It's IG NOBEL PRIZE DAY! Here's an extra-long post to keep you busy while I'm dashing around with Mr. Improbable. Moderation will be slow so thanks for your patience!
I like clothes. I like clothes a lot. For me, putting together a perfect outfit is like inventing a new recipe--reworking the classic ingredients, adding finishing touches, trying new combinations of flavors and textures and colors and cuts.
I don't, however, like to pay very much for clothes. And I also don't like shopping when I have something specific in mind. Trolling the stores is fun if you're just looking to see what's on sale, or get a sense of what colors and styles are in this season (answer: anything that looks like it came from the wardrobe department of "Mad Men"), or have a vague notion that, oh, maybe a new top would be fun to have. But if you want, say, a red cardigan, and you put that desire out into the universe, all red cardigans in spacetime will immediately be sucked into a black hole. It's like The Secret in reverse.
This is where eBay comes in. I get more than half my clothes on eBay these days, and when I tell people this, it seems that about 20% of them do, too, and 80% have never even considered this. Well, given the current state of the economy, we're all thinking of ways to save money now, aren't we?
(I made the mistake yesterday of looking at my 401K statements and do you know what happened? Exactly what happened in "Evil Dead 2" when Ash opened the Book of the Dead!
Milo's still spinning around in the backyard cackling wildly. I should go bring him down, but we've got kind of a raccoon problem in our neighborhood and I'm expecting this will have a deterrent effect. It's not like we can afford an exterminator anymore.)
My eight tips for effective eBay shopping are below the fold.
1. Only buy garments that have to fit you in one measurement. Don't buy things like jeans on eBay; you have to try jeans on. Don't buy vintage clothing on eBay, even though you can get good deals; most clothing from the 60s and earlier was highly tailored and fits either really well or not at all. T-shirts, tank tops, pullovers, cardigans, sheath dresses, skirts are all good things to buy. Skirts have to fit you around the waist and that's about it. Sweaters can be a little big or a little tight and it doesn't really matter. If you're shopping for kids' clothes, err on the side of getting something the child can grow into, like you don't already know that.
2. Shop for brands that run true to size. I know my size in Ann Taylor, Eileen Fisher, Chico's, and several other brands beloved by middle-aged college-educated women who work in offices--you know, my tribal attire. Gap clothing, on the other hand, is all over the board; I've got Gap clothes ranging from size 0 to 8. So I wouldn't shop for Gap clothes on eBay.
3. No, I can't afford most of those brands in the stores, especially Eileen Fisher. (It takes a lot of money to look that dowdy.) That's why I buy them on eBay. There's no point getting Old Navy clothes on eBay--they're cheap enough in the store, or on sale, and you don't have to pay postage. Scale up a couple of notches when you're eBaying.
4. You can shop by brand or by category. Choose which depending on how specific your desires are. If you just want a nice work skirt, "Ann Taylor skirt" with your size number will get you some nice options. If you know you want a green cardigan, search for "green cardigan." (I have a huge floppy forest green chenille that I practically live in when we travel, and it's nothing I would have found in stores.) If the seller hasn't put the measurements in the description, you can always e-mail them and ask.
5. Keep in mind that people can't spell, and try variants. Mr. Improbable once tried to buy a collapsible top hat (he wears one at the Igs) with no luck--until he accidentally spelled it "collapsable." Ta-da!
6. Colors don't translate well on computer screens. If you look fabulous in a blue-based red, but terrible in an orangey red, don't get anything red on eBay. Only go for colors where the entire color family works for you.
7. Accept that you will make some mistakes. Don't ever pay so much for something that you'll be really upset if you don't like it when it arrives. If it's not as described, neg the seller, but sometimes even the most perfectly-described items just don't look good on.
8. If you have any sort of gambling or compulsive spending habit, do not shop on eBay. Seriously. It can be just a leeeetle too much fun. Buying more stuff than you really need isn't saving money, no matter how good a deal you're getting on it.
And there you are. I find eBay terrific for getting the kind of basics that you can't find in stores when you're looking for them, designer pieces that I couldn't possibly afford retail, or even on sale, and just plain unusual things. Do you have any useful eBaying tips to share (not necessarily for clothing, but anything)?
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