Some people are really good at tennis or poker or some other normal hobby or sport, but I’ve spent my time perfecting the art of the shop. Specifically, knowing something I want or seeing it on TV and then settling in with my phone or iPad to find it. It’s a combination of an obsessive doggedness that some people just don’t have (Lindy told me she’ll do a general search, and if it’s not there, she loses interest pretty quickly) and an awareness of how to best search online, a skill I’ve honed working as a digital editor for most of my career.
My latest was the shirt Kyle Richards wore in Monday’s premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ve always loved a knotted button-down, but whenever I style the ones in my closet that way, they instantly turn into crop tops, hitting right at my natural waist. It works if worn over a dress, but with jeans, not so much. Hers, sliced in the back so it doesn’t pull, is brilliant.
My tactic for this was to first search specific terms online: “striped knotted button-down,” “striped knotted button-down with open back,” etc. Think about exact characteristics and type them into your browser (that means color, print, styling features, and embellishments). I couldn’t find the shirt that way, though, so I used some detective skills. I remembered from an earlier season of RHOBH that Kyle’s worked with the Southern California store By Alene, so I went to its site and on an “As Seen on Instagram” page found my shirt on Kyle! Yay! It’s by a label called Drew, so I cruised to that site and found directives to the stores that carry them. I couldn’t find the style anywhere, so I contacted the brand to ask. A rep knew exactly what I was talking about, but it was a spring style (it’ll do a similar one for next spring).
Before that was maybe my best find ever: a Mark Cross small Grace. I’d gradually been getting more and more obsessed with the style, named for Grace Kelly in Rear Window, and it was cemented when Alexa Chung started carrying hers around a lot. There was no way I could buy it at retail (over $2,000!), and the few times I’d seen it pop up on my favorite consignment website, it sold immediately. After searching eBay (all the listed items were still too expensive) and every resale site I knew, I did a general Web search. Since these bags aren’t super popular, I made sure to click through page after page of results. Finally, legitimately hours after I’d started, I found a post from a consignment sore in Minneapolis that had blogged about it as a find-of-the-day months and months ago. Reasoning that the unique style and brand might not have a ton of shoppers or interest, I called the store and it did indeed still have it and was willing to ship it to me in New Jersey—for under $250. Score!
My biggest pointers?
Exhaust all angles. eBay is fantastic, but you should also check every single consignment site around (The Real Real, Shop-Hers, and Vestiaire are some of my favorites).
Seriously search the Web. Don’t browse over the first page of search results and give up. That’s not dedication. My Mark Cross score was likely because the shop I bought it from is tiny and might not rank highly enough to land on the top of the result heap.
Search with specific terms. Whenever I’m naming images for the posts I write here, I pull out specific keywords that describe them. It’s an accepted practice in the business, meaning that if you search “neon lime cap sleeve dress” instead of “green short sleeve dress,” you’re more likely to find what you’re after (weird example, I know. No idea where that came from).
Friends and coworkers have expressed stress over trusting the seller or store. My thoughts on it are that you have to think about what you’re buying (the likelihood of the Mark Cross being counterfeited is very low) and do some research on the seller. It’s easy to find reviews of online sites and you’ll find damning reviews accusing them of fake merchandise instantly. For my Minneapolis consignment store, Rodeo Drive Consignment, it’s been around for over 30 years, so you know it’s got a good reputation. Stores like that work very hard at authenticating a piece, and if you get it and something feels off (there’s a funky smell or the leather doesn’t feel real), they should accept a return immediately. Ask before you buy for extra feel-good security before whipping out your credit card.