eBay: Where Everything Old Is New Again

For years I blogged for the jewelry industry, following trends and the direction of design in bejeweled accessories, fine and faux. For more years I have been a collector of vintage costume jewelry and seller of those little treasures on eBay.

As a keen observer of what’s happening in jewelry, I am always intrigued to find a designer who pushes boundaries, even if their creations may not be to my taste. I am saddened to see designers (in some cases, well-known designers) who outright copy vintage designs and pass them off as their own. (I have called out a few of these designers in my blogs over the years.)  And I am delighted to see that current trends inevitably relate back to vintage designs that are available at prices accessible to just about everyone, no matter how small the budget, on eBay.

For example, mix and match bangle bracelets are having another moment in the spotlight. The July 2018 issue of Marie Claire suggests that its readers “Forget the bling. Keep things light and bright with enamel jewelry in flashy shades,” and adds the style hack: “Layer on dainty bracelets and stackable rings to create a look that’s all you.” Among the bracelets pictured are a $625 molded cuff of red enamel on sterling silver from Marla Aaron; a $475 red cuff of enamel on brass with gold vermeil from Nora Kogan; and $75 multi-color striped-effect enamel stretch bracelets from Roxanne Assoulin.

As I write this, there are over 5,600 enamel bangle bracelets available on eBay, starting at under $5 each plus a modest shipping charge within the United States, and often costing less when purchasing multiple bracelets from the same seller. In other words, for $75, you can put together an armload of enamel bangles.

Choose carefully, of course. Buy only from sellers with excellent ratings who take the time to disclose with care the condition of their wares. Vintage pieces are often much better made and more interesting in design than current offerings, but they may show minor age-appropriate wear. Keep in mind that a spanking new $625 enamel cuff may show some scuffs and scratches after a very few number of wearings.

Think outside of the box relative to the trend, however, and consider vibrant striped bracelets made of materials other than enamel. For example, in my eBay store, I offer a pair of vintage woven straw and cording striped bangle bracelets for $2.98 plus $2.95 shipping. That is not a typo.

Take these examples as just a starting point for finding treasures. From time to time in my blog, I’ll look at some of the current trends in fashion and their vintage counterparts available in my little eBay store, singerplum.

eBay branded shipping materials have adopted a new slogan:  “Shop like nobody else. Because you aren’t like anyone else.” How thrilled I was to see this — not just for the message, but because, bless ’em, the message is stated in correct English too. If you’re not a regular on eBay, check it out. You may be surprised and delighted by what you find.

The Myth of the Perfect White Tee & Other Style Advice from Lauren Hutton

When someone who has lived decades in the spotlight as a model and actress provides fashion advice, it’s worthwhile to give it pause.

In the May 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, model and actress Lauren Hutton provides several fashion tips worth heeding. At 74 years old, she is featured in Amy Schumer’s new movie I Feel Pretty, a film that “chronicles a woman’s newfound confidence after she wakes from a fall in SoulCycle class believing she is the most beautiful creature on the planet.”  

About her own beauty and style, Hutton writes:  “It takes a long time to find your personal style. Most of us just sort of bump around in the beginning.”

She notes that, it’s been goodbye to four-inch stilettos after multiple operations on her leg following a motorcycle accident, but “Manolo Blahnik makes mid-heel slingbacks that feel like you’ve wrapped your feet in a Shakespeare sonnet.”

Hutton urges readers: “Forget the myth of one ‘perfect’ white T-shirt. To find the one that suits you, you must consider your skin undertone. If you’re pink, go for a creamy white, but if you’re yellow like me you’ll want a bright white. I stock up at the Row and J. Crew.”

“Why must working women wear such drab colors?”  Hutton quotes this question posed by fashion maven Diana Vreeland to designer Yves Saint Laurent. Hutton’s approach: “I always try to wear a pop of something wonderful, vibrant, brilliant–colors that feel alive.”

Food for thought!

“Never Pay for Shipping” and Other Questionable Shopping Advice

The March 2018 issue of the AARP Bulletin sent to all of AARP’s members is a special report entitled “What They Know That You Don’t:  Insider Secrets of Doctors, Plumbers, Cops, Mechanics, Vets, Waiters and 14 Other Pros.” While I am happy to hear what I perceive to be surprisingly sophisticated tips from a Benjamin Moore color export on choosing paint — for example, consider the effect of sunlight from the south versus light from the north on the feeling of the room — or the tough realities of property value from a real estate expert, I found one segment of the special report seriously wanting.

The Bulletin quotes a “veteran online shopper” identified as a “relationship manager” with a Texas firm. A veteran online shopper?  Is there anyone reading this blog who is NOT a “veteran online shopper”?

She advises comparing for identical items across similar stores — such as finding an item at Nordstrom and checking Macy’s “because they’re constantly having sales” to see if she can buy the item on sale. Apparently managing her relationship with Nordstrom is not a consideration. Be mindful that this strategy can seriously affect the livelihood of small boutiques in particular, which do not have the luxury of Macy’s to keep moving huge amounts of merchandise out the door as fast as possible. Does Nordstrom or the boutique provide you better customer service than Macy’s? Does having Nordstrom or that boutique available as a resource mean something to you? Would you be happy if Macy’s becomes your only option?

She writes that she always waits for sales at her favorite store. This is not necessarily great advice. If you need something specific — perhaps a dress that fits and flatters perfectly in the exact color you’d like, in time for a wedding next month — and you find it, grab it! Waiting for a sale is not good strategy. Items sell out. It doesn’t matter if you put it in your online cart. You might well have to wave your perfect purchase goodbye.

Then the “veteran online shopper” chosen as AARP’s expert on the subject veers significantly off course. Her dubious advice comes in the statement “I never pay for shipping.” She goes on, “If it’s not free shipping, it’s not for me.”

The issue with this pronouncement is that the cost of shipping is built into the cost of merchandise, and what ultimately matters is the total amount you pay. Does it make sense to pay $50 for an item with free shipping, when the same item can be had for $40 or as much as $43 with $6.95 shipping?  Of course not.

If you’re shopping on a website such as Amazon or eBay, you’ll find that some sellers offer free shipping and others do not. It should make no difference whatsoever if what you are trying to do is to purchase the item for the lowest cost.

One additional footnote:  The advice giver is not in the AARP demographic — she’s identified as being 37. There’s nothing wrong with advice from a 37-year-old, to be sure, but given the advice provided, perhaps AARP would have done well to tap someone over 50 with commensurate years of shopping experience.

Jewelry Can Spotlight Your Best or Worst Feature

As an image consultant, I advise my clients that jewelry can do much more than add a finishing touch to an ensemble. Chosen well, jewelry can also draw attention to one or more of the wearer’s best features.

For instance, someone with green or blue eyes may choose jewels of a similar hue to relate to her or his eye color. Repeating the hue provides pleasing harmony and brings the viewer’s eye back to the wearer’s eyes.

Jewelry can also provide directional emphasis. For instance, a long necklace can provide a vertical line that draws the viewer’s eye up and down.

A particularly fine example of the power of jewelry to spotlight a feature appears in the March 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Focusing on “the quest for a younger-looking neck,” the magazine promotes a neck cream sold on its web site and illustrates the sought-after effect with the photo of a model wearing huge earrings with a triangle-shaped drop from Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.

Notice how the earrings point to the model’s neck. Not even the crystal-studded Gucci sunglasses distract from this effect.

For many women over 40, spotlighting the neck is not the desired effect. When choosing earrings, be mindful of how the earrings draw attention to your features. Long dangling earrings can end at a spot where they draw attention to your neck. And earrings as arrow-like as those in the photo above will bring every eye to that precise spot.

The Pitfalls of Pleated Midi Skirts: Uneven Hemlines

Pleated midi skirts are once more on fashion’s radar, and they can provide a graceful element to an ensemble. The March 5, 2018 issue of People presents color-block, printed, and leather versions – the leather pleated style pictured on Alicia Keys by an unspecified designer particularly attractive and intriguing.

Take a closer look at the photo of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a printed design, and you can see the issue that arises with these skirts: the uneven hemline. Her skirt, by an unidentified designer, emphasizes the issue with the dark, solid bottom edge of the fabric of the skirt. The back of her skirt is shorter than the front.

Anyone blessed with significant bootie is well aware of this phenomenon. I recall constructing a skirt suit as a project at a design college class I took some years ago. Remarkably, I had no issues creating a wearable jacket, but the skirt was another thing entirely. I had neglected to add extra length to the back of the skirt to accommodate my derriere. The skirt had to be re-sewn.

With a wide, flowing skirt, rather than a closer to the body pencil skirt, the issue of an uneven  hemline becomes more noticeable. The February 2018 issue of Women’s Day pictures an ensemble with a metallic pleated midi skirt from Old Navy with a hemline that is not parallel to the floor.

Wider pleats and fancier designers do not necessarily ensure that the issue will not arise. Here is actress Emilia Clarke wearing a beautiful floral dress by Dolce & Gabbana, as pictured in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  It appears that the dress is intentionally designed to have a longer hemline in the front than in the back.

Perhaps Dolce & Gabbana are taking a common problem experienced by curvy women and turning it intentionally into a new fashion trend. Time will tell. Unless and until that happens, cast a critical eye on your skirts. The hemlines should be parallel to the floor.

Fragile Shoulders

Perhaps one of the world’s most recognizable, prestigious and expensive fashion labels can afford in an ad to promote a look that is destructive to the wardrobe of the wearer because presumably the wearer can easily afford to replace it.

Here’s the ad, which appeared in the January 2018 issue of Vogue magazine. The woman is wearing a fur coat, and has slung over one shoulder a chain-strap designer bag. The coat is white; the bag is black.

I assume the bag is color-fast. However, that bag will be rubbing or bouncing against the side of the wearer, which in time will cause the coat to show wear if not discoloration due to whatever dirt is carried on the surface of the bag.

Even more damaging is the strap. The links of the chain will be doing serious damage to the soft surface of the coat, especially where the weight of the bag pulls down on the shoulder. The damage will be immediate and irreversible.

When wearing fur or faux fur, or any garment with fragile material on the shoulders, never wear a shoulder strap bag and never ever even think of wearing a shoulder strap made of chain. What an unfortunate image for a fashion label to promote.

Jewels of Inspiration

Every year, I would wrap up my jewelry blog at TrulyJewelry.com with a montage of recently published photos of spectacularly beautiful jewels. This year, for this TrulyBecoming.com blog, I wish to inspire with photos of a different theme.

Actress Julia Roberts, who turned 50 in October, is spotlighted in the December 2017 issue of InStyle magazine. She was crowned People magazine’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” for a record fifth time, and as the subject of a fashion photo shoot, she knows how to address a camera. But the photographs by Carter Smith and the fashion styling for the magazine (those responsible for hair, makeup, manicure and prop styling are identified but the overall fashion stylist does not appear to be identified) have put together one of the most exquisite fashion spreads I have ever seen.

1217 Julia Roberts InStyle 1 white lace w horse REV

Roberts is photographed in fashions with a Western wear theme, wearing flowing dresses, Southwestern jewelry, and cowboy boots. The above shot, featuring a lacy white dress by Chloe, is reminiscent of Runaway Bride.

1217 Julia Roberts InStyle 3 2 pc dress REV

This second photo features the actress in head-to-toe Dior.

Find the styles that flatter you and give you joy, and make them your signature look. Wishing all my readers a joy-filled 2018.

Among 101 Ways to Look and Feel Stylish This Season

Over the decade, writing innumerable pieces about image and style, I have found inspiration in many a “how to” list put together by the editors of various fashion-focused publications. There are nuggets of wisdom in most all of these compilations of tips.

1117 100 ways to look stylish People Mag Sept REV

For instance, the September 18, 2017 issue of People magazine suggests “100 Ways to Look & Feel Stylish This Fall.”

Some of the tips, like the opening item, “1. Accessorize like Selena Gomez” is a promotion of the actress’s 11-piece handbag collection with Coach. Many other specific handbags, shoes and items of makeup are included as items that each claim a number on the list.

Other tips are trend specific:  “5. Layer a slip dress over a turtleneck.” “12. Carry a daytime clutch.” “14. Sport some sassy socks.” These tips are likely to have a short shelf life, and should be considered in conjunction with this tip: “9. Pick and choose your trends.”

Other tips are evergreen bits of advice. For instance, “10. Make something old new again.” People quotes Jenn Rogien, costume designer for Orange Is the New Black:  “Every season I dig in the back of my closet and pull out something I haven’t worn in a while and wear it on repeat. It doesn’t cost anything, but it still makes you feel like you refreshed your wardrobe.”

That tip works well in conjunction with this one: “97. Take inventory.” The editors elaborate: “Do you own eight black shirts? Yet you still have your eye on another? Be honest with yourself. Write down everything you have and keep the list by your closet so you know what you definitely don’t need the next time you shop.”

Yet #97 conflicts somewhat with #98:  “98. Commit to your #OOTD.” Regarding the choice of one’s “outfit of the day,” People quotes Stacie Brockman, cofounder of a branding firm: “Instagram has made everyone terrified about re-wearing outfits for the sake of being sartorially outed, but there’s nothing chicer than a Steve Jobs-level uniform.”

I’ve written several time in this blog about the benefits of uniform dressing — finding one’s authentic personal style and sticking to it. Taking an inventory can be helpful in evaluating what might need to be replaced or refreshed. And if your personal uniform regularly includes black shirts, you should be on the lookout for new ones to replace any that are looking tired.

There is something wonderful about going through one’s closet and rediscovering items that haven’t been worn in a while. If these items make you look and feel great, let them have another day in the light. These are gifts you give yourself.

Let me add another tip: If there is something wonderful you have enjoyed wearing that is getting to the point of having seen better days, kind in mind that you may be able to replace it exactly, thanks to the worldwide market that is eBay. Brands and lines that have been discontinued may be alive in the form of vintage items currently available for sale, sometimes in brand new condition with the original tags. Vintage items are almost always going to cost far less than comparable new items.

You may also discover that your favorite designers or brands have additional items from previously released lines that you can be quite sure will prove to be flattering — a certain cut of jacket, style of pants, handbag, shoes, even a specific item of jewelry — because you already have like items in your wardrobe.

Think about any favorite item you wish you could replace, and take a look on eBay. You may be surprised and delighted with what you find.

Rich, Warm & Inviting Brown

The women’s fashion magazines tend to present a fashion trend as a fait accompli, usually without much explanation of the source of the trend.

1017 brown MC Oct made to mix shades for layering REV

Consider the resurgence of the color brown in fashion. “Layer with abandon in made-to-mix shades of brown” urges the October 2017 issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown MC Oct coffee break black w brown REV

And: “Perk up basic black with chocolate-brown pieces in luxe-feeling textures,” from the same issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown menswear InStyle Oct REV

Current women’s styles reflecting a menswear influence and the fine woolens and other fabrics typical of menswear are, no doubt, part of the reason for the renewed interest in hues of brown. The color features prominently in this fashion spread from the October 2017 issue of InStyle.

1017 brown Esquire Oct color story REV

The October 2017 issue of Esquire takes an analytical approach to its discussion of the new popularity of shade of brown. In an article titled “That ’70s Color,” Max Prince writes about the trend and theorizes an explanation for its current popularity. Prince considers not only autumnal looks in menswear for men, but also the embrace of the “warm, inviting shade” in vehicles, hotels and even the re-introduction of the classic brown uniform of the San Diego Padres. About vehicles, he writes: “Just this year, fresh metal from Mercedes-Benz, MBW, Infiniti, and Volvo all turned up dripping in umber. Porsche and Lincoln also added new browns this year, while Bentley’s current portfolio features a half-dozen riffs on the color.”

“Why now?” Prince responds:  “It’s anti-tech. Designers are fomenting insurrection against the monochromatic status quo. Consumers want something that’s the opposite of the gadgets that have infiltrated their lives.”

While “sonic blues, candy reds and radioactive yellows” accomplish a break out of the doldrums, “these are blunt, basic tools,” writes Prince. “Brown is richer. It’s smart without being obvious, bold without being ostentatious.”

Prince concludes that “pulling off brown, whether it’s a tux or a velvet sofa or a chronometer, requires a certain confidence. It’s still a relative niche (acquired tastes always are), but the subtext is deliciously subversive.”

And you thought browns were cool because they complemented and brought attention to your eyes or hair color. Perhaps you’ve had your colors done and have concluded that you are an “Autumn” who looks great in umber hues. In a world of stainless steel appliances and the perennial popularity of head-to-toe black fashions, brown can indeed be viewed as not only rich, warm and inviting, but also delightfully and “deliciously subversive.”

The Elegance of Tone-on-Tone Dressing

Last month in my blog I celebrated the exuberance of mixing prints and colors, a most creative means of self-expression. This month I celebrate the return of perhaps the most elegant means of self-expression through fashion: tone-on-tone dressing.

Many if not most women find wearing head-to-toe black, accented with nothing more than the warm or cool metal of jewelry, a sophisticated look. Mixing black pieces is easy to do, as the subtle variations in shades of black rarely read as a mismatch. Black-on-black is sometimes considered the epitome of city dressing.

Wearing another head-to-toe color is more challenging and decidedly more expensive, but the efforts and expense can be worthwhile. Two hues represent the pinnacle of tone-on-tone dressing this season:  camel, and wine or burgundy.

0917 InStyle Sept Max Mara camel suiting REV

The gentle hues of camel soften the look of menswear-inspired suiting in this look from Max Mara pictured in the September 2017 issue of InStyle.

0917 Bazaar Sept tone on tone camel Hermes REV

Extending the tone-on-tone dressing to outerwear heightens the sophisticated look of a camel-hued Hermes ensemble. The ensemble is given a modern twist with darker sandals worn with camel socks, pictured in the September 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

0917 Zoey Deutch in LA Mag 1017 Max Mara burgundy REV

The influence of street style is also seen in this styling of a wine-hued Max Mara look by actress Zoey Deutch in the October 2017 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

0917 Max Mara ad burgundy tone on tone REV

Elegant, cozy comfort in beautiful burgundy hues is captured in this seasonal ad from Max Mara.

0917 Bazaar extras wine country burgundy accessories REV

Lest you think it can be a challenge to go head-to-toe matchy-matchy, rest assured — it can be. However, as this spread from the September 2017 issue of Harper’s  Bazaar illustrates, the time to find matching accessories is now, while these colors are on-trend. From shoes, handbags and purses, to delightful burgundy-accented jewelry, a favorite color can be repeated and emphasized with even the smallest details of an ensemble. The end result will look expensive, sophisticated, and decidedly elegant.