Sunday, November 27, 2011

Give 'Em A Chance...

So, did you survive Black Friday?  I sure hope so.  Whether you braved the crowds at midnight, shopped from the comfort of home, or avoided it altogether (like I did), at least that ueber-anticipated day is now over.  Of course, Cyber Monday is peeking around the corner.  But at least that specializes in online deals, thus diminishing your chances of being pepper-sprayed, shoved and trampled on at the actual stores.  Yes, seriously, someone got all nutty and whipped out the pepper spray on their fellow shoppers.  Thanks, I've been maced once already in my life, so I'll pass on another opportunity...

The Christmas shopping frenzy is indeed in full swing.  And, just like the uptick in decorations, online shopping deals, and TV ads for more deals, the catalogs are coming fast and furious in my mailbox.  Now, probably like you, I've got my favorites.  I love getting all my J. Crew, Nordstrom, CB2 and Anthropologie issues.  And I'll page through what Sundance, Garnet Hill and West Elm send me.  Additionally, I'll mutter "WTH" as I look at the Serena & Lily, Land of Nod and other children's catalogs that the mailperson delivered (we don't have kids, not even pets).  But there are those few issues, just as carefully designed, photographed and copywritten, that ultimately go straight to the recycling bag. They include Frontgate, Eddie Bauer and others whose names I can't even recall.  Here's my question:

Is that fair?

I mean, I don't even give them the chance to show me they might have something cute or relevant for me and my wallet.  Passing them off automatically with phrases like, "Mom jeans," "Pleated pants," and "This is for old people" whistling by in my head, I chuck them unceremoniously into the brown bag.

As someone who spends way too much time immersed in retail offerings, and then reports on tidbits to you, it seems kind of mean to just deem certain brands and stores as unworthy, right?  Or does my automatic "Keep" and "Toss" mentality keep me from total overload?

Example...  the latest Eddie Bauer catalog is lying on my table, staring up at me.  Now, I don't hate them, I just haven't shopped there since, well, 1995?  And that was for my dad.  My first instinct was to toss.  Then I stopped and made myself flip through a few pages.  Yeah, they still offer their pleated pants and loafers, but there was some stuff in there I'd consider buying.  Like this:

It looks like something J. Crew could just as well offer during the winter months.

And this caught my eye as well.  I snapped this from the catalog since the online image cuts off the outfit:

Again, I could have mistaken this for a Banana Republic ad or even something that would appear in one of Nordstrom's glossy pages.  Plus, it's super cute.

While they are more conservative pieces, these sweaters and skirts do remind me to give other brands a shot.  It's too easy to simply lump stores into categories in my mind.  But I would do well to give these retailers, with whom I normally don't shop, a fleeting chance.  Even if I don't find items to my own liking, these catalogs may help me complete my Christmas shopping for others.

Do you page through whatever arrives in your mailbox?  Or have you also adopted the Yes/Maybe/No pile strategy that I usually employ?  And what is your favorite holiday issue?  Neiman Marcus puts out an impressive Christmas gift guide.  I've always loved J. Crew's holiday issue.  How about you?

Well, I need to get back to the stack of catalogs that is now something like a foot high.  Ranging from Sephora to Design Within Reach to Athleta, I'm hoping their pages might assist me with the last gifts on my list.  

Happy shopping!

Images:  Eddie Bauer (online & print)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You


In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday which we are celebrating here in the USA today, I simply want to say "Thank You!" to all of you who have read my blog over the past 14 months.  I hope you find my ramblings interesting, funny and informative.  It's both humbling and encouraging whenever people tell me how much they enjoy reading my brain dumps :)  I love writing and sharing my finds (and thoughts) with you, and I hope you come away coveting a new shoe, discovering a new brand, or just having a chuckle at my musings.

And, guess what?  I will *not* be partaking in the madness known as Black Friday here in the States.  Shocking, I know, but you won't find me standing in line outside any store tonight because I'll be toddling off to bed shortly.  Why?  'Cause yours truly will be at work tomorrow.  Cry not!  I don't think I can handle retail insanity on that crazy a level.  And my wallet is already thanking me.

But...  what about you?  Are you already camped outside Best Buy, Target or that other store which shall remain unnamed?  (Yeah, starts with a "W").  A friend of mine from college works for the Mall of America, and she posted tonight that she had to be at work by 9PM to prep for whatever chaos is about to ensue there.  Not envying her right now.  Not at all.

Maybe you, however, thrive on the rush of Black Friday?  Thrill at the stamina, gameplan, focus and sheer will to survive the stampede?  Got war stories from BF's of years past?  Have an item that you (or someone in your family) needs badly enough that you're willing to give up sleep (and heat) to hold the prize in your hand at dawn?

Since today's all about sharing and caring, I'd love for you to share your Black Friday story or must-have item with me.  Or, if you're outside the US, tell me whether your city/country has a similar day dedicated to Extreme Shopping.

In the meantime, I want to say thanks once more.  For my family and friends, including my 94 year-old grandma whom I got to see today (she'll get her own post on here for her fashion sense).  For an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, where I stuffed myself silly on turkey, sweet potatoes, green bean bake and so much more.  For Shopbop, Nordstrom and lots of great independent boutiques and designers.  And for you guys :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Clothes? What clothes?

With all the retailing stuff that I get, whether via email or catalogs, it's not unusual for me to sometimes like the setting better than whatever the model is wearing.  Sometimes I like the furniture, other times it might be the whole room arrangement.  Maybe this is because I'm an architect and design buff, but I suspect that's a stupid assumption.  I'm sure many people can appreciate the decor without having gone through the torture of art/architecture/design school.  I hear life is peachy for you first years in the JD program ;)

Regardless of your college studies, I'm sure we can agree that the backdrop matters as much as the pantsuit, stilettos or to-the-floor sequin dress on display.  Anthropologie seems to favor that disheveled European hamlet world, while Macy's prefers sleek office buildings.  J. Crew was on a kick awhile back with the California mid-century mod home, which I've since seen popping up in other places.  They also did an issue set in a large train station, and it made me want those pencil skirts and cardigans *that much more.*  Thanks to carefully filtered light and color choices, the scene sets the mood of the clothes, and I want to step into that space and have a look around.

Or, sometimes I just want to steal a chair.  Pass on the pleather-ish yellow pants, though.

The above ad, sent out by retailer Singer 22, is showing off an outfit that reminds me of Ronald McDonald (and now makes me shudder at the thought of the recent re-launch of the McRib...).  However, I enjoy the hazy lighting and definitely like this chair/couch thing.

Shopbop is showing off a cute little number on the gal, but I'd much rather buy that big, comfy couch. In yellow.

Here's another photo from Shopbop.  Yes, it's nice that the clean, sleek lines of the color-blocked outfit harken back to the mid-century mod look of the room.  Someone tell her she's off the clock and can go right home.  I want to move in and throw a dinner party in there.  Now.

And here's an image from the aforementioned J. Crew catalog issue:

This is the Kaufmann House, for you design enthusiasts, designed by architect Richard Neutra.  Again, I want to kick out the models (I might swipe her dress, though) and move in.  And, of course, throw a dinner party.  Or maybe a pool party, as there's a pool lurking in the dark to the left of the house.

I found the photo attached to an interesting blurb in Metropolis magazine's online archives; the writer talks about architecture "selling out" to, uh, sell products to the masses (it also drops the whole "cool music getting commercialized" conversation on the plate).  If you're so inclined, give it a read, and I'll follow up next time with some thoughts on the topic.

#1 - Singer 22
#2 & #3 - Shopbop
#4 - Metropolis Magazine online

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

FABulous Finds

So, you're telling me those dresses the length of a dress shirt aren't doin' it for ya, eh?  Fretting more about the perfect gift instead of the perfectly hoochified frock?  Please allow me to help replace images of the "Oops, I Forgot My Pants" girlie with something less sketchy.  Thank you,!  I've mentioned this flash-sale site before.  Yep, it's a members-only deal, but I believe you can sign up to get on the wait-list for a spot.  Once granted the golden ticket, you can push through the virtual gates into a land of all sorts of treasures.  Though I suspect the site caters to those steeped in mid-century modern, indie rock bands, letterpress and ironic mustaches, the array of items should appeal to anyone.

This week, Fab offered a lot of tempting treats, starting with some gorgeous jewelry by Michelle Chang:

The very fantastic Mr. Fox:

This was my favorite of her collection:

Sticking with the creatures theme but wandering over to a different medium.  Go, Speed Racer!

Oh, these would be great fun to pin on my coworkers...

Into retro typewriters?  Feast your eyes on these refurbished beauties, distributed by Kasbah Mod.  The first one is adorned with artist Takashi Murakami's sunny characters (via artist Luis "Zimad" Lamboy, I guess**).  I'd buy it for the panda alone:

For the purist:

This one looks suspiciously like my old friend from high school (yeah, I also used to gab to my friends on something called a rotary phone...  which had a nice curly, cord):

Such a dreamy print, taken from the cover of a Conde Nast fashion book, the name of which I can't retrieve as the link seems to be, um, broken:

And...  for the person on your list who has everything...

Because who doesn't love Dolly?  This particular version was created by Kii Arens.

As Christmas begins to creep ever closer, we'll be inundated with every retailer throwing their own gifting ideas at us from all sides.  Like a relentless game of commercial dodgeball, you'll get pelted with images of the latest electronic gizmos, fur coats, precious ornaments, and bling, bling, BLING!  And I'm not even going to bring up all that stuff marketed for kids.  (One of the highlights at work is the annual trotting out of children's toys.  I swear, by the time I've left that meeting, I've got visions of remote-control dinosaurs, Barbie's, plastic rocket-launchers and whatnot dancing in my head for a good week - and I don't even have kids.).

Is there something on your wishlist that you're hoping Santa will leave under the tree?  An iPhone 4S, perhaps?  Or something in a blue box (aka Tiffany's)?  Or maybe just tickets to the year's hottest concert?  Do tell.  And I'll be sure to put in a good word for you with the man in the red suit.

**Nitpicker's note on this one:  while it appears that Lamboy is channeling Murakami, I wish Fab would credit the original source instead of simply mentioning Lamboy.  The actual characters are Murakami's, and props should be given accordingly.  OK, I'm done venting.

Photo credits:  all via

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just Sayin': The Holiday Version

With Halloween over and Daylight Savings Time now enacted, everything associated with the material/consumer-driven aspect of Christmas is in full swing.  Stores are already displaying tree trimmings, and my friends on Facebook swear they're hearing holiday music seeping into the playlists.

Naturally, retailers aren't lagging behind in the race.  Neiman Marcus sent me an email this week showing me options for those fabulous holiday bashes.  That is, if you're lucky enough to even get invited to one this year.  The last snazzy Christmas party I got to attend was nearly a decade ago.

In any event, if you do find yourself in the enviable position of wondering what to wear to said party, Neiman Marcus thinks it's got the perfect dress for you:

They call it a dress.  I say, "Oops, you forgot your pants, missy."

Because...  really?  You're calling that a dress?  You're telling ladies to wear that to a party - where you might be with coworkers, relatives and who knows who else - and not wear anything underneath that? You think she's going to attract people when she's standing around, waving a martini glass in the air; just wait til that chick sits down.  Now *there's* a party for you.

Again, I'm sure some of you are saying, "Sheesh, you're old and boring.  I'd wear that in a minute."  And others will agree that "Oops, I forgot my pants" is not attractive nor something they'll be wearing to their next party - or anywhere else.  Hey, I like miniskirts and short-ish dresses.  And if they make regular appearances at clubs and ladies' night outings, fine.  But it's a joke to qualify this number as a dress, and one appropriate for the office Christmas bash at that.

What's your opinion?  And what if your friend/sister-in-law/coworker were to show up sporting this look at a holiday party?  Would you do a silent "OMGWTH" while telling her how cute she looks?  Pull her aside and warn her to take it easy on the spiked eggnog tonight?  Advise her to not sit down, even if she sprains an ankle in those Brian Atwood heels?

Well, now that I've left you with that curious predicament, I'm going to see how long I can last before caving and sneaking in another trip to Target.  'Cause, you know, I'm almost out of paper towels and, um...  um...

Photo:  Neiman Marcus

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Memory and Matching

Remember my earlier post about my trip to Nordstrom?  The one where I listened to some tween getting a can opened up on her by her tough-loving aunt?  Yes, that one!  You might also recall I picked up a pair of red skinny jeans, which the salesgirl immediately paired with a white shirt and black tank top.  The jeans fit weird, the top was too blousy, and the ensemble pretty much failed.  I walked out empty-handed (but with an earful of memorable quotes).

Well, the outfit the salesgal assembled for me must've stuck in the back of my brain.  A couple weeks ago, my shopping partner-in-crime and I spent an evening at one of the local, upscale malls.  Even though we stopped into a number of stores and tried on quite a few cute things, we walked out with only two purchases each (hey, that is impressive by our standards).  One of the winners?  Lo and behold...  red skinny jeans.  However, these didn't come from the teen department.  Rather, from a trendy store that caters to, um, old people (you didn't consider anyone over 30 to be "old" when you were fifteen?  Boy, I sure did.).  The jeans, made by J Brand, were so darn cute that my friend also got the same pair.  OMG, look!  We match!  Isn't that adorbs?   OK, we didn't really say that.  

Now then, if you and your pal are going to buy the exact same thing, it's only logical that you decide to wear them out one night - together!  What did I pair the lucky jeans with?  Coming back to the teen department trip, I grabbed a black shrug and also a black and white jumper dress (the brand of which will remain un-named ;) - voila!  While I'd like to say the pairing came from natural stylish instinct, I honestly probably recalled the salesgirl's own fashionable decisions back in that Nordstrom dressing room.

Regardless of who gets the credit, it makes for a cute outfit.  And the jeans got twice the love.  Here are some snaps...

Ahh, yes, the Nordstrom visit:

Ensemble grade:  M for Meh.

The J Brand pair my friend and I were pleasantly surprised with:

And - voici! - red jeans times two, plus the black and white top theme:

Have you and a friend ever ended up buying the same thing?  Did you wear them on the same day to the same place - but not on purpose?  :)  Do tell!

In closing, enjoy (at my teen expense) a great flashback example of the above question:  my junior year in high school, I was lucky enough to receive a leather jacket for Christmas from the Gap that I later christened "Sea World" because, um, it smelled like...  Sea World?  Man, I was so proud to wear it to Ms. Corbett's Algebra II class...  until Joe, the dude who sat next to me, plopped into his seat wearing *the same dang jacket*!  Unplanned and kind of embarrassing, probably more for him than me.  I think my parents still have that poor jacket, crammed in some hidden closet.

You know, I'll bet Sea World would go swimmingly well with those J Brands.

Images:  all my own except the J Brand photo (Shopbop)