Clothes, Clothes, Wonderful Clothes!

I’m here today to answer one of the most common questions I’ve gotten as the owner of a vintage business.  “How do you decide which clothes to sell and which clothes to keep for yourself?”

I’m answering this on the heels of a new haul of clothing, which I go into detail about on my alternative blog on Sephine Vintage!  (Please check it out).

Out of the 15-ish garments I collected, only one stood out for me as something I had to keep for myself.  It’s a 1950’s black chiffon dress that was so akin to something Marilyn Monroe would classically wear.  It had it all – the breezy skirt, the wrap-around wide-cinched waist, the cascading fabric bust that tied around the neck and left the back uncovered.  To some, just a little black dress, but I knew the instant I put it on that it was a staple of my own personal style.

If I could, I would absolutely wear everything in my store 24/7.  I am proud and envious of all my wonderful customers who get to call Sephine collected pieces their own.  But when you have such a wide array of clothing to select from, you must narrow it down to not only fabulous pieces, but pieces that speak to you as an individual.  This discernment is essential.  You must figure out what type of person you want to be, and make sure your wardrobe speaks to this.  The Marilyn Monroe dress spoke to me because it embodied elements of femininity, sexuality, and power.  It’s playful with an edge.  A rose with thorns.  A woman with a sharp gaze.  Enchanting-yet-mysterious has always been my favorite elegant woman quality.

Oh, and did I mention it’s incredibly fun to dance in?

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Cheers,

Josephine

The Hope-Renewing Kindness of Strangers

A quick write-up about something that happened to me today that has left my heart brimming and my face grinning!

Picture this, if you can.  The weather is unseasonably sunny for late winter in Oregon.  My husband and I have decided to take the early morning off and play hooky, strut around downtown,  and drive up the Skinner’s Butte to sunbathe.  There’s a beautiful pink victorian style house at the base of the Butte, functioning as a lingerie and nightwear boutique, that has always caught my eye.  For years, I’ve forgotten to take a peek inside.  I thought, why not stop in for once?  It being such a nice day, and my mood being so bright.

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Once inside, I find myself waxing poetic about how lovely the fixtures are, how much I love vintage homes and vintage things.  On the topic, I strike up a conversation with the charming lady working at the front desk, with neatly combed grey hair and lovely earrings on.  We discover her parents were named Josephine and John, just like my great grandparents were named Josephine and John, just like I was named Josephine after my great grandmother.  She tells me she was an interior designer for Bath & Body Works in the 60’s, and that she designed vintage Victoria’s Secret interiors as well.  We go on a tangent then, about how much more quality products were made back in the day, and how tacky commercial products have become.

That’s when I start talking about my business  (“Well, you know, I own a vintage clothing shop online”) .  She seems interested, so I begin showing her pictures, starting with a 60’s Valentino jacket, one of my favorites in the store.  She then tells me that it looks just like a coat that her mother had, and excuses herself to go look for it upstairs.

About 3 minutes later, she comes back down, holding an absolutely gorgeous grey double-breasted coat, buttons in two rows down the front, mink fur and neckline.  It’s in plastic wrap and clearly impeccably preserved.  She begins showing it to me, the features, and how mint the fabric is.  And then came the words that made my entire day:

“I want you to have it.”

Me?  Have?!  For Real?!?

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The infamous coat, graciously modeled by my mother.

I was blown away!  She explained that the thought her mother would be happy knowing the coat went to someone so passionate about vintage, and quality clothing.

 

I thanked her many many many many many many times and I’m quite certain me and my husband ended up giving her a group hug.  Needless to say I was bouncing out of the store giddy!

 

The coat itself is union label, and worth a great deal.  I haven’t decided yet wether I am to sell it or wear it myself, as a little thank-you to the late Josephine and her extremely generous daughter.

Finding Work as a Young Creative

Unless you’re the type of person who strives to obtain a straightforward blue/white collar career – say, a lawyer, doctor, police officer, accountant, or banker – and has stuck to your life rubric strictly, the process of job applications can be quite frustrating.  It’s a tough world out there for people who are young, and creatively-inclined, to find work.

Take myself, for example.  I was an A-student in highschool, published a poetry collection, my own album, made short films, played live music, got accepted into a private university, had 2+ years of retail experience, and own my own small business.  Great right?  Then why was I also rejected for entry-level jobs at Fred Meyers, Cinemark Movie Theaters, Rite-Aid, and Goodwill?  The reason they provided was that I “did not meet the qualifications”, and of course, this was simply not true.  It got me thinking; what ulterior reasoning did they have to deny me work?  What could I do differently in the future to make myself appealing to ‘normal’ types of businesses?

For many of us, life is first and foremost about happiness and creativity.  This is not in ignorance of the financial realities we all face, but in honor of how precious being alive truly is.  Many of us, wether successful or not, will make the attempt to marry our passions and careers.  That’s the dream, is it not?  To make a good income doing something you love?  Wether it’s starting a small business in your field, or publishing your artwork, taking this leap is an admirable and valiant stride.  A stride that might not be profitable right away.

No matter how incredible your talent, it’s a simple fact: the majority of creatives will need a dreaded regular job.

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I’ll need a WHAT???

But relax!  That’s why this article is here.  To take away some of the anxiety around job hunting, and to help you avoid a wave of the same rejection letters I received.

 

Step 1: Your Resume

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My special skills include finishing a whole bottle of Chardonnay without making myself sick!

Your resume is the cornerstone of your job hunt, and different businesses look for different things in a prospective employee.

This is why, for creatives, I like to propose:

The Jekyll and Hyde Solution to Resume Dropping.

 

It goes like this.  Some businesses – like Fred Meyers, Rite-Aid, Cinemark, or Goodwill, just want to hire regular-to-do folks who don’t have any particular ambitions and won’t want to leave the company, ask for too many raises, or cause too much of a fuss.  They want you to be dependable, honest, and ultimately normal.

Then there’s other businesses, who I have had experiences with too.  Places like The Body Shop, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Pressed Juicery, and local small establishments, that focus on things you may be interested in.  These businesses may actually value having an innovative and creative mind on their team.

Two different types of jobs?  You’re going to need a resume for each one.

Building Your Jekyll Resume

  1. Google some Resume tips, and follow the ones that speak to you.  Most resume advice articles are aimed at people seeking white-collar office work, so only use what is applicable to you and your job hunt.  After all, you’re a broke millennial, not the Wolf of Wall Street.  Google docs also has some excellent resume templates that can make your resume look beautiful, and even make it easier to build.
  2. Buff up your work experience with volunteer work, odd jobs, and seasonal activities.  Did you mow your neighbors lawn a few times?  You were previously an independently contracted gardener.  Did you have a school mentorship program with a woodworker?  You were an apprentice and learned valuable skills.  That time you were a camp counselor over the summer?  You are a team-builder with leadership skills.  Ect, ect, ect.  Embellishments, as long as they can’t disprove them, are always welcome.
  3. Put in as few clues about your age as possible.  Age discrimination is rampant amongst hiring departments, so give them no indications to work with.  And remember: it’s illegal for someone to ask for your birth date during the hiring process.
  4. Don’t list your creative accomplishments.  I know!  I know.  Save it for your second resume.  Keep your skills and experience related directly to typical work.

Building Your Hyde Resume

  1. Duplicate your Jekyll resume into a new document, and build upon it.  You’re still going out for a job, and you still want to appear professional.  Keep your work experience the same, keep your references and skills the same.  It’s important to have your ‘regular’ resume be a base for the second.
  2. This time around, go for it!  You want to add that you own a small business?  Sure!  And remember to make it sound appealing to your potential boss.  Did you do freelance art?  Web design (for yourself)?   Run someone’s professional social media account?  List it!  Embellish it!  Make it sound extremely fancy and intriguing.

And of course, second opinions are always good when it comes to professional documents.  If you’re unsure, ask a parent, friend, or mentor.

 

Step 2: Finding a Job That Doesn’t Make You Want to Die

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I’ll read your memos in hell.

What good is a job if it ruins your life?  It’s always been my philosophy that, unless you’re on the verge of extreme poverty, no job is worth your health or sanity.  There are a few types of companies that can be specific circles of hell, especially for out-of-the-box thinkers.  Here are some red flags that can help you avoid grueling work early on:

Companies with credit card programs will drive you insane.  Many of these companies have “credit goals”, meaning you have to make a certain number of customers sign up for credit cards each month, or else they’ll cut your hours, or even fire you.  This kind of pressure is nonsensical at best, and we really don’t need to be contributing to the credit problem in America, so avoid it!  Macy’s, JCP, Victoria’s Secret, and similar outlets, all have pretty intense credit programs.

Companies with sales goals will also drive you insane.  Okay, maybe not all companies with sales goals.  But companies that emphasize sales goals?  Steer clear.  Here’s why.  I used to work as a minimum-wage sales associate for a small local business.  They would be upset with me, or my coworkers, for not selling “an average of 30 dollars per hour” when we would only have about 10 people walk into the store on any given day.  This is why sales goals drive me up the wall!  If you’re saying hello to everyone who walks through the door, being friendly, demonstrating good product knowledge, and doing your best – that’s it.  If the customer doesn’t make a purchase, it’s not your fault, you tried everything short of manipulation and force.  Sales goals exist to create competition and pressure, yet don’t necessarily increase revenue.

Sometimes, a crappy job can be fun.  When you’re creative, the ideal job is one that gives you part-time hours, a living wage, and leaves your mind completely when you’re not on-duty.  You want somewhere you can show up, do a good job, and leave.  Places that might seem low-scale, disorganized, or outdated, can actually end up being a lot of fun.  Waitressing at a medium-paced diner, working in a thrift store, doing concessions at a bowling alley, can give you the feeling of almost having an alter-ego.

Keep good company.  Getting a job somewhere that only has one or two employees is exhausting.  Much of the time, you’ll be the only one in the store, and therefore bored out of your mind.  Seek jobs where you’ll have lots of coworkers to chat with, and share solidarity with if your manager makes a weird decision.

Step 3: Presenting Yourself To Employers

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Describe myself in three words?  I Love Money!

We’re going to return to that Jekyll and Hyde concept.

If you’re going out for a normal job, with a normal resume, make sure you too are fairly normal.  If your usual getup is – and I’m talking about myself here – heels and a statement swing dress with a wide-brim vintage hat, it might be time to dig up a pair of jeans and a blouse.  Similarly, consider removing some piercings, pulling your hair back, or borrowing your mom’s work blazer.

When I was interviewing to work at Shari’s (a family-oriented diner chain), I made a specific effort to present myself as a little dim-witted.  Not brainless, just friendly and simple.  I told them I played music with my dad, I liked clothing and jewelry, and I’ve eaten at Shari’s for years!  After the interview, I received a great response, and was told then all loved me.

I had picked up on the fact that my “impressive businesswoman” tactic might not have been effective in this specific instance, and changed my approach accordingly.

Similarly, when I went into The Body Shop to drop off my resume, I let myself be a little more ‘me’.  I wore my usual dress and heels getup, told them about my vintage clothing business, complimented the ladies on how they were all great saleswomen.  I was charming, witty, and motivated.  I was the kind of person they were looking for.

The point is – pick a persona that works for the job you’re applying for, and stick to it thoroughly.  Outfit and all.

Conclusions

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I can’t believe you made me read all those words about resumes and sales goals and interviews and stuff.

Try not to worry too much!  Everyone who wants a job gets a job eventually.  If you don’t like it, you can leave and find another one, and one after that, and one after that.

Just remember to continue thinking outside of the box, and moving towards your own goals: the important ones.  Not if you’re able to sell 10 credit cards per month, but if you’re able to sit down at the end of the day and be proud of the life you’re living, and the path you’re on.  Figure it out, slow down, take it easy.

This isn’t a fast lane, but it’s a lane worth being in.

Cheers,

Josephine

An Unofficial Guide to Estate Sales

After having just got back from a particularly peachy estate sale, I thought it might be appropriate for me to impart some wisdom on the topic.  After all, you can leave an estate sale either with a handful of gems, or a handful of clutter – and it’s up to you to make sure it’s not the latter.

An estate sale is what becomes of one person’s possessions after they pass away.  Generally, the heirs to the estate will come in and select what they want to keep, then pass the rest along to a professional, who prices, organizes, and cleans the items, making them ready to sell.

I’ve been to estate sales of all types, from people selling out of a mobile home, to people selling out of a 1.7 million dollar country mansion.  No matter what type of sale, there are some common threads that can aid all types of darlings out there who are in search of a deal.

Scouting

Generally, estate sales will be posted about on your local garage and yardsale forum on craigslist.  Don’t disregard a sale just because it doesn’t have the most appealing image attached to it – make sure to read the description.  Often, a seller will list the types of items that are for sale, giving you a better idea of wether or not this may be an estate sale for you.

I also personally have a stop-drop-yardsale policy, meaning that unless I’m 15 minutes late to a meeting, it’s my utmost responsibility to pull over every time I see an estate sale, garage sale, or yard sale sign.  Impromptu ventures like this have lead me to some of my favorite finds.

Preparation

Always be sure you’ve eaten a good meal, hydrated, and had your coffee or tea – estate sales can be tiring, and going to one on an empty stomach is a horrible idea.  Additionally, consider wearing comfortable shoes and a practical outfit.  You may be doing a substantial amount of walking, and bending down.

Timing

Once you find a particularly alluring sale, there are two prime times to arrive.  First, and last.  Of course, I’ve found incredible scores at all different times during an estate sale, so this is entirely up to the individual.  Arriving in the middle is never a terrible option either.

The perk of arriving first is having first pick, of course.  Depending on the location and content of an estate sale, they can become extremely competitive.  Arrive 1-2 hours beforehand, and be ready to stand in line – some sellers will even ask you to take a number and be put on a waiting list to enter.  I’ve heard of estate sales with 65 people lined up before opening time – yes, it happens!  Being first to enter allows you to scout out the best and most valuable must-have items.  But be careful, you may have to do some elbowing and clawing to get at them.

The second best time to arrive, is of course, last.  On the last day everything is half price o cheaper, meaning you get the ultimate deals.  This is a perfect time to haggle and bargain.  The only downside of last-day shopping is that anything of real value will most likely have already been nabbed, leaving you with beautiful nick-nacks that are probably more aesthetic than anything.

Selection

Know what you’re looking for when you arrive.

There’s a huge temptation when stepping into someone’s home to get hung up on every beautiful throw pillow, end table, marble sculpture, or light blue antique crystal punch bowl.  Stop it.  If you came looking for clothes, immediately locate where the clothes are.  Jewelry?  Find the jewelry sections.  Kitchen wares?  You get the picture.  If you’re on a mission, it’s important to comb through their relevant selection immediately.  Grab everything remotely of interest, and ask the seller if you can make a pile of things before you continue searching.  Once you’ve hoarded all the items you’re interested in – congratulations!  You’re free to browse around as much as your heart desires.

Paring Down

Once you’re ready to make your final decision, ask yourself the following series of questions for each item:

  1. Am I really going to use/sell this?
  2. Is it a brand name item, and therefore worth more than face value?
  3. Is it worth more than the price I’m paying for it?
  4. Does it have any damage that will impact the item’s function of value?
  5. Is it unique, or can I find similar things many other places?

If you find that this item is going to be useful, valuable, worthy, and unique, go for it!  But of course, it’s important to find your own criteria based off your own needs.

Finishing Touches

Always be sure to thank the seller for their hard work, and be courteous to them.  Putting together an estate sale is hard.  And never forget that estate sales can be great opportunities to network – if you’re a seller or collector, you may be among people who can share with you enthusiasm, insights, or business.  I recently bought an extremely lovely Valentino coat for a screaming deal, and on the way out, asked a glamorous older lady if she could tell me anything about the garment.  I was informed that it was most likely early to mid sixties make, mink fur, and that the label was extremely rare and valuable – all things I would have never known without the kindness of a stranger.

And of course, remember to have fun with it!  You have the privilege of getting a snapshot at someone’s life.  It’s a very unique and fascinating experience, so be sure to take the time to appreciate it.  After all, you never know who might comb through your belongings one day, long after you’re gone.