken me years to understand that as much as I like certain things, like high-waisted pants, they’ll never look right on someone of my height and build. On the other hand, there are many looks that I can pull off because of my size. It’s taken me years to build up a repertoire of cuts and styles that I know work for me, and I admire Pupon for the fact that he’s done that so well for himself. Here’s another look that I loved this week.

Pupon

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Jacket: H&M, Shirt and Pants: Express, Shoes: Cole Haan “Lunargrand”

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How would you characterize your style?
Mix and match anything that fits. Being a graphic designer, I usually try to find balance between colors and shapes.

What are you influenced by when choosing clothes? Is there anyone whose style you admire and try to replicate?
I choose clothes mostly from brands that make slim, fitted cuts for a smaller stature.

What’s your fashion philosophy? Do you prefer classic or trendy pieces, or a mixture of both?
I like to mix it up. Fashion is art. Express yourself and rock it like you own it.

Do you have any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to fashion?
No, not really. I think some people can be insecure about what they put together and it shows when they go out. Be secure and set the trend.

What are the rules that you follow to make sure that what you’re wearing is office appropriate, yet not stuffy or super corporate?
Keep it classy, but bend the rules when you feel like it.

Name a fashion trend that you hate.
Jorts. Enough said.

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