Why. No. The Belt Bag.

Rebranding a fanny pack as a “belt bag” doesn’t make it any less a fanny pack. I love that I’m seeing these crop up all over the place, but to me, they belong on a mom or dad at a theme park. One use and one use alone. And you can bet that I sure as hell won’t drop $1800 bucks for something that will invariably get doused when I go down Splash Mountain.

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GG Marmont Velvet Belt Bag – $1,890

Listen, I don’t mind that these are making a comeback from the 80s and early 90s (though it’s been attempted on and off for the past 6 or 7 years, at least, on runways with limited success). What I mind is not calling a spade a spade, and for something to be so on-trend it’s almost useless for daily life. You can fight me on this, but when I have kids, IF I ever elect to wear a FANNY PACK, you can be sure I’ll be proudly rockin’ the Goofy special in some garish neon color, having paid for the Walt Disney tickets with all the money I saved NOT buying these (despite the inarguable stylishness).

WHY. NO. – The Rhinestone Cowboy Boot

Flipping through magazines, I spotted a western-themed spread… and one of the items featured was this Dolce and Gabbana 30 mm Crystal Western Boot.

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Even though I recently sold my pair of cowboy boots (still on the lookout for an ideal pair, mind you), I legitimately have no idea how you’d wear these outside of a fetish outfit for a stripper. Maybe this is me missing something or just not being “It-Girl” enough… but I just don’t get it. I’ll do a feature at some point on how to wear cowboy boots (they’re unbelievably cute, and when maintained properly, perfectly comfortable), but they won’t be these.

Oh, and if you want to choke on your drink, these blinding, vajazzled monstrosities cost $6,500. You can buy a car or new boobs for that number.

Shopping Therapy: The Psychology of Stuff – Part 2

All opinions are my own, and I’m not at all a psychologist or any sort of expert — in fact, I’m wholly unqualified to express this opinion (but express it, I will). This piece is simply a very unofficial exploration of an idea.

The first part of this opinion piece laid out the issues with compulsive shopping and the psychological motivation and impact of our relationship  to owning things, and my teensy-weensy hypocrisy in telling you to shop less on a blog essentially about shopping.

I love shopping. It’s a joy and it makes me feel good. I like having enviable pieces and seeming well put-together (well, on days that I put on makeup, at least). I’m guilty of being a bit of a self-indulgent fashionista.

But I strongly believe that there is a way to shop without being problematic, psychologically or spatially.

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Let’s avoid hoarding, please.

To avoid the psychological and other trappings of too much stuff, shop with strategy. It’s important to take inventory of what you have, how many items you can match each item with, and really ascertain what you need. Sale shopping is great and all, but if you’re buying things simply because it’s on sale instead of shopping for what you’d always intended on getting, you are spending too much. End stop.

That means items  in your closet will probably lean more toward classic than super trendy. Said items tend to be in more universal, earth-toned, neutral, or dark colors, since brights by nature tend to be a bit more limited in how they can be used in outfits. That means that you have to commit to the care of your pieces and select items with good stitching and durable, quality fibers (and yes, this is a time and energy investment).

I have a few tips I use when shopping:

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Realistically, this logo is owned by the producers and studio affiliated with The Purge Franchise. But it’s so appropriate to #4’s timeline. Consider this appropriate credit.

  1. Have a shopping buddy. When I see something I like, I send my best friend a screenshot, photo, or a link to the product and ask her opinion. Her first question almost always is, “Do you need that?” or “Will you wear that?” (e.g. today she saved me from a moderately awful pair of leather Cole Haan loafers that were on sale for $25 during Amazon Prime Day… but they were silver. Some women can own that shit- on me, silver shoes, if they’re not formal sandals, make me look like a geriatric disco dancer, and frankly wouldn’t fit into the scope of what I feel comfortable styling for myself to wear. I wouldn’t know how to make these look good.
  2. I rarely, if ever, purchase items I intend to keep forever. I have a few legacy items – a couple of specific coats, a few luxury handbags that I know won’t depreciate, some jewelry. But, many of the pieces I select I look at with an eye for resale, which helps me amortize costs over the estimated length of time I think I’ll keep the piece, and also forces me to be much more selective about what I’m willing to spend.
  3. I try to be patient and wait for the pieces I’m eyeballing to go on sale. I know this is super problematic for the longevity of brick and mortar stores, but if Macy’s is going to give me 12% cash back on Ebates and multiple coupon codes, as well as a flash sale on that sweater that’s been on my wish list, you can bet I will refuse to pay full price in store (hey, stores- can you offer those 15-20% discounts for first time shoppers in store, too, instead of just on the online email registry?).
  4. Seasonal purges: get rid of items in your closed every three months.
    • If you haven’t worn it in a year or more, let it go.
    • If you have multiple versions of an item, let all but one go. For example, I recently kept my husband from going buck wild at a Hugo Boss outlet and trying to buy two gray-striped dress shirts. We recently purged his closet at my insistence — because he has the whole master bedroom closet, and how is that fair? — and I discovered he legitimately has 4 different gray-striped dress shirts in excellent condition. On the flip side, he called me out for having way too many beige sweaters about five minutes before I received a delivery of yet another beige sweater. That went back to the store really fast.
    • If you have name-brand items, consider selling clothing via Poshmark and handbags via eBay or through consignment services. Cash is a soothing balm to the hurt of letting your closet babies go. OR…
    • …If you have good-quality in good condition, please consider donating seasonally-appropriate items to the less fortunate. Research the best non-profit in your area for the donations and support a cause that’s important to you. This, too, is a balm for letting your closet babies into the world.
  5. When shopping in person, I try not to enter a store just to “look.” This is what I call my Target dilemma – going in for toothpaste and deodorant and coming out with a full cart of stuff that I suddenly am sure I need as I see it. No, instead I go in with a specific idea of what shopping need I am trying to fulfill when looking for clothes. It’s a mental grocery list.
  6. Beware of fake “sales.” It’s a well-known retail strategy used to promote urgency in the buyer… and frankly, as much as I love HauteLook, this is largely their flash sale strategy (with a few notable exceptions, mostly for beauty products). I haven’t really found much that I can’t find statically on the Nordstrom Rack site (and the NR Clear the Rack events sometimes reduce these further).
  7. Don’t rely on your credit cards, even if you’re getting a pricier item. This is just general life advice – don’t put anything on your card that you can’t pay in full at the end of each month. Save for those items you’ve been eyeballing, instead. And having said item sell out before you get to buy it is actually a blessing in disguise, as it forces you to be more frugal in creative in finding an item of similar quality and worth of use. FOMO is all in your head – missing out on these is more money in your pocket, money you didn’t need to spend.
  8. Learn how to care for various types of fibers and fabrics. Cashmere, silk, leather, suede, rayon, cotton, polyester, etc. all require different, specialized care. You’re aiming for quality, classically inclined pieces that aren’t likely to go out of fashion soon, so it’s important to treat your investment pieces with care and respect for two reasons- 1) so you don’t look grubby, and 2) in case you elect to resell and/or donate items from your closet. Shave the pilling from your sweaters. Figure out how to treat that oil spill on your silk cami from dinner the other night. Get rid of the period leakage from your premium denim. There are tips and tricks to all of these things – they just require a bit of time and commitment.
    • Fringe benefit? This helps psychologically reset your disposable “fast fashion” mentality that if something is no longer good, you have to replace it. You don’t – sometimes a half hour repair project will get another year or more of use out of an item.
  9. Don’t exceed your budget. Seriously – be honest with yourself about what you can afford and don’t exceed it. Once you go down a slippery slope of “well, I will just spend less next month,” it’s seriously unlikely you’ll actually balance your accounts the following month. Most of the time, it just means you make yourself more and more comfortable with passing off the deficit in your budget to the following month, which can cause a balance to grow.
  10. Outlet shop on holidays. Go early in the morning, beat the rush, sign up for VIP coupons, and try to take advantage of specials (but don’t spend money on what you don’t need, even if it doesn’t cost money).
  11. Get comfortable with thrifting. I’ll fully admit that I am squeamish and a little prissy about used clothing and shoes, especially after reading this article about that oh-so-familiar thrift store smell that I’m especially sensitive to. But there are some good/well curated consignment stores in Southern California that don’t have that Goodwill-smell and specialize in higher-end attire. I’ve had some great successes doing this. Once again, don’t buy what you don’t need (with one small exception – if you see an exceptional item that you think can easily be resold for a profit, take the chance. Just be realistic about resale value).

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To my mind, a lot of the psychology about compulsive shopping can be combatted by associating pleasure triggers/relief from letting go of these items, as well. This can be done through rewards (altruistic or monetary), but it also means that those rewards can reshape your perspective on the purchasing side, as well.

Clothing is something you should try to use regularly, for as long as is reasonable, in my opinion… but it’s not something you should remain committed to if the passion’s faded. This isn’t a marriage. If a hotter young thing, a sensible choice comes along to replace your existing piece, REPLACE IT. No piece of clothing likes being stuck in the depths of your closet forever.

Shopping Therapy: The Psychology of Stuff – Part 1

All opinions are my own, and I’m not at all a psychologist or any sort of expert — in fact, I’m wholly unqualified to express this opinion (but express it, I will). This piece is simply a very unofficial exploration of an idea.

“Our relationship with stuff starts early,” says Christian Jarrett in an August 2013 edition of The Psychologist, a publication of The British Psychological Society. “The idea we can own something something… is one that children grasp by the age of two. And by six, they exhibit the ‘endowment effect,’ placing extra value on an object simply by virtue of it being, or having been, theirs.” Moreover, this fosters the beginning of what appears to be cyclical mentality: children place extra value on what is there, but “With ownership comes envy. When youngsters play with friends, they soon discover other people’s toys they’d like to get their hands on.”

Cute Snuggle Teddy Bear Young Joy Girl Kids

Women’s (and Men’s) fashion and lifestyle magazines carefully nurture and cultivate this mindset of envy that has been fostered from youth. You need to get this new Prada bag. You need to find the latest floral trend. Fanny packs are out, but belt bags (a wholly different product altogether) are the next big thing – so get your Gucci one now before the trend is done.

All of these things are geared to make you feel as though you’re not good enough, not stylish enough, not cool enough unless you have the next big thing that your neighbor can, in turn, envy. I’m guilty of this too, of course– I begged my husband for years for a Burberry trench, and asked for a Louis Vuitton Keepall for our first wedding anniversary. I have eagerly devoured subscriptions to Elle and Vogue that I don’t even remember signing up for (nor do I think I pay for- it might be magic). One of my greatest pleasures is pulling out one of the 49 initial pages of ads and sketching new colored frocks and imagining purchasing a $4,500 skirt for no reason whatsoever and wondering why Kendall Jenner is so popular.

But the reality is… this is just stuff. As an affirmed shopping lover, I also am well aware that my love of things is both a sense of expression and a lodestone. The more you collect, the more options you have to mix and match your style, but… the more room you have taken up in your home. If you’re a luxury buyer, you can probably walk into your closet and realize you’re sitting on the mortgage for your house. And slowly, as our closets grow and we outgrow our space because we don’t let go, we begin to verge dangerously on a hoarding mentality.

Jarrett argues that this is correlated to self-esteem: “our things embody our sense of self-hood and identity.” He suggests that “how much we see our things as extensions of ourselves may depend in part in how confident we feel about who we are.”

More than that, for some, acquiring things goes beyond simple self-esteem. We’ve heard of shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder. This is a repetitive behavioral addiction characterized by a circuit of behaviors: a feeling of anxiety or arousal when thinking about shopping, an urge to shop/buy, relief when purchasing, and subsequent guilt. These behaviors mimic a drug addiction, causing the sufferer to spiral into cravings, disregarding the adverse effects of giving in to these urges.

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Per Addiction.com, “someone who is a compulsive shopper becomes psychologically dependent on thoughts of shopping, the process of shopping, and the euphoric (or trance-like) feeling that comes from buying. For some, spending sprees temporarily quell difficult feelings of inadequacy, poor self-esteem, anxiety and/or stress.” As someone who admits to liking shopping too much, I get it. I truly understand how easy it is to try to fill a hole, emotionally or spiritually, with stuff in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses and feel better about oneself.

Please don’t judge me too hard for referencing Goop, but despite Gwyneth’s endorsement of “Jade Eggs for your Yoni” (NSFW) and her love of steaming her vagine, the site also has some really accessible and smart lifestyle tips that make the few sillier (and disproportionately newsworthy) suggestions worthwhile. There are a number of articles on Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method, and one post in particular that implements some of these lessons into minimizing your closet. “Very few of us,” it reads, “have the necessary hard heart to part with items that often have sentimental value– or worse, cost a lot of money, yet still carry their tags with the promise of a ‘some day’ outfit.”

Succinct and concise, I can’t think of a better way to put our emotional attachment to things, and specifically the things in our closet. The prospect of “what if” (What if I need this in the future? What if one day this style comes back? What if I want pass along this battered-to-hell Coach bag with no real value off to my children?) keeps capitalism hale and healthy and brings another generation into disposable fashion habits. Let me tell you a secret: you don’t need this stuff.

I know it seems a bit hypocritical that I’ve started a shopping and style advice blog, and am advising you not to buy too much. I’m hopeful that you’ll see repetition in my suggestions, and that you’ll take my advice on ways to shop for items as frugally as possible. I hope that you see the amortized value of a few quality pieces as more worthwhile than lost of fast fashion.

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Check out this sweet Canadian wartime propaganda poster! Still applies today.

I hope that waiting to finalize a purchase becomes a part of your process. I hope that the waiting period has the same intended effect as Brady Laws, that require gun buyers to wait to purchase a guns in hopes of avoiding more crimes of passion– consider this a time to avoid crimes of fashion. Sorry, was that tasteless? But seriously, think about everything before you compulsively buy.

So, how does one enjoy shopping without developing a dependence on stuff for self esteem or instant gratification? How does one avoid becoming a hoarder? What’s the smart way to shop?

…I’m totally the cliffhanging jerk that tells you that Part 2 of this post will be published this time tomorrow.

 

Poshing 101: Poshmark for Beginners

I’m a Poshmark aficionado. A lot of the more enviable items from my closet have come from Poshmark, and I recommend it to all of my friends. The reality is, though, that Poshing comes with its fair share of risk, despite its ad campaign promising “barely worn Louboutin heels” for $100, which quite frankly is patently misleading – you’re not going to find authentic Loubs in good condition for this price, end stop. Any $100 Loubs will be trashed, or fake.

I don’t run a boutique on Poshmark – I just sell items in my own closet that I no longer wear, to make room for cute new things. I thought I’d share my experience in navigating Poshmark waters (mostly) successfully. Here are the pros and cons of the so-called Posh life.

PROS

Please note that items marked with an asterisk will have a counterpoint in the CONS section below.

  1. You will find a lot of what you’re looking for at a discount, sometimes a very steep discount.
  2. You can search by condition and get new or used items.
  3. It will automatically run searches for your feed based on your sizes and favorite brands.
  4. It’s an easy person-to-person sale.*
  5. Unlike Ebay, the buyer pays for shipping.
  6. Most sellers are prompt with shipping, and if they are not, you have the opportunity to cancel your purchase a week later.
  7. Poshmark offers an authentication service for items sold above $500.*
  8. All communication is open – the site/app does not permit private communication.*
  9. Much of what you find will be authentic.
  10. Many/most sellers will offer bundle discounts for multiple items purchased.
  11. YOU CAN NEGOTIATE- both offers and counteroffers.
  12. For the fashionista, you’ll find much better selection than, say, Ebay.
  13. Poshmark requires you to accept your purchase within three days of receipt before they release funds to the seller.*
  14. You can sell luxury items in virtually any condition – someone will want it.*
  15. Poshmark “everyday” sorts of items (like jeans, tees, etc.) tend to go a little more frequently than on Ebay – I think there’s less of a market for everyday wear on the auction site.

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Check out my recent success – NWT, retails for $208. I count this as a win! All it needed was a gentle press to look gorgeous for work.

CONS

  1. There is a large market for counterfeit handbags and other products on Poshmark.
  2. Poshmark is person-to-person, so corporate is not exactly friendly/helpful for resolving buyer and seller issues.
  3. Poshmark communication takes 24-48 hours and they’re often unwilling to help.
    • I received a Reiss wool blazer that had a sleeve destroyed in transit — Posh insures their mail (and this fell within the brackets of their USPS insurance), but they did very little to help me and didn’t even bother delivering on insurance, even though I thoroughly photographed the damage and the notice from USPS admitting fault (and their saran-wrap patch job). Ultimately they told me to keep the blazer and gave me a $20 credit to just shut me up, but I would have been happier with a full refund. I spent the $20 and a number of hours figuring out repairs. It’s wearable now, but I wasn’t happy with the experience.
  4. Linking to #2 – private correspondence/communication would allow for resolution of sale issues, because Poshmark itself tends to be uncommunicative.
    • For example, I received a 1-star rating from a woman who waited too long to accept/reject the package, then claimed I had misrepresented the sale, even though I had carefully listed and photographed all damage and wear and tear on a high-end pair of boots that required a shoemaker to repair. She had no recourse to return something she wasn’t happy with, and I had no way of privately rectifying an issue with a client without turning into one of those Yelp horror stories of business owners sounding cray-cray and having the buyer post personal information in a public forum.
  5. It’s been argued that Poshmark authentication services are useless- I’ve heard that their so-called concierge authenticators are not properly trained and will seize authentic bags as fake, and will vet replica bags as real.
  6. Poshmark commission rates are a hefty 20%, whereas Ebay’s are 10% (but you pay for shipping on Ebay unless specified in the listing).
  7. Boutique sellers are great if you want fast fashion, but the markup is astronomical for poor quality clothing. Poshmark allows for certain “influencers” to begin wholesaling and starting a business, but it’s unlikely more than a few of these folks turn a living-wage profit, and it requires astronomical work to maintain. Most of the goods are purchased from China, and you can find similar apparel on TaoBao and AliExpress — which in many cases are actually the sources for these items that have sometimes been marked up hundreds, even a thousand percent. No, I’m not exaggerating – I’ve seen an $8 AliExpress dress listed for $99 on a Posh boutique before.
  8. The same way you can sell items in any condition, you can buy in any condition, too… and not every seller is honest/upfront about damage.
  9. Returns are virtually impossible, despite what Posh promises. This is final sale, no matter what.

 

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Caveat Emptor: This bag is a fake. NWT for that steep of a discount doesn’t make sense (Posh takes 20% commission, so this pricing doesn’t seriously benefit the seller, and as such you should question it as a buyer). Seller has only a few “luxury” new with tag items in their Closet, and seller is unresponsive to every single query in comments. Do your due diligence – I can’t find immediate evidence online that the Celine Micro Luggage, even with specialty piping, has an orange heat stamp – most are simply stamped, most embossed with silver and gold. I could be wrong, but the authentic photo they use for the main picture and the photo of the Celine logo (see lower left photo) don’t match. Oftentimes the sale will be cancelled and you’ll be asked to purchase directly from the seller via Pay Pal or Western Union.

So how do you navigate murky Poshmark waters and come out feeling relatively good about your purchases and sales? There are a few tips/tricks I’ve picked up that help.

  1. When possible, buy new with tags. Avoid boutique purchases.
  2. When buying true consignment/pre-owned, inspect photos carefully and thoroughly. Ask the seller for more photos when in doubt.
  3. When making purchases, remember that you can’t return or exchange thing. Be honest with yourself about your sizes and know how the sizing with your favorite brands work.
  4. When purchasing and unsure about sizes, remember that you can resell! Try to shoot for brands and classic designs that you know have good resale potential – brands that sell well and often are Free People, Vince, Joie, Lululemon, Nike, etc. Free People in particular might as well be its own industry on Posh.
  5. Be patient! If you’re selling, you’re not likely to sell a lot immediately after the holidays. You might sell off your handbag collection just before the holidays. You might not sell your winter coat during the summer, or you might not sell a bathing suit in November. You may need to drop your rates a few times.
  6. If purchasing used shoes, inspect soles carefully. Purchase new insoles for yourself for arch support. Use an antifungal spray before wearing for the first time.
  7. Price drop, offer private discounts, and share to Posh Parties regularly. Share to your followers often.
  8. Price compare similar items, what you’re buying and selling. If I see the same Free People jacket, NWT, sold for $45 or $145, guess which one I am going to buy?
  9. Follow as many people who have similar taste as you as possible and share their listings when you can.
  10. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Don’t lowball the seller, which makes them unwilling to work with you. You can reject lowball offers, but if you think they are willing to come up at all, counteroffer to them.
  11. Buy off season. The same way you must be patient as a seller, it’s likely that sellers will be willing to unload off-season items to you for significantly cheaper to get rid of their stock, simply because it’s been sitting in their closet for months. I bought an authentic designer shearling coat mid-summer (when you’re melting from heat, most people don’t consider buying items to stay warm) for $150, new.
  12. Consider visiting higher-end thrift stores periodically to see if there is anything you can turn a small profit on. Some folks make a lucrative business of this, scouring a circuit of stores and professionally cleaning items to mark up and resell. There’s no reason you can’t do the same. For example, I was at a consignment shop and found a pair of Joie jeans that were slightly too small for me, but were new with original tags… for $18. I was able to sell these for $45.
  13. Try to avoid purchasing true luxury items unless you’re confident in your ability to self-authenticate via photos (see photo above). IMHO, not worth your time.
  14. “Like” items and keep them in your “My Likes” for a while. You’ll receive notices whenever prices are dropped (although someone might beat you to the punch, it’s worth it to not spend more than you can comfortably afford– remember, be frugal, not cheap).

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Like everything and monitor! Wait for the right time to buy, and hope for private offers made to you, or public price drops.

 

Poshmark is largely about social networking and getting a taste of what the market is around you. Be patient, be cautious, and do your research before buying. There is no one who wins here besides Poshmark if something goes wrong, so bear that in mind. But if you’re willing to gamble a bit, this is a great way to get things you want at a fraction of the cost.