Reader Request: Etsy Shop Packaging

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This is one of my more popular requests, and rather than just discussing shop tags, I figured you might be interested in seeing the entire packaging process for purchases made at Fine & Dandy Vintage.

I've been selling online for years, and have gone through many different packaging styles and processes. In considering options, I've thought about the branding of my shop and making sure the packaging fits the design aesthetic, but I also carefully considered the expense and time involved in assembling each package. Nobody likes to pay expensive shipping, am I right? And no seller likes to spend more time than necessary preparing for the dreaded post office.

As someone who frequently shops online at places like Etsy, I do appreciate a nice looking package. (It's okay if you giggled at that last sentence. I did too.) The moment when a shopper receives their purchase at home is the last chance a seller has to make a lasting, positive impression. So, let's make it pretty, easy to open, and interesting enough without worrying about lots of frills, shall we?

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In order to save time in the shipping process (it's my least favorite part of selling online), I like to prepare my supplies in advance. In my desk drawer you will find a whole pile of Fine & Dandy tags that have been trimmed to size, hole punched, and have a blank back for personal messages to customers.

I designed my tags with a simple logo, tagline, and web address, and arranged them to fit across a standard size paper. At Hobby Lobby I found (on sale even!) kraft paper in bundles, so I won't run out for quite some time. When printing, I just selected a cardstock weight paper in the printer settings, loaded my printer with this kraft cardstock, and let 'er rip!

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Once they've been printed, I have a cutting marathon with a steel ruler and sharp blade, followed by a finger-numbingly fun time with the hole punch. (I hate that part too.) Now, when I receive an order notification, I just grab one tag, write a note to the customer, and prepare for the next stage. Wrapping!

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When a customer opens the package, you want what they remove to be still carefully folded and still in its original condition. I fold items and then wrap with a proportionaly sized piece of either baker's twine, rope, hemp, or ribbon. I've noticed a lot of sellers might wrap their folded garments with packaging paper, and/or a clear, plastic bag. I haven't been able to find these in bulk for a good price, so I just stick with folding and tying.

At this point, my button collection really comes in handy. I select a coordinating button and use it to secure the tag to the twine. It actually does serve a purpose to keep the tag in good shape when the package arrives to its destination, but let's be real… it just looks cute, and who doesn't love buttons?!

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If you are working with a larger, floppy garment, it's a good idea to use something to keep it together while its traveling through the postal service. Chipboard would be ideal for this, but it's not super cheap, so I use the same kraft paper you see in my tags. It fits aesthetically, and kraft cardstock is something I try to always have around. I just begin folding the garment, and then place the piece of cardstock in the center of the top and fold around it. Easy peasy!

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The last step (and this can also be prepared in advance) is making a nice looking, inexpensive, and somewhat sturdy shipping bag. For larger purchases, or for shipping breakables, I use kraft boxes. But for everything else, I love whipping together shipping bags made from inexpensive rolls of kraft paper.

All I do is roll off enough paper to fit the contents after the paper is folded into fours (for extra strength), and stitched together (seam allowance). After it's been folded into fours, I stitched around two of the sides, leaving an opening in the center where I will place the purchase.

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Before placing the purchase into the shopping bag, I stamp the top left corner with my return address. A stamp is a huge time saver and looks much more professional than scrawled handwriting. My personal ink pad preference is a gel inkpad, which inks more evenly and doesn't goop around the edges of the stamp. I like.

Last, fold (if there's enough paper) the opening of the filled bag, and stitch across to seal it shut. I like to use a zig-zag stitch for this, and make sure to double back at each end so when I trim the thread closely to the bag, the stitching won't fall out.

So that's it! I often receive nice feedback commenting on how delightful the package looked when it arrived in the mailbox, and to me, that's motivation enough to continue creating pretty packages for shoppers to enjoy.

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Got any questions? Ask them below and I will answer in the comments section. Want to learn a bit more about running an Etsy shop from home? See my last Reader Request post called Behind the Scenes Selling Online.

Reader Request: Behind the Scenes Selling Online

Behind-the-scenes

Tending an online vintage shop is actually quite grueling work, if you’re gonna do it right. That’s why I don’t really keep up with Fine & Dandy Vintage as much as I would like. It’s turned into more of a as-I-have-the-time thing. I have a lot of respect for people who do shop updates once or more than once a week.

Sourcing vintage clothes is sort of a trade secret for most vintage sellers, but I would love to share with you some behind the scenes necessities I’ve found quite handy in running my Etsy shop from home.

Behind-the-scenes-7The trickiest part of running an online shop from home is controlling the clutter. When I had a basement, this was an easy solution. Now that I’m in an apartment, I’ve found that rolling racks and hidden shelves are my best friends. Everything new that needs to be photographed stays on the rolling rack, and once things are listed, they are folded and placed onto the shelves for compact and out-of-the-way storage. Cotton bins and metal baskets corral smaller accessories.

Behind-the-scenes-6I’ve experimented with using both live models, displaying clothing on hangers, and dress forms/mannequins. Recently I’ve found using dressforms and a mannequin (head) is both convenient for me, and shows better how a garment would hang on a human body than just laying out clothing or displaying on a hanger.

I’ve sourced both my dressform and mannequin head from eBay sellers, but you can also find these things at antique malls or retail store supply outlets.

Behind-the-scenes-5When I first started out selling vintage in 2004, I used a point and shoot camera with a flash. People still bought the clothes I sold, but since then I’ve become much more motivated with giving potential customers a more pleasant shopping experience, from the design of my Etsy banner, to the photography of the goods. (I’ll talk about shipping another day, but that is very important too.)

Years ago I bought my first SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. This helped me with product photography, but I was still bound to shooting in the daytime using natural light. This past year I purchased a legitimate lighting setup that has given me flexibility when shooting times as well as more professional looking product photos.

I chose to purchase strobe lights instead of continuous lighting, because of the uncomfortable warmth generated by continuous lighting. After some practice, it’s easy to figure out how to control shadow placement and light your subject in a professional way. For me, I basically jumped in head first and tried finding forums online to help. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve come a long way!

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Follow along in the comments section for questions and answers. Next time I’ll talk about enhancing your customer experience with easy, unique, and inexpensive shipping ideas! I’ve had lots of great feedback with these techniques, so stay tuned, and in the meantime…
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Reader Request: Keeping Vegas Classy with Curves

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Kendra, congratulations on your birthday! Vegas will be amazing, I'm sure! Too bad you won't find Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin gallivanting around Sin City these days. But! You can still channel the glamour of the fabulous '50s and swinging 60s with modern dresses made just for women who are workin' with curves.

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You might find yourself out shopping with your friends during the day, and you'll want to look effortlessly chic if you ladies stop somewhere for cocktails before returning to your hotel. I love how perfect the vintage inspired shift dress would be if you're staying at The Sands. And even if you're not, it's a great cut for girls trying to deemphasize their legs and who don't have a lot going on up top. For bustier girls, I would suggest wrap-style dresses like the second two that have larger lapels to deemphasize shoulders and visually add more of an hourglass shape.

D R E S S   # 1 : eShakti $100  |  D R E S S   # 2 : ModCloth $118  |  D R E S S   # 3 : eShakti $50

Vegas-evening
If you're heading to the gaming tables or maybe plan on taking in a show, you'll want to look a little more glamorous. For the psychedelic style you might expect from a late Rat Pack era film, the fourth dress is simply a stunner. Satin and structured, the cut accentuates your waistline, and this manufacturer works with custom sizes built to fit your proportions. The wide collar deemphasizes the shoulder, and the v-shaped waist is ultra flattering. The wrap-waist and gathered pencil skirt of dress five will give you the confidence to step out in this starlet style dress. As for the black number? Besides being a versatile purchase, the style is oh so flattering and would look quite dressy paired with the right accessories, shoes, and dare I say, hat? Yes!

D R E S S   # 4 : eShakti $67  |  D R E S S   # 5 : Mod Cloth $108  |  D R E S S   # 6 : Simply Be $56

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Don't forget to check out Etsy for vintage plus-size dresses- I've seen plenty of cute ones during my searches for large dresses. And if you're still looking for that plus-sized dress with some va va voom, check out these sites below!

Pinup Girl Clothing | Stop Staring | ASOS Curve | Simply Be | Macy's Plus Size | Curvety

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