10 Steps To Being A Smart Shopper

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We love practical and easy, don’t we?  I don’t know about you, but I am drawn to “3 steps to do this” or “5 steps to do that books.”  Somehow, knowing there is a fairly short list of things I need to do in order to have the desired result feels, well, encouraging.  So, in the spirit of getting right down to it, here are my 10 simple steps to becoming a smart shopper.

Step 1: organize your closet.  Let me warn you right off the bat.  If you are looking for quick and easy, step 1 might seem a bit daunting.  If I’m being honest, it is totally OCD, but I am completely convinced it will make getting dressed in the morning so much easier.    First, go through your clothing and separate out everything you haven’t worn in a year.  Next, separate your tops, pants, skirts and dresses into different areas of your closet.  Then, separate your winter items from your summer items within each category.  At the end of this step, you should have all your tops together, all your winter pants together, all your summer pants together, and so forth.  Last, organize each section by color using the ROYGBIV acronym for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.  Complete the rainbow by putting your greys and blacks after your purples and your whites and creams after that.  Now, go back to the items you removed in the beginning.  Put all your classic items like black blazers, white blouses and black pants back into your closet unless they are out of date.  Donate the rest.  Whew….sit down and rest a bit.

Why, you ask, did I have you go through that arduous process?  Because now you can clearly see what you have.  If you have 20 short sleeved shirts and only 2 long sleeved ones, you know you need to balance out your wardrobe a bit in this area.  If you have 8 hot pink tops and no neutrals, you may want to shop for some great basics that will work with more things in your closet.  Make sense?

This leads us to step 2: make a shopping list.  Once you know what you need to shop for, write it down on a list that you keep with you all the time.  Shopping trips happen at unexpected times while you are waiting for an appointment or when you have a few extra minutes.  Keep that list with you so that no matter when you shop, you can check it and stay focused on what you need rather than wandering aimlessly through the store waiting for something to catch your eye.

Step 3: shop with a color palate.  This step also requires some work, but not to worry, I have a handy video that will give you a great start.  Shopping with a color palate will focus your shopping in amazing ways.  It will help you say “no” to items that you love but are in a color that is not flattering on your skin.  It will also help you have the confidence that when you get that item home, it will go with something else in your closet, including your accessories like purses and coats.

Step 4: know when the best sales happen at your favorite boutique or store.  For most of the industry, January and February are sales months for winter and July and August are sales months for summer.  Early markdowns happen in December and June as well.  Start checking back frequently in late December and late June to get the first chance at the best items.  If you wait to the end of the sale season, most of the great buys will be very picked over.

Step 5: use the store perks.  If your favorite stores have a layaway program with no fees, this is a great way to shop early in the sale season and put the items on layaway so you can pay for them a little at a time.  Does your store of choice have a rewards or loyalty program?  Make sure you are utilizing it and maximizing your shopping budget.

Step 6: shop for quality and not quantity.  Nothing is a great deal if you never wear it!  Don’t buy just because it is on sale.  In fact, when you consider the cost per wear of an item, in many cases you are better off to spend more on something that is higher quality and will last longer than less on something that is poor quality and will fall apart.  Check out my blog about cost per wear to learn more on this topic.  To determine quality, look at the button holes; they should be bound and not raw with clean edges and no hanging strings.  Next, examine the seams; they should lay flat with no ripples or bumps.  Then, look at the stitching; good quality items have 8-12 stitches per inch.  If the item is patterned, look at where the pattern comes together at the seam.  Does it match or is it askew?  The higher quality items will match the pattern all the way around the garment.  Last, look at the hems; a quality hem will be double stitched and will not be visible from the outside of the garment.

Step 7: shop alone.  I know, I know….you’re thinking that you need that teenage daughter or friend to tell you the truth about how something looks.  Who can trust a sales associate, right?  Well, speaking from personal experience, you can trust a good sales associate, especially one you have built a relationship with and who knows you and what styles and brands you like.  The problem with your teenage daughter or friend is that oftentimes their advice to you is based upon what they feel is a good style for them.  It is difficult for most of us to disassociate what we feel is stylish for what actually looks good on someone.  This is where a professional comes in who has been trained how to help you shop.  At the end of the day, you are the one who has to wear what you take home.  Shouldn’t you be the one to decide if it’s right or wrong?

Step 8: buy a complete outfit rather than pieces.  Nothing is worse than buying something amazing at the store only to discover that you have absolutely nothing to wear it with when you get home.  Worse yet are the various orphans in your closet that you were sure would match that pair of pants but didn’t and so just hang there…waiting.  You can avoid this scenario by buying an entire outfit from the start, including the accessories needed to complete it.  After all, good dressing isn’t just about the top and bottom you are wearing; it is about the complete look with the appropriate shoes, accessories, handbag and coat.  Not sure you agree with me?  Have you ever seen someone put a Columbia parka over a dress?  Sadly, I have.

Step 9: focus on building your basics first and then add the trends.  Make sure you have the bones of a good wardrobe – one or two pairs of black pants, a black blazer, a black skirt, and several nice blouses or tops that can work back with all of your basic bottoms.  Then begin adding other neutrals like browns and navy, all according to your color palate.  Make sure you have a nice casual coat and a nice dress coat.  Be sure you have shoes that coordinate with your wardrobe and are appropriate for dressing up or work.  Once you have this foundation, you can start spending money on trends like cold shoulder tops, embroidered bottoms, and the like.

And finally, step 10: don’t wait for sales to get your workhorse pieces.  There are items in your closet that wear out the fastest because you wear them the most.  Your basic black items are usually among these.  Don’t settle for less than wonderful on your workhorse items.  These are the things you splurge on to get the absolute best quality you can afford.  At the end of the day, quality = longevity.  The better quality fabrics and workmanship of higher priced items will hold up in the washing machine and will with stand wear much better than cheaper items.  Spend your money where it counts.  For these pieces shop in the prime season so you get the best selection of sizes and the most choices.  This means shopping in March and April for summer items and September and October for winter items.

Discover Sympli – Easy Dressing For Every Body.

What do you get when a woman gets frustrated over the fact she can’t find a simple tee that really fits and flatters?  Well, you get Sympli.  Jan Stimpson’s quest to find a tee led to the creation of a company designed around women’s bodies and fit.  Indeed, the women behind Sympli “shape each garment on multiple women and spend countless hours designing, tucking, pinning and repinning…flattering fit is an evolution and [they] don’t cut corners.”  What is the result of all of this effort?  A garment that fits where you need it to and doesn’t cling where you don’t.  Honestly.

In fact, Sympli is so passionate about creating a product that any woman, no matter what body shape, can wear with confidence, they stand against the unreasonable expectations the fashion industry places on women.  Supporting a Canadian non-profit that helps women overcome eating disorders is just one of the many ways Sympli is taking a stand to encourage women to love their bodies.  The other is creating a product that really fits and flatters, from a size 2 to a size 24.

If you have never tried Sympli, I encourage you to come down to Fashion Crossroads this weekend for our trunk show.  Our Sympli Rep Charlotte has been with the company for over ten years, and will be in the store with the Spring 2018 Sympli samples as well as some in stock samples.  We have stocked the store with new Sympli in preparation for our event, so there are many new items to try!  Best of all, we are having a trunk show party on Sunday from 11-5 p.m. that will be catered by Grant Street Grocery.  Join us for great food, a little wine, and in store modelling from 12-4 p.m.  All in stock Sympli will be $10 off for the entire trunk show, and any Sympli purchase will get you registered to win one of two free Sympli tops to be given away on Sunday.

What Is Cost Per Wear and Why Should I Care?

cost per wearI’ve been in this business my whole life.  When I was three, I was here at the store sleeping under racks while my parent’s worked late into the night re-modelling.  I started working at the store when I was thirteen, and worked my way up the chain from the stock room to now being co-owner.  Over the years, much has changed in the clothing industry.  One of the most significant changes is the “throw away” clothing epidemic.  Does the word “epidemic” hit you as too harsh?  I’m not sure it is, and let me explain why.

I have customers tell me stories about how their mothers and grandmothers shopped at our store when having at least one “good” dress was expected.  It was their Sunday best, and they knew they would have to spend a little more, but that dress would have them looking their best when they wanted to “put on the dog,” so to speak.  The ideology was that when you wanted to look your best, you never settled for inexpensive or poorly made clothing.

Those generations calculated the value of an item of clothing on cost per wear.  This term provides you with the amount of money it costs you each time you wear the item, and it is a great tool for demonstrating why it isn’t always better to buy inexpensive clothing that you know you will have to replace in a year or less.   For example, let’s say you spend $60 on a blouse that is from a good brand that has a reputation for quality.  Any quality item of clothing will last you at least 3 years if you care for it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  If you wear it 2 times per month and expect it to last 3 years, then the cost per wear is $2.50.  Here is how I came to that number: 2 wears a month X 12 months in a year = 24 wears in a year.  If the top lasts for three years, you will have 72 wears.   $60 divided by 72 wears = 81 cents per wear.  Now, conversely, let’s say you spend $20 on a top that is cheaply made that will likely only last about 6 months if you wash it in cold water and hang it to dry.  Using the same formula, that top will cost you $1.67 per wear (12 wears in 6 months / $20 divided by 12 = $1.67).  So you can see that it actually costs you more to wear the cheaply made top than the more expensive one.

There is a false perception that when you spend more money on clothing, you are just paying for the name brand.  The reason certain brands cost more is because they have earned a reputation for quality.  That reputation comes from a consistent use of better quality fabrics and better construction.  These two together translate into clothing that stands the test of time.

I was fortunate to watch how this mindset transformed one of my employees.  When she first came to work for us, she was in her late twenties and had completely bought into the throw away clothing mentality.  She told us, “I never spend a lot on clothes, and I don’t expect them to last.  When they fall apart, I don’t feel badly because I didn’t spend that much to buy them in the first place.”  Over time, she began buying our brands.  She started to see how better quality fabrics and construction really do make a difference in the way an item looks and feels on the body and in how it holds up to repeated washing and drying.  Being financially savvy, she also started to see that she was actually spending less money on clothes by buying better quality.  It was the cost per wear epiphany.  After working for us for the last several years, she has come to understand that there is a reason some clothing is more expensive and that that expense is not arbitrary but directly tied to quality.

Our grandmothers knew what they were doing.  They understood that a good dress made them look their best because it fit properly and had quality workmanship.  They also knew that spending a little more was necessary to accomplish this end.  Have some fun calculating the cost per wear on some pieces in your closet.  It is really eye opening.  It is also a great buying tool.

 

 

 

Travel Like A Boss!

Mom and I just returned from a market trip to Dallas, Texas.  Hopefully, you have already checked out my blog post on our Treska Warehouse tour.  If not, do it now so you can learn all about how a Treska necklace is made from start to finish!

Today’s post is on a different topic, however.  I want you, our precious customers and loyal readers, to know that we absolutely, positively, believe in the lines we sell at Fashion Crossroads.  How much, you ask?  So much that we wear them and use them when we travel!  You all know that we women take our very favorite things with us when we go on trips.  The ho-hums in our closets never see the inside of our suitcases and travel bags.  Oh no, only the coziest, cutest and most comfortable items get that special privilege.  For me and my mom and our trip to Dallas, those favorite things were Sympli and Vera Bradley.  Let me tell you why.

IMG_4216Sympli is the most wonderful line (not kidding) that I have ever worn.  It looks amazing because it has a fabulous fit, and it is oh so comfortable to wear.  Because you can pack it without worrying about wrinkles and because the line is so well thought out, you can literally grab two bottoms and three tops and have a whole week worth of outfits.  For example, I brought my Sympli leggings and mini skirt (I always wear these together) and my capris for my bottoms as well as a white pair of jeans.  Then I threw in my sleeveless Cascade Top (see picture above), my cold shoulder Nu Urban top, my Go To Tank Tunic and my favorite Sympli jacket.  These 7 pieces saw me through 5 days and took me from seminars, to show room floor, to dinner out on the town.

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When it came down to packing, both mom and I chose Vera Bradley travel gear even though we each have other options.  My mom took her Vera rolling carry on in black. She was able to push it through the airport with ease due to the four wheeled bottom.  I was able to lift it above my head to put it into the carry on luggage rack without breaking my back!  Yeah for me!

I took my Vera Grand Traveler soft sided bag, my Vera tote and my Vera cross body cell phone purse. You can see some of these items in the picture below.  The tote bag worked to hold my book, spare cell phone battery, headphones, files, Kind bar, and iPad while I was on the plane without being too bulky to fit under the seat in front of me.  The cell phone purse was perfect to sling across my body to keep my cell phone, driver’s license and credit cards handy and within reach while I was going through security and waiting to board the plane.  When it was time to get on the plane, I just took my cell phone purse off and put it inside the tote, and I didn’t have to get in a fight with the gate agent about having too many carry-ons.  Inside my Grand Traveler bag was the Vera hanging organizer that I could simply hang up on the back of the bathroom door and reach all my cosmetics easily without cluttering up the bathroom counter.  I also had my Vera jewelry organizer which kept my earrings and necklaces and bracelets in separate compartments (I love organization, especially when I travel). Then, while I was at market, the Vera tote worked perfectly as a brief case.  I have to say, I really do love these products.  IMG_4230

When I convince my customers to buy a product we sell based upon my recommendation, I take that very seriously.  Know that before I will tell you it is a wonderful product, I have put it though the test of my own life.  If we sell it, we believe in it!  We have just marked down a special rack of discontinued styles and colors of Sympli to 30% off.  (Mark downs in this line never happen so grab them while the gettin’ is good).  We also have several patterns of Vera Bradley that are 25% off, and we are expecting our new fall arrivals from Painted Medallions and Falling Flowers any day!

Happy travels, and don’t forget your Sympli and Vera Bradley!

Not All Cold Shoulder Tops Were Created Equal!

I have found my go-to cold shoulder top, and I’m so excited about it,  I wanted to share it with you!  Sympli has added a new top to their line called the Nu-glimpse top, and it is the perfect cold shoulder top!

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Nuglimpse Top By Sympli available in store or online 

Why so perfect, you ask?  Well, let me tell you!  As I have watched a myriad of women try on various shoulder exposing tops at the store, I have noticed that not all cold shoulder tops are created equal.  Some are too big in the shoulder, causing them to fit poorly on the arm or droop. Some make it impossible to wear a bra which means fiddling with a strapless bra or bandeaux (just kill me now).  Some show so much shoulder, women feel a bit naked and too exposed.  This is why I love this top from Sympli!  It has shoulder cut outs that are the perfect size, giving you the cold shoulder look, but in a way that any woman can wear.  I also love that this top does not show your bra, eliminating the hassle that so many cold shoulder tops pose. Best yet, it has a slight a-line cut so it doesn’t show any extra weight you may be carrying at the waist.

What is also amazing about the Nuglimpse top is that you get all of the other wonderful features of Sympli – no wrinkles, no fading and no stretching out.  This top will look this black and this great 5 years from now.  With Sympli, you just wash in cold water and hang to dry.  It dries wrinkle free, and you are off and running! The use of 12 oz weight fabric instead of 9 oz weight, means that the fabric drapes rather than clings to your body.  It really does look amazing on.  The fact that it is the number one selling line in our 5,000 square foot store is a testament to this.

There is the issue of price, however.  Sympli is not inexpensive.  This top retails for $124, but when you calculate cost per wear, it really is a great value.  If you just wore this top 1 time a week for a year, you would only be spending $2.58 per wear.  Given the fabric’s longevity, you will have this top for much longer than a year so the cost per wear goes down the longer you own the top.  Considering the fact that it is black, it will work back into your wardrobe easily.  Given that it is a mid-hip length hemline that pairs with any bottom, the styling opportunities are endless! That $124 doesn’t seem so costly now, does it?  That is the magic of cost per wear! Spending more on a really great item ends up costing you less than spending less and having to replace the item in six months because it has pilled, lost its shape or shrunk.  And as always, Fashion Crossroads offers a great layaway program too!

So, that’s my product review of Sympli’s Nuglimpse top.  It is my favorite cold shoulder top in my own wardrobe, so I am unashamedly recommending it to you!

Making Rose Quartz Work In Your Wardrobe

With Pantone’s announcement of Rose Quartz as the color of the year, you may be wondering how to wear such a soft and gentle shade of pink.  I am dark haired and look much better in bolder colors.  As a result, I usually avoid pastels.  What I love about this shade of pink, however, is how well it pairs with darker shades like brown and olive green as well as with creams and whites.  

  
When pairing Rose Quartz with olive green, it is essential that you stay consistent with either warm or cool tones.  Rose Quartz it usually a slightly warm color, so you will also want to choose a color of olive that is also slightly warm.  Avoid strongly warm greens that have a predominate yellow undertone.  The other fantastic aspect of putting Rose Quartz and olive green together is that the pink adds a feminine aspect to the more masculine olive green, especially in utilitarian or military themed items.  Military continues to be a strong trend in spring so you should see plenty of military vests, tanks, and light jackets out there.  Try putting a Rose Quartz tank under them!

Rose Quartz is also beautiful with creams, khakis and browns.  Apply the same advice of matching the level of warmth, and you can’t go wrong with any of these colors.   You can also pair Rose Quartz with its counterpart color of the year Serentity blue.  This feels less earthy to me than the other choices, but remains a viable option.  What I’ve done here is to put an ice blue blouse under the Rose Quartz sueded vest and then pop the two with with a Serentity blue purse.    It’s a nice combination with both soft and strong elements.  

  So have fun this season exploring these new colors.  You may just find your new favorite ! 

Key Trends for Fall 2016

  
Of the many trends I noticed dominating styles at market this fall, the most consistent were fringe, suede, southwestern motifs, military jackets, plaid shirts and the color merlot.  You can see all of these trends reflected in the picture above and the way you can combine them for smart fall style this season.  The key accessory is the floppy hat and beanie.  

1. Suede and Fringe

Suede and (faux suede) was everywhere at market.  Often combined with fringe, suede and the seventies are a strong influence in fall fashion for 2016.  Look for suede especially in vests, dresses and on handbags.  I saw everything from saddle brown and light tan classic suede colors to blush pinks and merlots.  Embrace this trend as a child of the seventies by combining fringe and denim, headbands and bohemian tops and dresses.  Wear a floppy leather look or sueded hat with these styles for a modern version of this seventie look.  Avoid head to toe fringe to keep the look fresh.  Pair fringe with other sueded pieces but restrict the fring to one clothing item or accessory.  

2.  Southwestern Motifs

Southwestern prints are still dominating fall like they did for spring.  Find them combined with fringe, in sweaters and on tops, and, of course, on handbags.  Take this sweater as an example.   With its southwestern diamond print in merlot and grey and its fringe bottom, it combines several key tends in one style.  

 Look for grey to be the new neutral for fall and give black a run for its money as the go to basic.  Additionally, grey looks amazing paired with melot which is the color of the year from Pantone.  

Military Jackets:

Seperating itself distinctly from the previous two trends, military is the utilitarian trend of the season and is expressed in one key piece – the military jacket.  I saw some companies combining southwest motifs with miliary which was a unique twist, but military jackets are a key piece that you will want to have in your wardrobe.  Don’t feel you must have the trend represented by a army green jacket.  I saw very cute styles in black, grey and tan as well.  A great military jacket paired with a beat up boyfriend jean and lace up boots is a killer look for a casual outfit.       
Plaid Shirts:

Plaid is officially a key trend.  You will need to buy yourself a cute plaid shirt to pair with boyfriend jeans this season.  Wear a benie and puffy vest with this look for a fun casual look for a cold day.  The strongest plaid trends is reds or burhandy plaids, but I also saw lots of black and white versions as well.  Keep it cool by wearing your plaid shirt tied around your waist for a fall day when its not too cold.  Again, wear this look with lace up shoe boots.