We bought our home in 2001 and have never had a rug for the bedroom. I’ve wanted one, but I never found one I liked that was the right size… and more importantly, the right price. When we remodeled in 2008, our original bedroom became our home office (see it here), and we made a pretty spacious en suite. It’s nice to have a big airy retreat, but pricing out area rugs gave me heart palpitations. But I keep looking for a rug, something to anchor the room, to insulate, to add some color and fun. One day I was perusing Rugs USA and was looking at their vintage collection and found this beauty for an extremely reasonable price. This is going to be a photo-heavy post; feel free to scroll by, if you wish to see, continue after the jump!
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We bought our home in 2001 and have never had a rug for the bedroom. I’ve wanted one, but I never found one I liked that was the right size… and more importantly, the right price. When we remodeled in 2008, our original bedroom became our home office (see it here), and we made a pretty spacious en suite. It’s nice to have a big airy retreat, but pricing out area rugs gave me heart palpitations. But I keep looking for a rug, something to anchor the room, to insulate, to add some color and fun. One day I was perusing Rugs USA and was looking at their vintage collection and found this beauty for an extremely reasonable price. This is going to be a photo-heavy post; feel free to scroll by, if you wish to see, continue after the jump!
Today I just had to get out of the office. The weather is “oppressive,” as my mom often says, but being at a windowless desk for nine hours straight is even more oppressive to me. I brought my lunch and had already eaten it, but decided to go to the neighborhood Target and see what new goodies they had for fall.
I have a love/hate relationship with Big Box discount retailers. For reasons I will not get into on this blog, I do not and will not shop at Wal-Mart. My local Kmart is filthy and uncomfortable to enter (let alone even park in the lot) so I spend a good amount of time at Target/Tarjay. There are two within eight miles of my job, about four along my work commute and one just three miles form my home. It’s a good place to stop at on the lunch hour to pick up a new lipstick, some batteries, bath towels, gift wrap or maybe a new frock.
Though I positively adore Isaac Mizrahi, I have had very little success with his line at Target. I find many of the pieces to look almost homemade – reminiscent of Butterick patterns my mom used for First Day of School outfits. The colors are often garish, the cuts made for a taller and leaner person than I. I have an ivory and black zebra-print corduroy pencil skirt from several years ago that still gets mad rotation in the winter wardrobe, but other than that I try and fail at loving his pieces. Today I tried a black matte jersey cap-sleeved wrap-style top (cute with an Asian feel, but not terribly flattering for my buxom frame – see picture) and matching drop-waist full skirt (bad length, style of skirt not complimentary to the top, all in all a bit strange and cheap looking on my body). This sums up my experience with the majority of the guest designer lines – a bit off, a bit cheap, a bit poorly thought out.
The Target near my job has a pretty decent Ladies Fashion department, and I toured around every fixture and dug through every clearance rounder. Along with the two matte jersey pieces, I also tried a navy jersey dress from Mossimo that had puff sleeves and a flattering deep v-neck, and a red v-neck jersey tunic also from Mossimo that I felt could be tres cute with jeans on a casual weekend day.
The dress… it was an almost (see picture). Park of me really considered getting it because it WAS after all only $19.99. I psyched myself out of purchasing a tee shirt dress for the same price off the Banana Republic website, so I almost justified the purchase. Yes, it did hit in sorta weird spots on my body making me look as though I had very large hips, but if I jutted out one hip just so and swiveled my torso slightly, I looked positively… well it looked better. The color was divine, the neckline deep enough to elongate me, but not so deep I required a safety pin or camisole, the puffed sleeves made it look current and I felt it could transition into the cooler months very well. And it was ONLY $19.99!
But it didn’t look awesome. I put back on my own tee shirt dress and suddenly looked five pounds slimmer. I put the dress back on the hanger.
The red top? The fluttery sleeves seemed too dainty for the dark color and modern tunic style. The tunic was so long that if I were in better shape I could have carried it off as a mini dress. The neckline was a bit too deep, requiring some sort of modification to be wearable outside a nightclub. But the color was absolutely gorgeous so I kept adjusting my body to make it possibly look more flattering. Then I realized I was being unrealistic and it too went back on the hanger and all four garments were returned to the fitting room attendant.
I read a fashion blog lately where the author was praising the look of the small snakeskin clutches from guest designer Devi Kroell. My local Target had them in all three colors, but I found them to look cheap and strange. Not classic, not chic, not hip. Just cheap faux snakeskin in a weird shape.
I then headed to the shoe department in hopes of finding some great little flats to wear with full skirts and jeans. Maybe a simple ballet flat or a patent-leather peeptoe. At first I was in awe of all the amazing shoes – gorgeous patents, cute ballet flats, pointy toes, peep toes, sexy heels and all sorts of loafer-inspired details. Yes, Target has not failed me! Then I looked closer.
Those patent peep toe heels? I know the heel is very Marc Jacobs in it’s conical, slightly thicker way, but it honestly is not flattering to the majority of American women’s legs. The ballet flats were all a bit off – the plaid looked juvenile, the tweed looked cheap, the gold looked dated. A lot of the shoes that were knockoffs of higher-end brands looked like cheap copies. They say you can tell a person’s worth by his shoes… well these shoes would say that the wearer reads a lot of fashion magazines, can’t afford the designer brands so settles for cheap copies, even if they aren’t attractive. These shoes were the equivalent of the uber fake designer bags sold on the corners of city streets – the Louis Vuittons that didn’t even attempt to replicate the logo, the Coach bags that are neon pink and green cheap microfiber, the peeling patent leather wannabe Balenciaga motorcycle bags that Nicole Ritchie carried around a couple years ago.
Now, I have a few utterly adorable dresses from Target – from their brands as well as from guest designers. I wear their jewelry on a weekly basis and have a pair of their sunglasses in my car. My entire yoga and workout wardrobe is Pro-Spirit and Champion, and I love their $7.99 tee shirts for hanging around the house. However I feel that a lot of these Big Box discount retailers believe their customers to be stupid sheep following the flock. Give it a cheap enough price and we’ll overlook the poor manufacturing, the odd way it shows your bra strap even though it’s tight in the arm, the way the shoe never ends up being comfortable, no matter how much time it was given to break in.
I used to shop almost exclusively at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. I would take a late afternoon stroll through every aisle, often going to the fitting room three or four times to try on all my potential pieces. I had gorgeous garments from Calvin Klein, Betsy Johnson, Barneys, Donna Karan and more for reasonable prices. I still own and wear many of these pieces. Now when I enter these stores I find faded old camis from The Limited’s 2001 line and tons of cheap silk sweaters in gaudy shades from brands sold at Macy’s or JC Penney. I used to find purses from Coach and Kenneth Cole, now I find purses from brands I have never heard of. Much of this is due to the public finally realizing these great shops exist and getting to the goods before me, but a good part is these retailers realizing that we’ll buy crap if it’s at a low enough price. Toss a few DKNY skirts in the mix, and people will believe that everything on that crowded rolling rack is golden.
As I have said before, quality comes with all sorts of price tags. Some of the hottest designers make utter garbage, and sometimes you can find a wardrobe staple that will give you decades of loving wear from Fashion Bug. I am not one to exclude one entire brand or store based upon it’s popularity or image, nor will I buy designer assuming it’s worth the price. The point of this post, is don’t fall into the trap. Don’t buy tweed heeled lace-up oxfords just because Lucky Magazine says they are a must-have for fall. Don’t feel that since you can’t afford Stella McCartney it’s justifiable to buy an ugly and ill-fitting copy at Forever 21. Just because Madonna had a line at H&M and their clothes are featured in your latest issue of Marie Claire does not mean those clothes are worth your money. Don’t think a fancy name equals a fabulous look. Don’t be sheep. You wouldn’t mindlessly buy crap to eat, crap to read, crap to live in. More isn’t better and a cheap copy… well it is often just that.
Though Target did have a ton of really cute dresses in right now, just none in my size or color. I’m not going to give up on finding quality at a great price, I am also not going to give up on myself and my personal style. As with television, media, food, even politics… vote with your pocketbooks. If you accept what isn’t what you find best, then you will just be fed more of the same. Every dollar in your wallet should be spent on that which deserves your hard earned cash. A pair of pleather peep-toes that pinch will not bring you satisfaction, beauty, success or happiness. But if they don’t pinch and they don’t really look like pleather… then maybe they are deserving of a portion of your paycheck.
Tee: Had forever (similar) | Skirt: Etsy Seller Buy the Dress | Shoes: Born ‘Myndy’ | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban (on sale 25% off) | Necklace: Silver chain with various charms I’ve collected over the years | Bracelets: Cuff I’ve had forever (similar), beaded bracelets c/o Lifetherapy | Earrings: Etsy Seller Keti Sorley Designs
I wore this Sunday for a Target run, to head to the grocery store, the wine shop, and to drop off some clothing donations. This skirt is waxed cotton so it floats away from the body keeping me cool and doesn’t wrinkle as fast as basic cotton. These sandals I purchased many years ago and still find them incredibly comfortable; I remember thinking I’d regret yellow as I have so little in my wardrobe but I treat them like a neutral. This combination looks more pulled together than shorts but for me I find to be more cool and comfortable and better fitting my personal style!
These earrings were a treat I recently bought myself. I have wanted earrings like this since high school but always put it off feeling it was a frivolous purchase. But recently I wondered why put it off if I have wanted it for more than two decades? I’m 40 years old, a grown-ass woman so I bought them with my grown-ass woman money! My 16-year old self is very proud.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for pregnant women, and nothing is more enjoyable than a weekend at the beach or pool with friends or family. Thing is, maternity bathing suits are often unflattering, or terribly expensive. Where can a woman find a well-made, flattering and supportive suit that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?
Friends with kids have told me to check out Target online – the store selection of maternity clothing is hit or miss, but online the selection is far more extensive, and the styles are pretty stylish and flattering to a broad range of figures. After seeing dowdy suits in gaudy prints, or $80 suits at my local department store, I headed to target.com in hopes of finding a decent suit for my upcoming beach trips and to get in a few laps at the community pool.
A great feature of the Target Web site is that it offers customer reviews. Target customers do not seem afraid of submitting comments, so I have found over time that these reviews have been extremely helpful in making online purchase decisions. Looking first by price (less than $40 was my budget), style (I want something that is feminine and flattering, simple and elegant, looks expensive), and then by reviews, I decided to order the Liz Lange® for Target® Tankini Top with Bottom (picture to left). This looked like a suit I would actually wear when NOT pregnant – a must for me during these few months. I knew a halter neck would be flattering as well as supportive to my large bust, and the tankini style would be more likely to fit my petite frame. Going by reviews and knowing what size I have been purchasing in maternity wear, I choose size Large (before pregnancy I wore a 10 or 12 in swimsuits and always chose a D-cup variation).
As soon as I received this suit I knew I would be pleased. The fabric is of good quality, seams well structured, proper lining throughout. The drawstrings on the sides were well fashioned and moved easily in their casing. The halter neck closed with a tie instead of a hook which made it easier to custom adjust to one’s frame. The bottom was well structured with a wide waistband that would be less likely to roll down; the leg openings are conservative but not matronly.
The drawstring feature on the sides is quite a nice touch – fully gathered, they work to gather the belly and have it fit closer to the frame. Drawstrings loosened, the belly is looser and works for later months of one’s pregnancy.
A size Large seemed perfect for my growing belly (loose but not baggy, quite loose with the drawstrings untied), properly covered and contained my breasts, and the bottom seemed to almost fit, and would probably stretch or go under the belly as I became larger.
Reviews on the Target Web site stated that the suit’s top is quite low-cut. It isn’t conservative, but I found the neckline appropriate, not too revealing and quite flattering. The fabric covered and stayed in place even when swimming and playing in the pool. I find that when a woman has curves, showing a bit of them is actually slimming, and this suit does elongate the body and make one appear more slim.
I took the suit out for a spin at the local community pool (picture to left – sorry but I am not going to post a full-length picture online). The synthetic fabric wasn’t slippery when wet (this often happens with synthetics, causing ties to loosen) and it didn’t become misshapen or separate from the lining (again something that happens with cheaper suits). After laps, water aerobics, and playing around in the water the suit didn’t stretch out; once dried it was the original size straight from the packaging.
However, the suit does grow a bit in water, as do most fabrics when wet. The bottom which seemed to almost fit suddenly was far too large in the belly, and a big baggy in the rear. I had to hold on to it when doing any sort of quick activity like laps, a somersault or flip turn. This may be a good thing in future months, but at 15-16 weeks I think the suit is more geared toward standing and gentle swimming. The top still fit and was secure in the bust, but due to being so early on in my pregnancy the belly part of the top was incredibly loose – so loose the water encouraged it to float to the top of the pool, leaving my entire belly exposed. Again, this may be a good thing in future months for it shows that it will have room for a growing tummy. Neither aspect makes it a bad suit, just that I am still in that in-between phase of not pregnant and really showing.
I spent several hours in and out of the pool and never had to tug at the suit to put it in place. It did not chafe at the leg openings, and though the top and bottom were a bit too big for me, I still think it is a fine choice for sunbathing, occasional dips in the Atlantic and cooling off at the community pool. In a few weeks, I think the suit will fit well enough to do laps and engage in water aerobics classes. If one needed a suit that was secure enough for water athletics in the early second trimester, I would recommend a one-piece style. However if you wish to be a bathing beauty now and weeks from now, I can strongly recommend this tankini from Liz Lange® for Target®.
Shopping Tip: Before heading to the Target Web site, search online for some sort of deal. Target rarely offers coupons, and their shopping deals are usually well displayed on their site and immediately added to your Shopping Cart. However there are many affiliate shopping sites like Ebates and Upromise that will give you cash back, college funds, points towards future purchases, etc. that partner with Target. Five minutes of research may put an extra few dollars in your pocket (or your future child’s college fund!).
So I forgot to write about this but the other week I checked out the new Alice Temperly for Target collection. After the previous guest collections (Libertine, Patrick Robinson) I wasn’t expecting anything fantastic. yes I have found a few cute items from the Proenza Schouler and Paul and Joe lines, but in general I find these collections to be cheap, poorly made and geared toward a 14-year old, not an 18+ woman who appreciates designer names but can’t handle the designer tag.
Well Alice Temperly created a line that would please the high schoolers, and have a few pieces for the rest of us as well. Plenty of mixes of navy with black (which I personally love), lots of Edwarian ruffles, but some simple elegant pieces as well. I picked up so many pieces, i had to do two visits to the fitting room.
But I left with nothing.
As usual, my local Target’s size selection was lacking. Some garments only had one piece available, some had dozens left… all in XS. Then those that I did grab… unfortunately the sizing was all over the place. In one top I was swimming in a size 12, in another, I couldn’t close the buttons. I was willing to go up a size for some of these styles, but unfortunately they weren’t available and I fear purchasing online because the wacky sizing may leave me with just a heck of a lot of returns.
I do feel this line is worth a gander if there is still selection in your local Target. A few pieces I tried on:
The Target website states this is a dress, but unless you are under 4’11” you’ll be showing a bit too much bum in this frock. As a top, it’s too long unless you are very tall or like the dress over pants look. Very confusing.
This is one of the pieces that runs large – VERY large. I only had choice of a 14 or a 6; the 14 was ginormous, my bra was showing in the neckline and the self-belt (it ties in back) had to be cinched to give me a bit of definition and not look as though I was sporting maternity.
The fabric is sort of chintzy – that rough itchy synthetic fabric that seemed to be everywhere in the 80s. However the print was very cute and would have looked tres cute this past summer with crisp white trousers and sandals. For this fall, it seems a bit out of place not just with the rest of the Alice Temperly collection, but with the trends as a whole.
So I wanted this top desperately. I believe it is even cuter in person than in this photograph. It reminded me of French vanilla ice cream, and of Brooke Shields – I wanted to pair it with dark tight Calvins and rock that dressy/denim look of the 80s.
Unfortunately this piece was sized XS-XL. No XL was in stock, the L fit everywhere except the neck button and the button at the waistband. I fear an XL will be too big everywhere else, but it’s tempting to try it just because this top is so frilly and fun. Imagine it with the dark denim, with a black pencil skirt, or switch it up having the top several buttons undone, showing underneath a white ribbed tank and some tweed slouchy menswear-inspired trousers.
This blouse also comes in gray, but the gray didn’t call out to me as much. It looked too Marilla Cuthbert for my tastes.
The 13 was way too small. Now I am no Skinny Mini but I usually fit into a 13, only ever having issues in the bust area. This dress was so tight I couldn’t even start zipping the size. A 15 was of course not in stock, but after getting this dress over my head, I fear a 15 would be far too large in the shoulders and the hem probably grazing my calves, leaving the dress looking more matronly and less girly-sweet.
If I were a smaller size, I would try this dress. I am betting a size 6 fits more true to size than a 13 (it received rave reviews on the Target website).
The ivory melton wool jacket on the left… I knew it wouldn’t look good on me. It was puffy, thick, stiff and a light color. On my figure I would look like the Michelin Man. It also came in cobalt blue, but only had S and XL in stock. Just by looking at this jacket, I knew an XL would be too big. Again, if I was tall and slim, I may actually like this jacket and the stiffness would be cute and quirky, not marshmallow.
An L was too big. I was swimming in this jacket. The stiffness of the fabric had it sit on my bust and flare straight out. The collar was up near my ears and the sleeves stuck out like wings. The lining is very soft and silky, which makes this fabric wearable, but the cut was strange. Gosh it looks goofy on the model in this picture!
Now the military jacket. Like the melton wool jacket, the buttons say Alice Temperly on them and are heavy brass. I was thinking how cute this would be with a white ribbed tank and jeans for a weekend, or even with a black top and trousers for work. It is very cropped – on my petite frame I knew it would hit around my belly button (or higher) but was thinking about the short jacket/long shirt look and thought it could work.
It couldn’t. The L wouldn’t fit over my arms, the XL wouldn’t button. The fabric is a cheap nubby polyester crepe (again with the itchy synthetic fabrics from the 80s) and the lovely detailed brass buttons dragged down the floppy unlined fabric. This was exactly what I had seen in recent GO lines at Target – crappy fabric, crappy cut, crappy crap created because designers don’t realize that those of us who can’t afford their regular line still have style and taste.
The brown leather zip-up jacket was surprisingly sleek and elegant looking and a nice feeling fabric. It came in every size, but I chose not to try it on for fear of actually liking it. I don’t need something like this in my wardrobe, but it had sleek enough of lines that it could double as a suit jacket for a casual look at work.
The sleeveless jerseys with the black lace detail were very cute and I could see myself purchasing the navy one if I were still in school. Paired with a little black flippy skirt or even dark skinny jeans, it would be very cute. Just not my current style.
I hope this is a sign of things to come – a return to halfway-wearable clothing from guest designers. It’s fun to have the variety at the local big-box retailer – variety for a larger range of ages and tastes!
With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.
And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.
I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!
I love discount stores. Nothing is better than scanning racks of junk to come across a designer piece in your size at a fabulous price. Some of my favorite wardrobe pieces have come from places such as TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and I love them even more because I paid an insanely lovely price for them. When I hit my favorite stores in the mall, I usually hit the back of the store first because that is where most retailers hide their sale racks. I once got a cashmere sweater from Banana Republic for under $10… that’s a story I will probably end up telling my grandkids.
The thing is, just because it’s a great price and a great brand doesn’t mean it’s a great purchase. We get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt, often what we drag back to camp isn’t worth our time, effort or hard-earned cash.
1. Quality. I was speaking to a friend this weekend, she loves The Limited because they make a style of jeans that fits her perfectly the “Cassidy”), as though they are custom-made. One day she walked into her local Limited and there in the sale department were three rolling racks FULL of Cassidy jeans, and at almost 50% off the regular prices. She was so ecstatic, she considered just grabbing a pair in each wash in her size and race to the register, but something made her try them on. She got in the fitting room, went to try on her beloved jeans and THEY DIDN’T FIT! The legs were so narrow, she could hardly pull them up, and the waist gapped in the back. Where was her custom fit? She tried on a different color and found the same issue. Asked a salesperson, she admitted that The Limited considered changing the cut of the Cassidy jeans but they didn’t sell well, so they are now on the sale racks. My friend left empty-handed.
Point is, often that which is on the sale rack is not as high quality as what is in the rest of the store. Maybe it was returned and has a run in the knit, maybe the zipper is defective, maybe it’s an irregular cut. Don’t buy just because you love the label and the price tag, sale items need to be looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Sit in the pants, raise your arms in the sweater, examine the seams. Sometimes you have hit the jackpot, sometimes you don’t find Jack. No matter how sweet the price, save your money for items that DESERVE it.
2. Style. It’s a designer name, your favorite celebs sport this label on a daily basis and you are finding a dress at a price you can afford at your local C-Mart. You can’t believe your luck! But wait… just because it’s a popular designer means it’s stylish. Remember clear vinyl totes? Team Aniston tees? High-heeled hiking boots? All trends that have happened in the last couple of years, but trends that should not be worn by ANYONE now. You will NOT look hip, stylish, rich, sophisticated, famous or sexy in any way of you are wearing something based upon the brand name and not how it looks on you (or how it looks in society). Often items are at discount places because they have been accumulating dust on the sale racks of the finer boutiques for a year or two. Just because it’s designer does not mean it’s fashionable. A good rule of thumb is if you found it at Target, would you buy it? If it’s ugly for Target, it’s ugly for Dolce and Gabanna.
3. Fit. So it’s a size small, you’ll diet. Right? WRONG. If you didn’t lose those last five pounds to be Maid of Honor at your best friend’s wedding, you surely won’t for that Chloe dress. A steal is still a rip-off if it sits in your closet for all of its days. And even though it’s a $700 dress on sale for $250 and a 30% coupon on top of it, doesn’t mean it’s going to look good bunching up at the waist and encasing your arms like sausages. You will not look chic, you will look like a girl in a too-small dress. Again with quality, check to see if the item is cut correctly for fit: are the sleeves the same length? Does it nip at the waist or at the hip? I have often found precious items on sale racks to find that the lining of the dress or jacket does not fit the same as the garment, having the lining suffocate my arm or bunch around my hips. Never leave without trying something on; brand clothing is mass-made by machines. Machines cut large stacks of fabric into patterns, machines will sew seams, machines cannot see when the fabric has slipped an eighth of an inch on the conveyor belt and is altering the entire cut, fit and hang of the future garment.
4. Need. It’s gorgeous, it fits like a glove and the price makes you faint. But really, do you need a plum taffeta ball gown with a six-foot train? If you do not plan on being invited to the Oscars in the next few months, do not purchase the dress. This goes for ANOTHER black v-neck sweater, the cocktail dress that would possibly be perfect if you are invited to a New Year’s Black Tie affair (though you have not ever attended one yet), the bikini that would be perfect if you just had the halter tailored, the power suit when you have been a yoga instructor for a decade, the stiletto heels when you are a flats person, and the amazing dress that would require a special bra and control garment to be allowed to leave the house without being arrested. If you don’t need it, if you can’t see it with three other items in your wardrobe and at least two events in life, don’t even take it to the fitting room. Your life won’t change to fit the contents of your closet.
5. Too Good to Be True. If you visit my other blog, you will see that I love Ann Taylor. Their clothes fit me beautifully, and the style works with my career and my social life. A friend emailed me about their current promotion – Buy One Sweater, get the Second 50% Off. Yay! I had also received this via email from my beloved Ann Taylor along with a coupon for free shipping. I race to the website and scan the sweaters.
There is nothing on that site that would work for my wardrobe now. I either don’t like it, or don’t need it. I know that certain styles do not go with my body shape, and certain colors either do not go with my skintone or do not go with my sense of style. I leave the website not adding a thing to my virtual shopping bag.
This is not to say that this sale is full of junky sweaters, it’s just that the sale offered nothing for me personally. Just because a sweater is on sale, does not mean I will buy something I do not absolutely love. This goes for eBay purchases as well; often we get sucked in by the great price, the great brand but KNOW it’s not what we really want or need or even like. Don’t buy three pairs of jeans just because of you buy three they will each be 15% off. This only makes sense if you REALLY NEED three pairs of jeans today. Just because a store has a sign in the window that says 40% off The Entire Store does not mean you have to enter – if you have gone in before and found the clothes not your style or size, why are the items going to be better for you now that they are on sale?
You are at the grocery and there is day-old meat. Sometimes there is a perfect steak there, the only thing wrong is it has yesterday’s date. It’s beautifully marbeled, fresh and juicy. Next to it is another steak; it’s brown on the edges, thin and smells a bit strange. Do you buy both just because they are an amazing price and you need to make dinner tonight? No, you buy only the GOOD steak. I mean, it is a great price, it will be eaten, you know it’s still fresh. It’s a good buy. The next time you are drawn to the sale rack, think about the day-old steaks. Then think about those sweaters. Are they fresh enough for consumption?
SuperGap was the pioneer outlet store – a cheaper version of the famous Gap brand, it sold lower-priced versions of their wardrobe staples and irregular and damaged pieces from the classic Gap stores. Growing up in middle-class
The nearby strip mall had a SuperGap. As soon as I turned 16, I turned in an employment application there, in hopes to get a job there and a discount on high school must-haves – jeans, hoodies, rugby shirts and ragg socks. I was never called for an interview but my friend Wendy, who had previous experience at Sears did get a job there.
SuperGap eventually changed to Gap Warehouse and carried less factory-store items and more irregulars and returns from the traditional Gap locations in the fancier malls. Hours were spent after school, pouring through rounders and racks for jeans and sweatshirts that fit and didn’t have obvious garment flaws.
A few years later (1993, the same year I graduated from high school), SuperGap shut down, but opened up at the end of the same strip mall, with the new name – Denim Supply Company, a brand name under the new Gap Warehouse subsidiary of Gap. Wendy by now was an Assistant Manager and I was able to get the lowdown on the change. Supposedly Gap was doing an experiment in a select few markets – this lower-end Gap that had their own brand, own label, own line of clothing. Not a Factory Store, a separate entity added to the Gap brand.
From a 1993 article in the New York Times:
In an internal memo, the company said the “Gap Warehouse collection was created specifically to improve the productivity of 48 of our current Gap stores ‘which have been an undervalued asset in our company,’ says Mickey Drexler, president of Gap Inc.”
Analysts said the new merchandising strategy was a good way for Gap to compete with other purveyors of basic merchandise without eroding the image of its Gap brand.
For more than a year, Gap stores have marked down prices of their basic merchandise to compete with the department stores and discounters that have begun selling their own versions of Gap staples: T-shirts and blue jeans.
[The Gap is] confronted with the question of whether they’re doing basics or whether they’re doing fashion,” said Heidi R. Steinberg, a retail analyst at Lehman Brothers. “If they stick with basics at Gap, then they’re competing with Wal-Mart and Target, where you can buy Fruit of the Loom all-cotton T-shirts for half the price they are at the Gap.”
“Gap Warehouse clothing will be priced lower than Gap brand clothes because the company is using manufacturing techniques and fabrics that are less expensive. Athletic Department sweats, for example, are 59 percent polyester and 41 percent cotton, while Gap sweats are 100 percent cotton. T-shirts are double-stitched instead of triple-stitched, and there is less detail over all, analysts said.
The company, based in
“The Gap already has two types of customers: those who shop its store at full price, and those who are looking for sale items,” he said. “There’s a third customer who hasn’t shopped there, and that’s where a lot of the basics business is going.”
A few years later, it seems this experiment worked for Denim Supply Company/Gap Warehouse as that this location (and all others across the county) shut down and a few months later, right next to the old SuperGap location (which was now an H&R Block) they opened an Old Navy, which exists to this day.
Old Navy fit the feeling of the time – the grunge era, where it was cool to not spend money on clothing; where fashion came from thrift stores and not from higher-priced specialty and department stores.
Named after a bar the Gap CEO visited in
Years later, we forget when Gap Warehouse ended and Old Navy began. Old Navy, like Target and Starbucks has become a standard in the culture, language and lifestyle of Americans. What was a random experiment by The Gap in attempt to revive slumping sales has become a necessity in the wardrobe of all income levels and ages of our society. I mean, who these days doesn’t own at least a tee shirt or pair of lounge pants from Old Navy?
In honor of my favorite discount fashion
I know I Googled to find out after seeing it the first time… didn’t like Old Navy’s sweater commercial, but fell in love with the song. It’s “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson (saw an interview with Ingrid on VH1 and no, she didn’t get any free sweaters for having her song in the ad).
Anyone recognize the cute brunette in this Old Navy commercial? It’s Vanessa Hudgens in her pre-High School Musical days.
Want to know what thought process goes behind Old Navy’s packaging? The DieLine interviews Jason Rosenberg, Senior Packaging Designer for Old Navy about the new packaging he created for the men’s and boy’s divisions.
I’m wondering if you have any resources or suggestions for someone who is trying to minimize their closet. I’m moving towards capsule wardrobes and limiting my shopping, so this is leaving me with some very high-quality items (though not necessarily designer) already in my closet that I’d like to sell to get some money back, especially since a few of them have never been worn or worn only once! Over the years I’ve donated bags and bags of clothing, but for these purchases I thought putting a little extra time into it could get me some money back. Tips? Where to start?
This is a post where I’d like to ask you, the readers to share your suggestions. I have my suggestions but even I am wondering if there’s better ways to pare down one’s wardrobe and recoup some of the original cost. Here’s some suggestions:
Selling Clothes on eBay
eBay has been my most successful avenue for selling quality clothing that isn’t necessarily designer or a recent season. I make sure to have multiple photos of the item in natural light without a flash – full front, full back, photo of the tag (proves the brand, proves the size, and also many brand loyalists can recognize a year or season by the style of the label), photo of any details (fly, style of buttons, cuffs, close-up of applique or fabric texture), and a photo of any flaws. When it comes to flaws, be upfront from the get-go; it’s not worth it to sacrifice your rating on eBay. My description has as much detail as possible – the fabric, length of skirt in inches, size and how it fits me with my measurements, and I also offer styling suggestions (I wore it with X, it looks great with opaque tights and tall boots in winter but also with sandals in summer).
When it comes to listing price, don’t assume a bidding war will happen on your piece, especially if it’s a lesser known brand or more than a season or two old. Don’t price it any lower than you’re willing to take; nothing worse than having to go through the process to ship out an item for 99 cents, especially when you know you could have received more in a tax write-off for a charitable donation. eBay often has promotions where you can also offer Buy it Now for free; when that happens I always choose that as well and offer it for a price I hope to get but not an unrealistic one. To get an idea for prices, search eBay for similar items and brands and see what they’re going for. If you see one is sold by an eBay-er with a lot of sales, click on their profile and you can see recent sales and prices likely of similar items to what you’re hoping to sell.
Be firm with what you are willing to do and not to do in your listing. For example, I state no returns or exchanges and shipping only to the United States. However, I do offer other methods of shipping they can request it upon winning the auction
For shipping, I use the eBay calculator and labels; I can print the labels at home, go to USPS.com and schedule a pickup, and not have to wait in line at the post office. If you wish to ship Priority Mail, you can order shipping containers for free from USPS.com. While it’s tempting to get an item out in the smallest and cheapest packaging possible, don’t scrimp and sacrifice the quality of a piece. I have received leather skirts shoved into tiny boxes that are bent and creased and necklaces broken upon arrival because they were barely wrapped in newspaper and mailed in a standard envelope. You’ll end up losing money if you have to return payment for an item that arrives unwearable, so take the time to pack carefully. I have a box in my closet that’s full of shipping supplies I gather from online purchases. I save plastic shipping bags, tissue paper, bubble wrap, and useful sizes of nice-looking boxes just for eBay sales and in my storage box I also have a Sharpie, packing tape, and a pair of scissors so I have everything I need for an afternoon of shipping. If you wish to do this long-term, I recommend adding a little something extra to the packing – wrap in the same color tissue paper, safety pin a business card to the garment tag, show a little care and it can help your customers actually leave reviews, leave better reviews, and come back to see what else you’re selling.
Selling Clothes on Poshmark
“I’m obsessed with selling on Poshmark. There are definitely pieces you know will sell fast, and others you need to wait for the right buyer. I personally don’t post anything under about $10 because I find that the time it takes to post (though just 2-3 minutes), plus any back and forth, packaging and dropping off, is not worth the eventual payment. I rather donate. That said, items from J. Crew, Lululemon, Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff all do really well, though I’ve sold everything from Gap, Target, Old Navy, TJ Maxx pieces, you name it. Think about posting the right time of year… posting a sweater and boots will probably not sell now unless you mark it really low, where going through your closet for springy pieces you’re no longer into could result in extra spending money.”
“If possible, take photos of yourself wearing the item — it really helps! — and be sure to label everything accurately and thoroughly. Lastly, be mindful of price. It’s just like how they say people who try to sell their homes on their own always have unrealistic selling prices; I’ve seen the same on Poshmark. Remember, you’ve likely worn something or it’s not brand new. If someone can go into J. Crew and buy a similar brand-new item for what you’re selling your used button down (and remember, buyer pays shipping) then you’re too high.”
Selling Clothes on Consignment or to Resale Boutiques
Back when I worked in apparel, before the start of each new season I would take bags and bags of clothing (hello employee discount, dress codes, and the need to wear current pieces) to a shop near where I worked. They would buy on-trend pieces for half the price they’d sell it for on their salesfloor, and a bit more if I was willing to take store credit. I’ve used stores like this off an on since and know many friends who visit them every season. I know there’s stores like this all over the country, from Buffalo Exchange to Plato’s Closet.
Appearance matters when trying to sell your clothes at such a store. Dress stylishly, and even if you have enough clothing to put in a lawn and leaf bag, instead choose a nice tote (I used my LL Bean Boat and Tote), or shopping bags from a “cool” retailer (think Anthropologie instead of Old Navy). Make sure the clothes are clean, folded nicely, ironed if necessary, and free of stains and damage.
And seriously, no damage. A tiny bleach dot that never bothered you when you wore it will be too much damage for the store to take. The wearing on the backs of your jean hems is only cool if the rest of the jeans are distressed. All buttons should be in place, tags still in place, linings still attached.
Know the store before you bring in your clothes. There’s no point in bringing in a bag of J. Crew if the store focuses on vintage fashion. Not only that, you’ll know if they already have enough Jackie Cardigans and will likely refuse yours, even if it’s like new.
Where To Sell Gently Worn Quality Clothing?
And now I ask you, what do you suggest to this reader? Have you used Twice, Threadflip, or Tradesy? Had any success with Craigslist or a local listserv? What do you find to be the most successful way for you to sell gently worn clothing?
If you have a storefront on Poshmark, etc. feel free to share it in the comments below, your castoff may be another’s must-have! Do know any non-fashion related shops or obvious spam links will be deleted.
Winnie Beale had on a worker’s peaked cap, properly tilted over one eye, and the squarish, broad-shouldered suit offered by Schiaparelli that was popular for communist events. Elsa Schiaparelli had journeyed to Moscow in 1935 to observe the workers’ styles that would, it was felt, now take precedence in the fashion world.
– Alan Furst, Night Soldiers, “Paris, 1937” chapter
There’s an assumption, I think, that American designers were the first to tend towards the utilitarian, particularly during the austere times between World War I and World War II. We know the Rosie the Riveter images and the new work wear’s practicality. Those preferences, though, made it to the runway most famously in Paris, and at Elsa Schiaparelli’s normally surrealist direction. Suiting had already come up in hemlines for wartime, but Schiaparelli put down the lobster and the lips in the late 1930s. She played – I’d like to think pointedly and with an entrepreneur’s sense of what would sell – on the garishly rich’s proclivity for fashionable political protest, and took the Soviet uniform to new heights. Schiaparelli’s Paris workshops reportedly produced nearly 10,000 garments annually, many in the silhouette many of us now appropriate and think of as a “safari” jacket, or even the military jackets we’ve seen on recent runways.
Summer 1940 (suit): Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1951 (image); Suit, wool, Fall 1938, credit Gift of Mrs. J.R. Keagy, 1974 (image); Pantsuit, wool and leather, Winter 1938-39, credit Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1955 (image)
More dark and stormy nights (and not the kind over ice, though those are delicious), and a few wars earlier, a design house known to most Brits, but to few others, laid claim to an item on every “Things You Have to Have in Your Closet” list: the trenchcoat. Granted, the interwebs debate who had the first one (Burberry also has a stake in the historical market), but Acquascutum’s case goes back to the 1850s. Unlike Schiaparelli turning the communist egalitarian ideal into a couture, and therefore elitist, symbol of social and financial prowess, the trenchcoat was an entirely practical garment. Founder John Emary turned his patented waterproof fabric into the first version of today’s trench, an overcoat for British soldiers in the first World War. Can’t you just hear the forbidden song playing in the background, as Rick and Ilsa stumble awkwardly through meeting again?
Ilsa: I wasn’t sure you were the same. Let’s see, the last time we met…
Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.
(Casablanca, quotes courtesy IMDb)
As ubiquitous as the trench and the military-inspired suit, but possibly more groundbreaking, given its place in fashion and women’s history, is Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Admittedly, the “DVF” name and brand is much more of a household name than either Schiaparelli or Aquascutum. That being said, von Furstenberg did something neither other fashion house did. A couple of things, really. First, von Furstenberg wasn’t a known designer. She wasn’t backed by a known label, nor did she have the power of a historical brand behind her first pieces. Reportedly, von Furstenberg took the training she earned as an apprentice for a textile maker, a $30,000 investment, and presented her revolutionary jersey dress to Vogue. On top of that balls-to-the-wall savvy, von Furstenberg did something else radical. She didn’t borrow a shape, a design, or even a detail from any existing walk of life. She answered the women’s movement with a decidedly feminine uniform for taking on the boardroom; the wrap dress honored and even flaunted a woman’s body, instead of hiding it or adding to it (as the next decade’s shoulder pads would do). “I dare you,” the wrap dress said. Guess what? We took the dare. 30-some years later, it’s still in heavy rotation, an easy, stylish go-to in many women’s wardrobes.
The wrap dress is so iconic that we immediately link it to the businesswoman. Even the Oscar-winning costume designers for Hollywood darling American Hustle put Amy Adams in the daringly cut one-piece. Suits-no-more, ladies. Shall we say “use ‘em if you’ve got ‘em?” J.Lo’s (in)famous Versace gown might not have happened if it weren’t for the DVF wrap dress. Von Furstenburg on Newsweek’s cover.
All three of these iconic pieces are entirely shop-able today. Granted, the designers here are higher end, but the best part about them is that they’ve been – ahem – borrowed by brands and designers at all levels, from Target to Ann Taylor. Here are three of my favorites from each of the three.
- Maison Schiaparelli, Spring 2015 Couture, Look 12: While it may remain haute couture only (and not have a ready-to-wear or licensed lines down the road), this oversized, broad shouldered jacket pulls the workers’ aesthetic forward to 2015. Over leggings or boyfriend jeans, anyone?
- Aquascutum’s Franca Single-Breasted Raincoat: As a mama to two smaller beings, this gorgeous pale trench makes me nervous, but the shoulder detail gives a tough asymmetrical look, and the hidden buttons are sleek and modern.
- Diane von Furstenberg, you can’t go wrong with her original green twigs print
By day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.
We all have that friend or relative who doesn’t NEED anything and finds most traditional gifts frivolous. While she may be perfectly happy with a gift card to Target, it’s nice to buy actual gifts for people to unwrap and realize you thought of them. While I have been scouring the web for other posts, I’ve been bookmarking things I find to be so practical yet lovely that most anyone would like it as a gift. All of these are under $100 and have free shipping.
A little secret, this is one of my favorite baby and bridal shower gifts. While many sizes of this tote are available, I find the Large Tote to be the most versatile size. It can be a beach bag, overnight bag, reusable grocery tote, tote all your kid’s toys to grandma’s, tote your dirty clothes to the Laundromat… I love carrying potluck items in it – I wrap the casserole in towels on the bottom and on top I can put a 6-pack, bottle of wine, present for the hostess and it won’t topple over in the trunk on the way there. Personalization is free, making it the gift she didn’t think she needed but will be using regularly for years.
I may be biased from my ice slip last year, but this was an AWESOME gift from my sister. They’re rubber so they stretch over shoes pretty easily, and are easy to slip off once you get to your destination. A great choice for anyone in an icy location, and especially good for those who aren’t as steady on their feet (or fear black ice after a previous fall, jus’ sayin’…). Do know they run a bit small, if unsure go up a size because they still won’t be too big for boots and sturdier shoes.
Almost ten years ago, I won a $50 Starbucks card and I bought that year’s version of this mug. And I am still using that mug today. Most travel mugs get weird with time – the lids get stretched out, they leak, the double walled system separates. Not this baby. While it doesn’t look brand new any more, it keeps my coffee hotter longer than any other mug I’ve had, fits in all the cupholders in both of our cars, and it holds a full 16 ounces. This is something that is worth spending a bit extra and your loved one will thank you five years from now when she’s still reaching for it for her daily work commute. Do note, this isn’t one with free shipping (it is on Amazon with free Prime shipping but costs $10 more), but I’ve seen it in several Starbucks locations this year so it’s easy to pick up in person. If you plan to buy more at Starbucks, code AFF10 should give you 10% off your first purchase with them online plus free shipping if you spend at least $65.
I got one free last year as part of a blogger promotion and it made me a Paperwhite convert. My mom bought her boyfriend one last Christmas and he loves it. Long battery life, great for the practical person who doesn’t want to add more stuff to her house, and especially nice for those with poor vision or dexterity. While the newest generation Paperwhites are $119, you can find perfectly good refurbished ones under $100 and Amazon provides a 1-year limited warranty and proper packaging so you can feel good giving refurbished as a quality gift.
The more we rely on our smartphones, the faster we deplete their batteries. This compact charger that isn’t much bigger than a smartphone adds a boost of power to small appliances just when you need it most.
Of course you better know the person quite well to give such a gift, but it’s likely one that will be loved and well used by the recipient for many years to come. Since he doesn’t read my blog I’ll let you know I got Karl the Silk Interlock Crew and Pants for a gift this year (thank you Lands’ End for carrying it in Tall!) and I know he’ll go gaga for it while he usually finds most gifts silly. Lands’ End has a great return policy, are known for quality, and have a nice variety and pricepoint making it a good destination for such gifts.
What a cool concept; fill a Legacybox with old films, photos, slides, negatives, tapes and more and send it back with the pre-paid shipping label and they will carefully digitize all your memories. You will get back all your original memories as well as DVDs with your digital copies. At the time of writing this, if you visited the site and provided your email you’d automatically get a 25% off coupon and last week I received a coupon for 40% off and a promise to have Legacybox delivered in time for Christmas.
Slip them into a pair of your tall leather or snow boots for warmth and comfort or give new life to an old pair of slippers. Made from natural shearling which wicks moisture and EVA foam which adds cushioning, these would be a welcome treat for anyone’s tootsies this winter.
The most popular question I receive is how to be stylish and look great when you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t believe that money equals style. Think of style like a college education. Jane gets a full scholarship to State U, Sara’s parents fund her entire four years at the same college, and Amy works full-time and takes classes when her schedule and budget permits. All three get degrees, all three have to work equally hard in the classes to get that degree, they just fund it in different ways. Your style can happen no matter your income level, it just may take a bit more time or a bit more effort and creativity.
Here’s some of my tried and true tips to be stylish and look great, no matter your budget.
Don’t Buy a Fake
If you can’t afford a real Birkin, don’t buy a fake one. That means don’t buy those faux designer bags that are sold on street corners in the city, and don’t buy bags from lower-end designers that are trying desperately to look like another. No monogrammed fabric, no padlocks, no trends replicated right off the runway.
This also goes for shoes and accessories. If you can’t afford the original, don’t buy a cheap copy. You are an original, make sure your style is as well. The only place where I think it’s okay to wear fake is when it comes to fur. Fake fur can be done well and can be darn fun, but don’t try to fool anyone with a floor-length faux mink!
Follow the Trends
No need to subscribe to every magazine under the sun and watch livestream of New York Fashion Week, but be aware of designer fashion. Know what the hot designers are featuring each season so you can stay one step ahead in translating it. Not only will this help you avoid fakes, it will help you understand how to style unique pieces and mix prints and colors in a modern manner.
Most fashion magazines do a web-based recap after each Fashion Week showing what trends were hot and what designers showed those trends. In these slideshows of 30 – 300 images, you’ll see the underlying themes of the upcoming season, be it a certain print, heel height, fabric, skirt silhouette, or lipstick color. This is also a great time to use Pinterest – follow Pinners who are knowledgeable about fashion and see what they pin the week after Fashion Week. See what appeals to you, and what is feasible to add to your wardrobe considering your lifestyle and budget.
Shop for Need not for Want
Shopping feels good. The ego is boosted when you put on a new dress. The idea of something new takes the stress off a first date or a job interview. I get it, I know, and I do it often. The thing is, when you shop, even if it’s for $5 clearance earrings, you’re taking away money that could be used for something better. Consider the Return on Investment (ROI) on each thing you buy, even if it’s 99 cents. Don’t buy just to buy, don’t buy to feel better. Buy to fill wardrobe holes and to look better today and a year from today.
Focus on Fit
One reason big box clothing is cheaper than designer is because more are made at once. The piles of fabric are higher when they are cut for the pattern, which can cause pieces to be different sizes. This is why sometimes a jacket has one sleeve a bit tighter or one pant leg a hair longer. Also, vanity sizing is more common in lower-cost stores.
Because of these two things, it’s imperative to try things on before you buy. Same dress and a 10 may fit but a 14 may be too small. Ignore the size on the label and if in doubt, buy a bit too big. It’s easier to style something a bit big than make a too-small piece look polished, and many simple alterations can be done at a reasonable price by your local dry cleaner.
And with everything, when you have the money, hit the tailor. A tailor can make a clearance rack find look like a custom piece!
This is my most controversial tip, but I stand behind it. A solid black dress will look more expensive than a floral. A solid blue top will be more classic than a plaid. Prints can look dated quickly. Prints can fade if not done well. Lower-priced garments often try to replicate runway prints and we already went over wearing fakes. Also, lower-priced prints aren’t as likely to be matched up, making the cheaper fabrication far more obvious.
Don’t Buy Any Old Fabric
I don’t buy 100% cotton shirts from lower-priced retailers because the cotton is often rough and more likely to wrinkle just if you look at it. I don’t purchase cashmere or cashmere blends from discount shops because the gauge is usually so low it’s transparent or else balls up and pills within an hour of wearing. Don’t just assume all fabrics are made the same; some are just better when purchased from reputable and higher-end brands. That being said, jersey knits, matte jersey, merino wool, ponte knit, chambray, polyester and blends are usually just fine at a lower price point.
Shop outside your Comfort Zone
You know where I do find budget-friendly cotton shirts? Lands’ End. Their prices are reasonable, their quality is stellar, and you can do returns at Sears. Lately I have received quite a few fab dresses from Gwynnie Bee and have been surprised to see they are from Coldwater Creek, a shop I previously considered to be “mom clothes.” My point is that there’s more out there than you may assume. Use blogs and Pinterest to learn about new retailers, Google them to see their ratings, and if they have a good return policy or a store nearby give them a try. You never know, the one item you have desperately needed may be for sale there and at a very nice price!
Baby your Purchases
Polish your shoes and get them reheeled and resoled when needed. Follow the laundry instructions. Hang up after wearing, don’t throw on the floor. Spot clean instead of laundering after every wear. Iron and steam to have pieces look like new after being worn or washed. Mend fallen hems, keep a jar of spare buttons so you can easily find and replace when necessary. It doesn’t matter if it cost $10 or $100, if you care for it, it will look better and last longer.
Quality not Quantity
You don’t need a completely different outfit for every day of the month. You don’t need 10 pairs of $1 Old Navy flip flops, a dozen pairs of jeans, or even three purses. Style comes from choosing wardrobe additions thoughtfully. Not only that, if you didn’t buy 10 pairs of $30 jeans, you could afford a pair of $100 jeans and have them professionally tailored to the right length and to prevent gaping at the waist.
When it comes to quality, it can honestly be found at any pricepoint. One of the most versatile dresses in my wardrobe was $39.99 at Target; I bought it four years ago and still get compliments each time I wear it. My favorite denim shorts are Mossimo and I self-distressed (using this video as a guide) to make them look old and cool and expensive. Thrift stores are always a goldmine, but so are your neighborhood big box retailers.
For more tips, check out:
I love wine, but I don’t know a lot about it. I once subscribed to Food and Wine magazine to educate myself better, but got overwhelmed. I go to the store, look for a bottle between $9 – $15, and often decide based upon the look of the label.
I love coffee, but I don’t know a lot about it. My husband will ask me whether I like today’s coffee better than yesterday’s as it is a different brand or roast… and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes I like coffee black, sometimes I don’t, but I don’t really think about why that must be. I am not a brand snob- I like Starbucks because they have fun drink ideas and yes, I am a sucker for their bright green straws. When it comes to coffee, I just know I like coffee – I like it hot for breakfast, I like it iced on a warm sunny day, and I love Frappucinnos and coffee-flavored ice cream.
When I go to IKEA with my sister, she will comment on how a chair is inspired by Jonathan Adler, or a table is a copy of Saarien. I just see a shiny white table or a pretty chair. I buy home décor based upon what appeals to me, having no clue what is currently hot, trendy, or a bad copy of a famous designer.
What’s the point of a fashion blogger rambling about furniture and beverages? The point is that I am not a connoisseur but I still allow myself to enjoy these things. No one judges me because I don’t know the difference between coffee from Jamaica or beans from Costa Rica, that I know how many points my Riesling received from Wine Spectator, or what designer inspired my Target shower curtain. No one judges me, and I enjoy myself.
And all this can be true about fashion. The thing is, you can treat fashion the way you may treat coffee, or wine, or furniture. Enjoy what you enjoy, don’t let all the facts and figures ruin your good time. Go slow, and relish in each pleasurable moment.
I often meet people who tell me they find fashion is stupid. During our conversation, I find that they don’t necessarily find it stupid, but instead they don’t understand it, or its relevance in their life. We often find that which we do not know or understand to be “stupid” or “pointless.” Think about it, have you ever found your husband’s passion for football or your best friend’s love of electronica to be strange? It’s not that it is stupid, it’s just foreign to you.
Unless you are a nudist, fashion is a form of art we all have to embrace in some manner. I always feel that if you have to do something, you might as well find pleasure in it. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to have fun with fashion.
How to Not Hate Fashion:
– Buy colors you love. I am always surprised when I meet people who have colorful lives and personalities yet dress in drab neutrals. With discussion, I find they buy nondescript clothing to hide the fact that they fear fashion. 2012 is a wonderful year for color lovers, where you can find everything from dresses to denim in almost any color in the Crayola box. No need to leave the silhouettes and garment styles you find safe and comfortable, but if you love green why not buy a piece in that hue?
– Create a uniform. When I visit the closets of people who don’t like fashion, they usually have two to three times more clothing in their closet than I. Stop with all the mindless shopping and purchase garments that are tried and true. Heck, buy multiples. There is nothing wrong with having three pairs of the same black pants, and the same sweater in four different colors. I may seem to wear a different thing every day, but if you look closely I stick to a uniform of similar silhouettes that I know work for my body and lifestyle.
– Embrace accessories. If you feel most comfortable in simple pieces, show who you are with accessories. Scarves, necklaces, bangle bracelets, brooches, headbands, belts… simple low-cost pieces that can revolutionize your wardrobe.
– Consider shopping online. I used to hate my body. I would stand in a fitting room in a too-tight skirt and see-through blouse, my pale large legs and black trouser socks, glistening with sweat and tears from another horrific mall session. Each time I went shopping, I felt as though I was too fat, too soft, too short, too unusual for fashion. Then I had a baby and no time to actually go to a mall or boutique and had to rely on the Internet. This simple change improved my feeling about my body and the clothes that go on it every day.
Now I can try clothes on with natural light, with a mirror I trust. I can take off the trouser socks and put on a pair of pumps. I can see if a blouse fits better with a different bra, a dress with a pair of Spanx. I can really know if that belt will work with the dress I already own. Now online shopping can be daunting, but once you find brands and retailers you know like your body, it makes it easier; also more and more companies are offering free shipping and easy/free/in-store returns.
– Act as though fashion is a restaurant. If you despise liver yet it’s on the menu, you don’t reject the entire restaurant, you just choose a different entrée. If you find an entrée that looks appealing, but would prefer vegetables instead of the rice you ask the waiter for a switch and enjoy your custom meal. If you’re a vegetarian, you pick entrees that are animal-free, asking the waiter for suggestions and clarification. While society claims that you should drink red wine with beef but you’re craving a glass of Chardonnay with your filet mignon, get the Chardonnay and drink it with joy.
You don’t have to wear what everyone else wears. Heck, you really don’t need my wardrobe staples if you know yourself and your personal wardrobe needs. However, like a restaurant, you may not even know your favorite entrée until you try something new. Start small, an appetizer as you will. Step outside your comfort zone with a different retailer, different color, different silhouette. If you don’t like it, move on. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame fashion as a whole. You can’t blame a whole restaurant because you personally don’t like their risotto.
– Treat personal style the way you would a ‘Couch to 5k.’ No one expects you to be an expert fashionistas in a day… or even a year. The only way to find your personal style and have your exterior match your interior is with small steps. Slowly, gently venture out of your comfort zone and find out what looks and feels right.
No one expects you to be a fashion connoisseur unless you have chosen fashion to be your profession and life. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become comfortable with some aspects of it. Honing your personal style helps people understand the true you, helps you feel and look like a cohesive person, and can make life easier and more enjoyable. Go slow, use care, and remember that half the fun of reaching your destination is the journey to get there!
For a long time, I was terrified of eBay. I didn’t understand it, and felt that I could easily be scammed by sellers who were passing off fakes as authentic, taking my money and not sending me items, pretty much getting screwed by the whole process.
A few years ago, I fell madly in love with the Sandhurst hobo bag from Banana Republic. I went into the store often to drool over it. I would stand in front of a mirror, hold it in my hand, sling over my shoulder, and admire my reflection. However, I just couldn’t afford the price. A friend suggested I look for it on eBay. I did, found a seller who had the exact style and color I desired and was able to get the bag brand new in its dust cover for 30% off the retail price.
After that I was hooked on eBay for brand-name accessories. If I loved a certain necklace from J. Crew or bag from Rebecca Minkoff, I would get the style number and name, the color, the measurements, and then head to eBay. Often times I could find it, and for far cheaper than retail.
I don’t claim to be an eBay expert, but many of you have asked about how I go about shopping on the site. Here’s some of my tips and tricks for navigating eBay:
Shopping for Accessories on eBay
When You Know Exactly What You Want
So you want the Essex bag from Kate Spade? Before you buy retail, head to eBay. There are lots of reasons why people are selling items on eBay. Maybe they got it as a gift or won it in a contest, possibly they are thinning out their collection, maybe it’s a store sample, and yes maybe it’s hot or a fake.
The search function on eBay is pretty robust. I usually start by typing in the brand and style name into the search function (you can often find this info on Google if you don’t already know it). If that doesn’t give me the results I desire, I will make the search broader and just enter the brand name, and then the type of item (handbag, jewelry, sunglasses, etc.). Often times sellers do not know the style name or number, so by adding that to your search you may end up with zero results.
I then search through the selections and in a separate browser tab/window, open any that fit my criteria. I then look at each different auction. Are they really the same item and color? What is the condition of each? Who has the better options and price for shipping? What are their return policies?
I look at the seller – I care less about how many thousands of sales they have had, and more on the quality of their feedback. I go and read the feedback; I am especially interested in negative and neutral feedback. Recently I purchased a blouse from a seller who claimed the item was New Without Tags, never worn, pristine condition. When I received it, it was missing a button. I left neutral feedback, as that the blouse was as described except for the fact that a very important button (cannot be replaced) was missing and this was not in the description. The seller contacted me, angry about the neutral feedback and asked for me to return the blouse and remove my feedback. I again looked at her feedback and saw that in the past six months she had two other neutral feedbacks from folks stating their items were not quite as described. I chose to leave that feedback to warn future customers; I wonder how many either didn’t notice their purchase’s flaw or accepted the seller’s offer to return the item and remove the feedback.
Once I find the item and seller that I like, I stop and think, what is the maximum amount I would pay for this item? I then write it down so it is more concrete. I bid, and I NEVER go over that number. eBay will let you know when you are close to being outbid and when you have been outbid, and it’s so tempting to add a couple more dollars just to stay in the game. DON’T. I have a friend who admitted she spent $50 more on an item on eBay than it cost in the store just because she got caught up in the thrill of the auction. I feel that if you are bidding within 30% of the actual retail price for something on eBay it’s usually not worth it. Wait until you get a store coupon so you have the customer service to go with the item in case there is an issue/need for repairs or a return.
Nine times out of ten what you are bidding for on eBay you don’t need in the first place, so if it’s not in your price range, let it go. Seriously, let it go.
Once you get your item, carefully open the shipping package and inspect it from head to toe. Does it match the photos and description of the item? Were you extravagantly overcharged for the shipping? If you are happy, leave quick and detailed feedback about the shipping, the price, the quality, the communication of the seller. If you find an issue, let the seller know; she may offer a quick solution. If you’re wildly unhappy, don’t keep it to yourself – let the seller know and let the world know with your feedback. Feedback isn’t just for the seller, it’s for future customers, future yous who want to buy and know they are getting their money’s worth.
When You Don’t Know What You Want
You can search more general terms like “Stella and Dot ring” or “Ann Taylor” and then use the eBay-offered categories to break down to jewelry or shoes or bags. From there you can usually break it down even further by color, size, and specific type of item. I usually don’t, and let my mouse do the walking through dozens of pages of auctions while I eat my lunch or wait for a friend to arrive. If you don’t know what you want, it’s good to really take a tour because you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find. A search for peacock-feather earrings ended up finding me a great dress for Bonnaroo; a search for a charm bracelet got me my Anthropologie crystal bracelet.
As with others, investigate your seller, and write down a final price. Be sure to check shipping prices – sometimes they are so high (or coming from overseas) that it’s not worth it to wait for it to arrive, or you might as well buy it retail.
Shopping for Clothing on eBay
I hardly ever go outside my brand comfort zone on eBay. I shop brands whose fit I know is consistent. It is either something I have already tried on in a store, or a designer with whom I am very familiar (hello Ann Taylor). Keep in mind, even your go-to brand (hello Ann Taylor!) changes its sizing over the years – you may be an 8 at that brand, but if the item is five years old you may find an 8 to be a bit snug.
The only time I will go outside my complete comfort zone is with vintage clothing, and then I have to have very detailed clothing measurements in the description. If you have questions, ask them! Ask the seller for a photo of the back view of the dress, ask if the skirt is lined or what type of slit it has in the back. Ask if it’s more of a midnight navy or a dark blue, and ask for the fabric content. If you are unsure of the year, ask to see a photo of the label (most retailers slightly change the logo or look of their label every couple of years – you can often Google to find a timeline of the brand’s logo). It sucks to receive an item that isn’t want you believed it to be and go back and realize the seller didn’t misrepresent, you just filled in the blanks without asking.
I prefer a seller who has multiple pictures of an item, and of the actual item, not a JPEG lifted off of Google Images. This way I really know I am getting what I desire.
eBay Shopping Support
PayPal: If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you will need one to shop on eBay. I prefer PayPal to credit cards for online shopping because I have less chance for identity theft. PayPal is very user secure and friendly, and you can easily set it up to your checking account (or multiple bank accounts) so when you have a $0 PayPal balance, it will just withdraw right from your bank.
PayPal can be used at so many other sites online (hello Etsy, drugstore.com,Lands End Canvas and Zappos and more!) that it makes sense to have an account with them.
eSnipe: I haven’t used eSnipe in a while, but loved it back when I was looking for my Sandhurst bag. My hairdresser told me about it, and it has helped me score some great prices on eBay auctions. Instead of having to constantly stalk your auction to ensure you have the highest price, eSnipe will do it for you. Tell them your maximum price that you are willing to pay and in the last couple of seconds of an auction eSnipe will bid on your behalf, helping you win the auction, and not go above your budget. FYI, eSnipe is now only free for a trial period, and then has a slight cost.
Ebates: I have a love affair with Ebates. Sign up for free, visit Ebates before heading to most online shops and get cash back on your purchase. They have popular online retailers like Sephora, Nordstrom, Target, Ann Taylor and Old Navy, but Ebates also gives you 1-4% cash back on all purchases on eBay!
Ebates gives you an actual check once a quarter, no points to redeem, no gift cards, actual cash. No spam, no strings, just 30 seconds for money back. Be sure to sign up and visit Ebates each time before you head to eBay!
Some eBay Acronyms to Know:
- NWT – New with Tags. This means the tags should be ATTACHED unless otherwise stated in the description
- NWOT – New without tags. This means new condition, an item could be found at a store like this. No perfume, no dog hair, no creases from wear.
- NWOB – New without box. (everytime I see this acronym I think NKOTB)
- NRFB – Never removed from the box
- EUC – Excellent used condition. Means like-new, though not as perfect as NWOT.
- MNT – Mint condition (again doesn’t mean new, but is closer to NWOT)
- VGC – Very good condition. This means the item was worn, but is still in wearable condition (no stains, holes, etc.)
- GUC or GU – Good used condition. This description has many shades of gray and it’s important to know details, see detailed photos and ask questions to fill in the blanks.
- NBW – Never been worn
- TTS – True to size
- S/S or SS – Short-sleeved
- L/S or LS – Long-sleeved
- FB – Feeback
- DBL – Double
- FP – Fixed price
- GBP – Great British Pounds
- ITF – Impossible to find (often used in title for limited-edition pieces)
- VHTF – Very hard to find (ditto, often in auction titles)
Leave feedback. No matter what you purchased, or how many times you shopped from the same seller, leave feedback for every individual purchase you make. Many people make their living off of eBay auctions, and your feedback supports their livelihood. Feedback also helps your fellow shoppers, letting them know who to trust, and who to avoid.
Pay promptly. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding in the first place. When I win an auction, I pay within 24 hours. I have sold on eBay and it’s frustrating to have to chase down a customer to beg for your money. Not paying promptly is like being rude to your waiter – he will care less about pleasing you and you may get spit in your soup… or a delayed shipment.
Pay. Again, if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding. Winning an auction and then never paying won’t just give you negative feedback, but will also screw over the seller. There is a lot of steps a seller has to take to prove that you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain, to get back their selling fee, and finally be able to re-list the item. A good month could go by and that’s possibly the rent or grocery bill for that seller.
If something unexpected happens where you just can’t pay… contact the seller. Let them know as soon as possible. Don’t hide and ignore the invoices you will receive. Bad things happen to good people, we have all been there. Don’t leave your seller high and dry.
Accept the seller’s terms. As a previous eBay seller, nothing is more frustrating than having a person from Belgium try to bid on an item when I clearly stated I only ship to the US. I have had sellers try to pay via money order when I write that I only accept PayPal, ask me to ship FedEx when I use USPS, request I take the item off auction and just sell it at a reduced price to them. Read the description, all the fine print. It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s a small change (offer to pay additional for expedited shipping or delivery to Canada from the US), but remember these are people, not major corporations. They don’t have the time, resources, money or desire to be your personal valet.
Have you had success shopping on eBay? What are your tips and tricks for navigating the site and getting great fashion deals?
Please visit my other “How to Shop” posts:
When some things become popular I really wonder what trendsetters were smoking. This is especially true when commonplace things have a fancy name slapped on them and they’re suddenly worth $500. I’m not going to spend my hard-earned money to advertise YOUR brand, especially if I can find similar at Target for a bundle less. This is how I have felt about tee shirts for a long while. Somehow, that which was purchased from Hanes or Fruit of the Loom is now worth $150 just because some hot designer decided to add it to his collection. No thank you.
When I was in college, my favorite v-neck (when you’re short and busty, v-necks are a godsend) came in a two-pack from Kmart and did just fine. When they got grubby, I’d bleach them, and replace them when they started to yellow. They were a classic, and looked great with my grunge, then preppy/minimalist aesthetic. After college, I was a visual merchandiser for Express and fell hard for their “Metro” v-neck tees. Does anyone else remember these beauties? I had them in a rainbow of colors, but a half dozen in white (the ones from the Mariana Islands were a bit thinner but still opaque and had a better fit over my curves. Yeah, I was that much of a fan of these tees). For my early ‘30s I bounced around budget-friendly retailers and nicer brands found at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Most of these tees would last a season at most. When I switched to a desk job, I found white tees at my corporate attire stores; Ann Taylor was often where I’d find tees of high quality, though not always the best fit.
And here I am, a couple months from 40 and I’m realizing I have spent a boatload of money on white tee shirts that have never satisfied. Too thin, too tight, too boxy, too stretchy, not stretchy enough, just plain wrong. Hrm, maybe there is something to that $150 “perfect” tee shirt. If it truly IS perfect, it could end up saving me money in the long run. I’m no longer a sloppy young kid who will destroy my tee shirt at a bar crawl or tailgate, I’ll keep the cheap tees for weekends but would like an awesome white tee for concerts, to wear under jackets, to pair with a sequined pencil or taffeta ball skirt. You know, that casually cool tee that looks perfectly worn and slouches in just that right way.
The Tees I Tried:
So I did my own white tee shirt science experiment, trying on and ordering over a dozen different shirts ranging in price to see if I could find my Tee Shirt Holy Grail and if a fancy brand and crazy pricetag does make for a better shirt. I originally planned to share each tee and rate it, but I learned from this process that a simple tee shirt is a very personal purchase. Like a pair of jeans or a tee shirt bra, what is Holy Grail for one is incredibly awful for the other. But what I did learn:
As for me, I ended up buying two white tee shirts:
And now I’d love to hear from you, how much have you paid for a tee shirt? And if you’ve found your Holy Grail tee, please share in the comments along with your general body type. Your Holy Grail very well may be the tee another reader has been looking for all her life!
I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!
You can check out the interview here.
I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)
Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!
Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog
Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.
Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!
Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.
Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:
1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.
2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.
3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.
Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.
If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.
If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the
We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.
If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.
Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.
Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.
At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.
In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.
I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.
What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.
I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.
My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.
I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.
Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…
When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.
How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.
Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.
I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.
Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.
I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.
I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.
I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!
Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site, Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).
The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.
Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!
Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:
Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.
The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99
Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00
A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.
The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50
Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00
Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.
Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50
I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00
A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.
Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99
The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99
A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.
This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50
I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00
A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.
The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00
Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:
- A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress). The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
- A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days). The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
- A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility). These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
- A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends). The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95
For additional petite inspiration, check out:
Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in
Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit
Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.
Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.
Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.
Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.
Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.
It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?
If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”
Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.
Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.
Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.