STYLE

My Big Fashion Crisis Today

Picking Outfits to Wear to a Las Vegas Trade Show

The Search For Clothes Part One

When I think about it, my big fashion crisis today started 12 years ago when I closed my brick and mortar boutique and began selling exclusively online. The closing of my physical store marked a dramatic change in my professional life. I was no longer in view of my customers on a daily basis. In fact, I was mostly alone in my office/warehouse day in day out. This workspace occupied an old granary building on my 10-acre farm so many days I didn’t even leave home. Although I regularly talked to customers on the phone and via email, what I wore on work days was of no consequence to anyone but me and the UPS man.

The Hats and Haberdashery Granary Warehouse - Fashion Crisis
The Hats and Haberdashery Granary Warehouse

For those of you who don’t know what I did before this blog, I sold some of the best women’s artisan clothing and accessory lines from around the world. (Click here for more about that.) For 13 years my business was in a brick and mortar shop in Suttons Bay, Michigan. The last 11 years of business I sold merchandise via an online website. My customer base was largely woman 40 – 70 and they weren’t your ordinary dressers. They wanted unusual and often statement-making pieces.  In theory, this is my personal style too. The great thing about these garments is their timeless cuts and styling which make them wearable for many years. In my own wardrobe, I could mix and match things from different years and sometimes from different seasons by layering. Hardly a thing got passed on or tossed out until it was worn to threads. The downside of this apparel is that it is not the kind ones wears with no place to go. 

Avant-Garde Apparel by Designer Umit Unal - Fashion Crisis
Avant-Garde Apparel by Designer Umit Unal

As a retailer, you can take anything you want from your store though it isn’t exactly free. It costs you the wholesale price and the amount of money you would have made if you had sold it to a customer. Although I’m no model, customers really responded to the outfits I wore in my brick and mortar store resulting in sales. This meant that my “live advertising” made it cost effective for me to take a certain amount of inventory each season.  In addition, it was important to represent my company when I was at trade shows and at social events in my community where I often met customers. 13 years of this meant that I collected a lot of clothes! For a fashion lover like me, it was a fun and fabulous time.

Me and a Designer's Sales Rep at a New York Show in the 1990's - Fashion Crisis
Me and a Designer’s Sales Rep at a New York Show in the 1990s

As mentioned above, when I closed my brick and mortar store in favor of an online retail website, I became largely unseen. My new work consisted of hours and hours sitting at a computer. When merchandise came in, there were more physical activities like unboxing, sorting and hanging inventory (a lint nightmare at times). Also, I had hours standing behind the camera on product photo shoots. Comfortable and easy to move in clothing were all of a sudden a necessity …. the only problem was, I didn’t have much of this sort of thing in my wardrobe and I didn’t sell it either. In addition, I am not a yoga pant, sneakers and teeshirt kind of gal. (Take me out back and shoot me if I ever become one.) I did still have snazzier opportunities to be “seen” in my community and there were trade shows to attend in Europe and the US.  But for these occasions, I could make do less often with a new outfit from inventory or make older things in my extensive wardrobe work.

"Who's Next" Apparel and Accessories Trade Show in Paris - Fashion Crisis
“Who’s Next” Apparel and Accessories Trade Show in Paris

As the 11 years conducting business online passed, I had a growing personal fashion crisis on my hands. I had a ton of clothes but nothing to work in. When I searched elsewhere for things to wear, I was having difficulty finding styles that were good for work and that also suited my taste. Even on days when few people see me, I want to look somewhat unique, a little bit cool (if possible), and definitely not frumpy. Lacking for a lot of time to search for clothing, more often than not, I just muddled through with a pair of sorta-kinda cool no-name jeans and a half OK top from some random catalog. Along the way, I’ve been getting older, complete with changes in my physical body. Although I remained a reliable buyer for my boutique business; through my lack of attention to my personal wardrobe, I had unwittingly lost my once keen fashion sense of self.

Me in My "Work Clothes" - Fashion Crisis
Me in My “Work Clothes”

After 24 total years total in the fashion boutique business, I have now closed my online shop as well. Another big lifestyle change and no more “free” access to super cool clothing whether I need them or not. And, because over the past 11 years I neglected to find sources for cool, comfortable but less statement-making clothing; I now find myself in a full-on fashion crisis with every visit to my closet.

My Closet ... Yikes! - Fashion Crisis
My Closet … Yikes!

I know some of my old customers are in the same boat too. In the final years of my online boutique business, I had countless phone conversations with women who had shopped with me for many years. They were calling to see if I could find them things to wear now that they had retired. Like me, I was hearing that they wanted to look somewhat unique as they always have. They still wanted to be a little bit hip (if possible), and certainly not frumpy or, dare I say, old looking. But, they also wanted to be comfortable in their more laidback retired lifestyle. Although I am not retired, my life as a blogger is still pretty much a behind-the-scenes gig.  And, conversely, my life as a vlogger is something much more visible (hello YouTube!) with a potential of being seen by the world. Just how does one dress for that?

So what’s an aging, blogging and vlogging fashionista to do? I am determined to find clothing that fits my lifestyle now and has a unique little spark to it to help lite my fashion flame again. In addition, I’m digging deep into my closet to find the pieces that still work for me but need tweaking to fit my current needs. (I think this means I’ll be getting out the scissors and sewing machine soon.) I promise to report back on my projects and what clothing I find online and in shops. If you have a source or two for me to check out, let me know. I will do it!

Picking Outfits to Wear to a Las Vegas Trade Show - Fashion Crisis
Picking Outfits to Wear to a Las Vegas Trade Show
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9 Comments

  • Gillian Babcock

    My sister wants to renew her closet because most of her clothes do not fit anymore. It was explained here that good clothes should be able to mix and match from different seasons. Furthermore, it’s recommended to go to trusted women clothing boutique for quality clothes.

    • Cynthia

      Agreed! Thanks for your comment.

  • Casey

    Hi Cynthia! I agree with Marley that shopping is more challenging without your guidance. I came late to the H and H party, and on getting word that you were closing shop to pursue other interests, I wrote a list of all the labels you carried so that I might find them elsewhere. Still missing are your eye, your help with sizing, and your terrific models. I buy a lot from Eileen Fisher. Though inot wildly edgy, the designs and fabrics have staying power and are great backdrops to some bolder H and H pieces. I’ve also discovered an interesting store and site called CladIn (but haven’t purchased anything yet). When warmer weather comes, I have an eye on a couple of tops from Breathe Again Design, via your pointer. I miss your shop and being a ‘victim’ of your good taste, but have also enjoyed reading about your further adventures!

  • Marley

    Since the closure of yur site, it has been a frustrating and daunting experience to find the clothes that you carried-that have thatlittle bit of edge that enhances our uniqueness. I would hope that you can advise us where to look for some of thegreat designers that you carried. I know that you suggested Artful Home and Santa Fe Dry Goods (very pricey). Are there other sites that your customers have found?

    • Cynthia

      Hi Marley! Well, this is the problem. I too face it … where to get cool clothes now that H and H is gone. As far as online goes, I have mentioned in my posts the websites that I recommend for some of the brands I use to carry on my site. I have not heard from any former customers about where they are shopping now. The other issue is I directly imported many lines from Europe and beyond; like Lurdes Bergada from Spain. These lines are only available to US shops if the buyer goes to the shows in Europe to buy as I did. So those brands are, by and large, not available here anymore. I will continue to keep my eyes peeled and will report back but in the meantime … I just bought myself a sewing machine. 😉 Really … I did!

  • Camille - Paisley Grace Boutique

    I commend you for continuing the quest: finding clothing that adapts to our ever-changing needs for comfort, but NOT in oppostion to good taste and style. I, like you, refuse to be saddled to yoga pants as my only option for comfortable “fashion.” I’ll be checking your blog often to see what you land on! Thanks for sharing.

    • Cynthia

      Thanks for checking it Camille. Hope you’ll return soon.

  • Maudia Lanzotti

    I came to your store a few times,I have a shirt I still wear and a pair of earrings. I also bought a few things from your going out of business sale. I even went to a yard sale with a friend that was at your house. Now the weirdest connection…my daughter was college roommates with your niece Sarah.! Anyway,just found your blog and loved your clothes!

    • Cynthia

      Hi Maudie! I’m glad you still have some things from the brick and mortar store … as I mention in my post, I do too. LOL! I’m sorry you missed Hats and Haberdashery online. I had 11 great years doing business that way after the I left the brick and mortar shop. I think you might mean my niece Samantha? Hope College? Anyway, I’m glad you found my blog. It’s wonderful to hear from my former customers. Cheers!

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