Burlesque Beginners Dos and Donts

Aug16th2015-13

I’ve finally begun performing burlesque, and it’s been super hard work and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s had me somewhat creatively distracted for a while too, so it’s about time I check in with you guys here to teach you something new, in my usual by beginners for beginners format, with the help of my new partner Riley Strange!

So you’re intrigued by burlesque and you’ve never done it before, so you want to give it a shot. To go to shows and see the finished product on stage can feel pretty overwhelming when you have plans to try it out yourself. Just how does it all come together? If you don’t have a mentor to guide you you might be totally lost. Let us lay down a few simple dos and donts to get you started.

Riley prepared to go on stage for her Alice in Wonderland routine

Do…

-Your research. Learn by taking a class if there are any in your area, watching youtube videos, going to shows, reading up on burlesque history, and perusing informative websites such as 21stcenturyburlesque.com. Jo Weldon also has an awesome book on the subject that covers way more than I can here in a puny little blog article.

-Cut the damn tags off your clothes. As a performer you are delivering a fantasy. Tags and other flaws like stains, wrinkles and tears take the audience out of the moment.

-Be creative with your costume. Even if you must wear something off-the-rack, try to alter it in some way to make it one-of-a-kind. The last thing you want is someone in the audience pointing and going “Hey, I have that same bra at home!”

Adding rhinestones to these Victoria’s Secret panties add a little special sparkle

-Choose a song you absolutely love. With rehearsals you’ll have to listen to it a hundred times, so if you don’t love it, it’s going to be a nightmare to perform to once show day arrives.

-Be aware of what your audience will enjoy while not compromising your own tastes.

-Go big or go home. This is not a movie or a photoshoot, and there are no close-ups. Makeup and movements need to be seen from the back row. You WILL feel silly, at least in the beginning. You’ll get used to it.

-Make sure your stage name isn’t already taken by somebody else. A Google search should be pretty much all you need here.

-Make the most of your abilities. Any abilities. Dancing, acting, costuming, comedy, acrobatics, the list is endless.

-Be prepared for people to have misconceptions. Don’t get offended, it’s part of the deal. It’s up to you if you want to work towards changing their mind or not.

-Try to find a mentor if you can, to guide you through this stuff or just keep you company while you’re gluing on rhinestones.

-Consider the length and pacing of your song. You don’t want to feel rushed, or end up with nothing to do because the song was too long or slow.

-Be reliable and professional. This might be a fun job, but it is a job. It deserves to be taken seriously.

-Come to your show prepared. Remember not only the elements of your costume but makeup, pastie tape, a Tide stick, etc. This is the huge packing list Riley and I had last time we did a show, and this is only for three acts between us.

All this shit for less than 15 minutes total stage time. Also handy to make sure you leave nothing behind at the venue at the end of the night.

-Plan something achievable. This is something me and Riley have personal experience with. We kept coming up with extremely ambitious routines that were just way above our level. If you keep doing that you’ll never be able to complete the process to see it come to life on stage. You can keep having ambitious ideas, just tuck them away for a future date. A routine does not have to be difficult in order to be entertaining.

April 1 2016 - Heart-Shaped Box

Don’t…

-Think that the performances you see are the rules. This is art, there are no rules. You don’t have to wear a corset, you don’t have to choose a jazz song, you don’t have to know how to dance (although it helps) and believe it or not you don’t even have to be sexy. Let this be an expression of who you are, even if it only relates to one of your many facets. Well ok, there is one rule, and that is that you must be entertaining.

-Wear anything flat black unless your character depends on it. It’s too drab and somber. Either add some sparkle and shine or choose something more lively. Or better yet, both.

-Limit yourself. Explore new horizons and keep things fresh.

Just a backstage selfie with Adore Delano. No big deal 😛

-Focus on reasons why you “shouldn’t” do burlesque because it’s just not true. Any adult age, any gender, any body type, and any ability level (there are even burlesque performers who use wheelchairs in their acts) is accepted. This is the real beauty of this art form. It’s about celebrating what makes you you.

-Forget your face in your choreography. It just won’t look good if you look like you’re taking a shit while you get undressed.

-Be a diva. Ok this isn’t just a burlesque tip, this is a life tip. There’s a difference between honestly expressing something that’s important to you and acting like a spoiled child about it. You’re not above anyone.

-Panic if something goes wrong. Because it will, even to seasoned performers. But guess what, the audience probably doesn’t know, and if they do they’ll think highly of you for being able to just move on with the act instead of freezing in a panic. Riley and I have both performed to the wrong track when the DJ made a mistake, and neither time could anyone in the audience tell. Keep in mind we are both still beginners. It happened to Riley on her second day.

-Make excuses! You’ll just keep missing out.

Advertisements

Perfect Headband Curls

So you saw headband curls on Pinterest, thought “ERMEGERD so cool!”, tried it out, and hated the result. Why must everything on Pinterest be so misleading!! Well I know that you can indeed get perfect curls this way, but the other tutorials seem to skip a couple steps. Let me fill in the blanks.

I’m not going to get too deep into the basics because you already know that by now. But let me just say that if your hair is fairly long, or if you have a hard time keeping one side tightly wrapped while you do the other, two headbands, one for each side, is a good solution. So there you are in all your going-to-bed hotness, you sleep on it, wake up, and now we’re ready to begin.

 

Here’s the front when it’s wrapped, your starting point.

IMG_3413

Realistically, you CAN wear this out of the house.

The back, meanwhile, if you used two headbands, looks like this.

IMG_3364

Ok, so you take the curls out of the headband, and you are immediately disappointed, because it looks like shit.

IMG_3369

The look on your face of course will match this picture as well. This is not what you signed up for! Well it’s at this point that the extra steps come in. First of all, brush it. I know the tutorials all say not to, but fuck that we’re brushing today.

IMG_3376

Then to smooth it out and calm down any frizz, run some mousse through it. So now you got this.

IMG_3382

Ok so now you grab the top layer of each side, hairspray it, and tease it. I like mine to be HUGE.

IMG_3383

I know it’s a little hard to tell the difference between the last two pictures, but trust me that teasing is important. This curling method doesn’t curl your hair at the top, so it can look quite flat compared to the rest. Teasing it helps to even things out, and as far as I’m concerned, big curly hair is the best curly hair.

So just fuss and tinker, and shape the curls by twirling it around in your fingers a bit, you know. I also find a little styler/flat iron thing is great for curling the ends where they got loose from the headband, and calming down any parts that got too curly. I always get one little piece like that in the front. But that’s it! It’s not quite as quick as they lead you to believe, but it’s not bad.

 

Hey, there we go!

Hey, there we go!

And since we all know that any kind of set can often turn out inconsistent when you’re not a pro, here’s another example of my hair at this stage, from about a month or two ago.

There we go!

A less than perfect job and it still looks good!

And on a particularly good day, with particularly good lighting, you might even be able to make it look like this.

Hellooo profile picture.

Hellooo profile picture.

In the set I’ve included pictures of, it looked its very best after sleeping on it for a night. All you have to do in the morning is brush, add a touch of mousse, and ruffle it a bit.

 

Perfect

Perfect

When I wrapped it up again that second night and left it dry, to preserve the curls over a few more days, I timed myself at exactly four minutes. This is officially the absolute quickest way I have ever found to curl my hair, as long as you plan about 5-8 hours ahead. Practice this one, tinker and play with it a bit, and you’re sure to find this will be one of your go-tos too 🙂

How to Make a Parasol – An Experiment

My cousin Jenna is one of the coolest people I have ever known. She’s so much fun and I think she’s more mature than I am. Over the last three years we’ve gotten really close. So when she spent her 16th birthday in Europe and came across a black lace parasol she absolutely loved, I wanted her to have one. But I can’t afford one. These things cost over 100$. But I had known about online tutorials since I was her age. When I heard she was coming to visit for spring break I decided that it would be a perfect activity for us to do together. She could not only have a parasol, but it would be her own unique creation and we would have a lot of fun doing it.

Forgive my bad pictures, I just use my phone and it’s tough to take pictures with it in my dark ass living room, especially when those pictures include black lace.

IMG_1376

IMG_1374

So here are my supplies. At Fabricland I got ribbon in black, white, silver and ivory. I thought she might want to wrap ribbon around the handle in Tim Burton-esque stripes, but I wasn’t sure what colors so I got a few. I also wanted to use ribbon as the tie, which would double as a pretty bow whether the parasol is open or closed. For other decoration I got different silver buttons with crowns, crests, and flowers, because I thought they would remind her of Europe. I got some red jeweled ones just because they’re pretty. Of course I needed a fabric, so I got black stretch lace. And I got a kid’s umbrella, because the smaller size makes sense for a parasol, and it’s all Walmart had anyway. Also pictured: a charm I’ve had in my drawer for years, needles, and thread. Not pictured: a big cross pendant with chains and silver glitter fabric glue I left in another bag, because we had talked about painting a silver spiderweb pattern over it. It all cost…well let’s just say I know why these things are so damn expensive now.

When I had another look at the tutorials, it became clear this was not just a couple hours’ job. So I decided to get a head start and do the base in advance (Thank god I did, it took all day). I settled in for a carefree day of parasol-making, blogging, and indie comedies on Netflix.

IMG_1377

The first step is to pop the top off the umbrella. This was insanely hard. It took pliers, a soft cloth to prevent gouging, and a ton of muscle to twist like hell and get it off.

IMG_1378Now normally you would also remove the plastic caps on the ends of the spokes and set them aside for later. This wasn’t the case for me because instead of them being glued on over the fabric, the fabric was sewn to the caps through little holes. So I left them on and just snipped the thread.

IMG_1379

I also then snipped the thread holding the fabric on half way up the spokes. As you can see here, without the nylon to hold the spokes down, they’re coming up more flat now instead of holding a more rounded bell shape.

IMG_1381

So then it looked like this. The last thing I had to do to get the fabric off was snip the threads and break up the glue at the top.

IMG_1382

So then I was left with this. At this point the traditional method involves using the removed umbrella fabric as a pattern for your new fabric. I started doing this by separating one of the triangles by cutting it at the seams, then laying it over the lace and cutting around it leaving for seam allowance. But as soon as I cut that first triangle I decided this would take absolutely forever, and I don’t have the talent to sew them together straight. So fuck it. I just did what I had in mind before checking the tutorials and lay the lace over the top of the umbrella. I poked a little hole in it and pushed it over the silver thing at the top to hold it in place. The lace is stretch, so it’s fine. It looked like this…

IMG_1383

I decided to hold off on trimming the fabric, because I wasn’t sure what Jenna would prefer. We could trim it, leave it looking like a veil, or pile the excess fabric over the top, which could be quite pretty and let less light pass through. Now I just had to sew the lace to the plastic caps on the end of the spokes. It was super hard keeping the spokes even, because they liked to swing back and forth. It didn’t turn out perfect, but it’s not obvious. I stretched the lace pretty far hoping that this would return the parasol to the bell shape it had before, but it didn’t really work. So then I pulled the ends together with thread. It wasn’t super pretty looking, but it wasn’t that noticeable either, and if Jenna didn’t like it I could easily snip it apart. This took a lot of effort since I had nobody to hold the ends down while I tied off the thread.

IMG_1393

IMG_1390

Done for the day. This kind of shows what it looks like with the extra fabric piled on top. I think I’m off to a good start!

Day 2. Jenna is here!!

IMG_1400

Isn’t she the cutest girl in the whole world? I put her in one of my outfits because I thought it would be fun to dress up and go to dinner.

IMG_1398

While I got my nails done, she set to work decorating it. I should have got more of a close-up. She sewed the buttons around the top, and put the cross in the middle. She spread around some of the glitter glue over the top so it looks like it was snowed on with sparkles.

IMG_1399

It turns out she really did love it with a veil. It reminded us of the big black hat Lydia wears in Beetlejuice. So she just trimmed one side of it very slightly. She loved this parasol to death by the way. She carried it with her to the restaurant and back even though it was dark out.

IMG_1403

We didn’t get as much time together as we wanted, so I didn’t get to see it with any ribbon. But I sent her home with the remaining supplies, and she plans to add to it later. It’s also going to be used as a charm parasol, with little tokens from her travels added over time. This whole thing turned out to be a GREAT idea. We had a lot of fun and the look on her face and seeing her hug it was priceless. And I’m totally going to buy her this outfit in her size one day.

A smiling goth. She is just that happy.

A smiling goth. She is just that happy.

Updates!

The Beehive – Easy Updo Version

Remember my first beehive tutorial? It wasn’t bad, pretty easy. But I found something even easier, that is if you want an updo version. This thing is totally idiot-proof. First separate the front of your hair from ear to ear. With the rest of it make a high ponytail where you want the beehive to sit. 90% of the time this will be at the crown. Then backcomb the living shit out of that ponytail. It helps to do it in small sections. Make a big scary mess of it. Then very gently smooth it out and pin, just enough so you have no big weird lumps or hanging bits. Lightly backcomb the back of the section you separated just enough for it not to separate, and gently cover your poof ball and pin, and tuck in the ends. You are done. This takes under 10 minutes and can easily last 2-3 days straight, even with very minimal hairspray. I mean you can literally sleep on it and wake up with your hair still done. The above picture is the second day of my second time doing it, and I had just cleaned up the front a bit.
Root Touch-Up

You know what Root Touch-Up is? It’s a fraction of the dye for the same price as a regular box, but you get a shitty little brush and tiny plastic container. Skip it. Wait until you see a 2-for-1 deal and get two (or four) boxes of totally regular dye. I like Garnier and Superior Preference. Then you get a tint brush for 2$ and line a bowl with saran wrap. Pour a little of each bottle from a box into the bowl – I don’t know the exact ratio so I just aim for 50-50 and it seems to work – just what you’re going to use, and leave the rest in the bottles. Dye with developer like this expires within the hour if you mix it, but if you only mix what you need then you can keep the rest until next time. You can get 2-3 uses out of a full box this way. It makes doing your roots a lot cheaper, and you’ll usually already have some dye around so it’ll also be less of a chore. Hell, I don’t even use gloves.

Blending Bangs

If you’re growing out bangs, or you just prefer them a bit on the longer side, it can be tricky knowing how to deal with them so they look nice and don’t hang in your eyes. I’ve personally found that tip-of-the-nose length is the most versatile as far as style, however you MUST do something or they’re annoying as hell. You can curl them softly with a little flat iron for casual side bangs (below, very gently curled. You can also curl them more of course), use standing pin curls away from your part to blend them in when you’re curling the rest of your hair, or use some pomade or gel and brush them to the side when your hair is straight. You might need a pin for this. You can also do a little pomp. My favorite thing to do lately is to curl them forward either with pin curls or a flat/curling iron, put some pomade through it, an aim them away from the face with the ends forming a little circle at the side. It’s super pretty, and I don’t end up awkwardly shoving a pin in it halfway through my day to get it out of the damn way. It also looks fine when the rest of my hair is straight and lets me feel more properly “done.” It’s wonderful.

The Middy – By Holly Hui
I got my hair cut again by Holly Hui and this just shows why I love her and recommend her so much. Like my fire ombre?

Goth Rosary

Ok enough about hair for the moment. I just received my latest package from Goth Rosary, and I’m still nuts about them. I got Seattle Rain, Tea & Sympathy, and my fourth bottle of the always amazing Samhain. Her things smell like the things they smell like. They’re unique and don’t smell like alcohol. Tea & Sympathy is exactly what she describes – flowers, tea, and cookies. Yum. Seattle rain is fresh and clean and like an ocean storm. Come on, if you still haven’t tried this stuff you absolutely must.

Hiding Corsets

I also recently discovered Lucy’s Corsetry on Youtube. Now this is someone I can look up to. This girl is a scientist who’s been tightlacing for years, so she has not only reviews on every corset maker in town, but tons of reliable and fascinating medical information, repair tutorials, corset making tutorials, and outfits of the day. Now that my waist is about 21 inches virtually every day, getting dressed has become somewhat difficult. Nothing really fits, and when my waist shows it looks damn weird. Lucy suggests empire waisted tops, and when I tried my only empire waisted dress I wondered why I was such a moron I hadn’t tried it before. But now I’m going to need a whole lot more of these. Very wide belts are also great if you want to show a little but not everything. The wider they are the less they can fit into that tiny corner you’ve created between your ribs and hips. According to my mom this still looks freaky, but she should see what I would look like with a smaller one. So it’s still an improvement. I had also been avoiding wearing girdles over my corset to smooth over the bottom ridge and lumpiness from the lace because I figured it would just be WAY too much discomfort and effort for your average work day. Well I wore one to go out clubbing one night and it was so not a big deal I pretty much forgot I was wearing it, so don’t shy away from this one. Comment below with tips of your own!

What else to wear with your corset?

I just had a thought, and came in here to add a new update. I have a vintage black pencil skirt from the 50s, and when I put it on today over my corset I was amazed at how perfectly well it fit. No bagginess around the waist, even though I can wear it without a corset, though it’s snug if I do. My mom was surprised and asked me how I managed to get my skirt to lie so smoothly when hers always bunch up oddly when she wears her corset, and I just told her it was vintage so it was cut differently. But then I got to thinking more about that. This skirt is probably from the early to mid-50s, when the New Look was all the rage, that silhouette created by Dior of tiny waists and full hips. It was around this time that women were commonly wearing waist cinchers to accommodate the fashion, so my skirt was likely cut for a woman who would wear one, and that’s why it fits so amazingly well over a corset. So if you’re not necessarily trying to hide your corseted shape, but just want your clothes to fit already(!), I would definitely suggest buying vintage from the late 40s to early 60s. I’ve gotten my few vintage pieces from etsy, and there are a ton of other online shops out there if you find the local thrift shop way too corrupted by the 80s.

Oh wow, I really haven’t been posting much about fashion lately have I? Ok, here you go. This is the best shirt ever.

The Beehive!

Sunday night at Drawn and Plastered Stars in Pink Hawaii, I wore my first beehive. I did it myself and had it perfected and expanded by our hairstylist for the night Holly Hui. And now I want to wear one every day! Not Marge Simpson at all, it’s a super cute look and I’m its newest fan. It’s really not all that hard either. So I’ve decided to map it out. You will require: A rat, fine-toothed comb, hairspray, and the Austin Powers soundtrack.


The first thing is just to grab all the hair on the top of your head and comb it forward so it’s out of the way. This is all about the crown. This should take about a second and a half. I’ll wait.


Now, the most important thing to create a beehive is a rat, or hair filler. I mean, you don’t NEED one, but it’s a hell of a lot harder without it, and you’re more likely to end up with a rat’s nest instead. I use a long narrow rat for bumper bangs, so I curved it into a U shape with the middle facing up for this look. You can also just use a round or ball-y shaped one. A lot of people put cotton or fake/real hair into some pantyhose or a hair net for this. Bumpits are crap btw. Put your rat on the crown of your head or slightly higher in case of sagging or just to make it all the more epic. Pin it in place. Then bit by bit, take the hair from the top of your head and tease the living shit out of it, and pin it over the rat. Do this until you look like Dolly Parton. The last bit that will cover the surface should be left smooth. Then you just need pomade and a light touch with a comb to smooth the top out, and lot of hairspray. I slept in mine and it somehow actually survived, only shrinking a little. Which was perfect as I was feeling lazy and liked it and wanted to leave it up for work. Anyway, you can leave the bottom in beachy waves like Bridgette Bardot, put it in a ponytail, or for more of a Hairspray or formal look, twist it up into a French twist and tuck the ends in.
Holy crap that was easy.

This is not me, but I do feel this fabulous.

A 1910s/early 1920s style for every length

Since the hairstyles in the early 20th century were generally fairly short – about shoulder length or shorter – I’ve seen many requests online from women with long hair wondering how to recreate these styles without going for the chop. I can sympathize. I can’t remember where it was that I saw instructions for this style, probably Lisa Freemont Street, but I thought I would try to put it into my own words since trying it myself and seeing great results on the first try. I also want to spend a little time on it since I find it surprisingly versatile.


So here’s the look we’re going for. This is a Gibson Girl, the very first pinup. Personally it reminds me of those really old Edwardian Coke ads. It looks really hard to do. It’s not.

See? This was my FIRST try!

First you want to tightly curl all your hair. It’s up to you how to do this, either with pin curls or rollers. I just did my usual roller set. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if the curls don’t turn out perfect. After you pile it all up there nobody can tell.

If you want to look really Edwardian, part your hair in the middle. You don’t have to, I parted mine deeply to the side the way I always do. Then grab 3 or more side combs. Chunk by chunk, fold your hair in half upwards so that the ends are sticking out from the top, and secure them with a comb. You can do a french twist sort of thing if you hair is shorter and/or you want to keep the sides really neat. But it doesn’t matter so much because you’ll be covering it up later. Don’t you just love styles that involve covering the mess of pins instead of making it perfect?

So keep doing this all around your head until all your hair is up except for some curls that you would like hanging out around your face. The piece in the back should be centered. Now this won’t look too good, so don’t get discouraged. It will be really messy and floppy. Take some bobby pins/kirby grips and pin those floppy curly ends up a bit higher. Leave the very top smooth for a look more like the Gibson girl, but you can just make yourself a big nest up there too if it suits you. that’s what I did. If you did an exceptionally good job this is where you might start to think this looks rather 1930s, in which case you’re free to stop there and enjoy 🙂

Otherwise, grab yourself a very long head scarf. Mine is just a big piece of black satin I cut. This can be either wide or narrow, but I like wide because it covers up more of the pins and odd bits, and you can always fold it later if you want it more narrow. Place it at the top of your head in a way that you like, likely with some curls from the back falling forward on top of it, and tie it at the bottom. You can leave these long ends to trail behind or over your shoulder, or wind them around your head and pin them. The second time I did this I pinned them with a peacock feather hair clip. It was very pretty if I do say so myself.

Now you take the pieces in the front that you left out, and if they’re quite long, pin them up higher with a bobby pin and tuck the remaining loop of hair under the scarf. More pieces looks older, less looks more modern.

Finally, you might want to do a little more arranging and pinning. If the back shows, try to get some curls to fall down over it and pin them in place. If you just can’t get it looking the way you want, go for it again. This is a quick one so it’s easy to get lots of practice.

You might find that with the scarf, this style moves back a little over time. In fact when I’ve done it I’ve seen that it likes to do its own thing, which somehow always ends up looking just as good if not better. As it’s very secure, it doesn’t fall out any more than a few tucks back under the scarf can’t fix. I was finding that mine ended up looking a little Greek, and oddly enough, modern at the same time. So here’s where you have the option of pinning it further back in the first place, and/or switching up the scarf for a couple narrow headbands, or nothing at all if the whole thing looks nice enough to show. You could even use a dread wrap if you want to keep it casual. I ended up with this.

My apologies for the terrible quality.

And accessory-free…

Looking very modern here.

So as you can see this is a great style to try out and play around with. I know I mentioned that this is great for long hair, but you can actually do this with ANY length that you can fit around a roller. More pinning for longer hair, less or even no pinning for shorter. There aren’t too many of those! Also, while this is technically an Edwardian style (the Gibson Girl picture is from 1912), I find it very conducive to the 20s as well. Just like wearing 40s hair with 50s clothes, wearing 10s hair with 20s and even 30s clothes looks just fine. I think I may have a new look for casual Friday in the works!

Online Shopping 101

Every time the Canadian dollar is doing well I get to laugh as I watch the news detailing the trips of hundreds of families across the border for some American shopping. Laugh more than what’s appropriate most likely, because all that time spent away from home is making for a pretty crappy deal. So I’ve often wondered maybe somewhat cruelly how people can be so silly, when all they have to do is hop online to get all the selection they want without the added time and hidden expense.
The truth is, most people are a little afraid to shop online. They don’t want to buy something they’ve never seen in person, or they’re concerned about security issues. I’ve been shopping online since the day I got my first credit card (obtained solely for that purpose) at 18, and ever since then I buy virtually ALL my clothes and half of my jewelry from my living room. In the six years since then only two purchases have not turned out, so I’m confident that everybody can relax and the water’s fine. Online shopping is something the knowledge and skill of which grows very easily with a little practice once you get started. To help you get that start I’m now writing this handy little guide.
So why shop online?
A better question to ask is why NOT shop online? You get the biggest selection in the world, and it only takes minutes -up to as long as your heart desires- to see it all. You’ll undoubtedly obtain many things you just can’t get locally, which will make for a very personalized look you just can’t pick up at the mall. You also get to compare prices for everything, savings that will often cancel out the cost of shipping. If not, the rest is made up for by the aforementioned selection and convenience. Also keep in mind that since web shops instantly reach a global market, many retailers these days have completely forgone limiting brick and mortar shops. If you want to take part, you’ll have to go online. And another note about shipping: receiving packages in the mail is incredibly fun. It’s like Christmas all year round. Some would even argue that the anticipation and the excitement of getting your stuff is even better than the instant-gratification of shopping in person.
So what about that issue of not being able to see the item in person? Just like in traditional stores, online businesses want to keep you happy. They know that good products and services will result in positive word of mouth that’s better than any advertising campaign. If they scammed you, they wouldn’t be in business for long. Many even have a section where you can read honest testimonials from past customers. And if you become a happy customer yourself, definitely take the time to let them know.
Furthermore, all products will have a detailed description and photos. The photos should let you see what you’re getting from multiple angles, and the description will tell you important things such as materials used, the manufacturing process, and if sizes happen to run a little large or small. Plus they’re often just fun to read. When it comes to clothing, every site will have a size chart for each brand that they carry, so you know your item will fit. Just take your basic measurements and compare them to the chart to find your size. Of course it’s definitely an asset to know your body type and what basic clothing styles will flatter it too.
If for any reason the purchase doesn’t work out, all online stores will have a return policy that you can check out in advance, and most of them are even better than the return policies you get for shopping in person. Timeless Trends for example has a 45 day return policy that they will extend depending on circumstance. But just like traditional shopping, make sure that the item you purchased is returned in the same condition you received it. They sent you something pretty and new, and you owe them the same courtesy.
The service online is often surprisingly awesome. Because many of these companies are a lot smaller than traditional ones, you have a better chance of communicating directly with the company owner or item manufacturer, sometimes one and the same. And yes, there are very open lines of communication online, whether through email, live chat, or a phone call. I’ve once had the pleasure of communicating directly with Louise Black of Project Runway for a made-to-order item made by her. How cool is that? And I will never forget to rave about AntiSally of Goth Rosary’s awesomely friendly *hugs* in her emails.
Payment is also extremely secure, possibly even more so since there are no hacked machines on which to get skimmed. Giving your credit card information is completely safe, and if it still makes you nervous most all sites now let you use PayPal, a service so secure I was once locked out of my own account and had to make a new one. Refunds are always given out promptly where necessary. Also, when it comes to using PayPal, particularly if you’re shopping on a site such as eBay or Etsy, where items come from individuals instead of commercial stores, PayPal ensures that if you don’t receive your item in 45 days they’ll make sure you get refunded even if the refund isn’t coming from the seller themselves, which is very good to know.
Speaking of eBay, this is the biggest thrift store in the world, and then some. Not only does it have an infinite amount of used stuff, but due to its success a lot of commercial retailers are using it too. The first thing you might want to do is treat it for what it is, a huge thrift shop. This means there are tons of great finds there, you just have to be patient when looking for them. Sometimes those gems can be buried under a lot of crap. And once you’re lucky enough to find one of these gems you’ll want to pay as much attention to the photos and description as possible. If there’s anything more you need to know you can always email the seller; they usually get back to you extremely quickly.
The second thing is to make full use of the search options. The search bar works just like Google’s does, so if you want your item to absolutely have a certain word in the title, put a + in front of that word. If you don’t want to include listings with a certain word, put a – in front of it. Make sure the search keeps the same words together and in a particular order by putting quotations around them. Then narrow down your search as much as possible using all the options in the left panel. You can even select “Buy Now only” if you just want your stuff right away without fussing with the whole bidding thing. And of course never forget to check the shipping costs; it’s been known to happen for a seller to list an item for 1$ with something like 150$ shipping, so don’t be caught off guard.

But what’s my all time favorite site to shop on? Etsy! This works like Ebay in that it’s a hosting site to countless little shops run by individuals. The difference is that it’s completely focused on vintage and handmade items – nothing commercial. There’s no bidding, and you can find the most incredible, unique, amazing, ridiculous, and beautiful things. The interface is a lot friendlier than Ebay too. When you like something you “heart” it, and it goes into your wishlist for viewing later. You can even heart shops so you can go back to them easily and browse their selection. This is especially one of the greatest sites for unique and affordable wedding shopping. Jewelry, dresses, center pieces, cake toppers, invitations – they have it all, all made by extremely talented people. And I’m addicted to vintage window shopping there. I just got a gorgeous hounds tooth wool dress from the 50s. Damn, I should write a review just about Etsy!
Here’s a general little tip: When you’re not satisfied with the price or shipping of an item, Google the product code. This works except in cases where the item is 100% unique to that store, usually if it’s used or handmade. Stop Staring isn’t the only website that sells Stop Staring dresses, and Pinup Girl Clothing isn’t the only store that sells Collectif dresses or Leg Avenue shoes. You’ll find the product code either at the end of the name of the item, or at the beginning of the description. It will look something like this -> pc-lizbeth-bkgr. It most often represents the brand, the product name, and the color. Googling this code will allow you to see all the other stores carrying that exact item so that you can compare prices and shipping options in a much more specific way than typing in, say, “green and black wiggle dress.”
So now you have what you need to be a real web-savvy shopper and impress your friends with your fabulous finds. Be prepared to answer the question “where did you get that??” repeatedly, and enjoy the glory of finding exactly what you want and need with a lot more fun and convenience than effort.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!