Thursday, June 30, 2011

swap meet scores: premium denim

Some thrift to look cool. Some thrift to be green. But I grew up on the poor side of town. I thrift to look like I don't need to thrift.

The irony is that actually getting more bang for my buck has effectively turned me into a bit of a brand snob. There have been many a Saturday morning when I've come across a garment and thought, "Ooh, cute! But it's... Mossimo? No thanks." Not because I necessarily look down on items from Target, but because shopping has become a twisted game in which I strive to find ever more expensive items at ever more ridiculous prices. This week? A win for the home team via major denim scores.

Exhibit one: Citizens of Humanity Ingrid bootcut jeans.
Retail Price: $158
Goodwill Outlet Price: $3

I originally bought these ones for a DIY project a la my lovely YLF forum buddies, but the boyfriend doesn't think he can handle me in partially-bleached Dries van Noten knock offs. Oh, well. I trust the bf to be a good source of checks and balances, and he's the one who has to look at all my casual clothes, anyway. It's a good thing I still like the jeans as-is.

Exhibit two: Goldsign Misfit slim leg jeans.
Retail Price: $238
Swap Meet Price: $2
Having your outfit shoots supervised by Hank: priceless

I'd never heard of Goldsign before, but I could tell by the amazing heft, softness, and clever lock-in-place button closure that these jeans would be well worth my two bucks. My resident Siamese stylist agrees.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Outfit Spam!

It's been a LONG couple of weeks here at One Dollar Wonders: transferred to a new department at work, went out of town, worked on wedding invitations... whew! Sorry for the absence but, just to prove that busy and cheap can comfortably coexist, here's a quick rundown of the items that made a recent appearance. Until next time... happy bargain hunting!

Ted Benson peach bag - FREE - gift money
Ann Klein suit - FREE - swap party
Turquoise crossbody bag - FREE - swap party
London Fog crossbody - FREE - gift money
Ann Taylor skirt - $1 - swap meet
Splendid thermal - $1 - swap meet
vintage T - $1 - swap meet
Ezra Fitch shorts - $1 - swap meet
Black tweed jacket - $1 - swap meet
Green Ann Taylor top - $1 - swap meet
Gray skirt - $1 - swap meet
Silk Butterfly blouse - $1 - swap meet
Black button-front - $1 - swap meet
Orange skirt - $1 - swap meet
White Nollie tee - $1 - swap meet
Chain print button-front - $1 - swap meet
Bloomingdale's pencil skirt - $1 - swap meet
Sheer navy tights - $1 - 99 Cents Only
Brown blazer - $1 - swap meet
White button front - $1 - swap meet
Liz Claiborne black belt - $1 - swap meet
Calvin Klein SS top - $1 - swap meet
Ann Taylor black dress pants - $1 - swap meet
Pink Liz Claiborne belt - $1 - swap meet
Banana Republic white pindot blouse - $1 - swap meet
Black/White striped skirt - $1 - swap meet
Zig-zag tights - $2 - swap meet
Black leather belt - $2 - swap meet
Fish necklace - $2 - swap meet
Gray Mossimo slingback sandals - $2.50 - Goodwill
Ben Sherman striped shirt - $2.50 - Salvation Army
Black deco necklace - $3 - swap meet
Orange snakeskin belt - $3 - Goodwill
Straw cowboy hat - $4 - swap meet
Cognac boots - $4 - Goodwill Outlet
Coral scarf - $6 - Ebay
Born Miriam moto boots - $8 (funded) - Ebay
Jessica Simpson Floral Garden handbag - $10 (funded) - Amazon
Dolce Vita Jayce boots - $10 (funded) - Amazon
Checkered Ben Sherman blouse - $10 - Ebay
Cettu handbag - $10 - swap meet
Red Hollister jacket - $10 (funded) - Hollister Website
Tahari gray dress - $12 - Goodwill
United Colors blazer - $12 - Goodwill
Hudson Hendrix engineer striped jeans - $15 (funded) - Ebay
Spy Siouxie sunglasses - $15 -
Carlos Santana pumps - $20 - Ross
Black patent pumps - $20 - Ross
L'Incontro handbag - $22 - swapped and dyed
Red LL Bean sweatshirt jacket - $25 - LL Bean
J. Crew Matchstick cords - $30 - Ebay
Nine West citron dress - $40 - Ross

Monday, June 13, 2011

how to shop: swap meets

The specifics of tackling a swap meet will clearly vary based on what you are in the market for and how much you want to spend. For the purposes of this article, we're going to assume that you're like me and want cute digs at the cheapest price possible.

1. Preparing
  • Weather: Before you head out, check the weather on 2-3 forecast sites, and dress accordingly. Apply and pack sun block, hats, and sunglasses as needed.
  • Clothing: Slim-fitting clothes work best; Since you won't have the luxury of stripping down in a fitting room to try things on, you'll be pulling prospective items on over your clothing.
  • Accessories: Comfy shoes and a bag that leaves your hands free are non-negotiable. You will need to stand and walk for at least an hour, and you will need your hands free to dig though intimidating piles of clothing. I either choose a cross-body bag or a bag that fits securely on my shoulder without slipping.
  • Cash: Hit up the bank or ATM before you get to the swap meet, because you'll likely get hit with huge ATM fees -- or worse, tragic ATM nonexistence. And the swap doesn't take credit.
  • Optional: You may also want to bring a flexible tape measure, hand sanitizer, stain remover pen, and a friend with a camera.
swap meet outfit example

2. Scouting
  • Posted Prices = Good: Your best bet is to stop off at any vendor sporting big "$1" or "50 Cents" signs next to a huge pile of wares. This way, you do not waste time selecting your favorite items only to be told later that they are out of your price range. You can also ask vendors, "How much for things on the table?" before you start to browse. However, I would stay away from anyone who says everything is a "different price"; I hate to say it, but that just opens the door for them to charge you more if they think you look well of... or if they just plain don't like the looks of you (yes, it does happen).
  • Disorganization = Good: The less work the vendor has done to set up the stall, the less they're going to charge you. This applies to the quality of the wares, too. If everything in a stall looks cute and pristine, then the vendor has clearly spent time sorting and curating inventory and will charge higher prices.
  • Swarms of excited shoppers = Good: A lot of your fellow swap meet patrons will be regulars who've already put in years of work picking out their favorite stalls. Let their knowledge work for you -- especially if said shoppers look like they might have similar shopping values. I, for example, might stop by an otherwise innocuous stall if I happen to see a group of smartly-dressed Vietnamese women are interested (I don't know why, but Vietnamese ladies always seem to find really cool things... and toss them my way if they don't fit).
3. Digging
  • See it, grab it, hold it: If you spot something you like that looks to be generally your size, hold on to it while you move on to other parts of the browsing area. If you hem and haw over each item individually, you may miss out on something even better down the line. That's how I missed out on a $1 Helmut Lang dress. True story.
  • Fit check at the end: After you've gone through all the vendor's wares and amassed a nice maybe pile, find a little corner and resume the hemming and hawing we put the kibosh on a second ago. Per your personal preference, you can throw things on over your clothes, hold them up, measure them, and even get a friend to snap a picture to help you figure out what fits and flatters.
  • Quality assurance: Take special care in looking for stains, holes, missing buttons and broken zippers before you buy anything. If a stain looks like it might come out, whip out your stain remover pen and give it a try then and there! Better neurotic than sorry. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Swap meet? What is this "swap meet" you speak of?

Swap meets, as you may have noticed, are the backbone of my entire shopping strategy. I seem to get everything there, from business shirts to leather jackets to boots. But where the heck are these swap meets? And how can you take advantage of these veritable shopping wonderlands, too?

Identifying Your Options
First and foremost, I highly recommend, a comprehensive swap meet database searchable by state and organized by city. This site is wonderful in providing the dates and times when the swap meets are active, and it also provides a brief description of each site's atmosphere and wares. Besides the internet, you can often also find swap-meet like environments at churches and schools. They may call them "rummage sales" or any number of names, but the idea is that a wide variety of sellers congregate in one place for your shopping convenience (this sets them apart from garage sales, which can be equally inexpensive but a waste of time and gas based on their limited selection). These sales are often advertised in school/church/city newsletters, but sometimes you only know about them when you drive past a sign or banner advertisement. The fiance and I have even used this site to find swap meets to visit while on vacation -- cheap souvenirs, ahoy!

Choosing Your Poison
If there's one thing you should take away from this post, it's that not all swap meets are created equal. Definitely take your shopping goals and limitations into account and study the swap meet descriptions for a good fit. For example, if you're looking for cheap clothing, then you should stay far, far away from swap meets which advertise "antiques" or "collectibles" or frequent visits by "celebrities" (Rose Bowl Flea Market, I'm looking at you and your overpriced "vintage" wares). Instead, scan the descriptions for "lots of used" or "2nd hand" merchandise.

Stay tuned for an in-depth look at how to swap for the best deals!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

work and casual outfits backlog: citron, butterflies, and various stripes

I've been so lax about outfit posts lately. Moderation? Consistency? Meh, so boring! Instead, here's a big, fat pile of them all at once.

Looking back, I've been rather trendy this week - who knew I had it in me? For the first casual outfit we have my favorite citron yellow color, which Angie of YLF predicted would be big this season. I've started to notice citron popping up at Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Urban Outfitters, too. Not everyone can wear the color, but I love it. I wore this outfit to a YLF meetup in Pasadena where the sun finally came out to play.

Off brand citron top - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
L'incontro handbag - $10 - Goodwill - Santa Monica
Tan belt - $1 - swap meet - Los Angeles
Lucky Brand shorts (cut jeans) - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
Spy sunglasses - $15 -
Worishofer sandals (not pictured... d'oh) - $5 - Goodwill? - Santa Ana?

Sorry, I can't exactly remember which thrift store yielded me these sandals, but I can tell you that they're super comfy and the most fashion-forward orthopedic shoe, like, ever. In fact, if you were to pick up this red snakeskin version, I would not judge you at all.

Next up is a trend I didn't see coming but that is gaining steam nicely: butterfly print! I fell in love with this little top at Zara, which I was newly introduced to by the lovely YLF ladies on our meetup. Normally, the thought of paying $20 for a tee shirt would send me into anaphylactic shock, but I found the print so simultaneously cheerful and morbidly charming (the way the butterflies are laid out recalls an insect collector's display box, yes?) that I had to take the plunge. Besides, it is a souvenir from a wonderful outing which I will remember fondly whenever I wear my adorable tee. This picture is from an urban hike through downtown.

Top - $20 - Zara - Pasadena
Ezra Fitch shorts - $1 - swap meet - San Fernando
Turquoise bag - $0 - swap party
Cognac belt - $2 - swap meet - Paramount

Moving on to work outfits, we have the trend that has exploded everywhere this season: stripes. These outfits are just remixes of items already in my closet. I think you've seen everything before except the blue top.

Express top - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
Ben Sherman Jacket - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
Ann Taylor Skirt - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
Cream Pearl Necklace - $0 - swap party
Ted Benson Bag - $6 (funded) - Ebay
Carlos Santana Shoes - $20 - Ross - Los Angeles

This outfit features a blouse that 1) doesn't button up all the way and 2) sports a very distinctive tie at the neck that makes successful remixing (read: pretending to have more clothes than I actually do) kind of a chore. I tucked the tie into the vest here to hide the memorable tie, and the vest covers up the fit issues. Done and done.

Vintage striped PB top - $1 - swap meet - Huntington Beach
Off-brand sweater vest - $1 - swap meet - San Fernando
Off-brand skirt - $1 - swap meet - Los Angeles
Liz Claiborne belt - $1 - swap meet - Torrance
Italian handbag - $40 - TJ Maxx - Culver City
Dolce Vita boots - $10 (funded) Amazon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

casual outfit: de-frumping baggy jeans

A friend commented that these jeans look 3 sizes too big, but they are oh so comfortable - especially on these weird, in-between, not-quite-cool-or-hot days we've been having in LA. I didn't want tight jeans sticking to my skin, but I knew I'd be too cold in shorts.

With comfort taken care of, I still wanted to look relatively put together. These Miss Sixties are actually fitted through the hips, so I wore a shorter top hoping to show that it's the pants that are baggy - not me. The sorta-skimpy top and flowered bag kept me from feeling like a dude.

Item Original Price My Price Vendor Type Location
Ben Sherman Top
$75 $1 swap meet Huntington Beach
Miss Sixty Perkins Jeans
$175 $1 swap meet Huntington Beach
Jessica Simpson Floral Garden Satchel $108 10 $(funded) Amazon internet
Spy Optic Siouxie Sunglasses

Here's a bonus goofy pic of my hair about as curly as it gets, right after I take it out of a bun. I had thought of trying for this look for the wedding, but I know it will never hold up. Oh well, at least I have photo documentation that it really does curl. Kind of. ;)