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

Retail therapy.

As you may have gathered from my absence here, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. But in times like these, I’ve found that you can choose to wallow, or you can attempt to fill a void with your favorite vices. Mine happen to be food, friends, and obviously, fashion. It’s not exactly a healthy prescription for my bank account, but they don’t call it retail therapy for nothing.

Last weekend, my mom and I visited Inga’s: Once is Not Enough, an upscale consignment boutique on MacArthur Boulevard, in the Palisades neighborhood of DC. We’ve been coming here for years together, both on our own and with anyone we deem worthy of indoctrination into our imaginary club. But this place is certainly no secret– in fact, it’s kind of a DC-fashion institution. Though slightly off the beaten path, both natives and out-of-towners make up the hordes of loyal customers who comb the racks religiously, some on a weekly basis.

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The shop’s owner, Dr. Inga Guen, is a super shrewd and savvy businesswoman, as well as a noted doctor of neuropsychology. Yes, really. She’s the force behind the store’s success, accepting only inventory that she believes is “exquisite,” a term that she uses to describe anything from Chanel bags made of buttery leather to mink stoles so soft they feel like cool water flowing through your fingers. This place is no Buffalo Exchange. On the contrary, Inga’s feels more like a museum, housing haute couture pieces that most of us rarely have the occasion or opportunity to see in the flesh. There’s a whole section dedicated to Chanel, and a back room full of handbags that could reduce you to tears. If you’re in a vulnerable state, beware.

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The best part about Inga’s, though, is what you’ve probably been wondering about throughout this whole post: the prices are unbelievably reasonable. Items that retail for thousands can sell for a mere fraction of their original price, and there are plenty of beautiful, often immaculate designer pieces to be had for $100 or less. The rarer the item, the more expensive, obviously, but if you’re looking to treat yourself to something truly special, this is the place to splurge. The things I’ve found here are among the most treasured items in my wardrobe, like a vintage suede and leather YSL bag that my mom gave me as a Christmas gift two years ago. The thing with consignment shopping, though, is that you have to approach it with an open mind; you might not be on the market for a faux fur leopard-print coat, but that doesn’t mean you won’t walk out with one.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did.

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My other purchase for the day was a pair of black Prada boots, which are absolutely perfect down to every subtle detail. Knee-high, zippers on both the inside and outside of the calf, pebbled leather, and a thick, un-tapered heel. They were worn maybe once, and I scored them for $184. Similar pairs retail for $1,400.

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Inga also works extensively with wounded warriors at Walter Reed, donating some of the proceeds from her store to their recovery. Another reason that you’ll walk out feeling better than when you came in.

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Fashion & Beauty

Chicago

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My boyfriend and I took our annual summer trip this past weekend, and chose to visit my favorite city. He’d never been before, and I was dying to drag him around and impress him. Beware, this is a long post.

We saw all the sights, and I did so largely in a pair of Bieber pants. I was browsing my favorite consignment shop the day before our trip and came upon these James Perse cargo capri sweats (they’re actually more of a t-shirt type material– not jersey, but old school cotton). They were kind of an inessential purchase (ha) so I decided I needed to make the most of money spent by wearing the hell out of them this trip. Plus, they’re versatile and perfect for pre-fall in the Windy City. Since we were walking around so much, I wore them with sneakers, but they’re great with ankle boots as well.

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Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs, Shirt: BDG (Urban Outfitters), Pants: James Perse (consignment), Bag: Gucci (ebay), Shoes: Nike Huarache Women’s Dance Low sneaker.

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City view from the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier.

I didn’t want to bore Chris with too much shopping, so I skipped what’s known as the Magnificent Mile– an expansive downtown stretch of luxury retailers and massive, multi-level stores like Target and Forever 21. Instead, we checked out some of Chicago’s Northside neighborhoods, like Bucktown, a Brooklyn-esque area full of boutiques, consignment, and vintage. I also spent a day with my cousin in Roscoe Village, which ended up being by favorite shopping spot of the weekend. It’s a pretty unassuming neighborhood on first glance, but it was filled with small shops and truly unique finds.

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I’m a huge sucker for draped, asymmetrical cuts, so I swiped this jacket/sweater hybrid off the mannequin as soon as I saw it. It’s by Blank NYC, and the back and sides are faux leather. Brown jeans are a surprisingly rare find (in my experience), and I love earth tones for fall and winter, so I also jumped on these burnt sienna coated denim pants by Red Engine. I love the print of this super-soft Monrow sweatshirt, which I feel like I’ll be living in once it gets a little colder out. I got all of this and the gold bracelet with inlaid stones at one store, called the Denim Lounge, which basically bankrupted me for the weekend. They were having an incredible 75% off sale on tons of gorgeous stuff. (I could have done a lot more damage if I’d had a couple of beers with my Murphy’s hotdog, and I kind of wish I did.) The delicate stone and spike necklace was from a store across the street, called Hubba Hubba. The sneakers are by a San Francisco brand called Chrome, which makes super durable, masculine shoes and bags (though they do carry women’s sizes in a handful of designs). Chris and I each got a pair on sale at their store in Bucktown.

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Necklace: Hubba Hubba in Roscoe Village, Bracelet: The Denim Lounge.

I guess the only thing that could rival the shopping in Chicago is the food. (And the architecture. And the limitless number of things to do.) But yeah, eating out usually ranks among the highest on my list.

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The aforementioned Murphy’s hotdog, or “redhot,” whatever that means.

Luckily we were right down town, and were within walking distance of plenty of bars and restaurants. It was a little cooler at night, so I got to break out a couple of warmer pieces.

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On this particular night I think we had Chinese at Dee’s in Lincoln Park. Amazing. View from our hotel.
Sweater set: Missoni (consignment).

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Can we all agree that it’s cool to wear white after Labor Day? Rules are dumb.
Jacket: J. Crew (consignment), Jeans: Maker’s (Loehmann’s), Necklaces: Etsy and Lou Lou, Earrings: Ralph Lauren (Nordstrom Rack).

Coincidentally, our friends Mike and Pearl (of Chandeliers and Ripped Jeans) were in Chicago for the weekend as well. We were lucky enough to catch them one night for a couple of drinks at the Hubbard Inn, a gorgeous, multi-level restaurant bar downtown that had the feel of an old saloon mixed with an artist’s loft. I couldn’t take too many photos because it was so dark, and I didn’t want to disturb everyone with too much flash-photography. But I did get a picture of our lovely and fashionable friends.

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On Pearl: Top: Zara, Necklaces: Etsy and French Connection, Bag: Kate Spade.
On Mike: Shirt: Scotch & Soda, Watch: Kenneth Cole.

On the last day of our trip, we visited the Art Institute for an exhibition on Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. The show featured works by Impressionist painters like Degas and Manet alongside the actual garments worn by their subjects, housed in glass cases. It was pretty amazing to see them side-by-side. I wish I could illustrate this with pictures, but naturally, photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition. Suffice it to say, the corsets looked really, alarmingly uncomfortable.

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The modern wing at the Art Institute.

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Courtyard at the Art Institute.
Sweatshirt: Monrow (The Denim Lounge), Pants: James Perse (consignment), Shoes: Chrome, Bag: L.A.M.B. (ideeli).

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And then we were on our way home. Until next time, Chicago.

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Fashion & Beauty

Boston Wedding

I mentioned that I was headed out of town for a wedding last weekend, but I haven’t gotten around to writing a post about it until now. Our friends Paul and Amanda got married in their hometown of Boston, and had an incredibly lavish, super elegant reception at the Boston Public Library. Seriously unbelievable.

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Cocktail hour in the courtyard.

My boyfriend was a groomsman, so we were invited to an equally gorgeous rehearsal dinner at the Hampshire House, a historic mansion in Beacon Hill. I had a feeling this weekend would be one of the nicest events I’d get to go to this year and I was absolutely right. I had a few things lying around to wear, but I wanted to supplement them with… other, newer things.

Rehearsal Dinner

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Dress: Rebecca Taylor (consignment), Shoes: Badgley Mischka (ebay), Clutch: Aimee Kestenberg (ideeli), Earrings: unknown brand (ideeli), Bracelet: Lou Lou, Rings: Melinda Maria (maxandchloe.com), Makeup: Lancome Hypnose mascara, MAC smudgeproof liner in Buried Treasure and Urban Decay 24/7 liner in Smog, Burt’s Bees lipgloss in Autumn Haze, Benefit Watts Up! highlighter, Airspun translucent powder, Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee in Honeymoon Honey, Tokyomilk perfume #57 Sencha Blue

I scored this dress a few months ago at one of my favorite consignment stores in DC, Secondi, and had been looking for an opportunity to wear it. I didn’t have too many options by way of formal heels, so I decided to buy a pair of strappy stilettos in a light, neutral gold. I love Badgley Mischka shoes, and had been obsessing over their signature embellished pumps, but I decided to go with something a little more understated and versatile. I found this brand new pair on ebay for a mere $60, which is less than you might pay for a standard shoe from many a lesser brand. This is why I basically never walk into a department store, or really any store, and just buy things off the rack. (I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.) Then again, I enjoy sifting through options and searching for bargains, and some people don’t.

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For makeup, I basically dressed up my standard cat-eye. I’m half-Japanese and I don’t have a ton of eyelid real-estate, so I don’t usually use shadows, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, if I’m looking to get fancy, I smudge a liner across my lid after using a translucent powder to hold everything in place. I used Smog by Urban Decay this time, which is a rusted-copper brown. These liners have kind of a cult following because the colors are rad, and they’re creamy and easy to blend. Once they set, though, they don’t budge. I followed this with MAC smudge proof pencil in Buried Treasure, which is dark brown with tiny flecks of gold, for the cat-eye. I used Benefit’s Watts Up! highlighter on my brow bone, blending it onto my lid, and finished with Lancome Hypnose mascara on my top and bottom lashes. Josie Maran’s Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee has become my go-to blush, because it’s so easy to apply and it looks completely natural. The consistency is reminiscent of Jell-O, so it’s also fun. I mean, for me it is, but maybe I have low standards.

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Drinking wine by a mirror.

Wedding

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Dress: BB Dakota (Piperlime), Shoes: Badgley Mischka (ebay), Clutch: Ann Taylor (consignment), Earrings: Kate Spade, Bracelet: Tahari (ideeli), Rings: Melinda Maria (maxandchloe.com)

I love the big fat graphic floral print of this dress. I got it on sale from Piperlime for $50, which I thought was more than reasonable, but the price has been reduced even further since then (you’re welcome). A few days before the wedding I stumbled upon this Ann Taylor Loft clutch at Secondi (you should be sensing a theme, here) which I was pretty ecstatic about. I have been lusting after one of the classic Bottega Veneta ones for years, but LOL at that ever happening. I love the aqua/coral combo, especially paired with gold jewelry. I happened to snag the Kate Spade earrings months ago (for another wedding, naturally) on one of their sneaky online super-sales. They matched perfectly– what are the odds?

I ended up doing the same makeup routine the second night as well, minus the copper lid. Yes, I am a one-trick pony.

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Truly sorry for the awkwardness of this crappy iPhone photo.

Now let’s ogle this venue…

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Holy cats.

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Dining hall/study hall.

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And, most importantly, congratulations to these two.

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