Specs & the City

Specs and the City image created for Buffalo Exchange.

By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe

We recently had our employees share their favorite fashion Instagrams for a feature in our Fall/Winter Zine (now in stores!). One of our favorites (along with her 12k followers) was SPECS_AND_THE_CITY. Luckily, Melissa is just as big a fan of ours as we are of her (all of the outfits shown are head-to-toe Buffalo). So we just had to know more…

How long have you shopped at Buffalo Exchange?

Over seven years—I started going in high school, and it quickly became a monthly ritual to round up a big batch of garments and go trade them in for a totally new look. I remember multiple times back in the day when my friends and I would both like something we found so much that we used to co-buy them and share. One week I would get to wear the shirt, the next she would get it, which is pretty silly now that I think of it.

I’m now in the Santa Monica location every other week. I love the selection of new and vintage. If I were to put a number to it, I’d say about 75% of my wardrobe comes straight out of there.

When did you start your Specs & the City site?

I started Specs and the City in March of 2014, but didn’t start fully committing to it until January 1st of this year after I dyed my hair pink. I really honed in on the kind of narrative and point of view I wanted to share, and with that newfound structure I found it a lot easier to create more and more. It’s been really exciting and validating to see it grow like it has.

What blogs or other sites do you enjoy checking out?

I honestly was interested in starting my own blog after following Rebecca of The Clothes Horse. I was so impressed with the quality of her photos and her love for the Modern Romantic. I used to love going back into her archives and seeing just how much her style had grown from when she first started. I think it was seeing the evolution of her journey that made me want to start my own.

I also love Aww Sam’s blog. The extent of my baking knowledge is ripping the pre-cut squares of Tollhouse cookies and putting them in the oven. Her creations make life sweeter (literally) and add the proper dose of sparkle.

The other site I’m currently obsessed with is Advanced Style (also featured in the zine!) I just recently watched the documentary and was crying actual tears of inspiration. I’m deeply fascinated and encouraged by the fearlessness of committing to a personal style that is truly your own at every age.

Specs & the City image made for Buffalo Exchange.

What have you learned in your many photo shoots?

I have learned most importantly that I am the world’s most awkward poser…that I’ll invariably have to sift through 35 double chin, squinty eyed, candid hunchback photos, until I find one that feels right to share on the blog. That being said, I have definitely learned to be more confident when that click is heard. I twirl and laugh and am no longer afraid of the more silly outtakes. I embrace them.

I’ve also learned how much work it takes to pull off a creative concept. There is a lot of preparation involved in creating this kind of world that is hyper-curated and colorful. There is a lot of moving around furniture, and prop creations. For one of my favorite shoots featuring a piece of artwork I was inspired by, a friend and I cut out hundreds upon hundreds of paper diamonds and hung them from the ceiling to create this really beautiful, disorienting effect. It’s those extra efforts to highlight my style in this kind of thematic way that make it so validating to see the process from idea to actual post come to fruition.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Recently I’ve found a lot of creative inspiration through my job at Tumblr. I work with a team called Creatrs that pairs artists on the platform with brands and causes to create really beautiful pieces of art. I’m constantly impressed after seeing these artists, many of whom are my age, getting to grow their talent and make a living off of their passion. That’s the dream, right?

The movies are also a main outlet for receiving creative inspiration. I had been studying film up until this year. I think the concept of turning off your phone for a few hours and immersing yourself into other worlds taps into a part of the brain that is so special; it allows you to take it with you long after the credits end.

What do you look for when adding to your wardrobe?

When adding to my wardrobe I focus on silhouette, pattern, and color. I try to find things that are truly unique. That way, you get to engage with followers more. You explain why you styled something in a particular way and what inspires you about an outfit, but don’t just give a quick link for someone to click out and buy everything on you like a mannequin. I really get excited by the idea of someone seeing something and thinking “I would have never thought to put those two things together in that way” so that the next time when they’re shopping, they can start to make decisions and connections on their own. It’s not fun to look like a walking catalog (which is seriously another reason that I love Buffalo so much). I like going in the store and seeing people with totally different styles gathered around the same clothing rack and leaving with something that is true to their style, but not necessarily my own.

How is your life different than before you began your “Specs” journey?

Honestly, at the end of last year I was feeling a little lost with what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying to be in film and was getting increasingly more discouraged by the sort of antiquated trajectory of success I was seeing. I knew I wanted to forge my own path and have my creative efforts recognized, but didn’t know how to start from scratch.

Ever since I really made the decision to use my blog as a creative outlet to share my thoughts, style, and inspiration, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback I’ve received. I get to challenge myself every day, hold myself accountable to deadlines and making things happen for myself, and that has been the most rewarding part. I no longer am relying on anyone else to tell me I can be successful at something. Life is a whole lot more encouraging. And colorful. And I’m extremely happy about that.

Melissa’s work can be found at