Apr 4, 2014

Fashion Friday: Selling Your Used Clothing

As I do every spring and fall, I've been cleaning out my closet. I make different piles when I do this ... things to keep, things to have altered (either myself or by the tailor), things to donate. This year, I had a lot of great, like-new dresses in my "things to donate" pile. They were just too big, and not worth altering. Dresses are such an investment though! So I was feeling a little financial guilt at the idea of just donating all these great dresses. I started thinking about selling them on eBay.

I don't know if any of you have ever sold on eBay, but it's a lot of work. I knew I'd likely list a few, after doing all the work to measure and photograph them, eat the fees and be out money and still looking for another option.

So I started looking for consignment stores and that's when I came across Buffalo Exchange. It's a national chain of secondhand stores and they've been around for decades -- they're actually celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. (The in-store festivities are today!) And they don't work like typical consignment shops, where you usually take your clothing in and wait for it to sell before you get a portion of the proceeds. Buffalo Exchange offers walk-in selling and they offer you either store credit or cash on the spot for the items they choose to buy from you. Once they decide to buy an item and set a price for it, you get 50% of that in store credit or 30% in cold, hard cash.

I had polled Twitter a little and the general consensus was that the Logan Circle store was the best in the area (there's also one in Georgetown). So that's where I went.

I came in with two large reusable shopping bags full of mostly dresses, one spring coat, one skirt, two tops and a pair of pants.

When I arrived and walked in, they asked if I was there to sell. I said I was, they told me how many people were in front of me, took my name and said they'd call me when it was my turn, and invited me to shop around the store. This was perfect, because I wanted a chance to look around first and get an idea of how their items were priced. I also wanted to see if there was anything I'd like to take home with me!

Right away, I loved how organized the store is. I found a couple of cute dresses to try on and snatched up a pair of Kate Spade black patent peep-toe flats. I live in peep-toe flats in the spring and summer and needed a pair of black ones. These were in my size so I considered it fate!

When my name was called, we got started. They use your ID to set up a selling account with them in their computer right away. My buyer started looking through my items at first glance and gave me the rundown of what they're currently looking for. As you might have guessed, they're focusing on spring pieces right now. She also told me that they buy all sizes, as long as the items are in good, clean condition and are current styles.

After going through all of my items, they bought everything except the spring coat, which was a little dirty on one cuff. They are pretty picky about this, so be sure everything you take in is spotless! But I had a great experience. Their retail price of everything they bought from me came out to around $290. I took a combination of store credit (to get those great Kate Spade flats) and the rest in cash. So in the end, I left with a new pair of shoes and $60 in cash! Not too shabby.

This was really a great experience for me and a nice way to feel a little less financial guilt from items I was already purging from my closet in the first place. But be warned ... you'll get home and start looking at your closet with dollar signs ... "what else can I sell?!?" Or maybe that was just me.

I've been back in to that Buffalo Exchange with the rest of the dresses I figured they would buy and sold $80 more in cash. For point of reference, I also checked out Crossroads, a competitor secondhand store a little further up 14th at U Street. They offer slightly more in cash -- at 35% -- but I just found that I really like the people at Buffalo Exchange better. They were friendly, chatty, and made the experience fun. Also, I washed that spring coat and the "metro grease" didn't come off that cuff, but Crossroads bought it anyway. I came away thinking that I might sell things there in the future, but I won't shop there, knowing they aren't as discerning with the items they buy.

Happy Friday!


Mar 28, 2014

Fashion Friday: Work Totes

Something that kills me about fashion in D.C. are the boring totes I see women carrying every weekday. There is no worse offender than the Longchamp Le Pliage bag -- no shape, no originality, no excitement. But when you think about the fact that women are willing to spend $140 for that nylon piece of crap ... it's just so sad! If that's in your budget, you can do much better.

To prove it, I've rounded up a sampling of great work totes, all $150 or less.

These totes are nylon, but with much more structure than the Longchamp, and definitely more style:

Clockwise from top left: Michael Kors ($110.40)|Dooney & Bourke ($139)|Michael Kors ($78.40)|Steve Madden ($78.40)

A few printed totes. These are fun, especially in spring and summer. I'm personally in love with the Vince Camuto: 

Clockwise from largest: Vince Camuto ($98)|Fossil ($73.49)|Michael Kors ($98)|Fossil ($73.49)

These totes (except for the first, which is real leather) are synthetic, but well-structured and don't look too fake:

Steve Madden ($98.98)|BCBG ($82.99)|Ivanka Trump ($125)|Jessica Simpson ($105.99)

Stripes are fun in the summer, it's like taking the beach to work with you:

Kate Spade ($94.99)|Kate Spade ($158)|ALDO ($40)

There are so many alternatives out there to that boring Longchamp tote, ladies, be original! And don't forget that discount stores like Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx are all great places to look for nice handbags. My black leather work tote is a Badgley Mischa that I found at Marshalls for $129. It just takes a little luck and a desire to be different than the masses.

Happy Friday!


Mar 26, 2014

Dating Files: Online Profile Pictures are Tricky

The internet is chock full of online dating advice articles telling you which pictures you should select and why, to be sure to have current and true-to-you pictures and in what order you should position said pictures on your profile.

It's all good advice, for the most part, but it's not what I want to talk about today.

Yes, pictures are super important. Whether or not we pursue something with an online suitor largely depends on whether or not we like their pictures. You can certainly sink the hook with what you write in your profile, but getting the fish to even swim near your line in the first place all comes down to whether they like what they see at first glance.

Here's the thing though. In my expert opinion -- and I've been on enough online first dates to be an expert, for sure -- most guys are cuter in person. Sure, they're occasionally a little shorter in person, too, but still attractive. And that realization early on had me approach the whole live-or-die-by-the-picture situation a little differently.

I think it started one warm summer afternoon, as I was eating lunch outside and people-watching. I always note a good looking gent when he strolls by, but then I started to picture them a different way. If I saw a guy that I was attracted to in real-life, I tried to tell my brain to imagine what his pictures would look like on Match or OkCupid or Tinder. I could easily see how that guy I was attracted to in real-life could have pictures on an online profile that I might not be so excited about, but then I'd be writing off a guy I would totally date in the real world!

Once I started doing that, it helped me picture guys the other way around when I came across them online. I could look at that slightly awkward pose or smile in their profile picture and imagine them in real life. I realized that there were many more guys I'd probably be attracted to in real life and to ease up on the picture judgment a little.

Let's be honest, lots of good-looking people simply don't take great pictures. Only in your very best photos do your eyes sparkle as much as they do in person. And your smile will always look more genuine in real life, laughing at his joke, than in that carefully chosen picture on your own profile. When you think of it that way, and then try to apply it in-kind when looking at others' pictures, the pool of fellas you might consider dating will automatically widen.

And seriously, I'd much MUCH rather be on a date with someone who looks even better in person, than someone super photogenic who just really isn't quite as attractive in person as they were in their photos. Wouldn't we all?


Mar 21, 2014

Fashion Friday: Spring Coats

I love coats. I don't know why, exactly, but they are one of my favorite articles of clothing. I especially love spring coats, because there are so many reasons for multiple coats!

I've recently donated most of my old spring coats, as they were now too big for me, so I've been in the market for at least one new spring coat. I feel strongly that everyone should own at least two great lightweight coats, so here are some of my tips for finding those perfect pieces to add to your own wardrobe.

A Classic

For starters, everyone needs a classic spring coat. If you're only going to get one, this is where you should start. Obviously, a trench is a great silhouette to choose here. And while a khaki trench is as classic as it gets, you don't necessarily need to limit yourself to khaki. Anything that can serve as a neutral will work, and that varies from person to person. Think about which hues dominate your wardrobe and find something that goes well with the majority of what you already own.

I personally find a shorter trench to be the most universally flattering, but this is also something you can play with depending on your body type. Same goes for single- or double-breasted; or even try an asymmetrical front.

Here are some great trench options, all under $200:

Clockwise from largest: Via Spiga ($129.90)|Michael Kors ($125)|Calvin Klein ($79.99)|Gap ($128)|Calvin Klein ($75.99)|Jessica Simpson ($125)
Left to right: London Fog ($178)|DKNY ($109.90)|Jessica Simpson ($112.99)|DKNY ($117)|Michael Kors ($139.90)

Clockwise from largest: London Fog ($129.90)|Kenneth Cole ($158)|Michael Kors ($175.99)
Modcloth ($129.99)|Modcloth ($169.99)

Something Sporty or Fun

Once you have a classic spring coat in your wardrobe, you can add to this with something a little more sporty and fun. Your trench is great for most workday outfits, but you might need something else for weekends and other more casual outfits.

If you have a more formal trench as your classic coat, you can add another trench as your fun piece. Something short and more colorful maybe, if you're really sticking to the basics with your classic. I also think anoraks and swing coats are great options here.

Here are some sporty, fun examples, all under $200:

  Nordstrom ($110)|Old Navy ($44.94)|Mod Cloth ($79.99)|Nordstrom ($138) 
Lands' End ($55)|Nordstrom ($119.90)|Target ($39.99)|Forever 21 ($29.80)

Hope the thought of bright, crisp, colorful coats for spring gets you guys as excited as it does me! You'll notice I didn't include anything in boring ole black. Save that for fall!

Happy Friday!


Mar 17, 2014

Dating Files: Just Be NICE.

Sometimes I see other women doing things in dating that make me cringe. One of my friends recently had a conversation on Twitter about dating, and a fellow male friend joined in and told her that most of the dates he schedules don't work out, because the woman flakes and cancels at the last minute. WHO ARE THESE WOMEN??

Stop giving the rest of us a bad name!

This failure of basic manners is unacceptable. I really believe that, sometimes, women just need to be nicer.

Cut guys some slack, at least they're making an effort.

I blogged recently about a Tinder guy telling me that "DC women are tough." In general, I think that's a good thing. We're strong and independent and know what we want and what we won't put up with. It's sexy. But it can also go too far, and I see that a lot in the comments I hear women making about the guys that are approaching them and asking them out.

THEY'RE AT LEAST ASKING YOU OUT. Cut them some slack. Let's save our bitching for the guys who never get around to even doing that.

Reply to the messages you receive, even if you aren't interested. It only takes a minute and it shows good manners. Plus, you never know if they might have a friend they'd then be more likely to set you up with!

If a guy doesn't have the perfect opening line on Match or OkCupid or Tinder ... he's not necessarily Satan's spawn.

Sure, we all get creepy messages and those are fine to ignore. If he's asking about inappropriate things, you don't need to respond. But I never understand ... there's not a whole lot of harm in at least responding to someone who sends you a message, if he appears to be a nice guy that you just aren't interested in. It's ok to send back, "Thank you!" and nothing more to the guy who takes the time to pay you a genuine compliment.

It's also ok to write back, "Thank you for sending this, I can tell you actually read my profile. I don't think we are a match, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciated it!" if a guy takes the time to write out a message after actually bothering to read the shit you typed up in your profile.

I also happen to think that even if he just says, "Hi Tiffany! How's your day?" that's perfectly ok as an opener. I'll at least respond and see if it goes anywhere from there. If it dies and it's clear that was the extent of his conversational skills, fine. At least I gave it a shot though and know for sure.

Also, while we're at it, if he seems to be an intelligent guy but uses the wrong "your" (instead of "you're"), let's give him the benefit of the doubt. How about you just assume it was an autocorrect mistake, rather than flogging him for his sins against humanity? It's ok to be pissed at a particular man because he was a jerk to you. It's not ok to assume that every guy is a loser just because he misspelled a word in one of his text messages. And yes, you do look like an angry hag when you overreact to a simple mistake like this.

Please, please don't cancel dates at the last minute or anything else you wouldn't want a guy doing to you.

Guys need a little encouragement here and there. It's not always easy to be the one who is expected to make the first move or to do the asking and all the planning. They certainly don't want to feel like they might be reamed for every little mistake they might make. No one wants that. We say all the time that we want a man to step up and act like a man. I think we should expect the same in-kind from women -- have good manners, please! Just treat men the way you'd like to be treated, all the time. It's as simple as that.

Plus, don't forget ... you'll catch more bees with honey.


Mar 14, 2014

Fashion Friday: Jewelry Station

I love costume jewelry. Of course, I have nicer jewelry that I love as well, but I really do love me some costume jewelry. And I have a lot of it. So it's always been a challenge for me to keep it organized and accessible.

Recently, my friend Mary El at Cupcakes and Shoes posted about her DIY Jewelry Station. I was inspired by hers to do my own. I already had a bit of a station set up, but her post was exactly what I needed to show me how to take it up a notch.

I went home that night and started out by going through ALL of my jewelry and weeding out the stuff I could donate to Goodwill. That was not a fun project, but was definitely a necessary evil. By the time I was done, I knew I was keeping only the stuff I really thought I might wear, plus I had seen everything I have and had a better idea what I'd need in order to display most of it.

Not all of my jewelry is on display for this. I decided to focus on the items that I wear the most or that look the prettiest when displayed. Most of my necklaces were already arranged on coat hanger hooks (see the picture below) and so that left earrings, rings, bracelets and brooches.

I already had a black wire dress frame jewelry organizer that a friend had bought me a couple Christmases ago. For whatever reason, it hadn't yet occurred to me that I could hang my dangly earrings from it, so I started with that. She bought it at Pier1 and while I can't find a link to it online, I saw it recently at my local store, so they still carry it! I think it's adorable, but it also happens to match my iron frame bed and the full-size black wire dress form I already have.

Here are some cute jewelry stand pieces: from Urban Outfitters here and here. One from BaubleBar here, and one from Anthropologie here.

Next, I started looking for pieces I could use to store and display the rest of my jewelry. I was a little too impatient to wait for thrift store hunting, but that really is a great place to start. Instead, I found a ring organizer that I fell in love with at Anthropologie, and then added a small glass dish, a small apothecary jar, and a crystal candlestick that I found at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx.

If you're shopping for a ring holder, there are a lot of CUTE options out there. I wish I needed more than one. Here's my giraffe dish from Anthropologie. They also have this Eiffel Tower one and this umbrella one. Bauble Bar also has some cute options. Here's an elephant, an octopus, and a whale. From Urban Outfitters, here's another elephant, a pair of bunnies, and a simple flower dish.

There are also a ton of cute little decorative trays out there. That's something you can collect along the way, but these are some great options from Urban: here, here and here. And a pretty pink one from BaubleBar here. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty impressed with myself for thinking to use the candlestick as a bracelet holder.

I got everything put together, adding a couple of my favorite perfume bottles (Chance by Chanel for the fall/winter and Viva la Juicy by Juicy Couture for the spring/summer, of course!) and a few pretty pairs of stud earrings, plus a tiny little frog prince trinket box I'd needed a spot for anyway. I already had a mirror hanging behind the armoire I was staging this atop, as well as a fun vase with faux flowers. But I was stuck on finding a mirrored tray.

Everything I found was too small or too ornate. My bedroom style is a little less shabby chic than most of the trendy stuff out there these days, but I kept looking. I checked thrift stores and any home decor store I could think of online, even eBay and Etsy. I finally realized last weekend that I could probably use a framed wall mirror and get the result I was looking for. I found an inexpensive 16" x 16" black framed mirror at Target. I thought that I wanted it to have a little more bling to it, so I bought a couple bags of crystal rocks of different sizes, determined to Martha Stewart this myself.

I thought the end result was great. But when I organized all my stuff on it, it just looked too busy. So then I removed every single stone. If you ever need to know how to get hot glue off any surface, I'm your girl.

But now, I think it looks perfect with just the frame as I had bought it. Here's the finished product!

The pictures make it look a little cluttered, but it's perfect in person!
Of course, this was also a bargain DIY. The ring holder was the most expensive piece, at $16, but the jar, dish, candlestick and framed mirror each cost less than $6 each!

But the best part about this little station? You feel like a princess putting on your jewelry in the morning, picking out baubles from jars like they're candy. So fun!

Happy Friday!


Mar 13, 2014

Five Things Every Woman in Her 30s Should Know

Birthday brunch selfie from this weekend. My friends are so much more awesome than anyone at the Oscars.
But I'm Ellen, obvi!!

Today is my 35th birthday. The last couple of birthdays threw me a little, but this one hasn't done that. I certainly feel more sure of myself the older I get, but it really seems to have sunk in between 34 and 35. I've come to really understand how life gets better with age. And it had me doing some thinking, about some of the most important things you can learn about yourself as a woman, aside from the holy trinity: love yourself, ignore the haters, do you.

Five Things Every Woman in Her 30s Should Know:

1. Her skincare routine. I was never one to go to bed with my makeup on -- even three sheets to the wind, I manage to remove it -- but if you are, that's definitely something to leave behind in your 20s. Make sure you're using SPF every morning and at least cleansing and moisturizing every night. A good anti-aging cream or two wouldn't hurt either.

2. How to be a good friend. To your lover, to your family, to your friends, especially when you're in a relationship. Women who can't do this are just ordinary and usually not totally secure with themselves.

3. How to say no to a man who's no good for you. It doesn't matter if you're single or attached, you should be able to see him coming from a mile away by this point in your life. And you already know how those stories end. You truly are old enough to know better now.

4. How to accept a compliment graciously. I heard a joke once that went like this: "the fastest way to find out a woman's insecurities is to compliment her in front of her friends." Don't be one of those girls. Be confident and accept a compliment like a lady, with a simple "thank you" and a modest shift of the subject.

5. How to let things go. You have to choose your battles and you can't let every hurt or slight haunt your sleep. Forgive your friends, forgive your enemies, stop questioning yourself when things don't go your way. I think life feels longer and more fulfilling if we learn to just let go and live. This is the hardest one for me, by far, but I can at least see how the last year has changed me.

Eat a little cake for me today and be sure to wash your face before bed. ;)