Saturday, December 31, 2016

From Etsy to Goodwill to Ebay: The Tale of a First-Class Dummy

2016 may have been a bad year for some, but it was an excellent year for me. I took my choir on our first overnight trip, my husband had no surgeries, and I opened an Etsy shop. 

My Etsy shop has been working out really well for me on several levels. First, I've actually turned a profit. You never know with a new endeavor if that's going to happen, so I feel lucky that it not only made me money, but starting making a profit within months of opening my shop. But more than the financial aspect, I love it. I love the thrill of the hunt. Estate sales and thrift stores provide a similar but different treasure hunting experience, but both have the same drug-like high that results from a really great find. And then there's the cleaning, the mending, the measuring, the photographing, the listing, the Instagraming - all of it is so much fun. It's like playing dress-up with a life size doll and sharing it with a world full of like-minded, vintage-loving strangers and friends.

However, my first year of my Etsy shop was not without its snafus. First there was the girl who got really angry that the dress seemed old (right, because it's from the 60s, so what did you think there?) and that the fabric of the hem was "badly cut" (it was a hand made dress with a raw edge). When she complained and I offered her a full refund minus the cost of shipping, she sent me increasingly insane responses and then opened a case against me with Etsy. Long story short, Etsy figured out she was crazy and closed the case, and I added a new item to my FAQ section. (No, not "please no crazies", just "vintage dresses are, in fact, not new.")

Then there was the hoax. It's called a "419 hoax" and while the person contacting me seemed to have a poor grasp of English and it felt fishy, I couldn't see how it could possibly go wrong. They offered me more than the cost of my item and wanted to pay me through a cashier's check, plus extra that they wanted me to send on to "movers" in another state. This made me really uncomfortable, so I contacted Etsy, who sent me this:

Evidently, the check will clear but then a week later will be found to have no funds behind it. So you will owe the bank all the money you cashed and then forwarded on. Which is thousands more than they owed you. Moral of the story: If it sounds too good to be true, it definitely, 1,000% is.

Finally, the real kicker was my own fault. One of the very first things I listed was a Professor Cold Heart in his original packaging. I'd had him for years and it seemed like a great (and easy) place to start.

Isn't he beautiful? I listed him in May, and this past November, he sold.

Now, in the time between May and November, my inventory had exploded. It went from two totes (pictured here after my first Salvo Wednesday of this past summer - the two totes are at the foot of the bed):

To the current state of affairs:

I got rid of a vanity and a wicker "shelving" unit, and now I have 3 totes, a large and jam-packed garment rack, a desk with a sewing machine for mending, and two dress forms. It's a problem, albeit a happy problem. 

To go from point A to point B, a lot of rearranging and organizing was required. The Professor was relocated. I went to where I assumed he would be, and there was no Professor. 

This made me a little nervous, so I checked another spot. No Professor. Another spot. No Professor. I emptied the totes. No Professor. I moved the dressers. The garment rack. The bed. No Professor. I completely emptied my closet. No Professor.

I started breaking out in a cold sweat. You might not realize this, but it is really, really hard to ship an item you can't locate. In the 6 months since I'd opened my shop, I had over 100 sales and had earned 30+ 5 star ratings and I was really fond of my 5-star status. I had visions of my first 1-star rating because I was going to have to tell the buyer that I had lost the Professor.

In my panic, I decided to check Ebay. I figured I could find another, buy it, and sell it as if it was mine. Good plan! I looked and found this:

Look closely. Particularly at the sticker in the upper right corner. Compare it to the picture of mine from my listing. I might want to add that this was shipping from Rochester, NY... where I also live. I hadn't just found another Professor in the original packaging. I'd found MY Professor.

Yes, friends. That was my exact Professor Cold Heart. In my frenzy of reorganizing, somehow I had packed him up with things I was donating, and handed him off to a local Goodwill. Where someone else found him, recognized his value, and listed him on Ebay (with a much worse photo than mine, might I add).

I did the only thing I could. I bought him, friends. I asked the seller if I could pick him up. I drove to the seller's house, brought him home, packaged him up and sent him to my Etsy buyer. And I made 50 whole cents on the deal.

The moral of this story? Don't be a dummy. 

In honor of my tremendous genius, I am ringing in the New Year with my very own Professor Cold Heart nail art, courtesy of the talented @thesnugbungalow - complete with a little heart as a nod to the Care Bears.

May this year bring me Etsy sales and another Magic Summer. And hopefully fewer stupid moments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dear Goodwill, This is NOT a Halloween Costume

Back in August, I stopped at Goodwill on a whim on my way home from yoga. I went through the dresses section, found nothing of interest, and decided to check out the furniture. On my way through the store, I noticed that they had prematurely put out a Halloween costumes section. I caught a glimpse of tulle and ruffles, and stopped. I found a pile of vintage gloriousness. 50s cupcake dresses, 60s gowns, 70s prairie dresses, and the ultimate Cinderella dress.

I was thrilled by my finds, but at the same time, a bit mystified. OK, with the Cinderella dress I get it. But what costume exactly were the others supposed to be? 

I went to the same Goodwill later, and found more. More lovely vintage dresses hidden away in the Halloween section.

I started guessing wildly at what costume the Goodwill employees imagined these dresses could have been. June Cleaver, perhaps? Do people dress up as June Cleaver? (I kept this one, btw. Because... well, LOOK at it. And it fits to perfection.)

100% wool.... Maybe a Hufflepuff who's feeling a little fancier than robes?

OK, ballerina. I got that one.

With the ridiculously amazing iridenscent green fabric, this one was obvious. Retro sci-fi alien queen!

It occurred to me that the Goodwill I'd been visiting might not be alone in mistaking vintage pieces for Halloween costumes. I made it my mission one Saturday to rescue all the vintage in the area from the Halloween racks of costumes. I drove to 4 additional Goodwills and rescued more! And kept up the wild costume speculation.

Maybe someone thinks this looks Renaissance-y? Maybe a Shakespeare character??

Ice princess? One who likes to wear hearts embroidered on their satin? Oooh! Professor Cold Heart's girlfriend!!!

Guys. Obviously you think this is Blanche, but it is neither blingy enough nor lowcut enough.

Girl lumberjack! Doi.

Jeannie, only she prefers blue and likes to keep her midriff all covered up. For the modest genie-in-a-bottle.

Flower child at bedtime, obviously.

A character on That 70s Show. Or just any woman from the 70s with really good taste

Someone who's giving themselves as a present? Wrapped in gorgeous turquoise silk?

Someone playing The Dating Game!

Man, I'm good at this game.

While I really feel somewhat horrified that Goodwill employees actually think these vintage jewels are costumes, I don't really want to disillusion them. I'm already looking forward to next year's rescue operation! So by all means, Goodwill. Be my guest. Keep it up.

And just a side note: Between all the Halloween-rack-rescue-missions and an extremely fruitful estate sale, there is no more room at the inn here at Magic Summer Vintage. I am completely filled up. So to enable my treasure-hunting addiction, I need to sell some to make room for more! To that end, I have a sale running from now until Sunday (10/30/2016)! Please take some of these beauties home for a reduced price! Just promise me that if you DO wear them as costumes, you'll treat them with love and respect and give them a good, happy home.

Use code FALL16 between now and 10/30/2016 for $10 off!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Take THIS, Dress Horde!

If you've read my blog, followed me on Instagram, or ever spoken to me for 3.2 seconds, you know things about me. Like, for instance, that I'm obsessed with dresses. Any beautiful dress will do, but vintage dresses in particular are my collecting drug of choice. I opened an Etsy shop to sell them this past spring, and it turns out I LOVE it. I get to buy every pretty vintage dress I see, whether or not it will fit me or if I'll ever actually have a opportunity to wear it. I can list it and have the joy of seeing someone else fall in love with it!

Since everyone knows this is my thing, it was only natural that everyone who saw the estate sale listing/FB post/whatever else about a sale in the Rochester area called The Dress Horde would immediately email me, post to my FB wall, text me, what have you. It sounded amazing. 4,000 vintage NOS dresses. FOUR THOUSAND UNWORN VINTAGE DRESSES. Heaven, right?

It sure looked it to me. Since I'd been to a ton of estate sales this summer, I knew that each company runs things a little differently. I was going to have to take a personal day, so I called to see how things were run. And was horrified by what I heard. First, they would start handing out "temporary numbers" up to 2 days in advance. Once in possession of a temporary number, you can't leave. And they were expecting people from out of state for this (and considering what I saw on Facebook about it, I wasn't surprised). It sounds like people were camping out.

And they were charging $30/dress. No doubt less than each dress is worth at full resale value, but I am not a full-time vintage shop owner. Those prices are out of my range for more than, say, 1 dress. I'm not camping out to pay $30 for a dress or two. 

So I passed. It hurt a little, but once I made up my mind, I felt some relief.

My friend Sarah, the owner of the amazing Snug Bungalow, always keeps me informed of the local estate sales even though I'm back to work full-time and can't go with her on Friday mornings anymore. This week, she sent me a link to a sale with these pictures:

It was no "Dress Horde", but I thought it might be pretty good anyway. I kept looking and contemplating. It wasn't take-a-personal-day good, but it was a Thursday/Friday sale that went until 4. I get out of work at about 3:15, so I had the chance to make it there between school and open house with about 20 minutes to spare.

Make it I did. The signs were gone, the lights were out, but the company was still there and agreed to let me go up and go through the closets in the remaining moments of the sale. Moreover, they informed me that since it was "practically Friday" (and the second day of the sale is usually 50% off), that everything would be 50% off for me, even on Thursday afternoon.

I went, and was immediately in shock. There were three closets with dresses in them, and while two only had a few (but a really good few), the third (the picture directly above) was lousy with amazing vintage. I didn't have long, and it was hot. I just started grabbing. Anything that looked pretty, which was a LOT of stuff. I barely made it down the stairs with my load, and we counted the dresses. Thirty two. THIRTY. TWO. 

They gave me the price and I pulled out a credit card.... at which point they looked at me blankly and informed me that they don't accept cards. Now, I went to these things all summer and I can remember maybe one that didn't accept cards. I remember scrounging (and by that, I mean literally borrowing nickels and pennies from my friends) to cover the cost of the one dress I bought at that sale. I didn't have enough nickels and pennies to cover the cost of 32 dresses this time, half off or otherwise.

Here's where it gets really crazy. I was desperate. I had no cash, and I'd run out of checks (mental note: order more checks). I offered to go to an ATM but it was clear from their faces that they were in no mood to wait for that. I came up with the only solution I could think of: Sarah was coming the next morning. Sarah could pay for me! I figured they'd want my name and number (and maybe SSN while they were at it), or they'd want me to leave my dresses until Sarah could pick them up. Nope. They turned down my offer of contact information and helped me carry the dresses to my car. Where I drove away with 32 dresses that I had not paid for.

If I was a horrible human being, I could have had those dresses for free. Especially considering that when Sarah showed up the next morning, none of the workers present had any idea what she was talking about. Eventually someone showed up who did, but man. They were almost making it hard for me to pay them!

But pay I did, and man, was it worth it. These dresses are going to take some time to clean and process, but I did one for a sample, to give you all a little taste.

50s dress, full skirt, metal zipper. Nearly flawless, now that it's been soaked and cleaned. Can you EVEN???

There was also this: 

60s Dropwaist dress with amazing floral print fabric. GAH.

Earlier this summer, the dress of my dreams was a 50s halter top dress with sailboats and seagulls. It broke my heart by not fitting. This is more of a shift than a 50s-silhouette dress, but look! More sailboats and seagulls! I might just keep it for the principle of the thing.

Blue and green fishy print! Cute!!!

Another that I'm 99.99999% sure that I'm keeping for myself (assuming it fits - it's currently soaking in some Retro Clean and I'll try it on when it's dry!) The red lining! Yay vintage winter coat!!

Could this dress BE more Rosemary Clooney? I just had to put it on my dress form to see! I love the little blue hankie that's attached to the hip!

I grabbed this dress because there was a matching long jacket. I thought: Hooray! A yellow polka dotted shift dress and I already grabbed the matching coat! I got home, went through all my treasures, and nope. No jacket. I either didn't grab it at all or dropped it at some point. Fortunately, Sarah was going back (look for her matching blog post about this sale in the near future), so I asked her to look for me. Voila!

So matchy! I can't wait to reunite them!!

While I was there, I was in such a hurry/arms so weighed down that I had no time to look at anything else. I left behind a completely amazing steel drum (I'm a music teacher, don't judge me) and I didn't even have the heart to go over to the jewelry table. Fortunately, Sarah, being completely awesome, found me this:

I'm breathless over this. There's earrings to match, and yes, my friends, that's sparkly blue aurora borealis. Translated: this is the necklace and earring set known as The Necklace and Earrings Intended By Fate For Ann To Own, Wear, and Love For the Rest of Her Days. I never get as excited over jewelry as I do over dresses, and this set pulled it off. Go team!

Speaking of amazing teamwork, my college friend Amy has started doing the Instagram vintage thing about the same time that I started my Etsy shop (check her IG shop ReminisceAndDelight). She has a ridiculously adorable habit of dressing her baby daughter in vintage clothing. We had mentioned over the summer that we'd keep an eye out for stuff for the other, but I hadn't noticed any vintage girls' clothes (too busy goggling at vintage dresses myself). However, this time, in my frenzy, a couple of girls' dresses were mixed in and I couldn't resist.

For example. I messaged her about them, and she had just found her first vintage adult dress for me! We did an even trade, and magic was made. This whole day was fate.

So, as Sarah calls it, this sale was "the one to beat". I don't know if it will ever be beat in all of my days. That might be OK, at least until I can convince my husband to build an addition onto our house to store all my excess vintage.

Do I regret missing The Horde sale? Nope. Not one jot. I had my own horde. While the rest of you schmucks were camping out, I ran in after work for 20 minutes and made out like a bandit. Take that, Dress Horde!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Salvo Wednesday: Magic Summer Ends

Back in the spring, I made the decision to open an Etsy shop. Moreover, I decided that with all the treasure hunting that would be required (much of which was spent in the company of my companion of my Magic Summer days of yore), that this was going to be Magic Summer the Reboot. 

You know how sometimes you get excited for a thing and the reality is never as good as the anticipation? That is not what happened. This summer exceeded my wildest expectations. As I mentioned in my last post, it was hot. I spend most of my summers waiting for a good stretch of 80s, but with a good dash of highs in the 70s. This summer, we not only had 24 (or are we up to 25 yet?) days in the 90s, we went a record-breaking stretch of days with a high above 80. More than a month.

This is my idea of heaven. I have not been too cold ALL SUMMER LONG. It's been... well... magical.

On top of that, my treasure hunting has been all I dreamed and more. I found so many amazing dresses, made some sales, and laugheed our crazy way through estate sales with Sarah.

The final week of magic summer was no exception. I decided to keep close to home this week, and went to my two favorite hometown Salvos.

While I bought plenty of vintage (coming this week to my Etsy shop!), this was all I bought for myself.  In past summers, this would have sent me spiralling. But because I got so much for my shop (and because my own personal closet is burgeoning), I just smiled and went my merry way.

I have decided that I can't handle doing scarves. Dresses are my joy and my delight and I enjoy every minute of the work involved. But scarves, while beautiful, do not delight me in the same way and I just don't want to deal with it. But for real. SOMEONE should. Look at that bounty! Get thee to the Salvo!

Last weekend, I found the exact desk I'd been wanting at a yard sale about two blocks away. I talked them down to $15 (they were so giddy to be getting rid of it that it wasn't a challenge - before I knew what was happening, they had it loaded in my car, even). It's a huge improvement over the wicker basket I had before, and it gives my (now-functional) sewing machine a happy home.

A pile of dresses to wash/mend, drawers to keep me organized.... what more can a girl want?

A dressmaker's form for a steal, you say? This was my favorite find at my final estate sale of the summer, and man, was it worth it. The ability to change sizes! My larger sized dresses are about to look a lot better on the dress form!

All in all, this summer was a joy. A delight. Magical. It started like this:

And ended like this:

Tomorrow my magic summer comes to an end. I am sorry to see it go, no doubt about it. But I get to see my kids on Tuesday, and man, are they good kids. There's a special kind of magic in watching them all walk through my door, smiling. And I suspect that next summer will have a little of its own magic.

In the meantime, if you're interested in any of my dresses, head over to my Instagram for a Back To School coupon for 15% off!

A happy end of Magic Summer to you all!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Salvo Wednesday: Blogging Delinquent

Well, guys, I don't think I need to say anything beyond the blog title. I'm a delinquent. I got halfway through my summer, had a few more Salvo Wednesdays like the ones I'd already posted about, and got so busy buying/ cleaning/ steaming/ inventorying/ photographing/ listing my dresses that I couldn't bring myself to then add blogging to that list. I just couldn't. When I was done with all of that, I grabbed my Kindle, let Scarlett sit on my lap, and had a glass of wine.

So I'm tremendously behind. Suffice it to say, this has been the summer of my dreams. In more ways than one, really. Not only has it been a thrifting/estate saling heaven, it's been hot. Hot enough even for ME. Hot enough that I am actually looking forward to needing to put the comforter back on the bed (we haven't used it in over a month, I'm pretty sure, so we just took it right off.) I know a lot of you are miserable, but I have been in my glory. When I decided that this would be Magic Summer the Reboot, Mother Nature heard and said "you got it, lady." And she delivered.

Since I last posted, here's a summary of the thrifting I've done:

  • Dansville/Bath/Hornel
Every year I go to my old stomping grounds to hit the Salvo there. I meet up with my mom and she comes with me. It's in the middle of nowhere, but I always do well there. Always. 

I mean it. Dansville kills. LOOK at that pile!

A little something summery for me - perfect for the first few steamy days back to school!

This one wound up getting worn on my anniversary!

We went on to Bath and Hornell. Neither are terribly close, but closer to Dansville than they are to Rochester, and if you're going to do a thing, you might as well do it right. And did I do it right, or what?

Sometimes, before I've had a chance to clean/steam/inventory/photograph/list my finds, I can't resist putting one of the really good ones on a dress form and taking a preview picture. UGH. This one is so pretty that I'm considering removing a rib or two to make it fit. And I don't think I'm alone in that.

Dansville (and the "nearby" towns I mentioned) may have flaws, but the thrift stores are not among them.

  • Provincetown
The week after this, my husband and I went on our annual vacation. It was shorter than planned this year because my very adorable, very high-energy pitty baby needed ACL surgery. If you don't know how much that costs.... well, trust me when I say you don't want to.

So instead of the overseas trip we had planned (and the new kitchen floor, which I'm actually more disappointed about), we added on to a trip to MA for his cousin's wedding and spent a couple of days in Provincetown. The wedding was gorgeous:

(and for once, my husband and I didn't clash!)

We went up to Provincetown and walked, ate delicious things, enjoyed our gorgeous hotel, and of course, I went to the nearby thrift store.

 It was in a church, and I love that even church is done Provincetown-style here.

Here's what I didn't like: There was a rough listing of prices for most things on the wall, but not clothes. No, you bring them up and they give you a price. This is frustrating, time consuming, and has been known to make certain owners of The Snug Bungalow lose their minds.  But I was on vacation and I was getting something, darnit, so I got this:

It's hard to tell against my green wall, but that's actually hot pink, not red. It needs a hot pink belt and then this thing is amazing! Vintage find in Provincetown! All for me.

And just because you all need to see, a few shots of our very amazing hotel:

  • Hometown Thrifting with the College Roommate
After we returned home, my college roommate came to visit. We did a lot of fun things, like grilling at home (always my favorite), going on a Finger Lakes wine tour (another favorite), eating by Lake Ontario (okay, so everything we did was my favorite), and we also hit an area Goodwill, which we do every time. I got a couple of cute vintage things there for me:

Small vintage travel jewelry case! What girl doesn't need something like this? Mine.

And this adorable 60s linen & lace dress. WITH. POCKETS.

 I mean, right???

We also went to Savers, where I almost never go because they don't have half off sales. But it was directly en route to our lunch location, so we stopped. And somehow we managed to land on half off day. EVERYTHING was half off. It was a madhouse and too intense for pictures, but Gwenne got a couple of dresses and I hit the jackpot:

It sold almost immediately, and can any of us really be surprised? It was one of those amazing finds that looked underwhelming on the hanger but as soon as I steamed it and put it on the dress form, it was transformed. I LOVE when that happens.

  • Buffalo Salvo x 4
I decided that since I'd had such a great time in Syracuse, I'd drive to the other nearby city and check out there Salvation Armies. I was a little underwhelmed by their vintage (maybe someone there is getting ahead of me?) but I found a few good things.

For my Florida-obsessed friend...

...for my ugly-porcelain-chick obsessed friend...

.... for me!

At the second store, I went through a fairly lengthy but disappointing row of dresses. I was about to give up and leave, when I turned the corner and saw this. YIKES. See that splash of orange in there? It was this, and it is mine now:

This is probably my first-day-of-school dress. It's pretty, and more to the point, breathable. Because my classroom is always a sweaty mess the first few days of schoool, when the weather hasn't figured out we're not on summer vacation anymore, and 90ish of us cram in there. This should help.


Black dress with white lace overlay, Peter Pan collar! This is good for all seasons!

Chevron. DROOL.

This may mean very little to most of you, but my brother-in-law lives with his wife in Oviedo, Spain, which is in Asturias. I couldn't believe that I'd found a jersey in Buffalo!

I was really proud of myself for this one. A) at the beginning of the summer, I had never heard of Laurel Burch and B) it was hidden in the children's section. WIN!

  • Post-yoga Goodwilling

After yoga that week, I had an urge to hit the Goodwill and see what was half off. I didn't find much in the dresses, but I was in the market for a new desk for my spare bedroom/vintage clothing workshop so I headed to the back corner of the store. I passed the Halloween section and out of the corner my eye, I saw ruffles and tulle and stopped. And found that someone had donated a ton of 50s and 60s gowns. And someone at Goodwill said "hey, these look like Halloween costumes! Let's price them super low and stick them with the sexy nurse costumes!" Lucky me. I was near giddy.

My poker face failed epically, but who cares? I walked away with these and they couldn't up the prices no matter the expression on my face. HEAVEN.

  • Canandaigua/Geneva
I made my very last Salvo Wednesday road trip last week. This Wednesday, my last one before going back to see my amazing kids, I'm going to stay home and do the area ones one more time. So last week I drove to the only one I hadn't done yet this summer, in Canandaigua. I found a couple of good dresses but even better jewelry, most of which I'm keeping.

Maxi dress! I love them.

Stretchy knit winter dress. It's ready for a pair of fleece-lined tights and some boots!

I've decided I need a lot more vintage jewelry in my life. Thank you, Canandiagua, for your part in making that happen.

On a whim, I decided to go to Geneva for the second time this summer. It was only 20 minutes away (in the wrong direction) but I'd had good luck there earlier, so I figured why not. 

Good choice, me. 

I can't even. Not only was all the vintage in all the land at the Geneva Salvation Army that day, but it was the kind that gave me the feels. Collecting friends, you feel me. Not just something good that you know someone else will like/want/buy, but the kind that you know almost before you look at it that it's something special. The kind that makes your poker face REALLY hard to keep in place, and makes your heart race a little, and makes you compare thrifting to a hit. We get it. Those weird non-collectors out there might not understand, but we get it.

This was a hit. It was a good kind. I have joyfully spent the last few days cataloging and cleaning. It turns out I love this. Opening an Etsy shop was a good choice for me. I LOVE it. 

Fortunately for me, I also love my big girl job. It's been a magic summer, and soon it ends and I get to go back and make the best kids in the world make beautiful music together, and play with vintage dresses in my free time. Lucky.

This concludes the world's longest blog post, and I swear I'm going to post again with my last few summer finds. I hope everyone else has had a Magic Summer as well!