Here we are rocking our second-hand looks at a recent “fashion lovers” event she organized at Baggio Consignment (My ella moss shirt is via Pieces and Talbots jeans via Goodwill’s Second Debut, both with daily deal vouchers. Cowboy boots not pictured are a yard sale find. More details about Sydney Page’s outfit here).
I have a treat for you today! Q&A with Richmond’s own Sydney Page Lester of the fashion blog Chic Stripes! I met her through social media and love seeing the looks she pulls together from local thrift and consignment store finds, so I was thrilled when she agreed to share some insight from her experience with RVA’s second-hand style scene:
Alison: How did you get interested in fashion? How would you describe your style?
SPL: My interest in fashion really only began about six years ago. I had moved to Richmond in 2007 to start my graduate degree and couldn’t help but notice Richmonders’ eye-catching way of dressing: with a total sense of creativity and freedom. I had always loved thrifting and wearing things, I just wasn’t very good at it nor did I have a sense of individual style. Shortly after moving to Richmond, I also stumbled onto fashion blogs and realized there was more to clothes than just wearing them: they could be an expression of self, of mood. And they had stories, histories, and often amazing ways of being made.
These “describe your style” questions are always so hard! I can tell you what styles I love and am drawn to… I love things that are structured, boxy. I like pairing different textures: silk, tweed, wool, linen, leather. When putting together outfits, I strive to include one slightly off-beat item, something that makes you take a second look. My styles often includes a mix of items that can be vintage, urban, edgy, bo-ho, preppy, or feminine. If I had to give it a description, I would say my style is classic with a touch of unexpected.
Alison: Why the emphasis on “2nd hand 1st”?
SPL: I started using the hash tag “2nd hand 1st” effort to shop second hand stores first, local stores second, and mass retail stores as a last resort. In high school, it was cool to go thrifting. We would find all sorts of crazy things no one should really be wearing, but thought we were pretty awesome (or indie, hipster, what have you). I eventually figured out that thrift stores actually had wearable items, you just had to hunt. Turns out, I love the hunt.
In 2013, I made a pledge to shop “2nd hand 1st” of clothing, I made/make a conscious effort to go to thrift and consignment stores first and only. And it’s completely changed my outlook on shopping. I had always shopped thrift stores, but I would also pepper my shopping with Target clearance racks, J. Crew sales or the occasional Forever 21 piece (which would inevitably fall to pieces or be given away within a few months). When I shop now, I am usually not going with a specific item in mind since you never know what you will find. But I do keep a running list of items I know I need (example: tailored black blazer, which I found at Ashby recently; pencil skirts, belts, etc.) and when/if I find them, then I know I need it, and chances are it’s a great vintage, one-of-a-kind piece, or a designer item with a great price tag.
Alison: What’s your favorite bargain you’ve found? Top three if you can’t pick just one
SPL: Hands down, a boy’s maroon corduroy blazer. I found it in high school at my favorite thrift store and it’s the perfect combinations of fitted, thin, and great color. I wear it constantly and I love it. I love it so much, in fact, that I once fell into near hysterics in college when I thought someone had stolen it. Turns out, it was under my laundry pile. But that’s what a great find will do to you – it’s irreplaceable!
– A mustard yellow sweater I found at a thrift store. My mom says it’s not my color, but I love it and wear it all the time come fall/winter.
– My husband’s black Citizen watch. He bought it new, but since I’ve practically stolen it, it counts as second hand right?
Other good bargains on designer items: My Marni sandals from Clementine, $135 for an over $700 pair of sandal. My Jimmy Choos from Baggio, $85 and would originally retail for about $500. I’ve also found lots of great designer jeans (J. Brand, Citizen), each between the $20-$30 price point when they retail between $150-$250.
Alison: How about the weirdest item you’ve seen? (That you may or may not have bought)
SPL: Things with lots and lots of shoulder pads, sequins and fringe! I’m usually drawn to all of the really ugly things I find in thrift stores, thinking I’ll wear them and make a statement. I’ve since learned to leave those in the store now. I once found this great, 70’s chevron dress that I had plans to hem and slim, but it just wasn’t working for me (as the picture clearly illustrates). This is the weirdest thing I’ve almost bought recently.
Alison: Do you have a “go-to” RVA source for secondhand steals?
SPL: This totally depends on what I am looking for – more every day casual clothes, jewelry, bags, or higher end items.
Alison: Thrift stores can be overwhelming. Do you have any strategies for sifting through junk to find the gems?
SPL: Of course! If you’ve never been thrifting before, decide on one thing you want to find, like a dress, or skirt. Then find that rack and go through it with a fine tooth comb. Pick up any item that looks remotely interesting and inspect it for quality: what’s the fabric? Does it have any holes? Make sure stitches are not broken, buttons are there. If there is a fitting room, try on the piece. If there’s no fitting room, try on the piece! (Tip: wear leggings and a long tunic when thrifting; makes trying on items over what you are already wearing a piece of cake). If you are time limited, hit the following areas in order: jewelry, bags, shoes and accessories. From there, just look for whatever you need or want. A quick tip for looking at jewelry: if it’s missing stones, leave it, no matter how great the piece is. Be careful of earrings – depending on the quality, they can cause tender ears to become sore. Another tip: don’t buy something cool or even designer if it’s in poor condition. You will never wear/use it and it just takes up space. Save your dollars and closet space for those items you love!
Alison: For someone getting started with shopping secondhand, what are some easy wardrobe pieces to pick up at consignment or thrift stores?
SPL: At a thrift store I would start with accessories. It’s hard to go wrong with jewelry or a fun scarf and they are super easy to find (not to mention very inexpensive). For consignment stores, really look for essential wardrobe items (if you aren’t sure of what these are, consider working with a personal stylist to help establish your list) that will bring quality not quantity to your wardrobe. Consignment stores are a great place to find an investment bag, or a “big girl’ bag. You may spend more at a consignment store than a thrift store, but more than likely you will be able to find items that are more on trend or contemporary and maybe even the occasional fun luxury piece. If all else fails, you can at least find a Christmas sweater for those annual tacky sweater parties.
When not writing about fashion, styling, and local events, Sydney Page Lester works as the Director of Development for a Richmond non-profit and lives with her husband and two cats.
I’m hoping to make RVASAVERS a regular feature, learning from local folks (business owners, savvy shoppers, bloggers, etc.) who have their own spin on saving money or living frugally in RVA! If you, or someone you know, has an area of bargain expertise and would be willing to participate in some Q&A, please let me know – richmondbargains at gmail dot com