Tag Archives: shopping online

Thanks for the memories

8 Dec

Now that the weather is cold, and a t-shirt just doesn’t cut it anymore, I find myself wearing a hoodie all the time. I love hoodies – maybe a little too much. Believe it or not, I still wear an item that I’ve had since high school: a sorry-looking, saggy-baggy maroon hoodie.  I bought it used at Goodwill – or maybe picked it up on sale at a sporting goods store.  It never looked great back then, but now it’s stretched out, frayed at the wrists, and has a dime-size hole in the kangaroo pocket. Still, there is something so comforting about putting it on – welcoming and familiar- and provides a nice layer of warmth without being confining. It’s the closest I get to wearing a blanket without actually wearing a blanket.

During my senior year of high school, I wore this hoodie to an interview for a scholarship at UCLA. A few weeks later, I got the call from the man who interviewed me, saying that I got the scholarship – but “please, wear something more respectable next time you go to an interview.” Fair enough. Yet here I am, almost twenty years later, and I still love wearing the hoodie. Even though it looks like hell, I didn’t even consider ditching it during my last closet purge.

For momming around, the hoodie is hard to beat. It’s comfortable, washable, easy to tie around my waist at the playground, and zips down when chasing after my 2-year old has me breaking out in a sweat. It’s repelled almost every stain imaginable. There is always something I need to stow in a pocket, whether it’s my cell phone or my child’s most recently discovered “treasure”.

But wait, aren’t I blogging about upgrading my look? Maybe the maroon hoodie needs to be retired. Yet the thought of going without it makes me feel like someone has just told me that I need to give up chocolate. (My husband actually tried that a few years ago when we were trying to eat more healthy, and I think the look I shot him pretty much ended that conversation.) I need to find something that has the coziness and utility of my maroon hoodie, but doesn’t look like it just got picked up off a dorm room floor.

Past efforts to replace or upgrade the hoodie have failed – I have tried, and abandoned, at least 5 other hoodies because they started feeling too tight, too short, or too hard to care for.  It’s time to expand my fashion universe. Luckily, there are some nice options out there right now.  Unless you are in the haze of raising a baby or have been living on a similar far away planet, you have probably noticed the trend to wear long sweaters that drape open in front, often made of a thick cable knit. Sometimes they’re worn belted, but mostly they hang loose – kind of like wearing a blanket.  (Hmmm. I think I’m on to something.)

After my recent failures with shopping at Amazon for clothes, I am reluctant to try online shopping again. Then, my favorite catalog company, Boden, sends me an offer for “buy 2 items, get the third for $1”. Boden is based in the UK, and I appreciate their sense of humor, which is evident in their kids’ clothes which are cute and fun and well-made. I haven’t really ventured into the adult clothes much, but like most of us, I am tempted by the feeling of getting a deal. I decide to spend some time on their web site (Bodenusa.com). Three clicks later, I am in the knitwear section.

Usually, I am not a big fan of shopping for sweaters. Just the sight of all that wool makes me feel hot and itchy. After all, how cold does it ever really get in the Bay Area? However, this open, relaxed style of sweater has fitted short sleeves, and is loose and drapey off the waist – cozy, but not bulky. The fine print reads it’s machine washable, despite being a wool blend. Enticed by the sale, I order the two sweaters below (plus a silk dress which was so unflattering, I won’t bother discussing it any further here).

This cardigan is flattering, kid-friendly, and fun to wear - a winner!

I consider myself an optimist, so I will call this online shopping adventure a moderate success. I love the drapey cardigan – it’s warm and comfortable, and though I have not tried to wash it yet, the label says it can be machine-washed on delicate and hung to dry.  More importantly, I love the look- it’s stylish but still low-key, and goes with just about anything.  Even though I am wearing  jeans and boots from more than three years ago, I still look very current.  The cut is flattering – it follows the shape of my shoulders and arms, and drapes to mid-thigh with an overall long and pleasing line. It falls open in a way to add interest around the neckline without appearing fussy. In short, it’s fun to wear, and kid-compatible – my definition of success!

boden chic sweater

The drape of this sweater is a little relaxed for me, and the tie won't stay tied.

The second sweater, which ties at the waist, is a less exiciting cut, also a bit too thin to hold its shape. The rear likes to ride up over my bum and hang out there. Also, the tie is made of slippery satin trim and does not want to stay tied, which I find irritating. I already have plenty of moments when I feel like I am coming undone from drama with the kids; it doesn’t help for my sweater to *actually* come undone too.

Still, the color is nice and it provides lightweight warmth, and so I decide to keep it – I tell myself it will be a useful layering piece into next spring. Only time will tell if I just talked myself into keeping a dud.

I wish I could say that I finally found a sweater to replace my hoodie – but no such luck. It’s really hard to dethrone the hoodie that is the wardrobe equivalent of my security blanket. As any mother knows, it’s not easy to part with your lovie, even when it’s high time to do so. I’m unwilling to let it go. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my carefree teenage years, or maybe of my father, who died earlier this year and whom I still miss dearly. (I haven’t looked through my high school photos in many years, but if I did, I am sure I would find a few photos of me standing next to my father wearing that hoodie.)

I’ll take that one up with my shrink. Meanwhile, I am shopping for more drapey, open-in-front sweaters.  Shouldn’t be too hard to find – I see a lot of other women, including moms, wearing them.  (Send me a link if you have seen a good one online – otherwise maybe I’ll see you in a few weeks in the real world, shopping the after-Christmas sales.)

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I can’t believe it, but I’m wearing…Mommy Jeans

19 Nov

I am looking at myself in the mirror of my bedroom, wearing jeans with a tummy panel. You might be asking, what is a tummy panel? I am asking myself, how did it come to this?

Here’s how it started. As you know there is still a shortage of well-fitting jeans in my closet. Paradoxically, even though my waistline has permanently expanded, most of my jeans are still loose in the waist, and sit low-slung on the hips. We all know what low-fitting jeans mean on the playground – too much is revealed when lifting children up on the play structure or bending over.  I wear a camisole on top almost every day for more coverage, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that I am just one step away from a wardrobe malfunction.

So my search for jeans continues. I challenge myself to find a pair of jeans that fits well off the rack, without alterations. On my last trip to Bloomingdale’s, I came across the brand “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans”. At the time, I passed up because I didn’t want to believe I was a really candidate for Mommy Jeans.  Now that it’s to revisit that prejudice. Turns out, “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” cost a pretty penny – well over $100.  So I decide to conduct a broader search from the comfort of my own computer.

I am a fan of online shopping, simply because it’s available when I can’t get to a real store. Of course, it’s no substitute for touching and trying on real clothes. But I don’t want to wait until the next time I get a couple of free hours to browse the mall by myself.  (And I have written off clothes shopping with kids – my last mall outing lasted about 45 minutes and ended with my daughter arching her back and saying she “wanna get out, wanna get out” of the stroller after she finished the cookie I bought her.)

So after the kids are tucked away in bed one night, I log on to Amazon, where a search for “flattering jeans” turns up several options including a brand called “Miraclebody”. I am instantly skeptical of anything promising miracles.  The whole idea of “making over” your body with clothes feels a little desparate. Still, the online reviews are good, and they meet my target price range (I find a pair on sale for under $100 – no tax and free shipping) so I decide to give them a try.

I bought this pair of Miraclebody "mommy jeans" on Amazon.

In the world of online shopping, you buy first, and ask questions later. Since I expect there’s a good chance I will be sending them back, I go ahead and order a few other pairs that come up – including the Levi’s 512 “instantly slimming jeans” (with no tummy panel).  The box arrives about a week later, but sits unopened for many days. After all, trying on jeans with a tummy panel is kind of a buzz kill. I can’t decide if I want to like them, or or just send them back on principle. Finally, I put them on. The “tummy panel” is just an extra layer of elastic fabric sewn inside the front of the pants, but it’s completely invisible from outside. It makes me think of the bands you can wear in pregnancy to hold up your belly. I’m pretty sure I’m fine line away from wearing a girdle.

I ask my husband’s opinion about the jeans.  (I don’t mention the tummy panel.)  “Which ones do you think look better?” I ask as I model them one after the other. He glances over and shrugs, saying they both look the same. It’s true, it’s hard to tell the difference between them – same dark wash, same fit – high waist, fitted in the hips and thigh and a straight leg. “Which ones feel better?” He asks.  I must admit, it’s the Miraclebody.  They are made of thick but soft fabric with enough stretch to hug my curves. They easily cover the midsection, and I can comfortably sit and bend. However, since the Levi’s 512’s are half the price, I also decide to keep a pair in capri length (good for summer).

Now comes the most annoying part of online shopping – sending stuff back. Amazon tries to make it really easy – it’s a completely self-service process, no questions asked. Still, I need to wrap up the unwanted jeans in their original package, print a form, tape up the package, and get to the post office. Just one more thing to put on my to-do list. The rejected pants sit in a pile on my closet floor for a few days, until I finally get tired of stepping over them.  It takes me a while to find packaging tape, but after that the process is pretty straightforward – the online portion only requires logging in, clicking on the stuff I am returning, and printing a label. That part is easy because my computer is connected to a printer, but I imagine anyone who does not have a printer at home would be very annoyed that return labels aren’t already included in the package.

Then the package rolls around the trunk of my car for a week or two, until I finally make the time to stop in the post office. I would love to drop it in the blue mail box on the corner, but it’s against anti-terrorist regulations. Since 9/11, you must bring packages weighing over 13 oz to a post office in person. (Seriously, why 13 oz? Is that how much the package weighed that had the suspected Anthrax in it a few years ago?) One time, I ignored this silly rule and dropped the package in there anyway, my postal carrier returned it in person,  sternly pointing out out that I had broken postal regulations. It made me wish that Amazon shipped via UPS – a company which has no problem with packages being left in any drop box, regardless of weight.

Is there anyone that likes going into the post office? Parking is inconvenient and it has the efficiency and cheerfulness of – well – a government bureaucracy. At least I have a time-saving tip up my sleeve: if your package is already stamped or pre-paid, like mine is,  you can skip the line! I learned this from a postal employee after standing in line for 20 minutes with a prepaid box under my arm. The lady that helped me said, “You didn’t have to stand in line for this – next time just walk up and hand it to anyone at the counter.”   So that’s exactly what I do.  I ignore the dirty looks of the people waiting in line who wonder what am I getting away with.

As for the mommy jeans now hanging in my closet, well, I am still ambivalent about them. They fit great, and so far they are holding up well. Still, there is something depressing about wearing jeans with a tummy panel. It’s not quite like wearing adult diapers, but there is that same feeling of geriatric un-sexiness. The high waist is functional, but it also starts to feel bulky when I’m sitting down. Also, I don’t like the stitching on the rear pockets – I think the curvy pattern only enlarges (rather than minimizes) the view from the rear.

A view of the tummy panel inside the Miraclebody jeans.

Probably the more exciting discovery here is the Levi’s 512’s. They have already earned a few compliments from other moms – feel great – and for $40, it’s a pair I’d buy again as a basic, sturdy and comfortable playground jean.

These levi's were a great find for summer. (Don't know too many moms wearing capris with 5 inch platform sandals though...)

The more I shop Amazon, the more I like it – they sell diapers, obscure cell batteries for toys, and of course books, electronics, bedding, and just about any other shopping category you can think of.  Now that I have shelled out $80 for a year’s worth of free 2-day shipping, I shop there more than ever – for my household and for birthday presents to send out of town.  When it comes to shopping for clothes, though, Amazon’s biggest problem may well be its wealth of options; it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and after a while it’s hard to tell one pair from another. In the store, I’d try on ten pairs of pants and come away with one; online, that’s just not feasible. There are only so many mommy jeans that I am willing to try (and return) before I throw up my hands and just go back to trying on jeans at the mall.  At least at the mall, even if I strike out with trying on clothes, I can at least pick up some french bread or a new lip gloss as a consolation prize. When I strike out online, all I am left with is one more trip to the post office.

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