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I Like To Pay The Small Bucks, Not The Big Ones
It's on the rarest occasion that I walk into a retail store these days. If I am in one, it's probably only because there's some ginormous sale. I order everything off eBay that I can -- getting fabulous clothes for about $20, like a gorgeous vintage jacket I got recently for $19.64 (including shipping).


This Randolph Duke wrap jacket was $20.84 with shipping.


I know my sizes in certain designers' clothing, and I know my measurements, and even if I screw up in buying something, if it's $20, and I give it to a friend, that raises the prices of two subsequent successful purchases to, what, $30? Sometimes, you can't even find an ugly t-shirt for that price in a department store.

In the spirit of not paying through the nose for things, when I recently (boohoo!) was told during a $25 opthamologist visit at Kaiser that I needed glasses for distance (driving at night, for example), I went and looked at the frames at Kaiser outside his office. What?! $167 and up for ugly, unstylish frames? Nuh-huh. And then getting lenses put in...the whole thing could cost hundreds of dollars for some serious ugliness.

I went home and Googled "discount eyeglasses," and came up with I found that, for $35, plus shipping (a big $5!) I could have my lense prescription filled and mailed back to me. Thrills! (For more information on them, and why you shouldn't pay big bucks for prescription eyeglasses, click on the Smart Money link on the right side of their will download an article in PDF.)

I decided to buy glasses on the beach (about $10) or reading glasses in the drugstore and have them turned into prescription glasses. But, I tried on a few reading glasses at Rite-Aid, and they didn't really work, and then I came home and talked to my architect neighbors, who handed me a sale thingie for The Optical Shop of Aspen on Main Street. 60 percent off!

I trotted over, got a pair of groovy frames for $99 on sale, and sent them off to eyeglassdirect via three-day Fedex -- because I know the secret of three-day Fedex. If you sent them from an urban area like Los Angeles to an urban area like New York, they'll usually get there the next day.

So, I'd dropped them in the Fedex box at Staples on Saturday afternoon, and by Monday afternoon, I had an e-mail from eyeglassdirect telling me my glasses were done and were being shipped out to me. Woohoo! I had them by the end of the week. And they're great. Cost:

$99 glasses
$39.95 prescription filling/lens installation/shipping
$15 Fedex (okay, so impatience leads to a wee bit of extravagance)

Total cost for my glasses: $153.95

Although...had I bought beach frames instead of these more groovy ones, and sent them Fedex Ground, I could have gotten away with spending less than $60.

Oh yeah, and when Gregg's Gucci glasses that he paid over $500 for (with prescription, "at some tony-poo shop called Eye-ons" on Melrose) broke, I found the frames for $40 on eBay. So, even if you have your "eye-on" a pair of pricey glasses, there's still probably a much more reasonable alternative to retail.

And here I am in my new frames (from when I was buying them in the store).


Posted by aalkon at July 9, 2007 6:27 AM


I love the frames, Amy. And the earrings are very classy. Provides a very interesting contrast with the light blue jacket (it looks leather on the outside, but the collar looks like denim).

It's a terrific statement. Very "you."

Posted by: Patrick at July 9, 2007 2:18 AM

Thank you, dahlingk. I'm actually wearing a jeans jacket underneath a vintage Finnish ski jacket I bought while with Lena in Paris (10 eu at a used clothing store in Les Halles, the area that used to be the meat packing district).

And actually, the earrings and the hair thing are from Paris, too. American earrings tend to be tiny and imperceptible, although that's changed a little lately!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 9, 2007 6:10 AM

> the area that used to be the meat packing district

Well, meat and everything else at wholesale. HUGE piles of mushrooms, apples, artichokes, aubergines, six kinds of lettuce... and the wonderful all-night restaurants serving the fresh produce in miraculous ways. Those were the days (showing my age here)!

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at July 9, 2007 7:04 AM

Actually, you're right...I was thinking of Florent, in NYC, when I wrote that. It was the central market of Paris until around 1970.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 9, 2007 7:14 AM

I am incredibly impressed. I have very dry eyes and contacts are simply unbearable. So is the thought of having my cornea popped off to correct my 750/20 vision. So, I am stuck in glasses most of the time.

I go to great lengths to wear really nice glasses and pay about $400 every other year for new ones (my lenses are EXPENSIVE!). I feel officially foolish and so does my bank account. Spending through the nose for glasses seemed like such a "given" that I never tried looking for a money saving alternative. Duh!

Great tip, I am never paying $250 for lenses again, dammit!

Posted by: Gretchen = feeling dumb at July 9, 2007 8:06 AM

Yes indeed. Paris and London both moved their wholesale markets to the suburbs at about the same time, and for the same reasons (lack of room for expansion, unbelievable all-night traffic jams). Of the two I think Covent Garden did the better job of transforming itself into a playground. The modern Les Halles is tacky, in my opinion.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at July 9, 2007 8:08 AM

It's just awful, but there is one bright spot for fashion-forward girls...L'Espace Créateurs, where young designers' work is sold...designers who don't have a whole collection or a store of their own.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 9, 2007 8:14 AM

Oh, and I forgot to mention that you have fantastic cheek bones, my dear.

Posted by: Gretchen at July 10, 2007 5:31 PM

How do you sort through all of the junk on ebay to find those treasures? I have given up on that site...maybe I am just searching the wrong way. Any advice on how to find such wonderful items (without having to spend hours wading through the worthless items)?

Posted by: angela at July 11, 2007 1:36 PM

Why, thank you, Gretchen!

As for wading...I'm very good with searching.

You add or subtract terms to what you're looking for to find what you want.

For example, that orange jacket above was probably:

orange cropped jacket

The black one, probably:

Black cropped jacket vintage

I like Chaiken pants, so I search Chaiken 6 to narrow it down to my size.


Ozbek dress S


Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 11, 2007 10:18 PM

Like Gretchen, I need expensive lenses. I hate contacts, fear laser surgery, and can't really get by without my glasses.

Like Amy, I hate paying what New York optometrists and opticians charge for glasses, although unlike them, I don't wear really nice frames, probably because I don't have the nerve to be fashionable. I'd probably get it wrong and end up looking like an idiot.

So here's what I do. Once every year or so, I visit my ophthalmologist. There's nothing particularly wrong with my eyes, other than that I need bifocals. She checks me out. She also writes me a prescription for lenses, if necessary (some years I need a stronger prescription, some years I don't). Since she's a real live M.D., as opposed to an optometrist, this visit is covered by my health insurance.

I then go online for my frames and lenses. I've gone to in the past (but I'll check out Amy's link). Waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than your local Lenscrafter. My frames were about $50, as opposed to $100-$150 in a store (admittedly they are what would be considered seriously "retro" now, but they weren't when I got the first pair in high school). The lenses are similarly way cheaper.

Sometimes some online opticians will given you a further break if you order a pair of prescription sunglasses at the same time, so I do.

Good advice, Amy.

Posted by: Larry McKenna at July 12, 2007 5:47 AM

Thanks for the searching tips, Amy. I guess the main thing is to know what you are looking for before you start. I've been doing broad searches and getting frustrated with all of things incorrectly labeled (ex: many things with the "vintage" tag are anything but). I will try it your way, thanks.

And by the way, every picture you ever post of yourself is absolutely gorgeous...I just love your look!

Posted by: Angela at July 12, 2007 5:52 AM

Thank you so much. And actually, having a "look" is part of my secret. I've really had the same style since I was about 12 -- long skirts, sleek lines, simple but big and flamboyant stuff (if that makes sense -- like a giant, sleek black hat, etc.) This means I'm not at the (expensive) whim of what's in style. In fact, I've worn cowboy boots or cowboy-style boots forever, and I had to retire mine while they were "hot." I frequently put away really nice clothes I've gotten bored with and bring them out a few years later. And I will spend money on one or two nice things -- for example, I bought a Donna Karan boiled cashmere sweater/jacket/wrap at Loehmann's. $249 ($25 off of that price with a coupon...original price $1249). It's completely light and completely warm and the perfect companion for airplane travel to the pants made out of plastic milk bottles, I think, that I bought at the Limited Express in 1988 ($20, or so, on sale). (They don't look it, but they're the kind of fabric that wouldn't wrinkle if you ran them over in a truck, and that spills just run off of...not that I typically spill things!)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 12, 2007 7:01 AM

P.S. That's one or two nice things about every six months. I'll typically buy something at Ralph Kemp, my favorite young designer, when I go to Paris.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 12, 2007 7:01 AM

I have actually been phasing myself into that mindset of shopping...I recently got disgusted at all of the things I've spent money on but barely worn. I typically would shop at places like Banana republic and the like, and those clothes just don't hold up. I've started buying things on the Nordstrom website (on sale, of course) and places like that, where I can spend a little more, but get a classic piece that's going to last. And of course last year when I got my first bonus check from my job, I splurged on a Cole Haan bag that I have carried routinely for the past year, retiring all of the many worthless bags that I've accumulated over the years.

That way of shopping definitely works for you, and I have a feeling that I will be happy with it too.

Posted by: Angela at July 12, 2007 1:48 PM

Amy, you're the queen of all savings!

Posted by: Emmanuelle at July 12, 2007 6:52 PM

I think that's you, but I do try!

And Angela, Emmanuelle, who is French by birth, but lets us enjoy her presence in Lost Angeles, reminded me of something I learned from the French -- the concept of "cri de coeur" (cry of the heart), meaning I don't buy anything that isn't 1. Fabulous on me, and 2. That I'm in love with.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 12, 2007 7:05 PM

That is a fantastic concept. I will definitely be incorporating that into my shopping mindset.

Thanks Amy (and Emmanuelle)!

Posted by: Angela at July 13, 2007 6:22 AM

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