The Fitting Room Chronicles: Feeling Red Hot (and Blue)

The Pope has been in town for the last several days and all I can think about is Milan Fashion Week. And the It-color to make all the fellas say Ciao, Bella! goes to an oldie, but goodie: juicy, cherry red.

Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film "Funny Face." Based in Paris, yes, but the sentiment is still the same.
Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film “Funny Face.” Based in Paris, yes, but the sentiment is still the same.

For Fall 2015, Gucci presented this rich, lipstick-hued gown, but at $4,900 it’s quite the splurge. So, I decided to go thrifting and see what I would discover during my adventures.

I did find this delicious cherry print dress, but sadly, my Dominican curves were not having it.

Ugh!
Ugh!

However, I did find this swinging, saucy little number that made me feel compelled to prance through a vineyard in Tuscany.

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I would like to think that Sophia Loren would approve. At 14 bucks, it was coming home with me.

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren

Then I found this grand Diane Von Furstenberg dress in a deep sky blue with black roses, all complementing my moody merlot lips. It was an unexpected, but welcoming surprise.

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I have to admit that it felt like giving birth to myself just squeezing into the piece, but once I wore it, the dress felt like a dream. I could even cross my arms and everything! The beau gave me this gown as a gift. And for $40, he too was graced with a deal.

What I wore to go thrifting.
What I wore to go thrifting.

I may not be in Italy this time around, but I’m set on delivering some drama to my autumnal wardrobe. How will you be celebrating the fall season in style?

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Wiggle Here, Wiggle There

On Facebook, a friend of mine posted this definition of the wiggle dress:

1950s actress Jayne Mansfield
1950s actress Jayne Mansfield

A dress whose hem is narrower than the hips, causing the wearer to walk in short strides with legs close together, producing a sway or ‘wiggle’ of the hips. A fitted dress which enhances an hourglass figure. Every gal should own a wiggle dress or two or ten.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

Wiggle dresses were extremely popular in the 1950s, when blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield wore dangerously alluring, tight-fitting garments dresses that felt like second skin and flaunted every single curve on their breathtaking bodies.

Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield

Marilyn Monroe was even known to have dresses sewn directly on her figure. One example that comes to mind is her infamous “Happy Birthday” dress, which she wore in President John F. Kennedy’s birthday bash in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Marilyn Monroe in her
Marilyn Monroe in her “Happy Birthday” dress.

I did not find a similar piece and I won’t be impressing government officials anytime soon, but I did find this lovely nude number.

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I believe it’s from the ’50s, and in true classic wiggle fashion, it fits like second skin. Sitting? Ha, that’s just for amateurs. But the best part? It was a mere 18 bucks. Gotta love those thrifting deals.

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Ladies, you need a wiggle dress, whether it’s for date night or a “just because” evening affair involving jazz or cocktails. Most vintage-inspired clothing lines offer them (Stop Staring! and Pinup Girl Clothing quickly come to mind). Or, you can hunt for one while thrifting.

Regrets? I have none.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Take it Off

Have you ever found a perfect vintage piece while thrifting, but you weren’t in love with the sleeves? Perhaps they were too tight, too puffy, or just so not right?

Here’s an idea: take it off.

You read that right, sweet cheeks!
You read that right, sweet cheeks!

Look, I get the fact that not too many people are super confident about their arms (I know I’m not). We all can’t be First Lady Michelle Obama.

Really, Michelle?
Really, Michelle?

But seriously, who cares? Your so-called flaws deserve to shine and the right outfit can make you both look and feel like a star. For some of my dresses, I have the sleeves remove to give the piece a completely different look, all while being able to still wear it with ease. And for those sudden chilly days or nights, I simply pair it with a cardigan or shawl.

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I recently found this bright purple kimono dress from the 1970s-80s featuring a fan print. While the dress itself was a comfortable fit, the sleeves were attacking my bulging biceps. What to do? I took the dress anyway and I had my tailor removed the sleeves. The result? You’ll have to wait and find out!

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Don’t be afraid to give a vintage piece some new life. Whether it’s removing sleeves, trimming it in half, or doing something completely different to enhance your personal style, I say do it. It’s a great way to have a custom-made piece that’s meant for you and you alone. Not only will you give your thrifted piece a new chance to be shown, but it will present a new angle that’s never been seen before – until you decided to make it happen.

So, have you ever altered your vintage piece to make it your very own? I want to hear all about it.

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And for some ideas, read up on how I took a Hawaiian dress and made it look super brand new by taking off the sleeves.

But wait! Here’s a sneak preview:

Photo by Alexcia Foster
Photo by Alexcia Foster

The Fitting Room Chronicles: In Search of the Missing Rabbit Dress

I’m a big thrifter, but who doesn’t love a visit to H&M for some stylish bargains?

While on a recent visit, I found a dress that was unique to me because it wasn’t a style that I would normally go for.

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It was a dark flouncy, flare dress with a rabbit print that was being sold for $29.95. I loved it. This was the perfect way to welcome the fall season and it would complement a seriously moody berry lipstick.

Sadly, I didn’t take the dress with me because the sleeves were rather snug on me. That’s what I get for lifting weights. And of course with my luck, the store didn’t have a bigger size.

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Sure, my wallet was content staying fat, but there was something about that piece. How perfect it would have been to wear it for a crisp autumn day and give my usual corselet belts a break? My tummy definitely wouldn’t have minded that.

I tried researching this dress online and, to my surprise, I couldn’t find anything. I even called H&M and no such luck. I felt like I was about to jump down a rabbit hole just to find, well, a bunny dress.

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Has anyone seen this dress or has more info? If so, I would love to hear about it.

I’ll get that rabbit if it’s the last thing I do!

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Vera Ramone King

Once upon a time, I interviewed a lovely lady name Vera Ramone King.

Courtesy of Vera Ramone King
Courtesy of Vera Ramone King

She was the former wife of the late Dee Dee Ramone, also known as “the cute one” from a punk rock group called The Ramones. You might have heard of them.

The Ramones. Photo courtesy the Lippin Group.
The Ramones. Photo courtesy the Lippin Group.

I’ve been a huge fan of The Ramones and all things old school punk/post punk since I was a kid, so speaking with Vera and learning about Dee Dee was a personal treat of mine.

She shared with me this throwback photo wearing a very dangerous ensemble. I’ve even shared this image with Lady Starlight, a fixture in the nightlife scene and beloved collaborator of Lady Gaga’s, who adored this look as well.

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And sure enough, I found a piece that made me feel like a rock star’s wife.

Beat on the brat with the baseball bat? Please - I'm packing spikes!
Beat on the brat with the baseball bat? Please – I’m packing spikes!

Truthfully, this is not a piece I would ever wear and sadly, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been to a punk rock show, but somehow I needed it.

I wanna be sedated.
I wanna be sedated.

I wish I knew the story behind this piece. Was the former owner a friend of Nancy Spungen? Did she woo Joey Ramone? Did she party with Debbie Harry after making out with Iggy Pop?

While the ensemble is pretty big on me, it’s nothing that a (bewildered) tailor can’t fix. Fortunately, mine is all too familiar with random ensembles I find while thrifting.

Close-Up
Close-Up

I tried looking for similar pieces to recommend you all, but I honestly couldn’t find anything like it! Although if you search for “spiked bra” on Etsy.com, you’re in for a treat.

You can also go more traditional with a classic bullet bra a la Marilyn Monroe - you'll still poke someone's eye out.
You can also go more traditional with a classic bullet bra a la Marilyn Monroe – you’ll still poke someone’s eye out.

I haven’t worn this out quite yet, but Halloween will be here soon. Perhaps I can convince a certain Jordan Race to be my Joey Ramone (he is only one inch shorter than Joey’s towering 6’6″ frame).

Ready to frighten...in socks.
Ready to frighten…in socks.

I wondered where Vera found hers…perhaps I’m due for another chat with her.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: When Your Favorite Thrift Store Has a Sale

When your favorite thrift store has a sale, you know it’s time to celebrate. I can't even.

I can’t even.

These sales don’t happen too many times during the year. After all, you’re already getting a decent deal on pieces that previously cost double, sometimes triple, the price. So when they do offer a sale, you better seize the day.

Do you know when your favorite thrift store is going to have a sale? Black Friday may sound obvious, but this isn’t always the case. Here are two important tips:

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Ask (No Really, Ask)

This may sound like a major “duh,” but try to make friends with the salespeople. They know the ins and outs of the store. They can tell you when sales are expected to occur during the year, as well as when items will be discounted to make room for new merchandise. Also, these folks can tell you when new inventory is in stock so you can take advantage of their treasure before anyone else.

Make Note of the Changing Season

As the sun-soaked days of August are slowly (and sadly) coming to an end, salespeople/owners of thrift stores need to think about the changing season. In this case, it’s the cooler month of September. To make room for new fall-friendly merchandise, they need to get rid of all the summery staples they have in stock. My store had a three-day sale to make this possible, with prices going up to 50% off. And even though you may be thinking about autumn pieces too, I still like to get sweet gear on sale that I can use with seasonal layers, like scarves or cardigans. Go back to the first rule and find out when your store will be having any sales to coincide with the changing season.

I had to pull a Destiny’s Child and think about bills, bills, bills before going crazy here, but here’s what came home with me:

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A Free People dress for $14 that requires zero tailoring for a perfect fit? Don’t mind if I do.

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A brand new H&M dress (with tags still on and all) for $13 that also needs little to no tailoring? Sign me up.

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A floor-length gown that could be from any time between the late 1950s-early 1970s for $11? Yes, please. I am also aware that some tailoring will be involved, but I can’t help being 5’2″!

Three dress cost me less than $40. Not too shabby.

Speaking of the fall, it’s nearly here…you might want to begin checking out those end-of-season sales starting…now.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Regrets…I’ve Had a Few

Ever had a moment inside the fitting room where you were trying something on that looks absolutely magical on the hanger, and you think it’s going to work out, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t? Perhaps you look more like a sack of potatoes with one crop too many, a zipper is being rowdy, or a thread is loose…Something seems off. So you leave it behind, thinking, “Oh well, maybe next time.” Your wallet may be feeling nice and hefty, but come sunset, your mind is overflowing with thoughts of that garment. Desire overpowers your senses.

You. Must. Buy. It. Anyway.

Except, when you go back the next day, it’s gone. Poof.

Gone.
Gone.

Here is one thing you must remember:

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Yes, I’ve had many thrifting regrets. There was that Kate Spade navy number made fit for a 1950s socialite. The floor-length gown with plenty of gold beading. The super delicate 1920s flapper dress with fading lace. The silky pink Oscar De La Renta pajamas.

You get the picture.

These things could have been mine. But for whatever reason, I didn’t think we were a match. But we were! And they ran off to another shopper, someone who believed in them. Someone ready to love without commitment issues.

Silly me.

Here’s a prime example:

You're in danger, girl.
You’re in danger, girl.

I found this floral dress by an unknown designer. When I tried it I thought, “Geez, I have that many rolls?” “How big is this thing?” “I’m feeling meh.” “Do I really need another black dress, former goth girl?” “Stephanie wearing florals, predictable much?” “Come on, Steph. That 20 bucks can go to something else. Like another amazing dress.”

Fool.

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The next day, I thought, “But wait! It’s perfect! It’s large enough to hide bloat during you know when!” “It’s florals, I love florals!” “Black everyday!”

When I went back, gone. We never had closure.

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Moral of the story? If you’re unsure whether a vintage piece really looks good on you or not, take plenty of photos from all sides. Really look at your images in the fitting room, while you still have the piece in your sweaty, unsure hands. Is there a part of you that still wants it? If so take it – remember, it’s one of a kind, so you may never see it again. If you feel nothing, well, let some other dame enjoy it.

But seriously, think about it and think hard before letting go. And if you do feel that sense of urgency to get the piece later on, go immediately to the store, no more than 24 hours since the last visit. You’ll have a better chance of retrieving it. However, be aware that someone else may have beaten you to it. This is a thrifting hunt we’re talking about.

I will get over it, eventually. But first, let me deal with my sorrow with some retail therapy.