Tips for Mastering Second Hand Shops

Walking into any thrift shop, the racks packed with clothing and the shelves brimming with stock, can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned secondhand shopper.  But if you go with right mindset, armed with a few tips and tricks, you will find scores of one woman’s junk ready to become your treasures.  Here are my top ten tips!!

1. Call the stores you are interested in to find out when they are planning to put out new stock. That way you can time your visit to make sure you get the best selection possible.

2. Come with a list of things you are looking for, but do not live and die by it. Sometimes something truly wonderful that you never knew you wanted or needed will just appear, and you want to make sure you are open to that.

3. Do a loop around the entire store and grab everything that catches your eye, even if you are not sure about it. Do not overthink. Just do it. There is no extra stock in the back. What is on the floor is what they have. So if you see a great piece, just grab it, even if you feel like it might not fit, or you do not know where or how you will wear it. Now is not the time for scrutinizing your every decision. If you do not grab it when you have the chance, someone else could spot the same piece and snatch it out from under you. You can edit through your selection later.

4. Wear a neutral outfit that is easy-on and easy-off to make things in the dressing room as pain-free as possible. That means no button-down shirts or lace-up shoes, which will only make it that much harder to change quickly. Also, stick to wearing separates instead of a dress. That way, you can try on pieces with clothes you already own and know fit you, instead of having to go find some skirt you don’t actually like just so you can try on the top you are interested in.

5. Do not be fooled by fake designer labels. Buy something because you like it. Not because it has a fancy label in it. The whole fake labels thing is not really an issue when you are shopping at overstock stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls or at most thrift stores, but you need to be on your guard when shopping at vintage and consignment shops. The fact is, it is easy for someone to take an old dress, sew a fake designer label in it, and then charge 10 times what it’s actually worth. It is up to you to examine the details and finishings, and figure out if you are getting the real deal or a fake. If you have doubts about a garment’s authenticity, trust your gut. Just be cautious.

6. Stick to pieces with clean lines and classic shapes if you do not want to look dated. Even when you are shopping for vintage clothes, you probably do not want to look like you just stepped out of another era. The more streamlined the piece is, the more modern it will look and the easier it will be for you to integrate it into your existing wardrobe.

7. Never buy anything with a stain on it. You will never get it out, no matter how hard you try. Never ever.

8. If you plan to haggle or ask for any kind of a discount, make sure you are super nice to the staff from the moment you enter the store, flea market, or wherever else you are shopping. If there are multiple salespeople, pick one and try to get a dialogue going — smile, say hello, ask how they are doing. Then, before you head to the counter, make a point of hanging up the pieces you are not buying so she or he does not have to do it later her or himself.

9. Do not be afraid to take something to the tailor to get it just right. Just make sure you know the difference between what can be fixed and what cannot. And be honest with yourself about how much work you are actually willing to put into it. Hey, sometimes secondhand clothes and accessories need a little extra TLC to look their best, but if you are already getting a deal, that extra work can be totally worth it.

10. Whatever you buy, make sure you clean it immediately. Drop it off at the dry cleaner on your way home or pop it into the laundry machine the second you walk through the door. Do not wait. You do not know where it has been.

Boot Buying Tips for Curvy Girls

Fall weather AKA boot season is approaching!!  There is something about the attitude that comes with wearing boots. They can be a little bit sexy and cause you to walk a little bit taller. And knee-high boots over skinny jeans or with shorter skirts are still very in this year. But sometimes curvy girls think that we cannot wear boots because they will not fit our larger calves. This is not true! Here are some tips to finding boots that will work with your curvy body:

Boots for Wide Calves ~ There are a lot of brands carrying wider calf boots these days. When buying taller boots, the calf circumference size should be included to help you determine if they will fit. If a seller does not indicate the calf circumference, some quick online searches of the brand and style should help you find it. This measurement is taken at the widest part of the boot, which usually corresponds to the widest part of the calf on most people. However, every body is different, so also pay attention to the shaft height, which is the height from the ankle to the top of the boot.

Tall Boots ~ When buying tall boots, whether a wide-calf style or not, look for boots with buckles that actually tighten and expand the boot shaft circumference along with gussets that will stretch.   Gussets are on the sides of boots and look like a fold that expands when you put your leg in the boot. You can sometimes gain another inch or more to add to the calf circumference measurement. This is sometimes also called goring.  When you first wear your boots, you might need to unbuckle the buckles on the side when you put them on and then buckle them after they are zipped. If your boots are leather, they will stretch as you keep wearing them but you do not want to rely on this stretch if you cannot zip them up. This is where a cobbler can help you.

Find a Cobbler ~ Yes, there are still cobblers! Find one in your town. Cobblers can actually stretch your leather boots. I had this done with the cowboy boots. Even though they fit when I tried them on, I wanted to be able to easily take them on and off even if my feet were a bit swollen from dancing the night away. I also wanted to be able to tuck my jeans inside them. Cobblers can stretch other leather boots too, including those with zippers on the sides.

Cowboy Boots ~ When buying cowboys boots, look for a deep “V” in the front and back of the boots. I was convinced that I would not find cowboy boots, but on a trip to Nashville last year, I learned that there really is a pair out there for everyone.

Short Boots ~ For a long time, I did not even look at shorter boots because I was convinced that they would not fit either and that they would accentuate the widest part of my calves. This is not true at all!  Shorter boots look great with everything from jeans to skirts and the right pair can actually appear to elongate your leg.

Buying Multiples

Someone asked me the other day….when does it make sense to purchase multiples of the same thing in the same or different colors, and when should I pass? Here are my three tips on when it makes sense to double up on clothes:

When it is a wardrobe staple. Some wardrobe staples, like tshirts, are worth getting in more than one color. And if you know you will wear the heck out of it, you could even get multiples of the same hue.

When it fits like a dream. Did you discover that elusive creature, that pair of jeans that truly fit?  Then get two, in different washes if you can. Labels constantly retire styles, so if you love it now, get it now.  Or maybe you finally found shoes that are both comfortable and stylish.  Get two, in different colors if you want, or of the same one so you can have a backup when the first pair falls apart.

When it is one of a kind. OK, it is not really “one of a kind” if there is more than one of it, but if an item you fall in love with is so unusual you know you will never see it again, pick up its twin. Keep that one on reserve for the day when the original is finally worn to death.

If you are still not sure, the final tipping point can be price. If you know you will wear both and the second one is at a discount…..or better yet, BOGO…..then take advantage of your good timing. The key overall is balance. If your closet is filled with nothing but multiples of a just a few things, you are likely to get bored and feel like your style is in a rut.

Challenge Time

Guess who has a challenge for you?  I love to think outside of the box, especially with fashion.  Fashion should be fun.  So,  I am blogging about this challenge on Friday to allow plenty of time to accept, prepare, execute and smash this challenge.

Starting Monday, I want you to mix up your wardrobe every day of the week.  The idea is to wear something different every day.  This does not mean you have to go out and buy all new clothes or accessories.  You can mix up your outfits with everything you already own.  For example, I have a black and white print dress that I typically wear with red heels with to complete the look.  Next week I am going to wear this dress with black heels and add a different color necklace.  It is not a big change, but it could make the outfit look completely different.  We tend to be creatures of habit.  We wear the same shirt with the same skirt with the same shoes and so on.  Why not create a completely different and exciting look without purchasing a new item?  It is so easy.  You can add different accessories or shoes.  Maybe you would like to add a scarf instead of a necklace like you always do.  Your options are limitless.  I would love for you to share with me what you did this coming week to mix it up!  Come on ladies, accept my challenge and have fun with it!!

Bring Your Favorite Sundress into Fall

Whether it was from a mom or your grandmother, we have all heard some variation of “go change; you are going to freeze to death.”  But before you go reluctantly move your favorite summer dress to the back of the closet, let us show you some fabulous ways you can keep those dresses around for fall.

1. Pull on a Bottom Layer

Tights: When wearing a dress in the fall or winter, adding tights is an easy way to warm up your outfit. You can keep it classic with a simple pair of opaque black tights or experiment with colors and patterns.

Leggings: Other than tights, leggings are definitely the warmer option to wear.  Leggings with leather elements or studs would definitely add some flair to your outfit and some edge to your summer pieces.

2.  Layer Sweaters

Cardigans: Maxi dresses already have enough length to endure the fall season, so add a cardigan, belt and scarf for a cute fall variation.

Get Pulled Over: Try layering a sweater over a loose-fitting tank dress for a totally cute new look!  Allowing the dress to peek out the bottom adds flair and color, while simultaneously giving you the layers to survive the temperature drop.

3. Pair it With Fall Shoes

Booties: You do not have to tell me twice that when the temperature drops it is officially boot season! It is time to retire your sandals and replace them with super cute booties.  Booties are probably the only shoe that looks great with skinny jeans, tights or pretty much any other bottom. Whether you go flat or heeled, an ankle boot will never let you down.

4. Throw on a Scarf

Scarves: They are a great addition to sundresses to make them fit for cooler weather. In order to incorporate this warm and stylish accessory, try using the scarf as a bright accent piece or mix and match the prints of the dress and scarf.

5. Cover With a Jacket

Leather: Leather jackets are great for transitioning an outfit to fall.  A classic black leather jacket or a brown leather jacket will keep your arms warm, and wearing matching black or brown booties creates an awesome urban-chic look!

Blazer: For a more professional or daytime look, add a blazer to a dress and a pair of tights. My favorite fall trend is tweed blazers!

6. Don Some Denim

Denim:  A denim shirt looks great over almost every pattern and color of dress.  You can let the shirt hang loose or try adding a skinny brown or black belt. Not only can you wear a denim shirt over a summer dress to keep warm on a chilly day, but you can also try a denim jacket as well.

What Gretchen Wore

I am determined not to let summer end yet.  This color reminds me of summer fun. I bought this hot pink dress at Old Navy.  It is a little longer in the back than the front (not sure you can tell from the picture).  I added my denim vest and chunky necklace to complete the look.  I threw on some silver sandals, and I am off to meet the girls for a cocktail….or two.