Dreamcatcher: Erin the Bridal Shop Owner

Dreamcatcher Series
Installment 4: Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter and Grit

Meet Erin: As you know, Dreamcatcher is one of my favorite series on CMJ, and I'm excited to announce that this is our very first Pittsburgh-based Dreamcatcher. Erin and I have only met once, but as soon as I stepped into her bridal shop, I knew I wanted to feature her on the blog. Her shop, Glitter and Grit, which opened in Lawrenceville in 2013, is a bride-to-be’s dream! It reminds me of Lovely, which is where I bought my dress, but much more intimate and special. When I met Erin, she was kind enough to take some time and talk with me about what it’s like to open a boutique in Pittsburgh and we continued the conversation over email. As always, her story is quite inspiring and just the motivation we all need on a Monday!

Name: Erin Szymanski
Current Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Occupation: Owner of Glitter and Grit

So tell us about Glitter and Grit. How did it all start? From when I first started working, I always felt like I wanted to have a business of my own. Over the years, I had so many ideas, but nothing stuck. As my friends started getting married, I would go shopping with them and look around the stores thinking that if it was me, none of what I was seeing, both in the selection and the shopping experience, would fit my personal style. I started to realize that there were a good number of designers out there that were making more unique wedding dresses, but there was nowhere in the area to try them on. I knew that I couldn’t be the only person who didn’t see herself as a “traditional” bride, and that Pittsburgh needed more options!

Did you have a business plan? Sure thing. I had actually written a few in the past for school projects and other business ideas, so it was a natural place for me to start, and to help keep my thoughts organized.

Were you in the bridal or fashion industry before launching Glitter and Grit? I had previously worked retail for about six years, and then worked in accounting for eight - but I kept going back to retail part-time because I missed it! I considered working in the bridal industry in some capacity before opening Glitter & Grit, but ultimately decided that since I wanted to approach the entire shopping experience differently, that it wasn’t necessary.

What's the most challenging part of being a business owner? What is the most rewarding? I have a hard time staying organized and finding focus! At any point in time, I’m thinking about multiple things, working on multiple projects… always with my mind on the next thing. I try really hard to stay on track with a task but can get distracted.

The most rewarding thing is, rather obviously, getting to be a part of such an exciting adventure with all of our clients! There is a specific moment when you can feel the shift of emotions; whether from frustration, fear, or uncertainty – there is a moment when a bride starts to fully enjoy the experience, when it all gets a little more real and they can picture themselves getting married to their favorite person, wearing something that makes them feel amazing.

Describe a typical day for you. Do you have any daily rituals? There’s not much of a typical day in my world, as Glitter & Grit operates by private appointment – and because of my lack of organization!  Literally every day looks different, some dominated by office work, others by appointments, others by working on photo shoots or networking with other wedding vendors.

What do you think it is about your shop that draws brides in the door? What do they say about the experience? Literally word-of-mouth and our front windows are the two main things that attract brides to Glitter & Grit, which is awesome! We focus on providing a relaxing but fun shopping experience, while we help you figure out what the right dress for you is, whether it’s in our store or not. I feel that there’s a bit of a myth that all girls have been dreaming about their wedding day, and their wedding dress, since they were young, and that they know exactly what they want to wear. While there are some lucky ladies out there like that, many of us actually have no idea, and need to do some exploring to find out – and that’s where we come in. I wanted the store to feel like you’re visiting your big sister’s house, playing dress-up in her fancy closet; comfortable enough to hang out, but still a little special. So when brides and their guests say that they don’t want to leave, that’s the biggest compliment! I think that both that vibe and our relaxed approach to exploring versus selling is what our clients tell their friends about the most.

You talk a lot about originality and not changing who you are just because you’re a bride. Can you expand on this? What do you think are the outside forces that cause some brides to conform? Simply, in the realm of wedding attire, choose something that makes you feel like you; a beautiful, special version of your everyday. Don’t feel pressured to wear a certain style or color or fabric just because someone feels that anything else isn’t “bridal.” You’re getting married. That makes you, on that day, a bride. You will be a bride whether you’re wearing a white dress, a rainbow dress, a rad suit, a garbage bag, or a Canadian tuxedo.

There are so many outside forces! Magazines, television, Pinterest, family and friends… I feel like any life event can easily be overshadowed by everyone else’s opinions of how you should act, what you should wear, who should be involved, how much money you should spend, etc…. the focus shifts from that actual, very important, thing that is happening to less significant details.

I just think it’s crucial to decide what’s important to you, and stick to it. Of course, there will be compromises, and I also think it’s worth choosing your battles. I’m not saying that everyone has to buck every tradition, but if it doesn’t make sense for who you are as a couple, don’t feel like you have to adjust how you do things only to appease other people.

What would you like to accomplish in your career over the next five years? Are there plans to expand the business? I’m not really one to set long-term goals, because my thoughts on the future change every day! I’m sure that, like before, I’ll have a million ideas before the right one - the one that comes from a place of curiosity and integrity – sticks.

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? DO IT!! Seriously. I tend to encourage people who weren’t even asking for it to start a business. If you feel compelled to do your own thing your own way, you won’t regret taking the chance.  Also, set clear beliefs or standards from the beginning and always check in with them (a.k.a. your gut or your heart) when making decisions.

How to Style a Vintage Skirt: Part III

You guys! I really outdid myself on the vintage skirt front this week. My hope is that there's a tiny little piece of you that is considering a thrift shop excursion this weekend and a vintage skirt in your future. I will wait patiently for the Instagram photos. 

If you read the blog this week, you know that I've been throwing out thrifting tips like it's my job, but sometimes the best vintage clothes belong to your family! Take this skirt for example - it used to belong to my mother before I stole it a few a years ago. She was an elementary school teacher and had THE BEST wardrobe. I especially love this skirt because of the buttons. It feels so Angela Chase. So, my last tip is to raid your mom, grandma, aunt, great-aunt's closet. I even have clothes that belonged to my dad! 

For look #3, I paired this skirt with a denim, pinstriped top from the Gap (if you click on the link, notice the half tuck), and tied the bottom for an 80s vibe. I busted out my Ray-Ban Clubmasters to take the look even further down memory lane and then just threw on the same shoes and put my Annie Bukhman handbag over my shoulder. What else is new?

So that's a wrap for Vintage Skirt Week! Hope it was everything you wished for and more. Until next time, ciao!

How to Style a Vintage Skirt: Part II

It's Vintage Skirt Week on CMJ!

On Monday, I gave you two tips to remember when thrifting for skirts or any pieces for that matter, and here's a few more - number three: make sure to wear something that you can easily maneuver in the fitting room and/or open room with no curtains. You never know what you're getting yourself into when it comes to trying on clothes at a thrift shop, so I would suggest wearing an easy dress like this one. Tip number four: remember to hand wash or dry clean your finds before wearing - some clothes can have an unpleasant smell.

Here is look #2: I recently picked up this tropical-print, wrap skirt at the beginning of the Summer. Again, it fits high on the waist, so it's fun to pair with a crop top. You can't really tell, but this top has some texture, which adds a nice little touch. Something like this top or this one could work too! I'm wearing the same shoes to show you the versatility of these clogs, but I also love these...like I might buy them tonight! Never without my Annie Bukhman handbags!

Check back on Friday for look #3!

How to Style a Vintage Skirt: Part I

If you know me, you know I love a good thrift shop. Some of my favorites include Wasteland in the Haight, Beacon's Closet in Brooklyn, Thriftique in Pittsburgh, to name a few. This appreciation for vintage, gently used, whatever you want to call it, came from my parents. And if anyone can scoop up a $2 Tommy Bahama shirt, five $4 fur coats, a tea set and a classic radio all before noon, it's Jim and Cecilia. They taught me young how to spot a good deal and over the years, I've racked up quite a collection of vintage pieces including this skirt!

So this week on Clara Mae James, it's all about how to style a vintage skirt. The first thing you need to know is that skirts from back in the day will be high-waisted. When you look at the waistline, you may be thinking "oh hell no," but give it a try - you will be surprised! The second thing you need to know is to make sure to check the hem and zipper. These things can be fixed, but it's nice when you don't have to repair.

Here is look #1: I paired a maroon-colored mid-length skirt with a retro New York City t-shirt and did a full tuck to accentuate the waist. You can also pair it with a shorter tee like this one, which I'm obsessed with, and give the half tuck a try. I swear it's cool. And for the Fall, I'm a big fan of making sweatshirts work-appropriate and when paired with a cool skirt and a fun moto or denim jacket, no one will bat an eye. For the shoes, a good pair of clogs like these always look great and they just happen to be back in style. My handbag is from Annie Bukhman - no surprise there, her pieces are perfection!

Check back on Wednesday for look #2!