Shopping and Budgeting Tips

For many of us, shopping doesn’t come easily. There are a seemingly infinite number of stores to go to, and on top of that, there are multiple styles within each store. Adding to the trouble and pain of it all is the fact that we’re college students, meaning that the little spending money we have usually goes towards paying rent or buying books for class. To help diminish the stress from your next shopping trip, I’ve constructed a list of tips to pick out clothes and budget wisely.

  1. Eliminate seasonality. You shouldn’t be looking for clothes that are specific to spring or fall, for example. Rather, look for pieces that you can wear year-round in order to get more bang for your buck. For instance, if you’re looking for a maxi dress, buy it in a darker hue so that you can fit it into your fall wardrobe after summer ends. Similarly for guys, when you’re buying shorts try to stay away from too many pastels and buy more tan and brown neutrals so you can whip them out when a fall heat wave rolls through.
  1. Shoot for quality over quantity. Let’s face it – it’s easy to get sucked into the world of “fast fashion” at stores like Brandy Melville and Forever 21. This means that the clothes are made cheap and quickly, so they have a shorter lifespan before they begin to look ratty and messy. Instead of buying five basic tanks for $25, invest in a more mature silhouette that will last years beyond your “fast fashion” pieces. You will be saving money in the long run.
  1. Look for online stores with free returns. Shopping online can be a breeze, but it is very difficult to determine what size will fit you best when you’re not able to try a garment on. If the online store allows free returns with reimbursement to the original form of payment, buy the two sizes that you’re on the fence about, try them both on once they arrive, and return the one that doesn’t fit. That way you’re able to ensure that you bought the correct size.
  1. Sleep on it. No one said shopping had to be a rush! If you can’t decide whether to buy an item or not, go home and sleep on it for a few nights. If you still have the strong desire to buy it, then go get it! At that point you know that it wasn’t an impulsive purchase.
  1. Play the “over/under” game. This is a trick that I use every time I go shopping. First, look at a garment without looking at its price tag. Value the item yourself. That means that you’ll decide how much you think it should cost. Then look at the price tag. If it costs less than you were willing to pay for it, then buy it. If it’s more than you priced it at, then leave it on the rack.
  1. Make accessories work for your wardrobe. Buy accessories that add versatility to your clothing. The easiest way to change the same outfit is to spruce it up with a different necklace, scarf, or jacket. That way you’ll be able to make certain pieces work for different occasions, and it won’t look like you’re wearing the same outfit week after week.

Spotlight: UrbanXChange

Thrift store culture has been booming in the Pacific Northwest for the past decade, and it has only been picking up speed. With the immense popularity of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s song “Thrift Shop,” secondhand clothing has had a rebirth that our generation is swallowing whole. The legacy of Kurt Cobain’s grunge style has been reworked and re-popularized by style icons like Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, and the Olsen Twins.

People are searching thrift stores high and low to find unique garments that aren’t coming out of cookie-cutter patterns created by corporate retail machines. The pieces they buy have a life to them that regular retail stores can’t replicate. Therefore, secondhand clothing tends to be cheaper, more worn-in, and funkier than what other retail stores are selling, making it especially appealing to college students.

There are numerous, multiple, infinite thrift stores in Tacoma, but Urban X Change is my favorite hidden gem. When I walked into the store for the first time, there was a vibe about it that I had never felt while entering any other retail shop. It’s as if it presents a package of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle in terms of ease, accessibility and free spirit. The clothing perfectly exemplifies the funky style of Tacoma, appealing to both fashion and comfort. There are shoes and boots lining the opposing walls of the Men’s and Women’s sections, and peeks of butter-soft Pendleton cloth emerging from the rows of winter wear. To say that it was a love affair would be an understatement.

Located in downtown Tacoma on Pacific Avenue, UXC has been around for ten years. In fall of 2013, married couple Nick and Brooke Casanova took on the store, putting their own personal touch on Tacoma fashion. I had the opportunity to talk with them about the store, the way it operates and its bright future.


“You would be amazed about how many calls we get about people asking if we’re selling mattresses and items like that because we’re classified along with other thrift stores. So we wouldn’t call ourselves a thrift store, but more of a secondhand boutique,” said Brooke. “We’re a creative shop that focuses on vintage and modern goods and welcomes community to try and stay ahead of the game as far as product goes,” said Nick.

UXC is a “buy, sell, trade” store, meaning that its inventory is made up of clothing that customers sell to the store. Nick and Brooke sort through bags of clothing that customers come in to sell and they buy the garments from them. “We have the ability to curate what we sell because we’re the ones buying it,” said Nick. “We really want to create a fashion-forward culture in Tacoma, and we’re showing our customers what is trendy and stylish in a way that’s easy for them to pick up on.”

Currently, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People and Buffalo Exchange are the frontrunners in grungy, bohemian style. They have had a lot of success in appealing to a generation of funky fashionistas, for a high price. Nick pointed out that none of these stores exist in Tacoma, so it is the goal of UXC to combine these four styles into one and package it for the Tacoma community. “We want people to know that we’re selling items strategically in order to appeal to them, so they don’t have to go to the mall when they want Clarks desert boots or a vintage maxi dress. We want them to think of us first,” Brooke and Nick said.


Brooke and Nick love looking through the items that customers bring in, because it constantly reshapes the type of merchandise that the store is selling. They usually get a lot of garments in from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and some from ‘50s and ‘60s. “Not too long ago we had a woman come in with around 15 vintage gunny sack dresses. That was definitely one of my favorite buys. They didn’t stay in the store very long because customers immediately bought them,” said Brooke. The store gets about 6-15 sellers everyday, but they hope to expand their selling population to UW Tacoma and UPS students.


The Casanovas find it of utmost importance to foster a sense of community at UXC. They sell locally made jewelry in the store, creating partnerships with Tacoma artisans. They also hope to add more bustle to Pacific Avenue in order to create cooperative retail advantage for neighboring stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. Pac Ave is a major street in downtown Tacoma, but it lacks the foot traffic that many big cities have, making visitors less likely to pop into new places.

Nick and Brooke are looking to maximize the store’s potential in the near future. Brooke hopes to begin selling small homeware items to add to UXC’s eclectic collection of merchandise. Nick aims to better utilize the unique space of the store. “We have a back room that we’re really just using to take pictures in,” he said. “We’re thinking about having different guests come in to give workshops – whether it’s another local Tacoma business or a clothing designer or merchandise representative – we want people to hear about it and get it excited. Then they’ll be able to see the store and we’ll get new customers in.”

Urban X Change has a very exciting future ahead of it. Further collaboration with the Tacoma community will only bring growth and success. Check out Urban X Change’s Instagram account (urbanxchangetacoma) and Etsy shop, and head down to Pacific Avenue to see what they have in store!

Campus Style

This past week, the sun was shining and spirits were high! To celebrate this change in weather, I tracked down Loggers who like to keep it fresh with their style. These students gave me a tidbit on their own personal style and how they represent it through their clothing choices. Keep an eye out for more campus style segments!

Sloan Strader (Freshman): "Jane Birkin and stripes"

Sloan Strader (Freshman): “Jane Birkin and stripes”

Aaron Pomerantz (Senior) “I’m definitely not from LA”

Aaron Pomerantz (Senior) “I’m definitely not from LA”

Louisa Raitt (Senior): “Sleek lines and bold statement pieces”

Louisa Raitt (Senior): “Sleek lines and bold statement pieces”

Blake Hessel (Junior): “Soft fabric and lots of pockets”

Blake Hessel (Junior): “Soft fabric and lots of pockets”

Spotlight: Tiny Frock Shop

Fashion comes in all shapes and sizes – even when that size is 11.5 inches tall.  Since 1959, Barbie has been a representation of a stylish, fashion-oriented woman.  Her infinite number of outfits even mirror the shifts and changes of women during the latter half of the 20th century, marking Barbie as America’s most famous figurine.

Pamela Thompson, former Betsey Johnson and Heatherette head designer (who is currently a collaborator with Anna Sui), created Tiny Frock Shop in order to bring designer style to Barbie owners and collectors around the globe.  The online shop operates as a secondhand resale store for Barbie outfits.  From menswear (for Ken, of course), bridal gowns, accessories, home life, and pre-loved dolls, they sell it all!

Thompson credits her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, with the tile of CEO, which further shows the cross-generational adoration for Barbie.  Here’s a tidbit from Lily from the store’s website: “Hi…I am Lily. I am 6 and the CEO of Tiny Frock Shop. I know a lot about dolls. I love Barbies, milk, profit margins, the colors pink and black, TPS reports, sparkly dresses, punctuality, team players, chocolate and kitties so so much.”  How ridiculously adorable is that!?

Check out Tiny Frock Shop to get a look at these cool and sophisticated teeny-tiny outfits!

Spotlight: Darkroom Collective

One wouldn’t necessarily describe the University of Puget Sound campus as “fashioned-oriented.” However, beneath the surface, senior Nathaniel Skinner is using his artistic talent to create a collection of t-shirts that has the potential to redefine clothing created by our generation.

Skinner grew up with the fashion industry. “I had an inherent love affair with clothing,” he explains. “My mom is involved in fashion and she taught me the importance of dressing well as a form of personal expression.”

Along with childhood friend, Kahlil Dumas, who attends the University of Portland, Skinner launched Darkroom Collective, a collection of cyanotype inspired t-shirts.

“I wouldn’t call us a t-shirt brand,” said Skinner. “We’re more a lifestyle brand represented through clothing.”

Discovered in 1842, cyanotype printing is primarily used in conjunction with film photography. Skinner played around with this method in order to print transparencies directly onto cloth. He painted the cyanotype chemicals on the garment, placed an image on a clear transparency on top of the blue chemical ink, and let the shirt sit underneath UV rays. To let the image set, he fixed it with water.

After the initial printings, Skinner and Dumas decided to collaborate in order to develop a line of different designs and commercialize their creations. They began adding graphic elements to their images representative of the Pacific Northwest and the urban lifestyle.

Darkroom Collective aims to keep things local and community-based. “We wanted to create an aesthetic that appeals to the next generation of creative photographers, designers, and people in general,” said Skinner.

Darkroom Collective had an immediate positive response after launching its online store. They created 60 shirts of two different designs which sold out within two months.

As a result of this success, Skinner and Dumas had the opportunity this summer to attend MAGIC and Liberty Fairs, two fashion conventions held in Las Vegas. They networked and met with different designers who gave them advice in growing their collection. Coming into the fashion world strictly as artists and designers, they were also able to pick up more insight on the way that the industry operates in terms of sourcing, advertising and sales.

Darkroom Collective is currently working on broadening its social media presence. “Right now we have an Instagram account where we can post photos taken by budding photographers who reach out to us. We hope to use some of their photographs as future t-shirt designs,” said Skinner. This idea has created a lot more online exposure for Darkroom Collective. “Our generation is the generation of photographers. Everyone with an iPhone thinks they’re a photographer now,” he continued. They have acquired a following of contributing photographers who see working with Darkroom Collective as an opportunity to turn their work into something more tangible.

Darkroom Collective’s online store and website will be revamped in the near future to display new designs and more garments. In the future, the company aims to maintain its grassroots vibe and collaborate with other local artists.

(Linked from The Trail)

If You LOVE Fashion Theory……

As part of my senior thesis project, I wrote a literature review regarding fashion theory and its relation to identity politics.  It’s a topic near and dear to my heart. Give it a read if you dare!

Fashion as a Means of Identity Expression

The works on fashion theory that I have selected examine clothing as a way to both stand out from, and fit in with, certain cultural norms, making clothing an indicator of personal identity and public representation. I have split these theories into the following sections: identity and agency, group identification, culturally situated standards, class, and the development of clothing trends. Additionally, I have selected various ethnographic works on clothing that differ in terms of place and date in order to include a diverse sample. Through reviewing this literature, it is my goal to assess various fashion theories in order to apply them to the distinct ethnographies I have chosen to analyze.

Clothing choice is a form of agency that allows the individual to selectively display his or her identity to the public (Pham 2011; Crane 2000; Norell 1967; Finnane 2005). It puts the ability to present oneself in the hands of the agent. Brenner’s work on Muslim women living in Java highlights this theory in her exploration of the new, local trend in veiling (1996). Veiling is not a historically grounded tradition in Indonesia, however, its popularity is growing in women who decide to remove themselves from their pasts and mark a new awakening into the practice of Islam. Through the process of veiling, these women choose to represent themselves as devout Muslims. They differentiate themselves from non-veiling Muslims in order to portray their deep religiosity to the public.

However, while fashion is an individual choice, it is widely used as method of identification with specific groups, cultures, and religions (Miller 1993; Simmel 1957; Thompson 1997; Sproles 1974; LeBlanc 2000; Crane 2006; Finnane 2005; Jones 2007). Thus, dress can also be used to portray a group identity to the public. Sproles argues that fashion is “temporarily adopted by a discernable proportion of members in a social group because that chosen behavior is perceived to be socially appropriate for the time and situation” (1974). Therefore, he argues that fashion’s primary use is not to display individuality; rather, it is employed so individuals can find a sense of belonging through conforming to group norms.

As stated above, fashion is used as a social indicator of affiliation with cultures, groups, and belief systems. Individuals who dress alike are believed to be somehow linked to one another. LeBlanc’s ethnographic work in Bouake illuminates the fear of standing out by wearing clothing that are not the norm (2000). When asked about veiling in public, one of her subjects stated: “Most of my friends are not Muslims. How could I wear the veil when I go out with them? It would be embarrassing. It would look very odd. I would not feel at ease” (463). Her subject chose to conform to the dress of the group of her friends even though it contrasted with the religious garb she was supposed to wear in public. She prioritized her group identity over that of her personal identity out of fear of being ostracized.

LeBlanc states that fashion is a way to locate oneself within a societal setting (2000). Different types of clothing (cloth and material), patterns, colors, forms of draping, and ways of covering the body are all culturally situated (Hansen 2004; Heath 1992; Crane 2006; Jones 2007). Clothing is thus a developing presentation of cultural values, standards, and principles. Hansen provides a regional tour of clothing and its symbolic meanings cross-culturally (2004). For instance, changing political regimes have had a profound effect on the shifts of dress in Latin America. At the same time, there has been a historical continuation of the importance of local garb of the Pacific Islander population in relation to ceremonial symbolism. The comparison of these two examples shows how cultural, political, and geographical differences influence clothing, situating the development of dress in everyday life.

In the past, fashion was utilized in order to purposefully differentiate between social classes (Crane 2000; Summers 1970; Evans 1991; Simmel 1957). Simmel’s theory on the adoption of clothing trends states that higher social classes set trends that eventually trickle-down to the working class (1957). The working class then adopts that trend to associate with the elite. At that point, the higher classes select a new trend in order to differentiate from the visual identity of the working class. However, this theory has become outdated due to the increased intermixing of classes and culture through processes of globalization. As Hansen argues, fashion influences travel in all directions through class stratifications because of increased social connectivity (2004).

Both personal identity and clothing trends are constantly refashioned. As already discussed, shifts in clothing trends no longer follow a trickle-down pattern. Rather, they are created through social combination and networks of cultural collaboration that are at work, yet they remain unseen (Godart 2009). Therefore, group identity is the true shaper of fashion adoption and change. An individual may feel as though they have a unique sense of fashion; yet, they either consciously or subconsciously picked up that idea from someone else in a sort of unknowing conformity. Increased globalization and worldwide social interconnections created a blending of dress, challenging the classical hegemonic model of western imperialism in relation to fashion (Bikhchandani 1992; Hansen 2004). The exclusivity that once defined the world of fashion has opened its doors to the diversity of culture through means of accessibility, such as television and the Internet (Entwistle 2006; Finnane 2005; McRobbie 2002).

The exploration of dress and identity draws upon deep, cultural meanings about personal independence, group affiliation, and changes in trend adoption over time. While it is not comprehensive, this literature list has allowed me to develop a broad understanding of the ways in which identity and fashion coexist.

Inspiration: Mara Hoffman

There’s nothing that tickles my fancy quite like Mara Hoffman’s collections – and her latest one is no exception.  Really, I was just getting amped up for fall clothing (chunky sweaters and leather skirts galore), but after seeing these looks, I’m already craving spring.  Phenomenal patterns? Check. Vibrant colors? Check. Elegant silhouettes? Check.  Now, all I truly want for Christmas is a closet full of Mara Hoffman’s Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection.  But can you really blame me? 

LUX_0377 LUX_0156

Let’s start with these maxi dresses: ab-so-lute-ly stunning.  They would look truly flattering on any and every body type.  Throw on some chunky wedges and an wrist full of thin silver bangles and you’re good to go!

Here are my other favorite looks from Mara Hoffman’s new collection.  Enjoy!





(All photos from

Inspiration: Prabal Gurung

New York fashion week just started off with a bang, and I couldn’t have been more excited about Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection.  I just about melted over his sporty, Himalayan-inspired Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear, so I was ready to see what Prabal Gurung would do next.  And I was nothing short of amazed! His mix of sporty pieces with flowing detail creates the perfect concoction of style.

LUX_0038I’m equally adoring this architectural urban warrior look.  


But what really caught my eye were these two high-neck, flowing gowns.  (They are seriously works of art.)  The accent colors in each dress are strokes of design genius – and they just look downright cool.  


Prabal Gurung even launched a new shoe line that was featured in his runway show.  So enjoy that little bit of eye candy, too!

(All photos from

Spotlight: Preserve.Us

Preserve.Us just launched and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  (Seriously the homemade-lovin’-fashion-girl in me is squirming with pure elation.)  Preserve sells it all – clothes for both men and women, home goods, kitchenware, jewelry, and even some tasty looking hot fudge!  

Preserve is teamed up with different artisans and small business owners from the around the U.S.  They have set their first goal to give 5,000 children a meal, 2,000 children a blanket, and 2,700 children a cozy sweatshirt.  Their hands-on philanthropic goals are both reasonable and grassroots-oriented.  

I’m all about the Briella Maxi Dress and the soon to arrive Stone Bangles, both pictured above.  They’re even perfect when paired together!

And on a final note, the company’s take away message is just as inspiring as the items its selling:

“We acknowledge that we are human and are flawed. But please accept, our intention is to do something pure. So we ask you, let this be a conversation. Help us grow. Help us give. Please critique us, teach us and be patient with us in the process, as ultimately we are all in this, this spinning sphere, together.”