Sorry for the radio silence the past few days, but I was happily caught up in a fantastic Valentine's Day weekend with my gal...we cooked a great dinner on Friday (crab cakes, corn pudding and fresh tomato/cucumber salad...mmmmm), went out dancing with friends on Saturday, and caught a fantastic sketch comedy show at Second City last night. But never fear, we're back! Unfortunately, Chicago is still cold and snowy and grey, so I haven't had many opportunities for good photo shoots. The silver lining is, that gives me some great chances to take a break from personal style and get into some meatier discussions, which I have enjoyed.
On that note: one of the most important pieces of advice I will give any stylish gent working on expanding their wardrobe, and especially if you are trying to take advantage of thrift shops or the virtual treasure trove that is eBay, is to know your measurements.
Purchasing used clothing and accessories can be an incredible opportunity to expand your personal selection without spending an arm and a leg, but it's also a risky venture. Not only are sales often final, with no option for returns, but you'll also find that a lot of pieces will already have been tailored - for someone else's body.
When it comes to eBay, most sellers will help you avoid sizing mistakes by providing very precise and specific measurements. If they don't, any decent seller will happily provide them upon request, and if they won't, you probably don't want to buy from them to begin with.
At a thrift or consignment shop, the measurements won't be as readily available, and trying things on of course is always an option. However, the key to successful thrift shopping is being ready to dig through innumerable pieces of crap to find that one treasure, and trying everything on in the process can be exhausting. My trick is to mark some of my more important measurements (i.e. shoulder width or sleeve length) on a measuring tape and bring it along with me. I'll still try something on before I buy it, but I can weed through a lot of the excess without even taking an item off the rack.
Even when buying new, having your measurements on hand is a huge benefit, especially shopping online. Again, it's not being able to try things on that make online shopping risky, but all clothiers will provide sizing charts, and if there's a measurement they don't provide, they should be able to relay it if you ask. I still always lean towards companies that offer free returns, but being able to compare their measurements with your own will take a lot of the risk out of the process.
Besides my tape measure, I also keep an index card in my wallet with all my important measurements, as well as my preferred sizes from my favorite brands (especially shoes). The more measurements you can include, the better prepared you'll be. On one side, I list the measurements of my best-fitting clothing...mainly my custom shirts and suits, so that when I see something with similar dimensions I can grab it in a flash. On the other, I put my body measurements, which come in handy more often when consulting sizing charts from online retailers. By including as much as possible, and carrying the card everywhere, I'm always prepared to...um...spend more money...(is it payday yet?!).