Bloomers and Frocks: How I quit my day job to pursue my love of vintage and run an Etsy shop full-time

February 21 | Guest post by Rebekka Adams
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We love our Offbeat Home & Life sponsors, and we love learning about how they became our sponsors. So here's Rebekka Adams, of Bloomers and Frocks, with the story on how she's living her dream of being a vintage clothing shop owner.

Rebekka Adams of Bloomers and Frocks
Rebekka Adams of Bloomers and Frocks

I am an Offbeat Bride graduate, religiously read Offbeat Home, and I run a small Etsy shop featuring vintage clothes. My shop caters mainly to women, but it concentrates on all ages and body types. As a curvy woman myself, I actively seek out plus size vintage clothing (which is hard to come by).

I have always had some form of vintage in my life…

Growing up, I spent summers with my grandparents selling wares at the Trufant flea market in small-town Michigan. My grandpa was a fix-it man who sold refurbished TVs, radios, and spare parts. My grandma sold vintage costume jewelry in the booth next to his. I looked up to both of my grandparents for running their own business and their ability to turn something old and broken into something functional and beautiful.

In addition to working with my grandparents, my mother instilled the values of recycling in me from an early age.

Due to financial necessity and a desire to be unique, I was an avid thrifter all through my teens and twenties. I love the hunt for something discarded and giving it new life.

All of these experiences have led me to opening my Etsy shop selling women's vintage clothing and accessories.

Running an Etsy shop is challenging. I am the sole employee. I am the CEO, secretary, customer service, marketing, along with numerous other roles…

Vintage Clothes from Bloomers and Frocks 3

Finding, sourcing, and caring for vintage clothes

Everyone always asks where to find such wonderful clothes. Of course it is a trade secret that isn't too difficult to figure out… Some people can find vintage treasures while thrifting, but I am in Austin, where thrift stores are extremely picked over by college students and trend-setters. So I wake up early many mornings to source vintage clothing — driving several hours to hit up antiques shows, estate sales, and other private collections just to find the best vintage available in Texas.

On days when I am not sourcing vintage, I am cleaning, mending, and photographing the items that I find. Most vintage cannot be washed in a machine and only some can be dry cleaned. That means a whole lot of hand-washing. This is a whole lot of patience. Many items need several baths and concentrated spot removals before being brought back to life.

Vintage Clothes from Bloomers and Frocks 2

Running an online business

In order to sell online, I had to become an expert in many things I didn't previously know too much about. Photography for example: you can just snap a photo right? Oh no, I had to learn lighting, how to properly use a DSLR, how to use LightRoom and Photoshop, etc. There is so much to know and I am constantly learning. I can sure tell a difference in my photos as I grow the business.

In addition to cleaning, mending, and photographing, I spend lots of time doing research, blogging about all things vintage, writing clothing descriptions, and I am constantly on social media. If only I knew what I would be doing now, I probably would have skipped grad school and those absurd student loans.

Bloomers and Frocks

Shopping with Bloomers and Frocks:

Vintage is one way to express your individuality, and I think it is more important to find a modern fit for vintage in your life than to be historically accurate. If you are a beginner to shopping for vintage, I have put together a handy resource guide on how to measure your body.

I stock Bloomers and Frocks with all sorts of clothing and accessories from different eras and styles. There are different strokes for different folks — and I aspire to stock the shop so that everyone can find something that fits their individual style. As a curvy woman myself, I also seek out clothing in a range of sizes. The shop is arranged by size to help you out.

OFFBEAT DISCOUNT:
Offbeat Home readers can take 20% off their entire purchase until March 31 with the coupon code OFFBEAT2014.

Vintage Clothes from Bloomers and Frocks 1

Sure, anyone can find vintage and do what I do. But what I do takes lots of time. How nice is it when you are looking for vintage clothing in your size to know that you don't have to put countless hours of work into finding a particular garment only to know that it needs to be cleaned and stitched? You can just hop online and find exactly what you are looking for. This is the part of the job I love the most: being able to bring other people joy with a special garment, while knowing that I am preserving a bit of history and giving that item a new home.

Thanks to Rebekka for not only helping to support Offbeat Home & Life, but also giving all of us an awesome insight into Etsy shop ownership!

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  1. Congrats on the successful Etsy shop! I also have a vintage shop on Etsy, for children's clothing, books, and toys, but I was never able to make it profitable after sourcing and shipping costs so I stopped selling. And I'm a photographer! Keep up the good work.

    2 agree
  2. Awesome! It sounds like you're already plugged in to the vintage community, but about how much time would you say you spend actively sourcing new items?

    1 agrees
    • If my husband were to answer that question, he would say that I am ALWAYS shopping for new items for the shop. This is only somewhat true. But realistically, I spend the better part of each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning (somewhere between the hours of 6am-noon) looking for new goods for the shop. Also, whenever I travel, I am always on the lookout for new goodies. You can find vintage in unexpected places.

  3. "If only I knew what I would be doing now, I probably would have skipped grad school and those absurd student loans"
    THIS

    11 agree
  4. I dream of the day I can discover a passion that I can support myself with. Until then, 40 hours of wishing I could get away from the cubicle. Congrats!

    5 agree
  5. hi! lovely etsy shop! i love your lingerie section! so nice to see girdles, long-line bras and slips again! i've favoroited you, will be buying a slip soon! thanks!

    2 agree
  6. Just wanted to say that the "how to measure your body" link leads to a "page not found" page. You might want to test it and have it fixed. 😉

  7. Thanks for the great article and photos, Rebekka! I really admire your creativity and passion, and I'd love to hear more about your transition from employee to self employed. Did you start out with a formal plan for business/marketing, or was this more of a hobby in the beginning? How long did it take for your shop to get to a place where you could pursue this work full time?

    2 agree
    • Thanks for the encouragement. I was working in a position in a nonprofit where I knew that our funding would run out. I knew that my position would change to primarily fundraising if I stayed where I was, so I put together an informal business plan and began the back end work for getting the business started (logo, website, gathering inventory, etc). That process took about three months. After three months, I left my day job and started out with my business full time with the financial support of my husband. It took about a year before I was able to pay myself a real paycheck. In the meantime, I worked several contract positions over the first year in addition to running the shop to help pay some bills. Hope that helps answer your question.

  8. Just wanted to stop in and say Woooohooo for seeing that someone else grew up at the Trufant flea market! Last thing I expected to see.

    1 agrees
  9. Great to get some insight into what running an online business actually entails! Congrats, your store looks great.

    1 agrees
  10. Love it! Beautiful stuff! Why online shop vs brick and mortar? For me I don't think I would feel comfortable buying a vintage piece I couldn't try on. Is it the overhead cost?

    • I love that I am able to reach a worldwide audience and supply to areas that may not have vintage accessible or affordable to them in their local market. There are a lot of pros and cons to having a bricks and mortar shop – I like that I am not tied down to a location at the moment and can spend my time working on my business in my own way without having to keep regular shop hours. Also, I am not at the point where I can hire staff, which is needed in a bricks and mortar location. That said, someday, I hope Bloomers and Frocks will have its own storefront.

      In terms of becoming comfortable shopping online, I highly suggest that people try on many different styles in their own local stores (and it doesn't necessarily need to be vintage). The more you try on, the more you understand what you like and what styles look best on your body. I also recommend having a friend help measure you so that you know your correct measurements which makes online shopping easier. Also, taking the measurements of one of your favorite garments while lying flat will help you compare how a garment will fit. I understand that not everyone will be comfortable shopping for clothes online; however, accessories, hats, jewelery, etc are easy to shop for online and can still help one add vintage to their lifestyle.

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