The Social Value of Fashion Blogs

The Bargain Queen has a on what people like in a fashion blog. The results will be a part of an upcoming book. I'm all for academic studies, so I took the survey. Pretty interesting stuff! If you're interested, you can take part in it.

Fashion sometimes has a negative image as being shallow, fickle, and trivial. Sometimes it can be all of these things, but there's also the artistic and intellectual sides that are oft overlooked. I like fashion blogs because I like to get new fashion ideas, shopping tips, and a dose of intellect. There are so many fashion blogs out there with insightful and and intelligent commentary, and those blogs can hardly be characterized as shallow, fickle, or trivial. Fashion definitely can be "the whole package"--a combination of beauty and brains.

Why do fashion blogs appeal to you?


The buttoned-up effect in action

Posting almost didn't happen today. When I turned on my camera this morning, there were the usual lines across the screen when the camera misbehaves, but later on things on the screen became runny blobs. I became really concerned because some of the pictures taken turned out looking like blobs! Thankfully, pushing a few buttons did wonders. I think it's a sign that the camera is really on its last legs, but I'm hoping that it'll last long enough until I start making money and can afford to buy a new one.

To illustrate how buttons can brighten up any outfit, I've chosen something you've seen me wear before--the corduroy shrunken blazer, the green t-shirt, and black pants. I've worn this combo many, many times, but there's something different about each outfit. It's all in the accessories:

Sometimes wearing multiple pins and/or wearing them in off-kilter positions can add a little something-something to a repeat outfit. Wearing more than one big button (or a badge, as some call it) might be overkill, but pairing them with smaller pins can actually look quite good. There's a symbiotic relationship between these two types of pins--the conservative lapel pin gets dressed down while the badge doesn't look awkwardly huge the way it might when worn alone.

The buttoned-up effect

Sorry for the infrequent post, folks, but I've been sooo busy lately. I haven't bought clothes or shoes for a while. Yay! I may be busy, but cursed be the Internet age, I can shop any time of the day (provided that the servers aren't down for "regularly scheduled maintenance/upgrades"). I went a wee bit crazy with buying lots of beads (OK, at least that's a business investment) and a few other useful articles. Some of them are still making their way over by the way of snail's mail, but I'm happy with what I've got and can't wait to wear them in the coming days.

I have to bring a jacket to school all the time, since it's always cold in the lecture halls. Sometimes I'd roll out of bed and not know what to wear, so I would consistently grab the same few pieces of outerwear that goes with everything. When you wear the same things day in and day out, it gets boring sometimes. To keep things fresh, I like accessorizing with pins and brooches. Sometimes I wear a few at a time, like this:

I made these lapel pins from buttons I bought during the JoAnn store closing sale a few months ago. Now I get the meaning of "cute as a button."

Some days I do cute, but some days I do cynical. While I'm not a big fan of slogan tees, I do like to make a statement with slogans discretely printed on accessories. Unfortunately, my DIY capabilities are limited insofar as my tools and materials are limited, so I actually have to buy my slogans. Joining my ever-expanding pin collection are these two buttons, which cost less than $2 apiece. Being a completely frazzled editor obsessed with achieving perfection in a very short span of time, the one on the left is perfect. Given what I plan on doing for the next who knows how many years, the appeal of the one on the right is obvious:

(Yup, that's the reflection of my camera, along with my short bony fingers. Can't be helped.)

One thing I've been attracted to lately are blank note cards. Having blank notecards may end up saving money in the long run. Instead of buying separate birthday cards, thank you cards, and general correspondance cards, blank cards are one-size-fits-all--you just have to customize them with your own messages. It's good to have a few blank cards around the house. You won't have to worry about card emergencies (when you need a card right away but don't have time to go buy one), and best of all, you won't be stuck with a bunch of single-occasion cards from an 8-pack when you really only need one card.

I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a shoe-holic. I may not have money to buy actual shoes right now, but I can certainly afford to buy shoe cards. When I saw these notecards in the same store I bought the bottons from, I couldn't help but snap them up:

They're so cute! Even if I had no one to write to, I wouldn't mind just putting these cards on shelves as decoration.

One highlight of an Etsy transaction is the freebie. In my case, Allegrae was sick and couldn't ship out orders as early as she normally would, so she offered to include some extra goodies to make up for it. I'll say that she more than made up for it:

The, um, button button is quite clever, and now I can flaunt my shoe addict status! The berry magnet is now stuck to my fridge, looking pretty. All in all, I spent less than $10. Since the whole package and all the other stuff in the store are so cool, I just might use that 10% off coupon sometime in the future.

More on my Etsy shopping sprees to follow as packages arrive in the mail...


eBay is my "dealer"

Wow, it's been a busy week. I've been up late night after night for school and business alternately. Editorial deadlines are simply not fun, but at least jewelrymaking is. I don't mind staying up all night making things, but looking at pages upon pages of red and blue ink? I fell asleep before I had a chance to finish. Glad that's over with for now.

I've been keeping my local post office busy with packages coming in and packages going out. I don't need to buy clothes anymore, but I've become a serious beadaholic. I'm hooked on them like I'm hooked on dark chocolate and lemon drops; guess it doesn't help when they look so yummy.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I shop for beads like I do everything else--bargain style. I buy my supplies from everywhere--chain stores, specialty stores, eBay. I stake out suppliers who are not overly popular but offer great beads/components at great prices. Why the less popular guys? Because less popularity equals less competition, and less competition means fewer bids, which in turn means lower prices. I also go after the less popular (or some may say "weird") beads both for the price and the creative challenge. It's amazing what your imagination can do when you're forced to work with very different materials.

Since a lot of my supplies come from eBay, I thought I'd share my experiences. There's a couple of things to be on the lookout for when it comes to buying supplies and other things on the cheap:

-To prevent overbidding for something, check the Buy It Now (BIN) items first. A lot of times sellers offer lots of the same items for auction as well as BIN. To make the time and effort of bidding worth while, my auction price ceiling is always substantially lower than the BIN price.

-Another thing to consider is whether the seller is trustworthy. Sure, ratings help, but they don't tell the whole story. Having a trustworthy supplier is especially important if you're going to be selling your work--if you're vouching for something being "genuine" and it turns out you're wrong, you'll not only lose money, but your customers are going to bolt. If you plan on buying large quantities of supplies such as beads, you want to make sure to the extent possible that your money won't go to some incompetent or, worse yet, some shady character. Sometimes it's tempting to make a large purchase at a store that sells reasonably priced items in order to scrimp on shipping, but it's not a good idea. It's better to test out each seller with a small purchase first.

Case in point: I found seller A, who had a great selection of beads. That seller has quite a few customers, but not as much as a popular seller who had lots of bidders (and hence higher prices). I placed an order and found that the beads and prices were both great. On the second transaction, my order got screwed up, but I was so impressed by what a great job seller A did to make things right that I kept going back despite the faux pas.

Seller B offered beads at a great price, even better than A. I decided to place one small order to try it out. I emailed seller B regarding combined shipping, and it took forever for her to respond. I won 2 things for a very good price, but when I got the beads, some were damaged. B promised a refund, but didn't answer my emails for a week and a half until I sent a very tersely-worded one. The amount I was trying to get back wasn't much (under $2), but that's not the point--it's my money, the seller promised to give it back, and the seller just didn't handle it very well. I finally got my refund, but that's the first and last time I'm doing business with that store.

Do you have special tips? Enlighten us!


Save those shoulder pads!

Now that I have my iPod Nano, the next task is to protect it . . . on the cheap, of course!

A screen protector is the first order of things. Since the screen is delicate, you want a plastic overlay to protect it from scratches. Why spend money on a pack of Nano-sized screen protectors when you can use something much, much cheaper? Back when I actually made use of a PDA, I bought a pack of sheet protectors from the 99 Cents Store (which also carried a pack of stylus and a $30 cable, and of course I promptly stocked up on those). Now that I'm not using my PDA, there's no reason for the accessories to go to waste. I simply cut out a piece small enough to fit the Nano's screen, and we were good to go.

The next item on the checklist is a sleeve that protects the whole machine. I looked around on Etsy and found some really cute ones, but I felt like saving money by making my own. My plan was to make one out of vinyl, with elaborate cut-outs. Since the vinyl protects against scratches but not shocks, I wanted to add a cushioned lining. It didn't work out as I planned. First, it's really hard to do intricate cuts out of a small piece. Second, it was too hard to sew hard vinyl to a rounded bag form. My plan was to sew the lining part first, then cover it up with vinyl. What I should have done was to sew the lining to the vinyl, then sew the two halves of the case together like a sandwich, but hindsight is always 20/20. Still, I ended up with a soft and functional case, so that's good enough for now.

Ever since I was a kid, I'd save shoulder pads that my mom takes out. There's something about the cushiony feel and the shape. I used to think they looked like wings and wanted to make fairy dolls out of them (I actually made one as a Christmas gift for an aunt). Once I was well past the sock doll-making stage, I didn't know what to do with them, but I saved them anyway out of potential usefulness. I'm glad I did, since they sure came in handy last night.

I started off with this:

I sewed a rectangular outline to keep the layers in place, then I cut out the shape. I folded it in half, sewed the side and the bottom shut (save for a little corner where the headphone jack was located). After that, I sewed on a piece of felt. Then I flipped it inside out. All of that took about an hour, but it could have been done faster if I wasn't doing other things at the same time.

If it weren't for the Frankenstein stitches, which I intended to cover up with vinyl, this would have looked pretty good. Still, the resulting product will serve it's purpose, so it hasn't been a complete waste of time.

When I have time later, I'll sew a loop on the back. That way, I can clip the case to a belt loop or to a velcro arm band.


It's Here!

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had saved my Westlaw points for something huge. This morning I was woken up by the doorbell and I knew it was here!

Enjoying the sweet sounds as we speak =) Definitely worth my 3 years' worth of legal research.


One Day Only: Starbucks Freebie

It may seem hard to believe, but Starbucks is giving away a free 12-ounce cup of premium drip coffee tomorrow, 3/15/07. I learned of this great offer through the Bargains LA newsletter. Of course there's a caveat: this offer is good only from 10am to noon. Too bad I'll be sitting in class during that time.

Drink up!


Cut and Run with it

For arts and crafts people, sales on expensive supplies aren't as frequent as those for clothing (it seems like every clothing or department store has a "sale" every week), but they're not exactly hard to come by. I always stocked up when JoAnn's had a sale, or if I find something from a clearance bin somewhere. It's a different story for tools of the trade, however. I feel like I've spent a lot of money for tools because I can never seem to find any on sale. The wire cutters of my "starter" set of jewelry-making tools went dull so fast that I had to get a better one within a month or two. I've only "scored" once when it came to getting bargain-basement tools that didn't fall apart in my hands.

One thing that took me a while to procure was a cutting board. A long time ago, I bought a roll of vinyl because I had a very particular idea of what I wanted to do with it. However, I couldn't do it without a) an x-acto knife, and b) a proper cutting board. The price ranges for x-acto knifes varied--I've seen some cheap and ostensibly cheapy ones, and I've seen some expensive ones. I thought that a cutting board wouldn't be all that expensive, but I was wrong. I was surprised by how pricey they can be, and worse yet, they're often too big. I don't have a whole lot of space to work with, so I was quite disappointed. The roll of vinyl sat in a box, unloved and abandoned, for many months.

Cut to a couple of months ago, when I was shopping for clothes at the FIDM scholarship store. Imagine my happiness when I saw this:

This kit has everything I was too cheap to spend money on. I didn't care for the rulers, but it's got the x-acto knife and the cutting board! All for under $3! I was so flippin' happy! Yeah, the quality of the cutting board isn't great, but the size was just right, and it did its job. I used it to carry out my idea, which was this:

X-acto knives are so fun. I literally went crazy the night I got the cutting board. I made this necklace/collar/whatever you call it and a number of other cutouts. My once-upon-a-time dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon may have been turned on its head, but at least my steady hands have not gone to waste. I was tempted to go back to the store to buy another set, just in case it breaks down, but I haven't yet. Should I? The last time I went to the store, it was clear that cutting boards weren't very hot sellers, so I think there should be some left.

With a cheap set like this, replacement parts are not included. That wasn't a surprise. Fortunately, during the local JoAnn's closing sale last month, I found a pack of replacement blades for a real bargain. It's safe to say that I'll be doing lots of cutting for some time to come.

Anyone got good deals on tools of the trade? What's your secret? We won't tell. ;-)


Handy Dandy

I've been a big fan of Etsy for a long time (I've sung it praises before), long before I decided to set up shop. It's still the first place I turn to whenever I'm looking for unique yet affordable things. The variety of pretty goods created by people with great tastes (like Ambika from The Fray) is just staggering. Besides, it feels good to support fellow crafters who are trying to make a living or a earn little on the side, and the personal service is just fabulous. I've done quite a bit of shopping on it lately--a couple of things for myself as "research" on what customers see during the buying process, and then a couple more things as gifts.

The first of my shopping spree items: a kanzashi hairclip from Gochemoche. I first saw her work on Modish, and I knew that I had to have one. $6 for the clip, plus $2 shipping in a nice gift box filled with paper stars and a pair of earrings:

It's so pretty! People know I make stuff and thought I made it myself, but sadly, I don't have this kind of talent. Customer service was great, too. A minor issue came up with the clip, and she responded right away offering to pay for return shipping. It was something that I easily fixed, so I didn't need to take her up on the offer. Definitely appreciated it, though. I love my clip and wear it quite a bit. Due to my sad financial state, I have to resist buying more. The affordable price makes temptation so difficult to resist. I'll continue to window-shop until a) I have more money to buy clips for myself, or b) I need a birthday gift.

The next thing I bought was a polymer clay apple charm by Jessica Jane:

I don't know why, but I wanted an apple charm. This non-traditional one was just perfect. There's glitter all over the surface, including the part that's washed out by sunlight. Also $6 and only a dollar for shipping (not some trumped-up price like on eBay).

Finally, gifts for several people I'm collaborating with them for a performance (or should I say dragged them into it). I'm not going to reveal what I got for 2 of the people just in case they might come across this post, but suffice it to say it involved custom embroidery. AuntiFranni was so quick to respond to my inquiries that I decided to stick with her for the custom order. Through almost-instantaneous back-and-forths, we hashed out exactly what I wanted. I got 2 items for $8 each plus $4.05 for priority shipping--roughly $10 per person. It's quite a deal, considering the embroidery job alone costs $8 at some places. I got my package today and I am very happy with it. I've always had such a hard time finding affordable yet suitable gifts for guys, but these are perfect. They're so much better than, say, a gift card--the only "nice" gift that I would have been able to afford.

One of the hidden treasures of Etsy orders is the free gift. I don't buy things with the expectation that I'll get a gift, since the goods are already so reasonably priced to begin with, but many sellers do throw one in (myself included). Fran sent me this one:

It's a chapstick/lipstick holder-slash-keychain. Ain't it nifty?

I still have to find one more gift for my third collaborator and I need it ASAP, so I better continue my shopping!


Rebate Hate

A long time ago, I read that many retailers switched over to rebates instead of giving coupons or outright discounts. It has worked out really well for them because a lot of people don't want to bother with the hassle of redeeming the discount. What the article didn't mention is that the rebate people create more obstacles--either things are "lost" in the mail, or they don't respond to repeated requests for updates, or they deny rebate redemptions over the smallest, nitpicky things.

The reason why I'm writing today is because I'm mad at my latest attempt to get a rebate. In the passed, things took a long time but I got my money back nearly all of the time. Sometimes things get lost in the system and I write it off as something that just "happens." This time, I'm not angry over the fact that things got lost in the system--in fact, it went through just fine. Rather, I'm disappointed at the outcome.

A few weeks ago I bought a battery charger from Walgreen's. Since my camera devours power, I decided that it's high time I go green and save some money. I asked the cashier about the procedures of the rebate. He said to fill out the form and he printed out a rebate receipt for me. I filled out the form, clipped the rebate receipt to it, and off it went--just as I've done in the past. Today, I got something back. Instead of getting a check, I got a notice stating that the rebate receipt was not accepted. WTF?!? Then why the heck are employees instructed to print them out? By now, I've lost the actual receipt and the deadline has past, so I have no opportunity to do the paperwork over again. Unlike my dad, who relentlessly hounds the rebate centers and tracks down his rebates, I just don't have the time and energy to fight over $5.

If things get lost in the system, that's one thing. If you're rejecting practices that you've represented as acceptable, that's quite another. I won't go as far as to say that it's fraud, but it's certainly bad customer service.


Cashing Out

Wow, time really flies by. I know that in another 10 weeks or so, I'll be able to call myself a lawyer--I had this conversation with a classmate just a few weeks ago. But it wasn't until I paid my $650 (ouch) to sit for the California Bar Exam that it finally became real for me.

Since "the end is near," I'm starting to wrap stuff up with school. After dragging my feet on my moral character application, I'll finally finish it up and just shell out the money for it. Other things to do are exit interviews and with the school and the loan provider--they really want us to make sure we know how much money we owe. Of course I'll have to put in a cap and gown order soon as well.

I'm also starting to cash out on my LexisNexis and Westlaw points. Let me explain what those are: LexisNexis and Westlaw are competing legal research databases, sort of like Google. They are mega expensive, so in order to get us hooked early, they give student free accounts and points for using them. I've used my Lexis points to get a coffee grinder (this was 2 years ago) and 2 CD's (last week), and I've been saving my Westlaw points for the Big Fish. I'm still waiting for The Big One to come, though it's supposed to take 4-8 weeks. When it's here, I'll let you know what it is!