Tag Archives: shopping triumph

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.)

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.

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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