Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Called "What If..."

I love nice clothes. Sure, who doesn't? But I can honestly say that right now, in these times, with my budget and the fact that Omaha isn't necessarily the most "dressed up" city, it is hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on just one clothing item. Yes, sure, I sell expensive bags that are "hundreds" of dollars and many hovering over $500, but it's like what I learned in my old job about cost per wear (CPW). Buying a dress that is noticeable and memorable like this one for instance from Mason by Michelle Mason from shopbop will set you back $320. But how often can you get away with wearing it? Maybe once a week? Throw in the cost of dry cleaning at least once a month and you're talking about another $100 at the end of the season (about 5 months). That averages to be about $20 per wearing if you really wear it once a week (and honestly with something that eye catching, you probably would wear it more like twice a month). But on the other hand, if you invested in a handbag for $520 and used it on average 5 days a week for 5 months, your CPW would be around $5.

What I've learned through the years is that it's important to pay attention to things like CPWs and the long term value of fashion purchases. I invest in classic shoes, boots, evening shoes, handbags and coats. Once in a while I will buy a dress or cardigan that I know I will get a lot of mileage from and that are simple silhouettes that aren't overly noticeable so I can get repeat wearings out of them in a week. I don't invest in jeans (I know people who do and it's smart if you are going to wear them a lot; I don't) and I buy throwaway tops and skirts seasonally. I love getting a patterned top from a cheapo line and wearing it with a designer jacket and a staple pair of pants or skirt. I toss the cheapo top in the washer, don't have to worry about dry cleaning and all is fine in the world (and my Amex bill).

I've talked with some friends both far and near and many have the same ideas about where they want to put their money. No one is rushing out to buy a $350+ dress or item of clothing even if it's a name brand. The same goes for shoes. It's either people want to spend the $795 for the real deal Christian Louboutins or else they want to get shoes for under $150. Ok, maybe $250 tops for regular, every day heels, boots, shoes. Summer sandals? Forget it. We're talking $95 and less. So as a retailer, it's hard right now because in many ways, I get it. I mean, I really get it. Which brings me to my next challenge in approaching the Spring 2010 season. I'm looking at myself as my best customer as to what it is I want to buy, to update my wardrobe, to wear for the next 5 months.

In my "What if" world of "What if I opened up a clothing boutique, what would I buy?" I went to shopbop and found they had 74 dresses. In my "virtual" boutique I would stock 7 dresses...for 7 days a week and then show how to interchange them with different jackets, cardigans, shoes and accessories.

1. The hot pink dress by Mason by Michelle Mason, $320. It's still a bit special occasion but I think it has a nice flow and good lines. Each season you need at least one thing with some color to brighten up your boutique.

2. Theory black and white dress, $295. Doesn't look like Theory, this dress can be dressed up or dressed down. Love it with a long black cardigan or else more polished with a cropped collarless jacket with 3/4 sleeves. I can also picture it with a leather motorcycle vest or jacket too.

3. Thread Social cloud print combo dress, $550. Okay, this is a bit pricey I know but I love the look of it and I think again, if only offering 7 dresses a season, you gotta have some things that are a little more special. I also know and love the designers behind Thread Social so they have a special place in my heart.

4. Marc by Marc Jacobs Darby Sweater dress, $228. I like the color blocking, that it has sleeves, it's a comfy shape that works on different body types. Cute and a good price. Would wear this at least once a week and change the shoes; sneakers one day, cute ballets another, a slouchy boot for another day...

5. LaRok Foulard Fever Dress, $228. It's not one of my top choices but it's the most summery with the spaghetti straps, flirty with the ruffle, and is good for the teenager, 20- and 30-somethings. Wear it alone, with a boyfriend blazer, throw a tee-shirt underneath it too for variation. Good neutral color, easy shape.

6. Joie Mary Jo Dress, $248. It's an oversized t-shirt dress with a subtle animal print pattern. I can picture so many people in this dress. I see 40-somethings and 20-somethings both wearing this and it would be really awesome with the Joie over the knee boots we have in the boutique right now!

7. DVF Slippery Dress, $325. Everyone is always looking for an LBD. This one to me looks like a winner. Great sweetheart neckline, wider straps, fitted bodice. This is a no brainer dress that you slip on and out of and can literally wear every other day with a different topper and shoes.

Sometimes I wish I could create a really edited clothing store that I only had 7 dresses, 3 jackets, 2 sweaters. And if I happened to find a fabulous skirt or tops at a good price, I would have a few of those too. But that would be it. Kind of like my store right now when it comes to shoes...just the bare basics and the best.

What do you think of my virtual boutique? Let me know...

The next thing I'll be posting will be jackets to complement these dresses...

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