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Habit Forming

7 Aug

Amazon.com recently launched a daily deal fashion site called Myhabit.com. I’m skeptical of daily deal sites, which feel gimmicky, so I am surprised to report that I had a great experience there.

Today is the first time I visited, after my curiosity got the better of me from seeing some cute stuff in their daily email. (You always have to click through to the site to see the prices.)  They had quite a few cute brands on sale  (on the dressier side, probably more for date night than everyday wear). The pricing was very accessible – many dresses under $100, tops in the $30-$50 range, high quality shoes under $100. Let the browsing begin.

For those who have never shopped at a “daily deals” site, here’s how it works – they feature  small lot of merchandise by a handful of brands which change every day or two. Selection is limited – there are usually no more than about 20-30 items per brand – so it’s easy to skim the page and grab something you like. The low prices (and free shipping) make snatching something up that much easier.  They increase the urgency by listing sold-out items on the bottom of the page, encouraging shoppers to buy whatever is left before it’s gone, too. Once the sale is over, the clothes are no longer available.

Even though I am a savvy marketing person by profession, and can see right through the false sense of urgency that is created, the whole experience worked for me. I ended up with a pair of suede Dr. Marten boots for $78. I’ve been wanting a pair of grey suede boots for quite a while, and I have owned Docs before and know they’re comfortable and last years and years. With free 4-day shipping & returns, this was really an easy sell. Here they are (though the link to the sale will stop working after tomorrow when the sale ends).

grey doc marten suede ankle boot USD 78 at daily deal site myhabit.com

Suede Doc Marten boots for $78 – my first purchase from daily deal site MyHabit.com (and Amazon site). This could be seriously habit-forming.

The most amazing thing? From the opening the email to placing an order, the whole transaction took less than 10 minutes. I can really see why these daily deal sites are one of the fastest growing areas of online retail. The feeling that you need to act fast in order to get that “special deal” is irresistible! It’s funny how the thinking part of my brain can see right through it, but the feeling side of my brain loves to declare a “shopping victory”. With a broad selection of brands and something new every day, this site could indeed be very habit-forming.

There are a few things that set MyHabit.com apart from other daily deal sites I’ve come across:

1) They accept returns (within 21 days) on many – though not all – items. (The returns policy is listed clearly on each product page.) I’ve been burned by daily deal sites before, when I purchased a top for my daughter on Zulilly which ended up being way too small (the item was probably on sale due to bad sizing) only to find that it was not returnable. I ended up giving the stuff away to friends with kids…and also vowed never to shop Zulilly again.

2) Free four-day shipping. Zulilly’s stuff took me 2-3 weeks to get – and I think there’s a minimum purchase amount to get free shipping.

3) More stuff I like – the range of brands and styles is broader and somehow more compatible with my tastes. Maybe it’s because Amazon is a west-coast company with a sense of style more compatible to mine. Maybe because they’re the big gorilla in the space and have more clout with vendors. Whatever the reason, I’m pleasantly surprised.

4) A more complete range of sizes. Sometimes daily deal sites just have a limited range of sizes (like the sale rack at the department store at the end of the sale). There’s nothing worse than finding item after item you like only to find that it’s not available in your size. At least for the sales I looked at, many (though not all) of the sizes were still in stock.

5) Nice product pages – for clothing, the model will actually do a full 360 via video for you, so you can see the garment from all sides, and how it drapes. The length of all clothing is listed in inches, so it’s easier to get a sense of how long a dress or a top will be on you, rather than the leggy 5’9″ model.

Bottom line – Bravo! As long as the products themselves deliver as expected, I predict MyHabit.com will kill their daily-deals competitors. So if you’ve got some time to kill at the computer and are looking for a nice new item for going out to dinner (or going to work), check it out for yourself and let me and the other readers here know what you think!

Bathing Beauty

16 May

I’m digging through my shoe bin in search of my flip flops. That can only mean one thing – bathing suit season is coming!

Last year, it took me months to find a bathing suit I was truly happy with. I ended up with a Patagonia bikini and swim short which I still like, but this year, I am feeling like I could use a little more coverage in the mid section. So I geared up to search for a bathing suit with a tankini top, or possibly a one-piece. Expecting the search to be long and grueling, I was shocked when I  found a bathing suit that worked for me in the first store I tried.  Great fit – cute print – comfortable – and reasonably priced. Here it is. (Ta da!)

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini – the bathing suit that will carry me through summer. (Also comes in solid blue and other patterns)

The cut of the front offers plenty of support and coverage, and the pads add some shape without looking phony. I also love the tie closure in back, which is more comfortable than a halter (those hurt my neck after a while) and easy to adjust. Here’s a view of the back – even though I could tie the closure myself if I had to, it stays put way better than a regular string bikini, so I hardly ever need to. It also comes in a solid blue color.

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini - adjustable back

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini

It must have been a lucky shopping day because on the same trip, I stumbled across this ultra comfortable top to match – I intended it as a coverup to match my bathing suit, but find myself reaching for it for everyday. Paired with a tank top and jeans, it’s the perfect weight for cool and sunny spring days.  I only spent 45 minutes shopping, but felt like I had seriously scored by the end of it.

Stripy Stretch Hoody from Title Nine

If you have a Title Nine store near you, I recommend starting there for your bathing suit shopping. If not, check out their web site or catalog – their returns policy is reasonable and they carry much more online than they do in the store. Their sizing is pretty straightforward (my real life size matches their sizing in bathing suits). Their stuff is geared toward active pursuits like sporting or adventure travel – which I think describes the average day of a mom with young kids. Their prints are fun and colorful, and their fit is made to stay put, which really makes a difference – even if we’re not surfing or playing beach volleyball like the toned and tanned models in the catalog, our bodies are in motion all day long. Whether it’s splashing the kids in the water, bending over to make sand castles, or lugging piles of beach toys to and from the car, we need all the cooperation we can get from our swimwear (even if we can’t get it from our kids).

UPDATE: As of 8/1/12, The items listed above are on sale at Titlenine.com – if you’ve been waiting for the prices to drop, now’s the time to act! (The hoodie is sold out in the color on this post, but there are other colors still available. The tankini comes in two other colors and all are still available.)

Go, Go, Pants

1 May

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an easy method for finding the items of “deadwood” in your closet. In the process, I uncovered a black pair of black skinny capris from Target, which hung in my closet unworn all of last summer, despite the fact that black pants should pretty much “go with everything.”  I found them quite by chance at Target for about $30 while picking up some plastic bins and Kleenex for the household. Score! I thought. At that price,  it wasn’t hard to spend another $30 on taking in the waist (something I have come to accept as a necessity with my body shape).

But, after coming home from the tailor, the pants sat in my closet. And sat, and sat. During my recent closet clean-out, I told myself it was because the fabric was too light for winter (Target pants are notoriously thin, in my experience). Then warmer weather started to appear, and I still passed them over. Using the hanger trick described in my recent post, I was confronted with the reality that I was resisting wearing these pants – they were the last pair to remain unworn. With an open mind, I chose a warm-ish day to put them on. After going through the day in them, I realized why I had been resisting wearing them. I just didn’t feel good wearing them.

It wasn’t the fit – I had them tailored to my exact body type. The fabric was cotton with a bit of stretch for ease of movement, and nothing was obviously itchy or uncomfortable. They were reasonably flattering. Still, I felt like I was trapped in them, and couldn’t wait to take them off. What went wrong between now and the fitting room at Target?

I had a careful look in the mirror and realized what it was. The closure loop at the waist was straining, making it look like my middle was bursting open. Because I had these pants tailored to my exact body type, and they didn’t feel gut-binding, I realized that they suffered from poor construction; the fabric was too lightweight to carry the strain of the closure, and the tab wanted to separate from the pants. Cheap pants! I cursed. Even though I could explain away the problem without blaming the size of my midsection, every time I looked down at my bursting closure, I got the feeling that my body was the source of the problem. Before Kids, I thought, these pants would not have given me a problem. 

{Now imagine me with a dark cloud hanging over my head.}

The Black Capri Pants Disaster

Disaster?

Well, there was just one thing to do about that. I only hesitated a moment before chucking them into the give-away pile. Yes, $60 is a lot to pay for a pair of pants you only wear once. But the money is spent, and now I have a choice to make. Berate myself every time I put them on for my thick middle, or make the problem go away.  Isn’t the choice pretty clear?  What would you tell your girlfriend to do? Battered women must choose whether to stay in an abusive relationship or cut bait.  Well, sister, we wouldn’t live with a man who insults your body type, so why should we put up with a pair of pants that does?

I am sure there’s another pair of black capri pants waiting for me that will love me more than those cheap old pants. Even if I was hoping the relationship would last longer, it’s always better to look ahead than try to put energy into a direction that has no future. The hardest thing, of course, is feeling the sting of my mistake, and admit that this love affair was over before it started. But that’s ok, nobody walks a straight path in life, we all make mistakes. Buying a bad pair of pants certainly doesn’t rate up there with running a ponzi scheme, or sailing an Italian pleasure boat too close to the shoreline.

Disaster!

Keeping my pants-buying failure in perspective, I put  the old (new) pants on the curb with the other Goodwill stuff, happily imagining someone out there getting a brand new pair of pants for cheap.

As for buying pants from Target – part of me says, Never again – My booty deserves better! Part of me can’t resist the temptation that I’ll find another good deal. I’ll definitely proceed more cautiously now, and perhaps opt for the casual pants with the elastic waist. (I have a $25 pair of baggy linen Merona pants from Target that have already lasted me for several years.)

So, there are two lessons here:

1) When shopping cheaply, it’s hard to go wrong buying pants that are styled like pajamas. For pants with a more tailored fit, it probably makes sense to shell out a bit more for a better quality product.

2) Never, ever, keep anything in your closet that causes a black cloud to appear over your head and follow you around wherever you go. Put that thing away at once. (In other words –  it’s not you, it’s the pants. It’s always the pants.)

Free closet help (really!)

16 Apr

I discovered a really cool closet trick that I’ve been meaning to post about, but I have had writers block from seeking an interesting way to introduce it. So, in order to get the idea up quickly, allow me to skip the intro and get right to the meat of the discovery. Maybe you will appreciate it on the day before income taxes are due – who couldn’t use a little closet help without spending more money.

The idea came from something I read online someplace (if I remember where, I will update this post with the credit) and it goes something like this:

It’s pretty clear that a closet cleared of clutter serves the owner much better than a closet full of unappealing or ill-fitting stuff. Yet, the problem is finding the time to get it organized.  Well, now you don’t have to set aside special time to do it, if you follow this handy little trick.

Image

After you wear something, hang it back up in your closet with the hanger backwards. Try to wear everything at least once, before wearing the items again with the hanger turned around already. After a few weeks, you will have identified the stuff that you’re not wearing, which you now need to take a closer look at.

The clothes that are left unworn will probably fit into these categories –

1) Don’t like anymore -> Get rid of it. Give away to charity, offer it to a friend, sell it, or go to a clothing exchange. (I always have a plastic bag in my closet that I am filling up with stuff to give away.)

2) Doesn’t fit -> If it can be fixed by tailoring, create a pile for “take to tailor”. Otherwise, let it go into the “get rid of” pile. (Caveat: If you are within one year of having given birth, cut yourself some slack, but put away what you’re not wearing and pull it out again in a few months. The point is to only leave stuff in your closet that you are actually wearing *now*).

3) Out of season -> Box up and put into the garage/ attic/ storage space until the weather changes.

4) Need something to wear with it -> Start a “wish list” of what item you are missing to go with it, whether it’s a matching top, bottom, shoes, belt or bra.  Keep the list somewhere in your closet with a pen nearby, so that you can add to it easily, as inspiration strikes. When filling in the gaps, shop your closet first, and encourage yourself to re-imagine wearing something with it that you already own. (Pick up a good fashion mag like InStyle or Elle for some inspiration about unexpected combinations that work, like below. I’m not saying you need to wear avant-garde runway looks to the playground, but don’t be afraid to go a little outside your comfort zone.)  And next time you go shopping, take your “wish list” with you.

Elle magazine spring collection

Check out a fashion mag like Elle magazine for inspiration; sometimes combining two patterns and textures can look fresh and inspired.

By sticking to this system for about three weeks, I freed up about half of my closet by putting away the stuff that was not being worn. After filling a large box with stuff for warmer weather, and another bag for give-away, I was looking at a closet full of stuff I could actually wear. Now, looking at my closet doesn’t start a panic attack – getting dressed is faster, feels better, and I can get creative with new combinations.

Street style photographed by Elle magazine

Orange and burgundy? Consider re-imagining color combinations in your wardrobe, in any way that feels right for you.

I haven’t applied the weeding out to the folded part of my closet, but I think the same technique should work, if I start with an empty drawer and only put the stuff I’ve worn in there, leaving the questionables behind to be sorted out.

Why I love this approach:

1) it points honestly to the “deadwood” in your closet – either it’s been worn or it hasn’t

2) it has inspired me to find ways to wear the stuff I was passing over before

3) it has caused me to feel grateful for the stuff I already own

4) I did this at my own pace and felt no time pressure to complete the task – you can take as much time as you need to get to the end result.

Because I stopped wearing the same three pairs of jeans every week, I got myself out of a fashion rut. I even got myself to wear a skirt, and realized with tights and boots on colder days, I really enjoyed it. When I found something missing a top or bottom to go with it, I reconsidered which colors and patterns could go together. You might be thinking “uh oh”, but it doesn’t mean you have to look like a kid dressing themselves for the first time.  Most moms I know (myself included) could stand a little kick of color in their wardrobe – and certain bright colors are very “now”. (Even neon and printed pants are making a comeback, with 1980’s flair, though I don’t think I am ready to go there just yet.)

Printed pants are making a comeback from the 80's

With all the 80's trends being revived lately, it was just a matter of time before pants with patterns made their comeback. I'm going to stay on the sidelines for that trend, at least for now. (Fashion week in Paris, 2012)

I am especially loving yellow, coral and turquoise, as a promise of the warmer, sunnier weather soon to come. And for the stuff I wasn’t wearing because I didn’t have the right shoes, I took the time to pull out all the shoes I had, and, looky here – I had forgotten about several pairs which actually filled the gap.

Next month, when Uncle Sam isn’t knocking on my door, looking to get paid, I may take my  own “wish list” and hit the stores. But then again, I am liking the challenge of trying to shop my own closet for everything I am missing – because I am convinced, as I let go of my own rules, I am bound to make even more new discoveries of what to wear inside my own closet. You might even say where creativity leads, inspiration follows. Or something like that.

A Warm Wind is Blowing (At Least in the Malls)

18 Mar

Just last week, I ate at a restaurant with Christmas decorations still up, and there was frozen grass on the morning walk to school not too long ago. But you’d never know it’s still winter by looking at the shop windows of clothing stores at the local mall.

Spring has sprung according to the retail merchandising calendar, and there are a few mom-compatible trends I want to try out for myself this season:

Nautical stripes

Splendid Navy Stripe crop

Nautical stripe looks fresh with lighter pants and layers well on colder days.

You can see them everywhere, on tops, tunics, and shift dresses. Remember the saying that horizontal stripes make you look fat? Not true. With a top that’s cut close to the body either at the waist or in the lower arm, and paired with slim pants, stripes can look light and fresh. You see them just about everywhere, from sweaters to t-shirts to tunics. I like the version with navy blue stripes on an off white (not bright white) background. Also, dense stripes can look busy, I tend to like a wider spacing to avoid giving myself a headache when looking in the mirror.

Above is a top I recently picked up at Anthropologie by Splendid tees. It costs more than I would have liked (over $50), but the cotton is silky soft,  and the cut is flattering and easy to wear; form fitting without binding, and falls below the hip. The stripe is a warm grey that is fun to coordinate with other neutrals. I have a feeling I am going to be living in this shirt well through the summer.

After feeling how comfy that Splendid top was, I got more interested in that brand. Turns out it’s a company dedicated to stylish, casual, nubby t-shirts! If only their prices were a bit lower. (Don’t you just want to dive your face into the closet below?)

Splendid Fabrics

"Yummy Fabric & Color" according to Splendid.

Wedge heel shoes

I get a boost in height and and add a fun accent to a plain outfit with wedge heels. I wouldn’t run after my toddler in them, but if I am going to wear heels, these are probably the most comfortable way to do it. I also like that they convey a laid-back bohemian chic, a reminder of old, carefree days of kicking around town in style before kids. Here are my favorite wedge heel looks – waiting for the sale on these though:

Awesome suede bootie by JCrew:

Wedge heel bootie by J Crew

My favorite shoe trend this spring: the wedge heel (it's everywhere)

I also love the espadrille version by Toms:

The wedge heel espadrille by Toms

In case you’ve never heard of Toms, it’s a shoe company that promises to give one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes they sell. The shoes are simply made, but comfy, and their social mission means you see their flats on 20-something feet everywhere. (Did I mention they also have toddler and kids sizes?) If you want to try them on, stop by Nordstroms, which carries them in several colors. I can’t see myself wearing a heel this high every day, but definitely appealing for dinner out or date night.

The Shirt Dress

This trend takes the crisp tailoring of a collared mens shirt and extends the length to become a dress. Hey, the chance to wear a collared shirt, with no office in sight – there’s something very appealing about that. Plus, the length is very flattering for all body types. I would opt to wear the shirt dress with cropped leggings or skinny jeans rather than bare legged, for the sake of modesty. (Short skirts and childcare don’t mix well, in my opinion.)  For going out to dinner on a breezy summer evening, I would go with sandals and bare legs. Either way, a belt adds definition at the waist and keeps it from looking like you raided your husband’s pajama drawer.

I first noticed this look on Rachel Mc Adams who appeared in the recent Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” as an American tourist abroad. (Fun movie, by the way, if you haven’t seen it yet.) I couldn’t find a good image of the outfit online, but as it turns out, a web site has created the knockoff look:

Midnight In Paris Outfit

The shirt dress looks great with a belt, and, look - there's that wedge heel again!

I do have a few reservations about the dress shirt. For one, where do you get a reasonably priced version that’s easy to maintain? J. Crew had one in the store the other day for $100+, which I can’t even consider it until it goes on sale. (Other than jeans, I don’t pay more than $100 for anything I wear around my children for fear of their greasy fingers. I have several pairs of pants with greasy stains in the lap; since they otherwise work well and fit great, I just go around with permanent grease stains on my pants.)

Then there’s the question of how to keep that collar looking crisp and fresh. It goes without saying that I am unwilling to wear anything that needs ironing or a run to the dry cleaners. (I don’t even know where my ironing board is! Do we still own one?)  If only J. Crew married the Land’s End wrinkle-free technology and came out with a no-iron shirtdress. Their current selection is made of conventional cotton poplin, dress-shirt material, which is going to need ironing. Here’s a real opportunity for moms to look polished without much extra effort – Land’s End, are you listening?

Lands End carries a few shirt dresses at reasonable prices - but until they come in wrinkle-resistant fabric, this look is really not mom-friendly.

After a bout of cold weather, the weather turned warm last weekend, and we went to the beach in Capitola. It was really nice to lay face down on a beach blanket and feel sun on the underside of my bare feet.  I’ll take a real spring day on the beach over a fake spring day in the mall any day.  After all, the clothes and sales will wait for me, but my kids seem to wake up a little bit taller every day.  A day spent digging the world’s deepest sand tunnel under a warm, cloudless sky is far more precious than trying on one more pair of shoes in the mall.

I Am Sparkle Princess

3 Mar

I am sure anyone reading this post has noticed that metallic shoes are “in” right now, in shades of silver, gold, copper, etc. When this trend first appeared a few seasons ago, I rolled my eyes and avoided it, as it reminded me too much of Vegas, or else of country club ladies who lunch with little fluffy dogs in their lap.

Metallic Pump

I can't decide who is likelier to wear a shoe like this: Cinderella, or a Vegas Showgirl?

Recently, though, I have started to come around to the playful side of metallic, thanks to my 3-year old daughter. She fell in love with a silver pair of Mary Janes and wore them into the ground (no thanks to Old Navy quality, which didn’t even last long enough for her to outgrow them). The point is that she enjoys feeling fancy and is not shy to show them off to visitors or to checkout clerks in the grocery store. She loves her princess shoes, and fully expects others to love them as she does. She simply loves the way she looks in them, without any self-consciousness.

Watching her shamelessly pointing out her beautiful shoes to strangers, it became clear to me that even though I don’t plan to wear a tutu skirt in public anytime soon, her attitude is a path to freedom for me and moms everywhere.  I realized that dressing up for her and for adults is not that different. She is channeling her inner fairy princess, and I am channeling my inner carefree bohemian urbanite, even though my real life bears very little resemblance to the person I dress up as on some days. (Case in point: sometimes my day includes chasing a runaway turd escaping from a diaper.)

Sorry for that reference. I hope you’re not reading this while eating lunch. Anyway, at a recent Macy’s sale I came across a pair of greyish-copper flats by Clarks (below). Shelving my own prejudices for the moment, I tried them on, and discovered they had a very comfortable sole. Sold! With a skirt, they look dainty and feminine, and with jeans, they add some casual chic. And for about $45, they were a no-brainer even if I get tired of them by the end of summer. Suddenly I belong to an unspoken sisterhood with other wearers of metallic shoes. Although I don’t call attention to my shoes in the checkout line of the grocery store. I wait for the sisterhood to notice my shoes and pay a compliment. 😉

Clarks Metallic Flats

Ok, I confess: Sometimes, I enjoy wearing sparkly shoes like my 3-year old daughter.

I think the key to wearing metallic is to have fun with it, and only wear it if the look tickles your fancy. To avoid looking like you came from a princess dress-up party, avoid wearing too much sparkle at once (I would avoid a matching handbag or a belt, or too much bling elsewhere, for example). Though of course, don’t expect your daughter to respect this rule. As you probably know, there there is no such thing as “too much sparkle” for any girl under 10 years old.

Just as I am finishing this post, the weather is turning sunny and warm in Northern California, with daffodils busting out of the ground everywhere. I guess it’s pretty clear that I should finally put away the Christmas decor this weekend. On the other hand, if the weather is good, forget tidying up the house – we’re taking the family to the beach. If no one in my house has noticed that the Christmas decorations are still up past Valentines Day, they probably won’t say anything if they make it to St Patrick’s Day either.

___

Worth mentioning: The products and companies I am featuring in this post are of my own choosing – I have no relationships with the companies or products that I spotlight.  If that ever changes, I’ll be sure to post a disclaimer to that effect.  It’s not that I have anything against receiving products to review – it would enable me to give more firsthand performance reviews. After all, there are only so many pairs of metallic shoes a woman can justify to her skeptical husband. 🙂

Feeling Stuffed?

30 Nov

Thanksgiving may be over, but in our house, leftover pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes are still on the menu – all day long. Anyone who has never eaten pumpkin pie for breakfast should go out of their way to do so before they die – whether naked, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. (I’m talking about the pie, not you, of course.) It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday.

Pumpkin Pie

During the holiday season, anytime is a good time to enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie.

All this eating does leave me feeling over-fed, which is to be expected this time of year. And I don’t expect it to let up in December; between holiday cookies and parties, it’s the time of year to reach for the jeans with the loose waist. Better yet, I wear stretchy pants with a tunic or dress over it – there is no reason to force that zipper closed when there is still a whole month of holiday treats to be eaten. There will be plenty of time for slimming down after the new year.

I’m not saying it’s time to binge, but I plan to enjoy the treats of the season without calculating how many extra laps I am going to swim just to work off that chocolate covered gingerbread I just ate.

Instead of counting calories, I make a point to get outside despite the unappealing weather – even though it’s been cold and gray in the Bay Area, Northern California’s not Minnesota, and the Fall colors are spectacular in the neighborhood. Also, my son is suddenly a soccer enthusiast; a quick 15 minutes minutes of kicking the ball after school keeps me moving, and it’s often enough to boost my energy for the rest of the day. For an indoor energy boost, I reach for caffeine in the form of green tea, another stimulant that’s a little milder than Red Bull, and easier on my stomach than coffee. My favorite green tea at the moment is The Organic Himalayan Green Tea by Allegro, a company based in Colorado and available in certain grocery stores.  It’s mellow and tasty – I remove the tea bag after 5 minutes to avoid bitterness. (Get one for yourself and one as a gift for the tea lover on your list!)

Allegro Himalayan Green Tea

Allegro Himalayan Green Tea is an instand indoor pick-me-up

In the meantime, here are my new favorite comfortable jeans with plenty of stretch: Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ). I know, I dissed these in a previous post about “mommy jeans”, but after giving them a second chance, I have fallen in love with the fit and comfort. The fabric is stretchy and just the right weight. The rise is a bit higher than other designer jeans which helps with coverage of the front and back, but not so high that you are aware of a bulky midsection (my problem with the Miraclebody Jeans reviewed previously). They have a great fit throught the seat, too, without gapping at the waist, which is always my problem area.

My biggest revelation about buying jeans is that although I used to be self-conscious about tight jeans, it turns out that slim-cut, well-fitting jeans actually make you look and feel slimmer, not fatter. The NYDJ fit slim in a tasteful way – I don’ t feel like like my jeans are painted on, but they fit snugly everywhere they should. Also, most jeans stretch out after wearing – if the zipper goes up easily, I know the tightness in the seat will relax after a few wears. As long as I can sit down comfortably, I trust the fit. (To prevent shrinkage, I never put my jeans in the dryer, unless I actually want to shrink them down a size! Instead, they hang dry overnight in my shower stall.) Knowing how I want my jeans to fit makes shopping much for fun and efficient – it’s easy to recognize the right jeans when I try them on.

I bought my NYDJ’s at Bloomingdale’s but many department stores carry them (Nordstroms, Macys, etc.). They run about $100, which is more than a pair of Levi’s but still less than other designer jeans like Joe’s Jeans which run $150 and up. (You can sometimes find them on sale for about $70-$80.) They come in many cuts, including bootleg, straight leg, and slim. They also offer Petite sizing and Ankle lengths. They even have corduroy fabrics for the Fall and Winter seasons. Though you can find them online, it’s worth visiting the store to try several pairs and find the look that suits you best.

Here are a few to consider:

The Straight Leg – an everyday workhorse of a jean, slim enough to tuck into boots or wear with tennis shoes. Comes in many other colors too.

NYDJ Straight Leg Jeans

Straight Leg Jeans work great for everyday - with flats, boots, or tennis shoes for the playground.

The Bootcut – Wear with boots, black dresses up for evening. Many other colors too.

NYDJ Bootcut Jeans

Leggings – I usually shy away from these because I feel like I am stuffing myself into too-skinny pants, but NYDJ leggings zip up easily while still giving the super-slim look that goes well under tunics or long sweaters, worn with boots.

NYDJ Leggings

NYDJ Leggings have a comfortable super-slim fit.

Happy jean shopping, and enjoy the season of giving and holiday (de)lights!

Discovering the Upscale T-shirt

25 Jul

I’ve been shopping at Target, Gap, and Old Navy for t-shirts for as long as I can remember. Why not – they are conveniently located, cheap, and when I see a color in a style that I like, I don’t think too hard about buying it. I wear it to bed, to the gym, and around town. It’s a no-brainer wardrobe item in the morning – paired with jeans and a hoodie or cardigan, it makes getting dressed effortless.

gap favorite tshirt

Gap's Favorite T-shirt is an economical and reliable layering piece. Yawn.

So what’s the problem? Well, the plain t-shirt is a bit like eating popcorn for lunch. It’s not that it’s bad for you, but if consumed in excess, it doesn’t leave room for more satisfying options. That’s how I recently found myself in a t-shirt fashion rut.

Seeking inspiration, I recently wandered into a boutique in downtown Palo Alto, enigmatically named GV, which keeps irregular store hours but carries a wonderfully edited selection of fashionable clothes sourced mostly from Paris and LA. Golrukh, the store’s owner and sole staffer, prides herself on scouring the fashion trade shows to bring her clients the freshest looks every season.  The store has the intimate feel of a Parisian clothing atelier – dimly lit, with just a little bit of this and that, from casual to evening wear, complete with a tasteful display of high-end underwear. The salesperson is tactful and attentive. Although I enjoyed looking at myself in the mirror wearing $180 haute couture jeans, strategically ripped and distressed, I passed on them after remembering that just about every pair of jeans I own are already stained or otherwise compromised by the demands of motherhood. After a few suggestions from Golrukh, though, I did fall in love with an $80 long sleeve cotton tunic by Nation Ltd.

nation ltd white tunic

In search of a more stylish alternative to t-shirt dressing, I paid $80 for a comfy, well-cut cotton tunic.

The irony of paying $80 for a t-shirt, after I had come into the store looking for a t-shirt alternative, does not escape me. So what gives? Well, these shirts have several upgrades from the basic model:

Feel: the light, gauzy all-cotton fabric is welcoming from the moment I put it on – it feels like something I could live in around the clock (although I don’t, to preserve its life span).

Cut: this top sits snugly below the hip, allowing ease of movement without looking baggy. The neckline is generous enough to flatter the neck and collarbone without being too baggy. It can be worn loose or belted.

Texture: the “burnout” semi-sheer fabric feels airy and feminine, and has more visual depth than solid cotton.

Color: I sprung for the shirt in white, as well as a shade of regal turquoise that makes my skin glow.

Golrukh is a great sales person. When she saw my hesitation with the price tag, she pointed out that a lot of busy moms choose these tops because “it’s the shirt you’ll wear day after day”. So far, she has been right – I reach for it every chance I get, especially the one in turquoise. (I am still afraid to wear white for anything but occasions that exclude children, but at least I know I have at least one clean white shirt in the closet when such an occasion arises.)

Golrukh also left me with a valuable bit of advice, worth passing along: even though these shirts are more expensive than the stuff you normally wear, she says, “Don’t save them for a special occasion. Wear them. Don’t worry if they cost a little more. Just wear them.” I thought about that, and decided to agree with her – it does not make sense to buy clothes you love, only to put them away in the closet waiting for that special occasion that happens all too rarely. So I decided to treat myself to a little everyday luxury in the form of an $80 t-shirt.

And has the theory proven out, do my $80 t-shirt days feel a little more special? Was it worth blowing my month’s clothing budget in a single shot? In a small way, yes – on my fancy t-shirt days, I pause to think about what shoes or pants to pair with the top, rather than picking up yesterday’s pants off the floor like a college student. The opportunity to wear a belt opens up fun possibilities as well. I treat my $80 t-shirt with extra love – I don’t put it in the dryer, and I try to hang it instead of stuffing it on the shelf with my other low-brow t-shirts. It feels good to wear something that has been well taken care of.

Despite all this devotion, it’s showing signs of wear – perhaps because the material is less beefy than a standard t-shirt, and perhaps because designers, like the Maytag man, don’t want their wares to last forever, to bring you back to the store to buy some more. And because the glow is fading, this love affair has a finite life span, limited by the power of the shirt to continue looking fabulous in the face of a full toddler assault. I am glad I turned the flirtation in the dressing room to a full-fledged fling, but it’s not going to last. When the sleeve finally snags on a tree branch, or my lap lands a stain that just won’t budge, the magic will be gone, and I will return to my stack of tried and true Target t-shirts. I will fondly remember my days with the $80 t-shirt, but when it’s time to update my wardrobe again, I’ll check Target and Gap first – chances are, a few seasons from now, they’ll have a pretty darn good knock-off.

Momma, let’s go swimming!

11 Jul

Summer has been my favorite season as long as I can remember – whether it’s for long days with nothing to do, getting wet, or frequent ice cream breaks.  Unfortunately, anyone who puts on their bathing suit after giving birth to a baby will have a reminder of their pregnancy belly staring back at them in the mirror. It’s been six summers since the birth of my first baby, but even though I am happy with my overall weight and fitness level, my fanny still won’t fit into my old bikini bottom.  After five years of searching, though, I think I’ve finally arrived at a reasonable middle ground between showing too much skin and covering up with a sack.

For the first summer post-baby, I got away with wearing my $25 maternity bathing suit from Target- I was just a month or two postpartum and the thought of going bathing suit shopping while breastfeeding seemed very daunting indeed. (It was a great value – I’ll secretly admit that I still wear the bottoms sometimes.)

maternity swimwear by Target

Two summers after giving birth, I was still wearing maternity swimwear to the pool with my toddler.

The following summer, I found myself reaching for my maternity swimsuit, even though my little darling was now walking and talking. I realized it was time to explore some age-appropriate bathing suit styles (which, incidentally, I would not be caught dead in my younger days, when I was hip and hanging out on the beach with my friends).  I tossed my pride aside in an effort to conquer my largest figure challenges – more ample hips and a wider, less firm midsection. I tried a one-piece bathing suit at Lands End which looked cute on the model – it had some shirring and pattern to help define the waistline – however, the bathing suit fit so tightly that it has ended up abandoned on the bottom of the swimwear drawer.  I think my problem may be my long torso, but there’s nothing like trying to squeeze into a bathing suit to make me feel deflated even before stepping foot outdoors.

Lands End One piece

Lands End offers many figure-friendly styles for post-baby bodies. Sadly, I couldn't make the fit work for me.

I also started getting catalogs from Athleta, an activewear company with a broad selection of swimwear. Their models are toned and muscular and look like they’re putting their swimwear to the test- so I finally sprung for a two-piece and swim skirt, on sale. (It’s always easier for me to take a fashion risk when the cost of entry is lower.)

Altheta's Swim Skirt provides extra coverage for modesty and ease of movement

Much to my surprise, the swim skirt was cute and didn’t make me feel like I was headed to the geriatric water walking class at the YMCA. Not that I don’t love active grandmas – I’m just not ready to be counted among them.

Now that my hips were covered, I still had my top half to contend with. (I’m going to leave aside the topic of my sinking bust for now – I think that deserves its own post on another day when I’ve had a bit more to drink with dinner.)  So there I was, looking for some extra coverage for my belly. As someone who spent their childhood summers at the beach, wearing a bikini felt very natural. However, the woman looking back at me in the mirror didn’t correspond to my self-image, which was formed when I was buying junior size clothes. And that’s how I came to love the tankini.

Carve Designs tankini

The tankini was a great compromise for my desire to wear a two-piece with the reality of a post-baby figure.

The tankini is a two-piece bathing suit with a long tank top that skims or covers the midsection. Because the pieces are often sold separately, it’s easy to fit a post-baby body. (For example, my first tankini purchase consisted of a size Small top and a size Medium bottom.) The coverage is reassuring, but it’s still more youthful and fun than that one-piece with a tummy tamer which makes me feel like an old person.

My other genius swimwear discovery – swim shorts – happened quite by accident. It’s not a secret among women who surf, paddle or play beach volleyball – but I’m hardly living the life of those Altheta models! (Though it does look nice. Surf in the morning, bike downtown for an organic salad for lunch, a centering yoga session in the afternoon.)

Athleta Model

Even though I don't live the life on an Athleta model, it's nice to know they design clothes for an active lifestyle.

Before kids, my husband and I liked to go snorkeling in tropical places. After coming home with a sunburned rear end one too many times, I finally purchased a pair of swim shorts to protect myself from the sun.  I generally reserved them for long days in the tropics, but one day at home while I was headed out to the pool with my toddler, I realized that I had – um – not made myself presentable for bikini bottoms so I threw on the swim shorts over my bathing suit.  Instant freedom! I could move and bend easily while carrying a baby and our loads of towels and pool gear, and although it wasn’t a huge fashion statement, the board shorts style had its own casual surfer-inspired relaxed cool.

I didn’t rush out to buy more swim shorts – instead, I got back on a regular exercise routine, determined to maybe fit into my old bathing suits before too long. Then I got pregnant again, delivered a second child, and continued to work out twice a week until I got back to a pants size that I could live with.

One day, I ended up at a Patagonia store and discovered a swim short that is now my staple swim wardrobe item – the Meridian Board Short. It’s stretchy, flattering, easy to get on and off, and very functional. The length is perfect, providing enough coverage while keeping a feminine silhouette. It dries quickly and is wearing great, it still looks like new one busy swim season later.

Patagonia Meridian Board Shorts

You don't have to be a surfer to wear these shorts - and they look cute in or out of the water.

I liked my Patagonia swim short so much, I went back to Title Nine to see if they may have something similar. Their shorts don’t have the same fit, either too tight or too loose, but I did find a great swimsuit brand that seems to fit better than all the rest – Carve Designs. I bought a great tankini top in a fun pattern and comfortable cut on sale, which I have been living in all summer. I only wish Carve Designs were more widely available in retail stores so I could add to my collection. Meanwhile, I will have to continue to ogle their online offerings – which are a bit cumbersome to browse, but for well-fitting tops and bottoms, it may be worth the effort (and they offer a reasonable return policy).

Patagonia shortie boardie

Shorter and sweet - Patagonia's Shortie Boardie is another option for extra coverage in the water

Incidentally, after falling in love with the Patagonia swim shorts, I went by the store to see if I could pick up another color. They sent me two different pairs in the same size which fit as though they were a size smaller – a good reminder that even a high-quality clothing manufacturer like Patagonia has to contend with inconsistencies in production.  This year, I sprang for a shorter, patterned swim short which I was terrified would be too short, but ended up being surprisingly flattering as well: TheShortie Boardie.

I even sprang for a matching bikini (I recommend wearing bikini bottoms under swim shorts for comfort and modesty).

Patagonia's Kupala top

The Kupala top stays put thanks to adjustable ties that cross in the back.

Patagonia Sunamee Bottoms

Judging by the fact that more swim shorts are in the stores than ever before, it seems that I’m not the only woman (mother or not) who appreciates the benefits of swim shorts.

Now, when I’m putting on my swim clothes, I refuse to curse the figure flaws of my post-baby self.  Yes, I still tend to suck in my tummy when I look in the mirror, but only for  a second – then I get on with my day, and have fun in the pool with my kids. My bathing suit stands up to two active kids hanging on me in the pool, but years from now, we won’t remember what I was wearing – we’ll remember the carefree, bright and easy feeling of summer.

Flip Flop Fantastic

29 Jun

Flip flops, how I love thee- let me count the ways…

1) You slide on my feet without complaint

2) You don’t trap sand and wood chips from the playground

3) You look cute with anything, from pants to skirts

4) You feel good on my feet all day long, even in the hottest weather

5) You don’t mind getting wet

6) You’re affordable, so I can have a polygamous love affair with several of you

Nothing says “summer” on your feet quite like flip flops – they take me from the grocery store to watering flowers in the garden without a hiccup. I never have to think about matching with an outfit – the right flip flops will go with everything.

After a year of test-driving, here are my motherhood-compatible favorites:

Teva Mandalyn Ola Wedge

Teva Mandalyn Ola Wedge: why buy just one pair when a two-pack sells for $56?

The Teva Mandalyn Wedge Ola, which looks dressy (for a flip flop) thanks to the higher heel and thin, decorative straps, but does not compromise walkability and comfort. It hugs my foot with two straps on either side, and the footbed is cushy. It costs about $30 a pair (you can even buy them in 2-packs for $56 at Zappos with free shipping!) They come in many cute color combinations, but I forced myself to stop at two – the basic black and the brown – and between them, I have just about every outfit covered.

Mandalyn Wedge Side View

The heel on the Mandalyn Wedge strikes the perfect balance between style and comfort

Note that Teva also makes a Mandalyn flip flop with a standard heel, but if the product name doesn’t say “wedge” then the heel is flat. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two if viewed from above.

Speedo Womens Pool Thong

The Speedo Womens Pool Thong for poolside and beyond

The Speedo swim flip flop, the all-plastic & foam materials are highly water compatible but super cushy. It’s intended to be worn after getting out the pool but I find myself slipping it on to wear around the house (or in the garden when the hose comes on) because the straps and footbed cradle my foot in a lightweight pillow of foamy comfort.

Havaianas silver flip flop

The hip and ubiquitous Havaianas flip flop from Brazil - catchy, but worth $30?

It’s hard to miss the latest trend in flip flops, the Havaianas brand flip flop from Brazil. They’re on shoe racks and young feet everywhere. I can’t help but wonder how this company somehow manages to charge $30 for a pair of plastic flip flops that otherwise costs $5 at Old Navy. Is it pure cachet associated with the brand prominently displayed across the strap?  Its devotees swear they are the most comfortable flip flop in existence. I remain skeptical but must admit, after visiting their web site, the huge range of color options does appeal to me – as does the understated styling.  If there’s a color combination you can’t seem to find in the stores, you can even make your own and have it sent to you!

The Havaianas espadrille for $38 might well be my next shoe purchase.

One other style that caught my eye on Havaianas web store was their espadrilles for $38- they have taken the traditional cloth shoe upper and sewn it on their foam sole.  Sounds like a pretty cushy ride. Since I have otherwise not been able to find an espadrille under $80 (which I find to be an obscene price for a shoe made of straw and cloth), I might end up springing for a pair of these to wear in a summery color like red or aqua blue.

However, it’s going to be hard to resist ordering a pair of flip flops for my daughter, who adores them almost as much as I do. The heel strap on the “baby” styles makes the shoe more compatible with the littlest walkers. These shoes are yet another reason why it’s often more fun to shop for my kids than for myself. I wouldn’t choose a gold flip flop for myself, but somehow, I know my 2 year old daughter could pull these off with style points to spare.

Havaianas baby flip flop

Havaianas Baby flip flop in Butterfly

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