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: 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.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Feeling Lauren Bacall Vibes

My friends know me best for rocking  florals, but one print I’ve always loved? Polka dots, of course.

There’s something about this classic design that purrs old Hollywood. Think of any leading lady from the past and I guarantee you she rocked polka dots. However, no one made adorable circles look so fierce quite like Lauren Bacall.

ba107c542e97a3326b7b24205dbc49db e96c9eb80cdd05ef957e78e8e298c505 1372894886101008687yZP0nuNcYes reader, I’m aware this screen siren owned The Look and no one else can go near that, but I was feeling some serious Lauren Bacall vibes on a recent thrifting trip.

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I found this label-less sheer navy dress with white polka dots and I was in love. I just felt like me…The pearls I wore to my shopping outing definitely enhance the overall appearance of the dress, but I was loving its casual, yet put-together retro style that works for brunch, a casual night out…or just because.

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The shoulder pads needed to be popped. For the record I always take off shoulder pads from any piece. I’m just not into the linebacker look. Yet, this dress was coming home with mama.

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But lately, I was feeling inspired by this fellow New Yorker. Earlier this year, FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) featured an exhibition titled “Lauren Bacall: The Look,” which was dedicated to her legacy in the fashion world, as well as her relationships with the many designers lucky enough to dress her.

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It was a real treat to stand just inches away from garments that once hugged the star.

Check out that pink French creation, a gift from 1968.
Check out that pink French creation, a gift from 1968.

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I may not be BFFs with Yves Saint Laurent, but I’m all about channeling My Look, with the help of Ms. Bacall.

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The Fitting Room Chronicles: Unable to Earn Erin Fetherston’s Tiger Stripes

I first discovered Erin Fetherston when I was an intern at the New York Observer, in between fact-checking Simon Doonan’s stories and organizing Candace Bushnell’s previous “Sex and the City” column. Erin wasn’t quite the legend she is now.

READ: How I Became Carrie Bradshaw (For a Day)

Erin Fetherston giving Edie Sedgwick vibes.
Erin Fetherston giving Edie Sedgwick vibes.

Back then, Erin was the dainty, blonde It-girl of the fashion world, creating daintier dresses, and 1960’s-esque pieces for the mod girl looking to have tea with her folks and then hit up the hottest wine bar on a Saturday night. I even had the chance to interview her regarding a whimsical autumn collection for a London-based fashion magazine (now shuttered down), that I used to freelance for. I adored her pieces, but back then, I was a struggling student who wouldn’t dare consider spending over 100 on a dress. In between going to school full-time, freelancing, holding a part-time job, and interning, there was no way I could have splurge on such a piece.

Erin's Madame Butterfly shirt dress.
Erin’s Madame Butterfly shirt dress.

The above dress could be purchased for $165 on Erin’s site. I adore it.

These days, the grown-up Steph is in luck, because some of Erin’s creations from previous collections could easily be found in thrift stores, like this ensemble:

Wearing an Erin Fetherston creation.
Wearing an Erin Fetherston creation.

I’m not sure from which year this piece came from, but it was in perfect condition, tags and all. This price? A mere 30. I felt like a dame ready to hit up Studio 54 in a low-cut salmon gown with a massive cape, surrounded by daring tiger stripes. I was ready to boogie.

That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it - wait, I don't mind sitting down, honest!
That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it – wait, I don’t mind sitting down, honest!

Except I couldn’t boogie. I couldn’t even sit. Sadly, Erin and I just weren’t meant to be. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave this little number behind for some other broad who could get ready for a night out with Bianca Jagger, riding off into the sunset, well, nightclub, on a white horse.

Bye Bianca.
Bye Bianca.

But the day didn’t end in tragedy. I did get this snazzy, label-less black and white dress for about 15 bucks. Sure, it wasn’t an Erin Fetherston, but reader, I could sit with ease whenever I feel like it. I was content, as so was my wallet.

This is more like it.
This is more like it.

Erin, if you’re reading this, I think you and I should grab a caw-fee, or a cup of that fairy dust that keeps you looking so magical. You and I should talk about the fact that I’ve been oohing and ahhing some of your ensembles lately. Who knows, you might lend me some pixie dust and, on my next thrifting adventure, I could strike gold.

Fin.
Fin.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling My Inner Golden Girl

I may love the hunt that thrifting offers, but occasionally, I like to join every other girl as they find dangerously cute pieces at H&M. There always seems to be a sale at this popular retailer and they constantly offer stylish, yet budget-friendly selections to help me mix and match with my growing vintage collection.

One Friday after work, I decided to look around my local H&M and found this leafy ensemble:

“Insert Caption Here” -No really, I couldn’t come up with a good caption. Um, me in a fitting room? Good enough? Good.

This song originally came to mine while I was observing each angle:

Get it stuck in your head now. You're welcome.
Get it stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.

But really, I was thinking more about a southern tart. And no, I wasn’t hungry for those peach ones covered in pecans by granny. Those are good, too.

I of course, was thinking about famous bed-hopper Blanche Devereaux from my favorite show of all time, “The Golden Girls.” Aside from her never-ending list of lovers, Blanche was famous for her bedroom, specifically its decor.

Credit: BentonArtAndDesign.com
Credit: BentonArtAndDesign.com

According to Texas-based design studio Benton Art & Design, the banana leaf pattern, which transformed Blanche’s bedroom into a “wild sex jungle,” was inspired by interior designer Don Loper who, in 1942, created this pattern to “evoke the easy breezy attitude” of the Fountain Coffee Room for the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is still found today.

So back to this dress. The V-neck ensemble, which was originally priced at $49.95, was available on sale for $25. Not only is the waist elastic to maintain any unwanted pouch that apparently wants to come out and play for the summer, but its soft rayon fabric is absolutely perfect to beat the heat.

Credit: HM.com
Credit: HM.com

If you really want to go all out, may I suggest the Charlotte Olympia “Meredith” wedges? They feature a similar print. Except I believe these came out back in Spring 2012, so good luck finding them. Personally, I prefer simple tan sandals with a pedicure featuring a pop of color. You can never go wrong with classic red.

Credit: Charlotte Olympia
Credit: Charlotte Olympia

Fortunately, you can still snag the same H&M dress I fell in love with for the same sale price.

Credit: HM.com
Credit: HM.com

Get it now before it’s gone by clicking here.

Buh-bye.
Buh-bye.