Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Wedding Dresses

Alex hit me up with this fabulous request:

A few days ago, I bought my wedding dress! Yay! And I had a particularly awesome experience. From paying attention to not only wedding blogs that I trust but also to you regarding clothes and bodies and how they can be best friends, I knew what I wanted, and I got it, because I knew what to look for and how to find it. Although I am now done with this fun and exciting experience, I’m still curious to see what – if anything – you have to say on the topic of wedding dresses. I know it’s a whole can of worms to open, and it’s very different from day-to-day clothing, but if you have insights, I’m sure they’re fascinating and could really help someone!

So, naturally, I wanna show you this:

weddingdress

I don’t have tons of photos that show my dress in full or in detail, but I love this photo a whole bunch, and it gives you the general idea.* Our wedding was at the end of August, but I still wanted my arms covered. And honestly? I just lucked out. I found this dress at a little local boutique that stocked three or four wedding-appropriate dresses at any given time. Bought it off the rack for $150. It was the only place I looked. The dress itself has a sheer overlay with applique flowers in the same sheer material across the bodice and down the skirt, and a solid tank dress underneath. It was perfect.

As for giving advice on wedding dress buying, I will do that. But before I dig into my own opinions, here’s the most important advice I can give: Get the dress you want and love and can afford. That is all. It may take some doing to find it – especially given that “afford” clause – but it will be worth it. Wedding dresses are among the most emotionally significant garments worn by humans, and no matter what I or your mom or your best friend may say, YOU should adore your dress. And feel luminous in it. So make that priority one.

Got it? OK then, here are my tips:

Strapless dresses are HARD

In addition to being a married person who once had a wedding, I used to assist Husband Mike in photographing weddings. So I’ve been to many, and been behind the scenes of nearly all of them. And the main dress-related wisdom I can impart is this: Strapless dresses can be gorgeous and elegant, but no matter how you’re shaped they will slide down on your figure and you will spend a lot of time yanking them back up again. If looking great in your photos is top priority, strapless can work. If you want to run around and dance and twirl your ring bearers and flower girls, you might want something with straps or sleeves instead.

Wedding dresses are pretty and tough to resist

Sounds obvious, right? But consider again that this is one of the most emotional garments you will ever own and wear. So when you’re confronted by a room full of utterly gorgeous gowns and flooded with the emotions surrounding your upcoming wedding, you may become overwhelmed. I have had several friends buy wedding dresses that they couldn’t really afford because they went, they saw The Pretty, and they just couldn’t resist. If money is no object, then look everywhere. If you’re on a budget, I would highly recommend staying away from the fancy bridal ateliers that you can’t afford. Because if you go in, you’ll see what’s there and you might end up charging a super spendy dress when something at a lower price point could’ve been just as lovely. Don’t let yourself be tempted and you’ll be less likely to overspend.

There are options beyond bridal shops

As I said, my dress was $150 at a local clothing boutique. I know lots of women who bought their dresses on Etsy and eBay for less than $50. The bridal industry is an “all that the traffic will bear” industry, and everything in it is expensive. But if a brand new dress isn’t a priority for you, explore some alternatives. You may decide to pay $10 for a thrifted dress and then contract with a seamstress to have it rebuilt and still pay less than you would for a new dress. And yours will still be custom and exactly what you want.

Think about your day

Weddings can be formal, raucous, both, and neither. If you have any idea what your wedding day will look like, try to take that into consideration when you’re looking at dresses. If the only dancing you’ll be doing will be with your parter and/or parents on a ballroom floor in a slow and stately manor, you’ll probably be just fine in something a little more structured and constricting. If you know there will be a 2-hour Hora after the the ceremony under the Chuppah – which can totally happen, as it did at one of my best friends’ weddings – you might want something a wee bit more flexible. When we think about wedding dresses, we think about looks and photos, which makes sense and may just trump overall comfort. But I know brides who have regretted their dress decisions during the later hours of their weddings when things have moved from smiles and clasped hands to yelling and the Chicken Dance.

Consider your culture

Most brides have at least one relative who will express OPINIONS about dresses and wedding day adornment. This person may be someone to whom it is very important that you wear the traditional saree or lehenga, that you wear the gown she wore or that your mother wore, that you wear a mantilla even if you don’t want to. I really do believe that you should get the dress you want and love and can afford, but I also know that culture and tradition figure strongly into many weddings and ignoring them completely can have consequences. We planned our wedding without making any compromises and although we met some resistance during the process, all was forgiven in the end. But I know plenty of couples who still get snarky comments about what they did or didn’t do at their ceremonies decades later. Your wedding is likely to be meaningful for your family members, and if wearing something that reflects your culture or heritage can be done in a way that works for you both, consider doing so.

And I’ll quite happily stop there. But not before reiterating that the absolute most important thing is that you love your dress. Feel free to ignore everything I just said if you love your dress and feel amazing in it. That’s what matters most.

Oh, one more quick note: There are hundreds of wedding blogs out there, thousands of wedding inspiration Pinterest boards, and books and TV shows and more and more. I never tuned in to any of it while planning my own wedding and don’t pay it much mind now. Many women find great ideas and inspiration in these resources, and gain energy and excitment from them. Others feel overwhelmed and pressured and miserable. Before you immerse yourself in the world of wedding media, consider how much exposure you want and how it may affect you. Just sayin’.

So! Marrieds: How did you find your dress? Was it spendy? A family heirloom? Engaged folks: What criteria are you using as you search? Does culture play in? Singletons: Do you dream of a specific dress or have a plan for finding one when the time comes? Anyone at all have advice for finding the perfect wedding dress?

*Our ceremony was parents, sibs, and grandparents only. We asked our parents and grandparents to each do a reading of their choice. Here, you see my dad reciting the lyrics to “Zip-a-dee-do-dah.” Because he’s a twerp like that.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Reader Request: Being a Savvy Shopper on eBay

ebay

Martha e-mailed me this question:

You have so many wonderful handbags, and your posts often note that they are from eBay. Do you have any tips for hunting for bags on eBay? Do you search for a particular bag, or do you search bags generally to see what turns up? How do you know you are getting an authentic bag and not a knock-off?

I posted a while back about my own handbag shopping practices and choices, but Martha’s question reminded me that this post on how to shop on eBay is due for an overhaul and refresh. I have nabbed some incredible deals on eBay. Deals so good they make me blush. Gorgeous designer boots at a fifth of their retail price, vintage coats for $10, necklaces that garner dozens of comments every time they’re worn, many lovely handbags … and the list goes on. Do I have some magical skill set that allows me to ferret out these deals? Nope. Are my methods top secret and difficult to employ? No way. Do I troll eBay on a daily basis looking for deals … well, sort of, but we’ll get to that. Bottom line is that my eBay finds are equal parts persistence, patience, and luck. And I’d be happy to tell you exactly how I utilize this amazing shopping resource so that you, too, can score deals so amazing they’ll make you blush.

But first, a quick summary – because I believe that much of the fear that surrounds bidding and buying on eBay is based in a misunderstanding of how the site functions. eBay is a community of buyers and sellers loosely governed by the rules of the site. When you are looking at a product entry, you may be buying from a company or a collective, but in many cases you will be buying from an individual. Someone just like you. Sellers can be as detailed or vague as they want when they list a product for sale, and set their own prices. You can always contact a seller if you have a question, want to see more photos, or need more information about an item, but they may or may not respond in a timely manner.

Some products can be bought immediately at a set price – look for the “Buy it Now” label if you prefer this route – but most products are sold in auction format. You enter a price you’re willing to pay and, if no one enters a higher price that THEY’RE willing to pay, the item is sold to you. (I won’t bore you with more nitty-gritty details of pricing, buying, or consumer protection as eBay has fantastic resources on all of these topics. Check their eBay University Learning Center for great tutorials.)

But before we dig into buying on eBay – and a few guidelines for buying safely and avoiding fakery – let’s take a look at techniques for FINDING stuff you want on eBay.

Saved searches

This is my primary eBaying tool. If you go to the search bar and type in “Frye Veronica Slouch boot,” pick the “Clothing, shoes, and accessories” category from the drop-down, and hit enter, you’ll get a whole bunch of listings.

ebay search

Right next to where it says “355 results found” you’ll see a tiny green link that says “Follow this search.” When you hover over it, a dialog appears telling you that you can elect to have eBay perform this search for you automatically. So long as you’re already signed into your eBay account, you can click that little link and have that exact same search dumped into your e-mail inbox every day.

saved search

You can edit your saved searches by hovering over “My eBay” at the top right corner of your screen and selecting “Followed searches.” (Click the image below to enlarge)

followed searches

Once you’re looking at your list of saved searches, you can view the items currently encompassed by each search or edit your search parameters. Under “More actions” you can opt to unfollow a search, or just stop receiving the daily e-mail roundups in your inbox but keep the saved search in your queue.

Saved searches work best for VERY specific searches that include product names, brand names, and detailed descriptors. They’re ideal if you lusted after a particular pair of shoes, missed out, and are hoping to find them six months later. Creating general saved searches can be beneficial, too, because they’ll give you a starting point.

Refine your searches

To keep yourself from getting incredibly overwhelmed, I always recommend refining by broad category at the very least. If you’re starting your search from the eBay homepage, enter your search terms and then select your category from the drop-down to narrow the field a bit. (Refer to the first screen cap under “Saved searches” to see where to enter your terms and find this drop-down.) Let’s use “Banana Republic skirt” as an example. Type that into the search bar, then select “Clothing, shoes, and accessories” as your category. At time of writing, this search returns 7,199 results. So, ya know, DANG. But don’t decide you’ll never find that specific BR skirt you seek! Start refining. Begin with category at the top right, in this case “Women’s Clothing” which brings you down to a mere 7,190. Picking “Skirts” under “Women’s Clothing” gets you down to a very manageable 6,943. (Ha ha.)

refined search 1

From there, the real fun begins. Work your way down that left column until you’ve got exactly what you want. Size type, skirt style, length, color material, condition … enter as many as you can. If a search criterion is collapsed, click “see all” to the right of it and a dialog will pop up with more options. If you select size 8 but also want to include size 10, click “see all” and you’ll have the options to add more.

So if you want to keep your saved searches broad and end up with hundreds of new options in your inbox each day, you can click through to them, sort by “Time: newly listed” so that you’re seeing the newest entries first, and then refine using the criteria in that left column. And, of course, you can refine your searches anytime you shop on eBay – just punch your search terms into the bar, scan the results, and start adding parameters from the left rail.

Watch items of interest

If you find an item that you are interested in but not quite prepared to bid upon, you can “watch” it. Right below the blue “Add to cart” button is a little drop-down that says “Add to watch list.” Click it, and the listing will get saved to your My eBay area.

watch1

Access your watch list by going to My eBay (top right) and choosing “Watch list.” You have to manually visit your watch list, but keeping items in this area allows you to observe them from afar, see if other folks are bidding, and contemplate your decision to bid. 

watch list 2

Decide on a bidding strategy

Now that you’ve found what you’re looking for, you need to decide how you’re going to approach bidding. Buying on eBay can mean not knowing until the last second if you’ll get to own something, and that rush of excitement can cause some rash decision-making, so it’s important to settle on a few parameters before you begin bidding. My own bidding strategy is generally to enter the largest dollar amount I’m willing to pay for a particular item, and leave it to the fates. Sometimes that means I get outbid by one cent during the last 10 seconds of an auction, but c’est la vie. You can certainly try to win by hovering at your computer as the clock ticks down, but server speeds, Internet connections, and countless other factors can interfere with you getting that last bid placed in time. There are services like Auction Sniper that will place bids for you at the last minute … but I haven’t found them helpful.

Think before you bid

When you enter that number, you are committing to paying your chosen amount should you win. NEVER bid more than you can afford to pay. Even if you believe you have no chance at winning. You never know what will happen – items that appear in-demand can fall out of favor, listings can fly under the radar, all sorts of factors may end up conspiring to make that vintage necklace unexpectedly yours. So only bid what you can afford to pay.

Investigate your seller

eBay offers its customers a number of different ways to learn about its sellers. The main one is feedback rating. Every seller has a feedback rating next to her/his username, and you can find this information on every eBay listing.

seller

You’ll see the seller’s username (here it is sasuse66) followed by a number in parentheses. This number shows how many eBay transactions this user has completed. If a seller has less than five transactions, most eBayers will be wary – buyers and sellers alike. The colored stars are just shorthand. sasuse66 here has a red star, which means a feedback score between 1,000 and 4,999. Below the number and star is the percentage of positive feedback. As a point of reference, if a seller has less than 95% positive feedback, I am unlikely to bid. This is not a hard and fast rule, though. If you click on the transaction number (3213 here), you’ll see a breakdown of the seller’s feedback with more details. Sometimes negative feedback is given in error, or transactions are still in dispute. From this page, you can see what the seller has to say in response to negative feedback, which can be very enlightening. But be sure to do some digging if you’re looking at a seller with a low feedback rating, as that person or group may be problematic to work with and buy from.

Be patient

I bought these shoes off eBay about a year and a half after they were sold out in stores. It took that long for them to surface in my size and in a price range that suited me. You MAY be able to find something immediately, but you may not. Wait it out.

Be thorough

Now, this is the one that may make some folks cringe. If you really want to be a successful eBay consumer, look at all of the search results that fit your criteria. All of them. I was on a quest for a cognac leather jacket a couple of months ago and I probably looked at 250 listings every time I searched. There were loads of dupes and I could cruise through quickly, but scanning the lot of them helped me to know I’d seen everything that was available.

Be smart about price and value

Before you bid on a product, put its brand and style name into Google and make sure it’s not being sold elsewhere and/or for less. As a free market model, prices are “all that the traffic will bear,” meaning if someone is willing to pay it, it’s a fair price. Just because it’s on eBay doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bargain. Shop smart and do your homework.

More than that, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. eBay sellers can be punished for false advertising – claiming that they’re selling genuine Louis Vuitton purses when they’re really peddling fakes – through negative feedback and, eventually, being kicked off the site. Also in eBay disputes dealt with through PayPal, the buyer nearly always wins. But such battles can be long and drawn out, so you’re better to just be cautious. Classic example: Alexander McQueen skull scarves. There are about 10 trillion knockoffs on eBay for around $30. Buy it Now $30, not starting bid. Nowhere on those entries does it say, “guaranteed authentic” or “genuine,” but those sellers seldom say “designer inspired” or “faux” either so it’s up to you to make the call. Seem too good to be true? It probably is. Here are some red flags:

  • The item is brand new, not vintage, but incredibly cheap compared to original retail price
  • Has no damage or marks that might cause the price to go down, but incredibly cheap
  • The item is far, far cheaper than similar or identical items also for sale on eBay
  • The item is designer, but vendor offers no proof – receipts, hangtags, photos of labels, etc.
  • Vendor uses lots of stock images or product shots from other sites like Zappos or Nordstrom, but includes no actual photos of the item being sold
  • The vendor has a low feedback rating

Buying knockoffs might seem like a constant danger, but you wanna know what my own biggest eBaying mistake is? Bidding on stuff and thinking, “Oh, I’ll NEVER win THAT.” I have ignored my own advice more times than I care to admit. And although it has brought me some killer shoes and amazing deals, it has also forced me to scramble for money I wasn’t truly planning to spend. Because eBay has an element of gambling to it, and because luck and randomness figure in, it’s best to impose as much of your own logic and reason on the system as possible. And I struggle with that sometimes.

Also remember that purchasing via eBay is always riskier than buying from a regular online retailer. Always. So if you’re searching for something that needs to fit exactly right, or needs to fit exact specifications, I’d try elsewhere. Shopping on eBay is fun and rewarding, but transactions can and do go wrong in ways that they seldom will with mass retailers.

That said, eBay is also a great place to look for weird, unusual, slightly damaged, past season, or otherwise hard-to-find stuff at great prices. I’ve put everything from “Bohemian garnet” to “badger shirt” into that search bar and had a whale of a time poring over the results! And, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve landed some outrageous deals – specific, lusted-after items that might never have turned up thrifting. So for all its risks, I do adore eBay.

How do you eBay?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Reader Request: Loungewear and Comfy Bras

bali comfort revolution

Jenni e-mailed me with this great question:

I’m working on dressing both for comfort and figure flattery in the home context, as I (and my hubby) work at home some days. I also have “new-to-me” breasts – they’ve grown a couple of cup sizes in the last few years and now I’m 40+, so support is key. I do buy good quality bras – but I don’t really want to wear all that hardware when I’m in all day or hanging out with hubby and kid at night. Still, being nicely contained is more comfortable (and makes me feel a little better when I catch my profile in a mirror). What do you and others do for support and flattery when not out and about in the world? I’m too big up top to get much mileage out of a yoga top, and I would love some ideas or to know what others are doing.

I guess the bonus question here is: what are we all wearing when we are at home? If it’s a day when we aren’t going to be “seen” much, what style and dressing choices are we making, and what motivates those choices?

So, as you can see, two questions to be addressed here: First, are there comfy, lounge-appropriate bra options out there? Second, how are we dressing for nights in and/or lounge and/or working from home? Let’s start with the bras.

Comfy bras for lounge and sleep

I’ve already had some fascinating and impassioned discussions with you lovely readers about bras for lounge and sleep, and discovered that, although there is a bit of crossover, most women fall into one of three camps:

  1. Wearing a bra doesn’t really impact my comfort. Neither does going braless.
  2. I hate wearing a bra WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS, and rip mine off as soon as I possibly can.
  3. I feel better in some sort of bra at all times, including lounging and even sleeping.

Being small of boob and having heard from friends and readers that larger busts often feel better in a bra than bra-free, I was surprised to find that the women in group two possessed busts of all shapes and sizes. I’m in group three myself, and have a small but cherished collection of sleep and lounge bras. At age 37, I’ve already had two mammograms because – as a woman in her late thirties who has never been pregnant – I have fibrous breasts. In addition to being somewhat lumpy, they can get unspeakably sore due to hormonal changes. So I just bra up. Always. Except for showers and sex.

Because of this, I happily pointed Jenni to my favorite lounge bra: The Bali Comfort Revolution. I wear the wire-free version and it is so very, very happy-making. It has super thin foam cups for nipple modesty, provides a bit of support without feeling constricting, and – at least on me – does NOT create the dreaded uniboob look. I wash mine in the machine and hang to dry, and they’ve lasted for three years with a bit of color fade and hardly another sign of wear. Will this style work for everyone? Nope. Only goes through a 42DD and is not a style that will work for all body shapes and sizes or all bust shapes and sizes. But it’s my go-to. And there are similar options – wirefree, soft cup, designed for light support instead of all-day wear – that come in sizes through 54G. (This one gets great marks.) Traditional sports bras work just fine for many women and they definitely come in a variety of support levels from light to no-bounce-ever. Athleta and Title Nine rank theirs by support level as well as size. But I feel like my Bali and similar styles are more of a middle ground between underwire day bras and workout-specific sports bras. So I totally love them for lounge and sleep.

Loungewear preferences and options

Although I’ve been doing a mix of working from home and out of the house for two and a half years now, I don’t do loungewear when I’m working at home. I feel more alert and focused when I shower, primp, and dress as if I’m going out … even if no one sees me all day besides Simon Kitty. This also means that if something arises at the last moment, I can hop in my car and go. So although I still do work from home some, I don’t dress terribly casually when I’m doing it.

BUT. After work is done, after the gym, after I’ve been to a LOTT meeting and am in for the rest of the evening, I do have lounge clothes that I change into. And they’re different from my PJs. Why? Cats. Well, cat right now. Despite our carefully tested system of Filth Sheets, my entire house is just coated in cat hair. The stuff is everywhere, I tell ya. Much of it sticks to the sofa cover in our basement, which is where the TV is and much of the actual lounging takes place. And since nothing makes me more irritated than a big mouthful of cat hair when I’m trying to fall asleep, I don’t pull on my PJs until I’m done with my nightly ablutions and ready to actually sleep.

For many years, my loungewear consisted of two college-style long-sleeved tees and a pair of Husband Mike’s old pajama pants that I accidentally shrunk in the wash. Hoodies annoy me because they just bunch up around my ears and shoulders, so the tees were utilitarian and comfy. But over time, Angie’s upgraded loungewear posts got to me. As did the fact that my ankles and feet were always cold, forcing me to tuck my PJ pants into my socks. NOT A SEXY LOOK. Kinda clown-meets-Dickens, but in green and blue plaid cotton. So I now have some cowl-necked tunics from Target, fleece-lined leggings, a lightweight sweatshirt or two, and these funky jodphur pants from local designer Foat. And, most importantly, slipper boots. (Mine are sold out, but those are similar.) Cold ankles no more! And I feel less schlubby when I lounge, an activity that also takes place many weeknights and some binge-watching-House-of-Cards weekend nights, too.

Enough about me. Let’s hear from YOU: When you’re at home, do you keep on your regular bra, switch to something softer, or go bra-free? Got any suggestions for comfy, lounge-worthy bras? If you work at home, what are you most likely to wear during the day? What’s your loungewear style? Comfy jeans and a tee? Sweats? Something specific to around-the-house? Do tell!

Top image via Macy’s.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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