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.

“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.

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.

There’s a High Price for That Low Price

I was going to write this month’s post on quite a different fashion-focused topic, when an article in the November 17, 2016 edition of the  Los Angeles Times caught my eye.

1116 LA Times garment makers 1 REV

This year, the U.S. Labor Department investigated 77 local Los Angeles garment companies that were supplying some of the biggest clothing stores in the nation, writes reporter Natalie Kitroeff, and found that many of these factories pay workers much less than the state minimum wage. “Investigators uncovered labor violations in 85% of the cases, the department said, and found that the companies cheated workers out of $1.1 million.” While even Nordstrom and Macy’s had ties to garment makers that did not pay minimum wage, “the retailers with ties to companies that had the most offenses were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx. Workers were paid as little as $4 an hour, and they got $7 an hour on average–$3 less than the state minimum wage. . . .”

Although the garment companies and some manufacturers that act as intermediaries between the factories and the retailers were ordered to pay $1.3 million in lost wages and damages to workers, the retailers “avoid any repercussions for hiring factories that violate labor laws. The Labor Department can only penalize companies that directly employ workers.” Keeping their distance from the factories by working with several layers of suppliers, the business model shields the retailers from liability.

Ruben Rosalez, a regional administrator with the Labor Department, said that the problem is “that retailers have not increased the rates they pay manufacturers in years. ‘The retailers are setting the prices. They’re saying, “Make this shirt for this amount,” but it’s the workers at the end of the chain that are getting screwed,’ Rosalez said.”

According to Rosalez, retailers “hire monitors to make sure their suppliers abroad are following the law but don’t do the same level of inspection in the U.S. . . . The stores ‘want to be able to meet demand on a quick basis. It’s cheaper to do it here as long as no one is looking,’ he said.”

Spokespersons for Ross Dress for Less and Forever 21 both responded to the reporter by email that they take these labor issues “very seriously” and are cooperating, as Ross puts it, “to make sure that suppliers understand the law.” Representatives of TJ Maxx did not return a request for comment. Kitroeff reports, “It is not clear whether the retailers are still doing business with clothes makers that underpay workers.”

Next time you consider buying that $18 jacket or $9 dress, consider how it’s possible for something new to be sold that cheaply. There’s a high price for that low price.

All is not lost. If you’re on a strict budget or enjoy scouting for bargains, shop online instead and head to eBay, where you can find all manner of brand new items with their original tags, purchases made that have never been used, from vendors all across the United States (yours truly included).

Judy Hornby silver pink dress 1

For instance, among the big trends of this season are 1980s styles, padded shoulders included, along with floral prints, ruffles and metallics. I have a vintage $1,215 Judy Hornby Couture pink and silver metallic silk dress with a ruffled hem, purchased at Marshall Field’s, brand new with tags, listed for under $200.

You can find the dress at http://www.ebay.com/itm/JUDY-HORNBY-COUTURE-1215-Pink-Silver-Foiled-Floral-Silk-Dress-80s-NWT-38-B-/171021327963?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

I would love for the dress to be worn and enjoyed this holiday season.

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