DIY Project: Hair Flower

Can you tell which hair flower is store bought and which is DIY? Both flowers are fake, but 1 clip is worth 5 times more than the other. What exactly are you buying with that extra money?

Well, the white one came from Arden B. I got it for $5, but it originally sold for at least $10. It has a pin (for fabrics) and an alligator clip (for your hair).

The red one costs a little over a dollar. It doesn't have a pin but I didn't need it anyway. If I really wanted the pin, I could have easily gone to a craft store and get a pack of 10 pins for a buck. The flower was a dollar (I get a bonus of small buds attached to the same stem) and the barrette clip is something I recycled. I stripped the zebra-print (yeah, I know...what was I thinking?) plastic piece to expose the metal, then I cut off the stem of the flower so that I can superclue it onto the barrette clip. Getting the flower to stay on the center of the clip as the glue was drying proved to be a bit tricky, but it wasn't something that a bit of creativity couldn't solve. I found 2 heavier objects, placed them on each side of the flower to keep it upright, and that's it.

So $5 doesn't buy a whole lot as far as flower pins go.


Recap: Madison Warehouse Sale

The trendy boutique Madison is having a warehouse sale at the Barrington/San Vicente location until 3/29 (see BargainsLA for details). I didn't have very high hopes, since I knew that things tend to be expensive even at 60-90% off...the 90% off items are probably the super-expensive stuff. However, I was in the area on Friday for something else, so I thought I'd stop by to take a look. Street parking was pretty horrendous as expected; I went through multiple side streets on multiple passes and came up empty. I was about to snag a spot on Barrington when an SUV in front of me suddenly started to back up. Since I didn't want to make another go around the block, I turned onto a narrow side street near my "stolen" space, where I luckily found a space, and it was actually really close to where I needed to be.

I went into the store and it was fairly packed for a Friday afternoon (gosh, don't people have to work or something?). There were lots of boots, including some really cute Michael Kors wedged ones, at 60% off. Unfortuantely, they were waaay out of my league. As expected, there were lots of expensive tops and bottoms from See by Chloe, Matthew Williamson, Development, Pegah Anvarian, Ladies of the Canyon, etc. Even the "cheaper" ones (a pile of tanks and tube tops by James Perse, Vince, Free People, etc.) were $18 and up. Some designer jeans were $60 and up, which are priced OK for what they were (much better than retail, but definite not cheap).

The best buys turned out to be the shoes. There were loads of Marc Jacobs (the shoes are so cute in person!), YSL, Dolce and Gabbana, Sigerson Morrison, etc. Sure, they're all a couple hundred bucks (the lowest prices hover around $125, with the exception of cute Sigerson Morrison "Rain or Shine" skimmers that were $50), but that's pretty good considering how hard it is to find designer shoes at a steep discount. For cheapskates like me, there are flipflops from Mella and Yellow Box ($17) as well as checkered Vans slip-ons for $20. Original retail was listed as $80, if I remember correctly. $20 is fairly reasonable, considering I chided my sister a few weeks ago for spending $40 for them at the mall. I thought about buying a pair of Vans with orange and purple checkers, but wisely decided to save my money for something that's more "me."

There were lots of merchandise and most are expensive (though heavily discounted), so if you have the money and this sale seems to be your cup of tea, there should be plenty of goods left for you still. It's just not people like me who demand a really low price.


DIY Considerations: Introduction

The craft bug bit me, and it bit me hard.

I should have been more productive during Spring Break, but I'm so sick of school at this point that I decided to take the entire week off to indulge in March Madness (it was very satisfying to watch Duke go down in flames), catch up on household chores, and make a lot of jewelry.

Making jewelry...where'd that come from?

It all started in January, when I saw a necklace I really liked from a boutique sale. I thought it was $10 or under, like everything else in the pile (and $10 is my limit as far as fashion jewelry goes). The sales person told me that the necklace wound up in the clearance pile by mistake, but she would give it to me for, oh, $30--as if $30 was cheap. I really wanted it, but it's ridiculous to pay $30 for such a simple necklace. In fact, I thought it looked so simple that I can make it myself! I examined the necklace closely to see how it looks like and feels like, then the cogs and wheels in my head started churning. A few days later, I bought floral wire and a spool of ribbon from JoAnn's for under $5. Add 3 hours of labor and voila, I got my necklace. The quality was obviously not great, but no one could have noticed from a distance.

That initial success got me thinking about crafts in general. I guess the idea of making things isn't so far fetched since I've always had a knack for coming up with creative solutions to problems big and small (I know I don't sound very modest here, but bargain shopping, writing, and creative problem solving are the only few things I'm capable of doing, so I take pride in that). Now it's just a matter of translating creative thinking to creative works. It took a lot of baby steps. I found a way to recycle old barettes and use them to make clippable hair flowers. Then, I started dreaming bigger and thought about stenciling t-shirts. When I realized I didn't have much time for that, I kinda filed that away for the future. After that, I started having an interest in earrings because my sister recently got her ears pierced. I don't have pierced ears, but I was inspired by someone on StyleDiary who made her own clip-on earrings. That's when I found out about clip-on earring components--while I didn't have time (or so I thought) to make my own earrings, I could just get the findings, buy some cheap earrings, and swap out the ear wires and replace them with the clip-on findings. I got several pairs of earrings for $2-$4 each (cheap!), but it was hard to find exactly what I wanted, and I realized that $2 here, $2 there, and things were starting to add up. All of the sudden, making my own earrings seems like a good idea after all.

It might sound like a good idea to you too, but as with any project, there's always a caveat: don't jump into it without careful thought. Otherwise, it'd be a waste of money to buy lots of supplies and not know what to do with them. In the coming weeks, I'll be writing about various projects and issues to consider when deciding whether or not to make something on your own.


Random 99 Cents Store Find

Just as I bemoaned the loss of quality goods at the 99 Cents Store, I came across this:

It never made any sense to me why people pay so much for stuff with the Burberry plaid on it, since I see knockoffs everywhere (such as this one). Don't get me wrong, I love the plaid...just not the price it takes to be plastered in plaid (moderation is the key). My old pencil case has worn down, and at last I accepted the decision to let it go. I found this Burberry knockoff in the cosmetics bag aisle. It's pretty and surprisingly well-constructed!

My faith in the 99 Cents Store still hasn't been fully restored, but I'm still a regular customer. Where else can you get good quality pasta sauces for up to 66% off of chain supermarket prices?

Moral of the story? Think dual use. There are so many things out there that can be used for an unintended purpose...you just have to be creative.


Valuation: Figuring Out How Much Something is Worth to You

How do we know if we're getting a good deal? Price tags are but an illusion. My definition of "good deal" is getting high-quality thingamabobs (usually clothing) as cheaply as possible (below market price), but knowing what "quality" is at what "market price" requires some research and decision-making. I'll just use clothing as an example since that's what I know best when it comes to shopping ;-P

The first step for clothing is to find a starting point for pricing. Let's use tops for an example because it's easy. How much is it for a plain, basic t-shirt? I'm not talking about higher end brands like James Perse or Three Dots--I'm talking about something from Forever 21, Gap, Old Navy, etc. Also, I'm not talking about straight-up retail--if we want to figure out the best deal at sales, we want to use the sale price for a t-shirt. I've seen plain t-shirts go for $5-6 retail, then drop to $3 at sales time.

Now that we've pegged the starting point, we can proceed with a "sliding scale" approach. How much would you pay for that t-shirt if there was less of it or more done to it? As a general rule, the price I'm willing to pay is directly proportional to the amount of skin covered: if it's a tank or cami, I'd pay less, and if it's a long-sleeved t-shirt, I'd pay a little more. However, there's a lot more beyond this general rule. This is where things start to get murky--you have to think about what you value about a piece of clothing.

For most women, fit is an important consideration, if not *the* make-or-break consideration. I'm willing to pay more for bottoms than I do for tops because it's really hard to find pants that fit perfectly. As for tops, I usually try to get basics for $5 or less, and $10-15 (sometimes $20) for fancier stuff. Yes, this includes designer clothing as well. I'm not so willing to pay too much for tops because it's easy to find one that fits well, especially when the fabric is stretchy. However, if the top is completely ill-fitting and I plan to wear it only to go to sleep or something, the dial on the sliding scale is going to move in the negative direction.

The type of fabric or embellishments is another factor in the equation. Even if a cami, in its basic state, is worth less than a t-shirt, it'll be worth more when it's a perfect fit and/or made of a luxurious material. The question is how much you value the added bells and whistles. In this heyday of e-commerce, you can easily do a survey of major online stores to see how much, say, a silk cami costs. If you come across a silk cami on sale, even better--you'll have a good idea of how much a silk cami is really worth. If it's not on sale, take the full retail price and adjust down a little.

Other factors, such as the rarity of what you want as well as how badly you want it, also figure into valuation. Naturally, if a particular type of designer shoes is available in rare quantities, it would be unrealistic to expect a 90% off price tag. As I said before, this is a really inexact science and most of us aren't trained as investment bankers (valuation *is* what they do), but a nebulous strategy for determining how much you're willing to pay for something is better than no guidance at all.


There IS Redemption for Buyer's Remorse--Crazy Prints

Remember the time you thought leopard prints were hot and collected all things leopard? What about those zebra stripe sweaters that were trendy last season? Yes, those prints can go from popular to tacky faster than you can say "fashion." If you only spent $5 on them, you probably won't think twice about throwing them away or donating them. What if you sunk a ton of money into those now-odious pieces? There might be no takers on eBay, and tossing them feels like stabbing yourself in the gut; you'll feel cheated, since you haven't gotten the proper return on your investment. What to do, what to do?

We've all had this problem, even if your purchases will never be mistaken for animal hide. Sometimes we fall in love with colorful stripes or big floral prints, only to tire of them in a few short months. The answer, my friends, is layering. Layering allows the crazy prints to create a "statement" outfit without overpowering the senses. The key is using layering pieces in solid colors with little or no embellishments. Keep accessories simple and to a minimum.

To illustrate how layering can raise the status of a long-disdained piece of clothing, I'll use a cheap KMart shirtdress that my mom got for me eons ago (during my unfashionable high school days). I love the fit of the dress, but over the years the print has gotten too much for me.

If I was wearing just the sweater and the jeans, it would have been a really boring combo. I tied up the bottom half of the skirt and turned it into a shirt; the bow (from the tying) and the bold print add some character.

This one is a bit more adventurous, but I think it looks better simply because I'm a dress/skirt-over-jeans gal. If you want to wear a sweater that completely obscures the top part of the dress, including the collar, that works too--it'll look like you're wearing a skirt.

I got *really* adventurous and ended up with this mod-ish look. Much more unusual, but not outlandish. Several people really liked this outfit on the day I wore it.

Layering can get cumbersome in some situations, but workarounds are available. If the problem is caused by bulky leopard print outerwear, wear it unbuttoned/unzipped with solid-colored tops and bottoms; let the bottom layer(s) "dilute" the top. Accessories, when used alone or in conjunction with layering, can also break up the gaudiness of prints by drawing attention from it. Use a color that contrasts with the print; with dark colors, white belts are very effective. With the leopard coat example above, adding a simple necklace or a belt on the bottom layers can further draw attention away from the print. Another strategy is to use accessories that either complement or match with your solid-color layers; I carried a metallic green bag along with my "mod" outfit and it worked really well.


Spring Sample Sales

I don't know why, but it seems like the sample sale season restarts with a bang soon after Fashion Week. Perhaps designers are trying to clear out their showroom for the new stuff.

Now is the time to keep your eyes peeled. Visit sites with sales listings early and often, but don't be lazy and rely on just one site. I check the BargainsLA listings pretty frequently and found out that Rachel Pally is having a sale next weekend, and SunWalters is also doing spring cleaning. Normally I don't pay much attention to Daily Candy listings since most of the "sales" aren't all that cheap anyways, but I found out yesterday via the "Daily Candy Weekend Guide" that the Cooper Building was having a sample sale (this sale was not listed on Bargains LA). It was rather bizarre, since sample sales are generally at the end of the month, but since I can't go at the end of this month (or the next, etc.), it was a real treat. I got myself a Pegah Anvarian top for $20; it would have been $50 (which makes sense when retail was over $200), but it was placed on the $20 rack, so yay for me =). I asked the people in the showroom why they had this sale so early, and they said that they just had extra stuff they needed to get rid of. Sounds like my theory is on the right track...


JoAnn's National Crafts Month Sales

I went to JoAnn's with the intention of buying one cheap thing, but I ended up walking out the store with $25 worth of goods (most of items were $1-2 each). This weekend I found a lot of things at 30% off throughout the store, including all jewelry beads and findings. Some of the pricier jewelry stones, card stock, and lighting were 40% off. There's also a ton of odds-and-ends clearance merchandise that requires some digging through, but the prices are stellar.

One thing I found to be on sale all the time, regardless of season, is fabric remnant. While the remnant pieces may be too small for most projects, they're great for small ones such as pouches: you don't have to worry about paying full price for something that you only a yard or two for. I don't go to JoAnn's much, but whenever I do, the remnant section is the first place I dart off to.

Nota bene--Stacie has provided us with a very useful tip: "Do you get the sales flyer for JoAnn Fabrics? You can sign up online or in the store. Every month you get a flyer with all of the sale prices as well as one 40% off coupon for any one item in the store. Sometimes they also have extra coupons such 10% off the whole purchase or 50% off one item, especially for holiday weekend sales and such." Thanks Stacie!


Random Musings

Wow, I caught a lot of grammatical errors when I looked back at my old posts. I do know how to spell and how to write good (just kidding), I swear! Otherwise I wouldn't be a (soon-to-be) law review editor.

It seems like people are finding my blog by accident when they were trying to search for Planet Lulu, since I posted about a Lulu loft sale a while back. If you're one of these people, here's the link to the Planet Lulu webpage.