MOI: Okay, Pirate, I’m going to make my one and only prediction for 2010. And it’s a bitch as much as it’s a prediction. Although it pains me to say it, all signs so far point to the fact that the economy in the New Year is going to suck even more verily than it did this year. Heck, y’all thought we had to tighten our belts in 2009? In 2010, we’ll have to sell them to pay the utilities.
While I’m the first person to admit I’m easily distracted by brand new shiny objects, most especially shoes, I’m also frugal and realistic. I know there’s only so far I’m going to be able to stretch my retail fashion dollar next year, and it won't be much beyond the tips of my fingers. But that's okay. We can still make lemonade out of the lemons. Here's how:
1. Reuse. These days, it's nearly impossible to score the kind of bargains that were a dime a dozen back in the Big Bad Eighties when I first started scouting vintage and thrift stores for the bulk of my wardrobe. Still, if you’re savvy and patient, you can still snag a bargain or two on occasion.
Case in point: three weeks ago, I bid on and won this mint condition vintage Norma Kamali OMO dress in the most gorgeous silk/rayon blend, with ruffles at the shoulders and fish tail hem.
Only set me back five dolla, plus a few bucks for shipping. This dress looks like it was worn maybe a handful of times before being relegated to the back of someone's closet until that someone dug it out and listed it on eBay. Now it belongs to Moi, and believe me, I will most definitely give it the attention it deserves. Perfect right now with a tissue turtleneck and lace up suede riding boots (also vintage – I’ve had them since college), and later with a pair of sky high tee strap sandals to a friend’s wedding.
2. Recycle: Last month, Pirate and I headed up to Santa Fe for the Recycled Art Festival and found among its dozens of vendors a veritable cornucopia of recycled (or upcycled, if you will) fashion – everything from jewelry to hats to handbags. I snagged this lovely piece from the Arroyo Secco-based Secco Pearl recycled clothing collective for only $20:
Last year, I apparently managed to charm, er, wear down, Santa Fe costume designer and dedicated upcycler, Julie Anderson, to the point where she let me take home one of her demented doll head clutches at a deeply discounted price.
3. Rethink. Shopping your closet and casting your old pieces of still-wearable clothing in a new light can provide the same small thrill as lifting up a sofa cushion and finding enough change to score a bag of Cheetos and a Fresca. These days, doing the vintage shop thing is as expensive as paying retail and the thrift shop thing is only fun if you have all day to comb through stacks and stacks of clothing, some of it so hideously unappealing, it's easy to get deflated by the sheer fuggliness of it all before you even start.
Instead, shop consignment. Sure, I’d kill for the financial ability to clean out Bergdorf’s in my Galliano gown, but that ain’t likely to ever happen in this lifetime. So when I'm not shopping sales or on-line discount sites, I'm headed to my favorite consignment shop, the simply smashing Two Time Couture. Clothing consignment boutiques like Two Time are not only a great place to sell unwanted shoes, boots, clothing, and handbags, they're also a great place to pick up designer clothing at discounts so deep, you need oxygen to go there. Over the years, I've scored everything from Vince cashmere sweaters to Ralph Lauren peasant blouses to DKNY pinstriped wool boyfriend blazers to Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, at prices a fraction the cost of retail.
How about you, Pirate? Want to share some of your RRR phat loot?
PIRATE: Firstly and foremostly, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you dahling, and all my new bitchfriends out in the interwebs!
I've had a very prosperous year, lots of buckling swashes and corporate piracy has filled the treasure chests at this end. Even so, I have two little pirates and a triathlon habit to feed – so I too am feeling a pinch.
1. Re-use: Like you, I'll be spending some time this year trawling e-Pay for some bargains. I'm not great at this, but I do occasionally find things for less than I would pay retail. My issue with the re-use thing is time – as in, I have none for shopping, which is why I tend to do my shopping online. That's not always a good strategey . . .
2. Recycle: I will make more of an attempt to cull my closet and put things on e-Pay so that I can get new things. I need to model off your good habits. I also think we did a good thing last year letting you into my closet – I like giving my things up to good homes. I'm hoping that the new year will allow time for me to come peek in your closet, or you to come back to mine for more goodies. I'm sure there's something else in there you'll need.
I too had a fun time at the Santa Fe Recycled Art Thing. I feel all green and worthy, spending money on wearable art from recycled things. I had intended to do much Christmas shopping there, and although I did come away with one gift for someone else, I mostly shopped for myself. I picked up a recycled bike chain necklace,
and a fabulous bracelet made from buttons,
Love it, love it, love it. Yes, now that you mention it, it does look like a tiny miniature LP on my wrist.
No, that did not occur to me when I purchased it.
No, that did not occur to me when I purchased it.
and also a fabulous recycled belt buckle on a not-at-all recycled leather belt. Yes, I think we can call this Upcycled. It's a statement piece, and I had no such thing in my wardrobe previously.
3. Rethink: Mama rarely buys a thing that isn't on sale. This is a rule that has few exceptions – like that time when I bought those khakis with the tuxedo stripe because I just knew I'd wear them every day until they had holes in them and I was worried they would sell out before I got there . . . the other exception is when it's so cheap it's hardly worth waiting for a sale.
I am sometimes a victim of impulse – I worry that if I don't get that precious thing right now, it will be gone forever and I'll never have another chance. While that's been true on a few notable occasions, most of the time, I have found that they will always make more stuff, or my precious object will eventually find its way to e-Pay where I can snap it up for more than retail (I do my homework, ladies – don't think for a second that e-Pay = cheap!). Maybe it's a byproduct of my age that I'm now more measured about my shopping. I will be rethinking how much I need that thing right now.
If I know I want That Thing, and it's something that will find an easy place in my wardrobe, I will stalk my prey and pre-shop (e.g., try it on, find out my size). Then I wait for the e-coupon to fall, and I pounce. I've scored some super deals this way – like 45% off deal on that jacket on jCrew I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for . . . and the 50% off my most favouritest over the knee boots.
Also, I need you to come over and help me re-do my outfit selections. My mother paid the Chic Expert to come and look through her things and give her ideas on how to put outfits together – and she took pictures of them. What a great idea, right? Like a style book!
MOI: Goody, more closet cleaning coming up! Ladies, if you've got girlfriends anywhere near your size, I heartily recommend doing this. In fact, Pirate, let's save this for another post. The Who What Where When and Why of Shopping Your Best Friend's Closet.
Edited as per Aunty's Request:
ePay is what Pirate calls eBay. It is Moi's Numero Uno discount fashion site. To get the most out of eBay, it is best to avoid bidding "blind", and only use it to search and bid on those items you know will fit. For instance, last year, I was searching for a simple white, heavy cotton strapless dress. Banana Republic had one for $98 as part of their spring collection. It fit me perfectly and so I waited until a certain trusted eBay B.R. discounter, who buys in bulk from distributors, put one up on her site. A couple months later, bam, I had it for $15.99. Disadvantages of eBay are that fakes abound, so check history and feedback carefully. I find that private sellers (those who aren't stores or discounters), almost always sell the real deal (they're cleaning out their closets and not buying suspect inventory from Singapore), although there are a few distributors, like JT & Company (who handles BCBG), who are dead on honest.
For discounted shoes and handbags, nothing beats EndlessShoes.com. Savings of up to 75%, free shipping, and a no-questions-asked, no-cost, 365-day return policy. Piperlime.com has a tremendous selection and some good sales.
About six months ago I joined, at Aunty's invitation, one of the handful of fashion shopping sites that are invite only, HauteLook.com (let me know if you want an invite). Sites like this and Gilt Group (to which I also belong) are becoming very popular ways of shopping high end designers at deep, and I mean DEEP discounts. Clothing, shoes, accessories, handbags, even home fashions at up to 95 percent off. I have purchased two things from Haute Look - a set of 22 Amrita Singh 24K gold bangles that normally go for $130, for $18; and a purple and black ruched jersey dress by Queue that retails for $250 for $80. Because these sites order direct from the designer, who ships to them, who in turn ships to the customer, shipping is a little slow. But I got each of my items, perfectly packed, with tracking number, within 10 days. I'll take discount over speed any day.
Another of my top favorite clothing sites is LLBean. Seriously. This is a hidden gem for fashionistas. Everything from workout clothing to French boat cut striped shirts to adorable cashmere hoodies to leather riding boots can be had at terrific prices. And with its free return policy, if something doesn't fit quite right, back it goes, no questions asked.
Pirate, if you have any faves, feel free to share!
Pirate Adds, On my e-Pay (OK, I'll call it eBay) purchases, I have but one rule: I do my research. As Moi says, counterfeits abound, as do untrustworthy sellers. Usually I know what I'm getting into because I have spent a lot of time looking at said item in person or have pined for it at length by retail. I have sometimes caught some big deals, like the time I scored those Alexander McQueen heels (normally retailing for $850, I purchased on eBay for $165 - I stalked those puppies for almost a year). I have also paid too much on e-Bay.
I totally agree with Moi - Endless is the way to go on shoes. I don't shop Zappos -- I have never seen a deal on Zappos that couldn't be beat at my local Dillards, or on Endless.
I spend a lot of my online money at JCrew and BCBG, because their clothing is consistent in sizing and quality, and they have regular online discounts. I am on both of their online mailing lists, and they sometimes offer exclusive online sales for their mailing list customers. I shop their online catalogs for ideas and mentally earmark items that I want, and then I wait. It usually isn't long before they sell their new items at a discount, or offer free shipping, or something.