Monday, December 28, 2009

I See Dead Clothing

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,

so near and dear to my heart is this necklace. sigh . . . and so simple.

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.

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.

It's red and it's big!

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 Savings of up to 75%, free shipping, and a no-questions-asked, no-cost, 365-day return policy. 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, (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.


Aunty Belle said...

le sigh.....Happy to heah how buckling swashes was so lucrative...Pork Rind sales is Aunty will definitely not be Bergdorf sniffin'.

Truth told, I ain't got a clue what e-pay is, or how/ where ya get e-coupons (other than fer book stores).

Mebbe y'all could link to some of these goldmines? List yore favorite e-shop sites? Plain fact o' life fer Aunty is no time to shop--so online might have possibilities.

One favorite Aunty trick is to find a smashin' scarf--a 3 footer is great!--and wear it as a halter or bustier under a timeless black/blue/ gray blazer thas' been in the closet fer ever. Another is to buy a small mens French cuff shirt to wear under the Blazer, with a pair of vintage cuff links or recycle favorite some old buttons as cuff links.

But easiest of all is to pin a fabulous silk flower brooch on that tired ole jacket an see how it perks up the whole look.

Need I mention how indulging in high end buttons is a fabu method of transformin' an old coat, jacket, dress?

On shoes that are fer fun (not dressy) --iffin' yore foot is small, shop in Nordstrom's children's shoe dept. Same name brands, 30% less than over in the women's depart.

Le sigh.

moi said...

Aunty, I amended the post to accommodate your request. Try JCrew ( or Banana Republic ( for a French cuff shirt. I saw some thin cashmere scarves being tied the way you describe in a magazine a few months ago - it's a great look! Discounted scarves? Try Macy's online. They're having a HUGE sale now. But, beware, sale usually means FINAL, so make sure what you buy is what you want.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

I just found a nice looking french cuff shirt at JC Penneys for $20 - just from doing a little google search.

JCrew often has tuxedo or french cut shirts that look like you stole it out of your man's closet, but cut for a woman.

My method of shop-stalking includes joining the e-mail lists of my favourite online stores. The online places I frequent are more than happy to fill my in-box with daily or weekly missives on their latest items and what they're putting on sale. When you're on an online e-mail list, you get preferential treatment: these stores usually sweeten the deal by occasionally sending coupon codes with deep discounts. The trick is to find what you want and be ready to pounce!

chickory said...

i am a big believer in my local goodwill. it is FULL of ann taylor loft, banana republic, and usual suspects gap and old navy and AandF. however i have found there:

a pair of jill stuart jeans that fit like a dream
several Tahari longish equestrian jackets: dark chocolate and gray
an anne klein crochet sweater
perfect little black dresses (yeah like i need those NOW at chickory ha!)
a vintage vera scarf (which i gave as gift)
a bunch of ralph lauren sweaters one is a divine charcoal gray with a mock turtle neck that is just so so outdoorsy and warm
some dainty pink gloves that i ebroidered and wore to a valentines ball
a green cord eddie boauer jacker

and so on.

most i ever spent on one item there? 6.40

i also find crap to repurpose in art like the candleabras i spray painted black for my day of the dead altar.

even when i have money (never) i dont spend it because i am spoiled by goodwill.

i got laid off my new job already. shite! i hate when that happens. im not strong enough for the gig. bummer.

moi said...

K9: Crap! Sorry to hear about your job. That must mean something even BETTER is on the horizon.

As for Goodwill, yes! Major deals abound at Goodwills in major urban centers like the ATL – lotsa economically unchallenged ladies who wear things once, twice, and then just give them away, totally unconcerned about recouping some $$ at local consignment.

Unfortunately, small urban centers like Albuturkey don't hold near the deals.

Didn't you get your rockin' D&G blazer at a Goodwill?

chickory said...

no but that was an amazing find. I had one of those 50% off one item tickets that bloomingdales prints once a year. then i found the DandG at 30% already. so i think it was only like a little over a hundred dollars. i love it too. its not a blazer. its a mad maxian straight jacket. grherha

Aunty Belle said...

OOOOOH...thanky ladies fer the links. Now I'll burn MORE time "researchin'" the net tonight when I HAVE A DEADLINE OF 9 A.M. FRIDAY JAN 8th!!! Yikes!

Sorry K9 Pup--thas' ruff (heh--a little canine humor). Looky, in our blog history doan I recall this happened once afore? An' like Moi said, somethin' BETTER came along? Fergit the nursery an' paint chile--paint paint paint!!!

LaDivaCucina said...

Before I forget: I like the sound of the cool Mad Max jacket Chickory! (sorry about the job, it sounded physical? But maybe it's a blessing as you might have hurt yourself and then where would your paintin' ass be?) Black candelabras for DOD sound very cool.

Aunty, that's a GREAT idea about the buttons! Yes! Regarding the lack of a proper clothing budget: I feel your pain. (le $igh too!) I can count on one hand what I bought this year!

As a true vintage maven during the '80's, La Diva did a whole lot of button changing and upgrading, collar changing on coats, dresses, new linings for coats and jackets, moth hole sewing, hems up, trims, fringe added, taken off, etc. and the re-soling of many boots and shoes! So, not only can you buy the used but you can update it too. It's got to be a good cut or material to begin with though.

Aunty Belle said...

oh yeah, Sugar...youse on the money. Buy good quality, fewer pieces if need be to git the good stuff, then update, resole ( uh...I has two pairs of shoes being resoled right now-- TOD loafers an' a pair of FerraG black velvet ballet flats--but them shoes is OLD. I done had my money's worth from 'em!)

A fellow book-clubber had a coveted cream colored heavy cotton cardigan wif true horn buttons. When a gray pen mark could not be removed she dyed the sweater charcoal an had cuffs lined in a mustard and gray paisley to turn back--that reclaimed sweater is a prize!

BTW, I see that Ms. Joile is not re-upped as St. John's model. Seems the knitwear folks thought she "overshadowed" their line. They found a redhead fer the Spring line. Some of their newer stuff is okay, but I think they's been ridin' an image see-saw fer 20 years.

moi said...

Always helps to have access to a good tailor/seamstress/alteration person. The gal Pirate and I use is famously grumpy, but so far she works miracles.

St. John is beyond my pocketbook (and for the most part my aesthetic), but I thought the original spokes model, Kelly Gray, was the perfect representative of the brand. I didn't buy either Gisele Bundschen (too young) or Jolie (too rocker), despite the fact that both of them are rather conservative in their dress.

K9 said...

thanks aunty and diva. i did get an illustration job right after i received the dear john letter. my bosses said they loved my energy and spirit but somebody has to dig up the trees and load em in a truck.

diva, i love all the messing and fussing with the clothes/ my mom gave me a sewing machine and i am hoping to get creative when i learn to use it. yay!

i loved the st john suit AJ wore in one ad....even went and looked at it in the store...think it was around five grand. wow. thats expensive even if you are rich rich rich!

LaDivaCucina said...

I love that idea about the sweater dying too Aunty! What a creative bunch of gals we are!

K9, I'm so happy for you! Yay! I was asked to help "build" a Christmas float with hubby for the Jay Cees but decided to just let the boys do it. I'm very clumsy and if I hurt my hands, I'm out of business and so are you!