Tag Archives: shopping

My Grown-Lady Shopping Rules

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Since the day I learned to dress myself, my style M.O. was to “look cute.” (I’m not saying it was always successful; there was a very unfortunate JNCO jeans phase in my adolescence). Now that I’m getting older, that’s shifted to “look polished/sophisticated/put-together.”

A year ago, I purged my closet of all the bad shopping decisions of my twenties. It was one of many closet cleanouts; I’d spent years in a cycle of buy-wear-toss and couldn’t figure out why I was never satisfied with my stuff.

During that Labor Day 2013 Purge to End All PurgesI got the moment of clarity I so desperately needed: the trick wasn’t filling a wardrobe with a whole bunch of random inexpensive stuff; it was creating a well-edited collection of great stuff.

For so many years, I equated good style with having lots of options and never wearing the same outfit twice. So I bought as much as I could within my [limited] budget: I rummaged through clearance racks, shopped at outlet stores and fast fashion retailers, and gave zero damns about quality or fit. I wasn’t invested in my clothes because I tied their worth to their value; which wasn’t much.

After that last cathartic closet cleanse, I promised myself that going forward I would be much more mindful of what I purchased. And I have been. In the last 12 months I’ve completely changed the way I think about shopping and my style: I have a better grip on what works for my body, I’m not afraid to splurge on quality basics, and I understand the value of keeping things super simple.

Here are the self-imposed rules I’ve followed to create a closet that I really love on the same budget I’ve had for years:

1. Is it on the list? One of the things that’s helped me the most this year is keeping a mental list of the pieces I think are missing from my closet from season to season, and sticking to that list when I’m shopping. The benefits are two-fold: it keeps me from buying a bunch of random crap, and helps me keep an updated inventory of what I have.

2. What’s it made of? When you start to pay attention to garment construction, you can easily spot shoddy pieces that will fall apart after the first wash. Now I check the tags on clothes the same way I check nutrition labels on food. I won’t buy shoes or handbags unless they’re leather (I always have great luck finding both on Hautelook), and I try to find things made from natural and/or durable fabrics that are easy to care for, like cotton, lyocell and rayon.

3. Does it fit? No seriously, does it fitNot to be confused with, “can it zip?” Here’s what I’ve figured out as a 5’3″ hourglass: as much as I love shift dresses, I’m much better off in tailored and wrap styles; curvy-fit jeans that sit higher on the waist are my friend; super tight skinnies and cropped pants of any kind are my worst enemy; I should avoid mini skirts and shorts with less than a 4-inch inseam; and I feel best in tops and sweaters with some breathing room. Once you figure out what’s most flattering for shape, shopping becomes so much easier!

4. What’s the cost-per-wear? Five years ago, if you handed me a $100 gift card, I’d buy as much as I could with it, supermarket sweep style, and end up with a bag full of things I’d probably only wear once or twice. Now, I’d put it toward a staple — a great leather jacket, a pair of black suede pumps, or a little black dress — that I can wear lots of ways for years to come. At the end of the day, it comes down to cost per wear. If I impulse-buy a clearance top for $20 and wear it twice, my CPW is $10. If I splurge on a versatile black romper for $80 and wear it 25 times, my CPW is around $3. So romper, FTW.

It took me a while to get over my obsession with more is more, and realize that it’s better to have a few pieces I really love than a lot of pieces I just kinda like.

5. Will it play well with others? When I’m shopping for clothes, I stick to mostly neutral tones and pick just a few printed statement pieces. I used to do the exact opposite, and I ended up with a closet full of mismatched patterns and colors that didn’t work together. Now I can easily remix my favorite pieces and put outfits together quickly.

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Market Colors Scarf

Let’s kick off this week with something uplifting, shall we? I’d like to introduce you to Market Colors, a nonprofit organization that’s bridging the gap between quality handmade products from skilled African craftsman and American buyers. Here’s how it works: (1) Market Colors orders products from groups of African craftsmen (everything from scarves and jewelry to tech accessories, and lots in between). (2) The craftsmen make products from native materials. (3) Market Colors purchases the items. (4) Products arrive to MC headquarters in Orlando, FL — just a hop, skip and jump from my hometown! (5) Market Colors markets and sells the products on their website. (6) All proceeds are reinvested in Africa as the cycle repeats.Market Colors Packaging

Each product is beautifully packaged, and includes a postcard that introduces you to its creator! This is an extra-special touch that makes you feel connected to your accessories in a whole new way. I’ll wear this scarf and bracelet proudly, knowing that they were carefully handmade in villages far away by Samson and Kolida. They’re gifts I’ll treasure for always.

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Each purchase from http://store.marketcolors.org/ helps a craftsman to provide for his or her family. Check out this video for details (and when you have a free moment or two, I encourage you to watch the others as well).

Market Colors Promotional Video 2012 from Market Colors on Vimeo.

Still have a few special people to check off your Christmas list? Order before December 20th for delivery by Christmas!

Grand Theft Thrift

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me: “do you think this ledge can hold me?” husband: “uh, yeah. it’s concrete. how big do you think you are?”
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Talbots shorts (thrifted) | Route 66 tank (Kmart clearance) | Antonio Milani leather espadrilles | BUILT laptop sleeve 

I’m not one to brag, but some thrift haul shopping victories require a little personal horn-tooting. Last Saturday, I had the morning off, but Chad was working across town and I needed to stay close to the shop in case any last-minute deliveries came in. There’s a great thrift store right across the street from us, so I popped in to kill a little time.

It was buy-one-get-one-free day.

As if that wasn’t enough to send my little bargain shopping heart a’flutter, it appeared that a well-dressed petite lady with my size and style had just purged her closet and donated it all to this very thrift store. I walked {read: strutted with head held high} out of there with two pairs of White House Black Market crops, JCrew khaki bermudas, a pair of private label white jeans, these Talbots shorts, two lightweight sweaters, the perfect western denim button-up, a vintage coral Anne Klein silk blouse, and a pretty little aubergine one-piece swimsuit. Each item was dry cleaned and pressed, showed no signs of wear, and a few pieces even had the retail tags attached.

My grand total: $56. Toot-toot!

I left with a combination of dizzying bargainista endorphins and a strange lurking guilt, feeling like I’d just shoplifted this stash for the amount of cash I paid. Perhaps this is a testimony of good thrifting karma. I donate good things to this thrift store (which benefits the charities of a large catholic church in our community) and I get good things back. Possible?