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

Current Obsession: Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black

I’m on an unending quest for the perfect fragrance, and seriously, there are so many good ones to choose from. But when fall rolls around I find myself distancing myself from floral scents in favor of fragrances that are a little richer and more sophisticated. It would be great to be richer and more sophisticated, as a general rule.

You know who does that really well? The damn Olsen twins. The success of their fashion/beauty empire has actually managed to completely eclipse any memory of their acting career[s], at least in my eyes. I’m not even getting paid to say that. I’ve always loved Elizabeth & James clothing, so when I received samples of their new Nirvana Black & White dual fragrance exclusive from Sephora, I was intrigued. Real talk: both of these scents are to-die-for.

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I opted for Nirvana Black, which is deep and earthy with notes of sandalwood, violet and vanilla. I wanted something woody with a slight hint of sweetness; a counterpoint to the fresh, green notes I’m usually drawn to during the summer. If I had named this scent, I would have called it “wealthy former hippie.” Basically, this perfume smells like the Bay Area. Like when you’re barefoot in your Calypso St. Barths tunic tending the herbs in the community garden, organic fair-trade soil between your toes, and it starts to get chilly so you run inside and grab that that trusty old Alpaca throw you bought with your last ten pesos the third time you quit your job to go backpacking in South America. Those days are long gone now; you made it big at a tech startup and could buy all the Alpaca throws you’d ever want, but that’s not the point. When you breathe in the smell of Nirvana Black, you’re bound to reminisce about life’s adventures… so many adventures. That’s what it is for me, anyway– an olfactory scrapbook of all the awesome shit that I haven’t done, but possibly could have done if I were that kind of person. The kind of person with stories to tell.

Nirvana White, on the other hand, is floral (peony and muguet, which is a fancy French way of saying Lily of the Valley) with a hint of musk (there’s that rich sophistication factor again). That description is probably a little reductive, but I liked it a teeny tiny bit less than Nirvana Black and therefore my brain is having trouble finding more words. Motivation is a fickle thing.

The Sephora salesgirl I spoke to did have an interesting suggestion: layering the two fragrances. I haven’t tried it yet, but gosh am I excited about the prospect. Like yin and yang or Mary-Kate and Ashley, the marriage of these scents just seems right. Who knows, it may even bring me to a state of enlightenment.

I’ll let you know if I get there.

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Marcia & Suzanne

Since moving to the West Coast, I’ve made a wealth of new connections for whom I’m truly grateful. I’ve even been lucky enough to acquire some brand new family out here: my self-appointed adoptive aunts, Marcia and Suzanne. After three months, I feel like I’ve known them forever– and I hope to.

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On Suzanne: Calypso tunic. On Marcia: Anthropologie top and pants.

Suzanne and Marcia have been together for nearly 25 years, and after the long-awaited repeal of DOMA they decided to make their union official. Surprisingly, their decision to marry wasn’t a given. After being together for so long, they wondered if they really needed the pomp and circumstance of a wedding. They felt married already, having shared a life together (complete with a dog, three cats and four chickens) for more than two decades. After some thought and gentle prodding, though, they realized that they did want to honor their commitment to each other with a celebration– not just for themselves, but for the family and friends who had supported them throughout the years.

They settled on a gorgeous estate in Lagunitas for their venue. Marin County is such an impossibly majestic place that it almost feels like human intervention could shatter it to pieces at any moment. As such, it was fitting that there was nothing showy or frivolous about this event. The raw beauty of the place was complemented by delicate and understated decor– a perfect reflection of the couple themselves.

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Suzanne and Marcia are very close to their gaggle of adult nieces and nephews, and decided to have the group serve as the wedding party as well as the officiants of the ceremony. It was such a unique and touching gesture, there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house/forest.

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So much of wedding culture these days revolves around the material, and it’s always heartening to see a pure and joyous celebration of love bereft of any of the bizarre, contrived trappings I usually associate with modern marriage. (Sorry for getting weird and deep, guys. Maybe I’m just a little jaded.) I mean this as a compliment to the brides: two people who would have heartily consented to spending the rest of their lives together without a party or a marriage license or the recognition of the outside world.

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Despite the fact that it’s only recently become official, they’re perhaps the most quintessential example I’ve ever known of a marriage done right. Endless love to you both.

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Congrats, Suzanne & Marcia!

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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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It’s been a while.

I’ve been slacking here, and I feel terrible about it. But I swear, I have an actual reason, and hopefully this will be the last big lapse in posting. (Dare to dream.)

About a month ago I moved to San Francisco for a new job, which was a big and exciting decision for me. I spent a couple of weeks using Airbnb before finding an apartment in the city, buying a car (after not having driven, really, for years), and basically starting from scratch with three suitcases full of clothes. Well, one of them was full of shoes. (Still, it was a completely insufficient selection; I may as well have been camping, honestly.)

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View from my office window.

I’ve come a long way in the past month. Really, April seems like an eternity ago. I’ve Craigslisted furniture and had nine large boxes of necessities shipped from DC, and I’m starting to feel settled and at home. After a few mishaps like running out of gas on a random stretch of highway somewhere in Napa, and then losing my wallet for 12 hours (and having a stranger turn it in without a penny missing), I feel like I’m getting the hang of this whole moving-across-the-country-alone thing.

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New home.

So there’s my excuse for not having written in a month. I mean, you have to admit that it’s a good one. I’m really thrilled that things have worked out; I have a great new job at a comfort shoe company called Vionic based in San Rafael. I’ll do my best not to plug the brand too much, but I really am passionate about our shoes and you may have to deal with me fawning over them a bit. Vionic is the new iteration of Orthaheel, an established brand in the comfort market founded by podiatrist Phil Vasyli. The company is in the process of moving toward a fresher and more modern aesthetic, and it’s exciting to come in at such a pivotal point in that transition. Even though they have built in orthotic support, the shoes are legitimately cute. Real talk, guys.

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Vionic “Havana” sandals.

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Fall 2014 collection preview.

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Fall 2014 collection press event.

So there’s my quick update. I have plenty more to say here, and now that I’m settled in, a lot more time to do it. Don’t give up on me just yet.

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Hiking at Point Reyes.

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On moving

There are some things you can prepare for, and other things that you can’t. A cross-country move is something that you can wrap your mind around logistically with a bit of effort. There’s finding a job, a place to live, a car, and the means of transporting yourself 3,500 miles. Sometime soon I’ll be able to speak to my success or failure in these areas– as of yet, I’ve done what I could to prepare, but some details always manage to slip through your fingers.

One aspect of my move that I have been able to prepare for is in creating a feeling of emotional groundedness that transcends locations and time zones. I’ve been able to do this with the help of my friends. It sounds so simple, but shit, it really isn’t. Anyone who’s been alive for a little bit knows that feeling understood and accepted is a phenomenon not to be taken lightly. One of the greatest successes of my life thus far has been finding amazingly warm people to reassure me that the world is an innately kind place. Their existence proves that to me every day. The bonds I’ve had the luxury of forming have proven so much more essential than anything tangible in life. So while I chase my dreams of working with beautiful things, you’ll always have my heart. You know who you are.

Thanks for supporting me through everything– I won’t forget it.

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