The Thrill of the Hunt:
In the last few months we covered how and why to shop thrift, vintage, resale shops and discount stores. This month, we're stepping up to boutiques.
One could argue that big department stores and multi-store retailers such as J Crew and Banana Republic carry so much inventory that their end-of-the-season sales make this the go-to shopping default.
I, however, disagree, and would prefer to go boutique shopping any day of the week. With boutiques, you're enjoying locally owned shops that in most cases are specializing in certain genres or styles that are currently in fashion and not found everywhere else. And to top it off, the customer service is amazing.
Over time, frequenting the same boutiques, you build a rapport that you wouldn't find elsewhere. They'll come to know you and the brands you favor, and what might fit best. It's not uncommon to get a phone call or email when something they think you'll love comes in the store. And when it does, you can rest assured that you won't see the same item worn by 15 of your closest friends, as might be the case with something from the Gap.
We've even had one shop owner send us home with a pair of boots to try on and make sure they fit right with the understanding that we'd come back to pay or return the next day. Where else does that happen?
And keep in mind that most of these shops are locally owned. Shopping boutiques is a great way to support your friends and neighbors while keeping money in our community.
If you haven't tried some of our boutiques, I encourage you to do so. You'll find some unique pieces and get to know your neighbors in the process. And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
For women: Anthony's (501 Main Street) and California Drawstrings (216 Main Street, which has a small men's section). Bay-Tique (125 Main Street), Splash (833 Highway 90) and Bella Mar (998 Hwy 90) stand out locally.
The Thrill of the Hunt, Part Two
The Basics of Consignment and Discount Shopping
- story by Greg Matusoff
Last month we covered thrift stores and seven tips to scoring big and many of those principles can be applied to the thrill of the hunt, part two - discount shopping.
As I see it, discount shopping can be broken down into two categories: used and new. By used, I'm referring to the second-hand/vintage clothing and consignment shops. And for new, we'll look at discount stores which are bigger, often chain stores that carry a variety of new clothing and home goods.
Shopping vintage and consignment shops is much more specialized than a standard thrift store. The items you'll find in this type of store are of higher quality and have been screened by the store purchaser prior to being stocked on the shelves.
Shopping vintage and consignment is a great way to find high-end labels at lower-end prices, with the latter often carrying last season and end of season clothing. The items might still have new tags, and you're more likely to find well-cared-for items that aren't ripped, worn-out, or t-shirts from a family reunion.
Again, this is not a gold mine every time you go. As with thrifting, it is hit or miss, but more often than not, I seem to find a big hit. The more often you go, the more you'll find, but don't expect too many once-in-a-lifetime finds. The staff working here is well versed in apparel and knows quality pieces and what's trending now and will price accordingly. That said, Prada sunglasses for $100 is a lot more palatable than $350+.
Locally we have a few great shops, including Identity Vintage in Bay St. Louis, for vintage pieces, Buffalo Exchange and Plato's Closet in New Orleans, Hertha's in Fairhope, and if you want to take a drive to my all-time favorite - Century 21 in Manhattan. And when you're there, don't forget the tailor and cobbler to make pieces fit great.
Vintage and Consignment Stores
But these, too, are hit and miss. If you ask, you might find someone who will advise of what day new stock arrives. It's typically one day a week with items going on the floor the next day. With this information in hand, it's always good to be the first to go through new inventory because sometimes there's only a few pieces/sizes of a particular item.
While you're asking questions, be sure and ask for common sale days or extra discount days. With Burkes, for example, they have both a senior's day (Monday Club) and a junior's day (Friday Club with junior being under 50). Just by getting a free Burkes card (discount, not credit) and showing up on your club day, you can get 15% off your entire purchase. It pays to ask!
The Burke's Outlet in Bay St. Louis just recently expanded from 10,000 to 21,000 square feet, so that's a big plus for local bargain hunters.
Keep in mind the items you find in discount stores typically fall into one of three categories: irregular, last season/overstock, or discount designer.
- The term really has a broad meaning, and don't let "defective" turn you off. You just need to be mindful that items might have a slight or not so slight variance. This could be that a stitch was off and it didn't pass inspection or one pant leg might be longer than the other. So, try everything on, and keep the tailor in the back of your mind.
- These items were manufactured with anticipated sales in mind, but didn’t sell as expected in higher end shops and department stores. These are great finds because they're sometimes the same piece that's being sold elsewhere at a fraction of the price. Alternatively, you might see a 'last season' sticker. This is even better because you know that there are no defects, and especially when it comes to workout clothes, you can score some big savings.
- Lastly, there are designers that are teaming up with more mainstream stores. Mossimo at Target is a prime example of a big designer label that is producing trendy clothes for high-end boutiques but also has a more mass-produced (and more cheaply made) line at Target, but, it's stylish and affordable. For a short time years ago, Benetton, one of my favorite brands, had a line at Sears, but unfortunately, that's over.
Whether it's new or used, old or fresh off the runway, have fun with discount shopping. You can find some great items, expand your wardrobe, and in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
The Thrill of the Hunt - Part 1
- story by Greg Matusoff
The old phrase, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" couldn't be more apt and over the last few years, I have made a game of budget shopping.
Once the basics are covered, many of us only have a finite amount of disposable income. And it seems that as time goes on, I get more interests, hobbies, and projects all vying for that piece of the pie, so we have to be smart about how we spend our budget for clothing.
When I was younger and rent was cheap, my bills were trivial. I was bartending and had a lot of expendable money, and didn't understand the value of a dollar. I saw a pair of boots that I really liked for $1,200, I didn't give it a second thought. I liked them, had the money, so I bought them.
I still love to shop for clothes, and I always have, but now I do it a bit differently - I live for the hunt of sales and bargains. I love the idea of getting more for less, and ultimately spending less leaves more for other interests.
Please don't misunderstand me, clothes shopping is not my first priority. But I have always been a bit of a clothes horse and a label snob. I am a sucker when it comes to certain labels and I always will be. But while living in New York, thrifting opened my eyes to a whole new way of shopping.
Unfortunately resale shops sometimes get a bad rap. Some people are uncomfortable with purchasing used clothes or even walking in the door - other than to donate. But trust me, you'll see all kinds of folks at the thrift store and will likely bump into a few of your friends there, too.
After some great scores (think $17 Gucci hi-tops, a vintage Oleg Cassini pin stripe suit for $25, and Ralph Lauren Purple Label wool trench coat for $34), I've found some tried and true methods for setting yourself up for a great day thrifting.
If you're ready to take the plunge, follow these seven steps to become a thrifting aficionado.
So don't just think of thrift stores when it comes to Halloween. You might be surprised to find them a new staple in your fashion toolbox. By following these simple steps you can increase your wardrobe for a fraction of the cost get some incredible finds in the process.
And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
A New Closet For a New Year
Since this column's inception, one theme that I hope carries throughout is that you should always feel good about your personal self-expression. No matter what your style or preference, it is uniquely your own expression and it should make you feel good about you, and I can't think of a better way to do that than by cleaning out your closet and drawers.
While having a tidy and organized closet is great, the real reason behind it is to keep only what you love, what you wear, and most importantly, what fits. And by this I mean what actually fits you now, not what you hope to have fit by the summer swimsuit season.
Now I'm not saying to abandon the gym or use this as a sign to mark off "get in shape" as part of your New Year's resolution, but what I am encouraging you to do is embrace who you are right now.
An added bonus is that you will rediscover everything that you have. I guarantee you that you'll find articles that you forgot you had and still have their tags on them. It's my hope that through reading this the past few months, you might be inspired to try something you haven't before. And there's no better place to start than with what you already have!
So let's get to the closet!
Let's start with our favorites — you see them instantly — the jeans that fit just right or the go-to blouse for meeting a client. We both know you're keeping them, so put them on the hanger and back into the closet.
Once you have your favorites rehung, then pick up one piece at a time and try it on. Look good? Like the way it fits? Have you worn it in the last six months? If yes to all three questions, it's a keeper. If no, then you have a decision to make. Keep it and put it somewhere outside of the closet or place it in the donation or resale pile.
Why keep some items that don't pass the test? These might be those "motivators" and perhaps you will keep your promise to yourself and lose those last ten pounds. If so, great! The skinny jeans are in the attic. If not, no problem, you are perfect as-is; those jeans can stay out of sight until you're ready to part ways.
If you are able to get only the wearable items back into the closet, it'll feel so much better as it's clean, organized, there's some extra room, and only items that fit are in there. How to keep it this way?
1. Have a donation bag that's tucked in the corner of your closet. When I try something on and it doesn't look right, it goes back on the hanger. The third time this happens, it then goes into the bag. And once the bag is full, it goes out for resale/donation.
2. Keep an item in/item out rule. Every time you go shopping and come home with a new shirt, an old one gets the boot. This is great for the impulsive shopper!
Giving yourself a new closet with items that you love is really a gift to yourself. And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
Layering Isn't Just For Cakes
Winter. Just the word conjures up images of falling snow, icicles, hot chocolate, cutting down a tree to be trimmed, Christmas get-togethers, and layering.
Layering, you ask?
How is this part of the holiday season? Because I lived for many years up north, in both Ohio and New York. And for me, layering is as much of a part of the holidays as Santa Claus coming down the chimney.
Now that the South is my home, and has been for over 20 years, I still long for the cold, crisp days. There is something amazing about putting an outfit together that will suit you throughout the day, starting with scraping ice off the windshield before heading into work and then stopping off for a Christmas party that night. It's the heavy boots, shirts, sweaters, overcoats, and hats, gloves, and scarves that make it feel like Christmas is right around the corner.
My personal favorite is one that was made by Bay St. Louis's own Kerr Grabowski. Each of Kerr's pieces tells a story, and if you have the good fortune to talk with her about a piece, she'll tell you the details behind it. “This is my granddaughter's image of a hug, this is the spider that was in my yard all summer, and this is a house with a ladybug coming up the walkway.”
Since we're not blessed with freezing temps (or as many feel down here, it is a blessing) you have to be a little more selective with your materials and more creative with your layering. First off, all the clothes have to be breathable material, meaning heat is not trapped in. But you can still rock two or three layers even on our warm winter days.
Think thin, light, and loose — a sheer camisole with hints of lace under a blouse where the collar and cuffs are showing under the sweater that ties it all together. For men, you can do something nearly the same, except I'd say cool tee under a button-down oxford with a v-neck sweater where you can see both the tee and the shirt at the neckline and the cuffs and shirttails are pulled out past the sweater.
As we're now in the midst of the holiday season, take the time to enjoy the shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, and getting Christmas cards in the mail, because what's really important is being with those we care about.
So layer up, bust out your scarf, and as always, rock the ugly Christmas sweater; if you're unsure, Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation” has the answer. And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
A Fashion Makeover With Your Own Wardrobe
- story and photos by Greg Matusoff
Digging through another's closet, seeing their home, poring over their books and how they live is a great way to get to know someone. This past month, I spent a day with Ellis Anderson and got to know her better through her belongings and surroundings.
Up until the other day, my limited exposure to Ellis didn't paint the entire picture of who she is. From a clothing standpoint, and in her own words, she dressed utilitarian. She didn't give her outfits much thought and would often grab whatever was in front of her.
We had talked a few times and Ellis was initially really excited about the idea of a clothing makeover using items she already owned. After reading last month's column, she coined the phrase, "Bohemian Business" as her personal style expression.
As our appointment grew near, I rescheduled once - and tried to again. Greg wouldn’t let me weasel out the second time. True, I was anxious he might compare my small-town, casual-based wardrobe against the closets of the rich and famous.
But more than that, it’s genuinely difficult for me to find time for non-necessities in my schedule now: I’m both working and going to school full-time. Every hour counts. To take the better part of a day off in the interest of fashion seemed frivolous.
Then I read Greg’s last column again. I realized his strategies might actually save me time in the long run. For instance, when I’m stressed and in a hurry, sometimes I’ll waste time trying on and then discarding different outfits. Greg’s idea of keeping a photographic record of favorite ensembles on my cell phone seemed like genius. Scroll and Go.
I was also intrigued with his concept of naming your personal style. American Classic, Coast Casual, or Big-City Business. Of course, everybody can have several styles in the can for different occasions. But I felt what I needed the most help with are outfits that I could wear as a businessperson, yet that reflected the fact that I work in creative fields. So I coined the term Business Boho.
In life we all have fears and everyone's are different. One of my favorite things is to help be a part of the process for someone overcoming their fears, no matter how big or how small. Often it's facing insecurities with self-expression of how someone dresses, or it can be jumping out of a plane or running into a burning building; I love to see the transformation.
Personal expression can be a tricky thing and branching out to try something new is a feat in its own right but Ellis was up for the challenge. When she opened her closet, I was amazed at how many unique pieces she owned that I've never seen her wear.
During my forty-year career working as a creative, I mostly hoped that people would pay more attention to my endeavors than to my outfits. That wasn’t always a successful strategy. I often overdressed or under-dressed for occasions and ended up feeling awkward. Although I have a closet full of very interesting pieces I’ve purchased through the years (with some of my favorites purchased from shops right here in Bay St. Louis - California Drawstrings (216 Main Street), bijoubel (126 Main Street), bellamar Boutique (new location, 998 Hwy 90) and Bay-tique (125 Main Street) - I rarely wear some items because I haven’t spent time thinking about how they might work together.
As she walked out with her first outfit, it was evident she was uncomfortable, to say the least. She was polite about it, but her expression told me what a mistake she thought this was. We added some jewelry, changed her shoes, and I thought she looked fantastic. The outfit complimented her in every way, but she was clearly out of sorts.
This continued through outfit two, three, four, and five. Each time she had her reservations and she was not shy about letting me know. We persevered and would photograph each completed look and it was in these moments that the magic really started to happen. Ellis actually started to have fun! She would pose for the picture with a genuine smile and her reservations started to slip away.
The time was flying by and we were both ready for a break.
A blue print dress and red shoes? Velvet with linen?!! Whoa! In some of the photos we took, I look as if I’m suffering.
While I don’t think the blue print dress and the red shoes combo will be trotted out (except perhaps on the Fourth of July), by the time Greg left, I was already seeing the sense of it all. When I have time now, I experiment now with new combinations. When I’m in a hurry, I have my photo album of outfits to fall back on. Choosing what to wear actually feels fun now, instead of challenging.
Greg’s parting suggestions:
- Instantly double my wardrobe options by purchasing several solid colored, simple tops. Done and doubled!
- A simple pair of low brown boots would give me many more outfit options. I found a pair I've been eyeing for a while on sale!
- Consider glasses as a fashion accessory: I recently discovered a place where one can buy frames with single vision lenses for around $50. I ordered a pair with black frames for the winter.
Thanks, Greg! The afternoon was a real game-changer.
And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
Name That Style
Just as aesthetics applies to art or design, it applies to fashion. In its original Greek, aesthetics refers to any sort of sensory perception, to “making oneself sensitive” to the world.
It’s in this true spirit of the word that we can apply aesthetics to fashion. It’s really about taking your own personal expression and using it to define your style.
When I work with clients in interior design, I collaborate with them to come up with a theme that describes the overall feeling for a space, i.e. industrial farmhouse or French Provincial.
Ideally, you'll come up with your own theme; one of my favorites is “disheveled preppy.” The name might conjure images like bed-head, mismatched argyle socks, and a crisp pink polo button-down. But again, my style is not yours.
So what is yours? Come up with a couple ideas, two or three themes that you identify with and then head to your closet. Pull out items that you think fall under that definition. You'll be surprised at how many outfits you can come up with.
And you'll also be surprised at how multi-purpose/multi-theme many items are. Simply by changing your belt, shoes, and a few accessories, you will almost double your choices.
As you start to create outfits, it's always a good idea to record what you've come up with. One of the fastest and easiest ways to do this is to stand in front of the mirror and photograph it. (These are not Instagram, Facebook, or narcissistically indulgent selfies!) Create a digital library of your outfits. Make a folder on your phone (mine is appropriately called "clothes") and keep track of your outfits there.
As your clothes folder grows, so will your confidence. When you are pressed for time or simply "don't have a thing to wear," pull up your photos and you'll have instant inspiration or you can just recreate something that you've worn before.
In the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
If you'd like to be considered for a free fashion makeover in a future issue or if you have fashion/style questions for Greg, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Window Shopping: An Intro
Be it art, design, or fashion, did you ever wonder why self-expression seems to be so effortless for some while it's a constant struggle for others?
As kids, we soak up things like sponges. Things our families and our friends are into, we inevitably learn about and they may become our interests, too.
If you grew up in a sports-minded family, you most likely played sports, or at a minimum have a good understanding of competitive sports. Our friends, families, television, and the Internet help define us as we're growing up, if not by anything other than exposure.
We all have our go-to clothes. Whether it's an old college sweatshirt, a favorite pair of jeans, or a little black dress, our fallbacks are reminiscent of security blankets: we can always count on them. They represent function over form.
And with time and age, it becomes increasingly difficult to branch out from our comfort zones. Sometimes it may seem that if we haven't learned something by now, then what's the point? We let our insecurities inhibit our ability to learn.
When I work with clients and friends on their personal fashion expression, the first things we figure out are what they're drawn to, what excites them. It could be a particular type of art, an era (i.e. the Roaring ’20s), or an event. Then we explore their favorite colors and styles. Once this is determined, we have a good sense of direction in creating a personal style.
There are many things that have to be considered — body type, skin tone, comfort level, and occasion are a few. I find it's sometimes easier to look at it like costuming: What stage are you going to be on today, and what statement are you trying to make?
I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind is that playing with fashion is fun. It should certainly not be work.
Every month in this column, I will focus on different aspects of fashion, demystifying it and making it more approachable. The end goal? To remind you that we should all feel good about our own means of personal expression, and live inspired lives!
Across The Bridge
At Home In The Bay
Beach To Bayou
BSL Council Updates
Casting My Net
Coast Lines Column
Friends Of The Animal Shelter
Growing Up Downtown
House And Garden
Legends And Legacies
Mother Of Pearl
Murphy's Musical Notes
Old Town Merchants
On The Shoofly
Shore Thing Fishing Report
Talk Of The Town
The Eyes Have It