You probably don’t know Serena Morris by name, but there is a chance that you know her by her Instagram handle @bestoftrr. The 27-year-old has been curating looks from the e-commerce platform on her Instagram since the summer of 2020. She has curated collages and inspiration images for unbearably hot beach days, balmy date nights, and get-togethers with the girls—each scenario is paired with an incredible find, like a romantic Dolce & Gabbana floral print corset, a John Galliano-era Dior slip dress that looks like a tropical vacation on the body, and a pair of rimless Chanel sunglasses with little double-C in rhinestones. Her inspiration images, also on her feed, just further prove her glamorous, maximalist taste: photos of R&B singer Kelly Price in a full leather look, music video stills of a bikini-laden rapper Jacki-O, and Larry David of Curb your Enthusiasm shopping at Barneys.
While I’ve been able to go to Cartier and vintage shops with fellow Shopping with Vogue friends, Morris and I can't meet IRL. She is in Los Angeles and I am on the East Coast. But that’s ok: Zoom is more than appropriate. I text her and I tell her that I imagine us capturing this visually over computers with screenshots of our video call. She tells me that it reminds her of the early ‘00s voyeuristic vibe in Jennifer Lopez’s If You Had My Love. If I wasn’t already smitten with Morris, I’m in love with her now.
When we log on it’s 10am my time. I’m wearing an off-the-shoulder Tom Ford-era Gucci black top while Serena logs on looking like a video vixen plucked from the ‘00s. She’s in a Dior print scarf that she’s tied into a noughties bandana, a black Pucci halter top, and alligator Manolo Blahnik heels. These days, young celebs and models pay their stylists boatloads of money to evoke that babetastic je nais se quoi. But she just does it. On a budget, too!
That’s the thing about Morris: She does her research, and it shows in her personal style and her unofficial Instagram curations for The RealReal. She cites the ladies of rap and R&B videos from the early ‘00s as her inspiration. She is also heavily invested in the series Girlfriends which starred Tracee Ellis Ross, which she watched as a teen but revisited during COVID-19. “It’s been so refreshing to revisit a show about the complexities and beauty of being a Black woman, especially now in my late 20s,” she says. “Each girl’s style was so incredibly relatable. Joan had so many effortless slinky top and denim moments. Toni was the ultimate Barneys charge account queen. Maya unapologetically loved bargain shopping, and Lynn embodied your nomad-but-still-flawless hippie friend.” And while people often cite Mariah Carey’s heavy-hitter music videos like ‘Heartbreaker” for style inspiration, Morris opts for the more slept-on “Sweetheart.” “It’s like Frank Gehry architecture and she’s wearing all Tom Ford-Gucci,” she says.
Morris has always loved fashion. She cites her mother as a major influence. She grew up in Los Angeles and attended a wealthy Catholic school where her classmates wore designer brands. While Morris wanted that garb, she couldn’t necessarily afford it. “My mom actually taught me how to buy. We’d go to antique stores or thrift shops, like on Melrose,” she says. After high school, Morris went on to get a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations at the historically Black school Howard University in Washington, DC, which she referred to as a thriving cultural hub. “It is such an amazing school because everybody has incredible tastes,” she says. “It was all these really dope Black people altogether from all over the world.” When she graduated, she got a job working at Vivienne Westwood alongside Johnny Valencia, aka @pechugavintage, and then segued into working in celebrity dressings and public relations. “I’ve worked the door at a ton of big fashion parties and events,” she says. “[It’s] why I’ve always needed to shop for cute clothes on a budget.” To fulfill those budget buys, Morris had always shopped on The RealRealm but began the Instagram account when she had met stylist and consultant Mellaney Sanchez who advised her to launch it after helping Sanchez find pieces. “People ask me all the time, like, I’m going to a wedding. Can you help me find a dress?’’
In the early days, which she considers four to five years ago, when the website was more of the wild west of shopping, she scored some killer pieces, including a Chanel mesh sweater set and a purple Prada nylon baguette bag. “I got this for $75,” she says, holding up the Prada piece. “Now it is like $600.” (She sends me a listing of a similar bag listed for $645.) Now, Morris has gotten smarter about buying, and is on the site less. The vintage filter is particularly helpful in finding true yesteryear gems. On her obsessions tab, a site feature to track favorite listings, are a Herve Leger mini dress, Dior crochet tank, and Cavalli and Blumarine jeans. And while big names and logos are sometimes hard to find or super expensive, she still has a killer eye. Today, she is looking at a chocolate brown Roberto Cavalli halter dress with beading on the bust—the ultimate vacation dress. Yet, it’s on hold. “Hopefully the girl doesn’t buy,” says Morris as we click through the website. “If she doesn’t [buy], then this will be my purchase. I’m feeling like Toni Braxton, like the queen of heartbreak, but like a phoenix from the ashes.”
While we wait for the 15-minute hold on the Cavalli dress to expire, Morris shows me some looks that she’s put together from TRR. She pairs a vintage denim Prada tube dress that she scored for $75 and a pair of snakeskin Manolos for $200. In another look, she wears Blumarine leopard beaded jeans for $60 and Jimmy Choo metallic sandals for $100 with a Hooters tank top that she got while working there during college. “I had to hustle. My tuition was super expensive and I didn’t want to overextend my parents paying for school so I had to work there,” she says. “I love that I am incorporating it into my story now, Wearing the Hooters shirt with Chanel…I love the irony because it is so representative of me and a lot of girls who had to work at some rough places to make it where they want to be and become the women they want to become. Working at Hooters, working at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, I’ve done it all.”
I mention to Morris I need a pair of thong kitten heels. I’ve written about how hot they are before: pure, unadulterated foot on display. Almost immediately, Morris finds a pair of Narcisco Rodrigeuz thong heels for $48. It’s like the late ’90s epitomized in a sandal. I even have a site credit: my total with shipping is $38. “I feel like this summer is all about living your fantasy,” says Morris, waxing poetic. “Like whether you want to look like a video vixen or if you want Fran Drescher vibes.” Before we know it, Morris’s Cavalli dress has been unfortunately snatched but she shows me a pair of snakeskin print Cavalli jeans that are being shipped to her house today. “$50!” she says. “They are super stretchy so I can go dancing and get spicy.” And just like that, with one click, hot girl summer has officially started.
Out of all the goodies on The Real Real, we asked Morris to tell us what she thinks are the must-have, buy-now pieces. Her top five selects, here.