I've finally dipped a toe into the online sample sale world--via, surprisingly, Amazon's MyHabit. I chose it because it satisfies two of my strict online-shopping requirements: free shipping and free returns (whether in-store or online). Although MyHabit returns are store-credit only, they do pay for return shipping as well as initial shipping--and reputedly pretty fast!--plus, unlike every other sample sale site, the store credit is usable at all of Amazon's websites. Amazon.com has everything, so the store credit returns aren't a deal-breaker.

Haven't bought anything yet, but it's been fun to browse knowing that I might actually buy... if I have to pay for shipping, I'll usually talk myself out of it first.

Via Kendi Everyday, The Concrete Catwalk is hosting a scarf swap! You don't need to be a blogger to participate, and the deadline is this Sunday, June 19th, at noon (in unspecified time zone, so I suggest June 18th).

Basically, you have until the end of June to acquire a cute, summery scarf for <$10 and mail it to your matched recipient. And of course, you'll receive a scarf in return! I love the fact that this swap is open to non-bloggers, too. Now, go forth and swap scarfs!
On an old but popular post about creating a minimalist closet, Elaine from I'm clothed much mentions a wonderful tip--itself snagged from Alex of Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks--for reflective sale shopping.

If you like something, set a price you'd be willing to pay (Me: without looking at the tag first). If it is more than what you think it is worth, don't buy it.

I loved this rule as soon as I read it, and I realized that this is something I've already started to do. The no-cheating addition by Elaine is important! I have varying price tolerances for different items as well as different levels of love (maybe I'll break it down someday in a blog post!), but you are free to set your own boundaries and I encourage you to keep them flexible. I never thought I would even consider spending $40 on a belt, but I fell in love with Anthro's Snapdragon Belt at full price and it has the potential to be very versatile in my wardrobe, since I haven't yet collected a bunch of cheap and unloved belts. (If only that were the case with purses. Ugh.)

It's kind of like playing The Price is Right, except that you always win! If the item is more expensive than you think it's worth, or can afford, then walk away and know that there will always be something else to fall in love with.

This is why I love Anthro's return policy... I didn't realize the impracticality of my love for the Eyeleted Corset Top until I fell in love with a Fossil bag. Which doesn't have a top zipper, so I might end up passing on it after all. I am really taking to heart Already Pretty's tips on handbag shopping, or at least the first point about analyzing usage patterns. Topic for an upcoming post: my ideal handbag (for the next three years).
One trick I've found that works pretty well with clothes is to compare with Anthropologie: would I rather pass on this $30 trendy sundress and put it toward an $80 sale Anthro dress, or a $30 top at first cut? Usually, YES. I already have plenty of cheap sundresses in my closet, and I love the quirky, quality aesthetic of Anthro pieces. I don't see a ton of Anthro at my college, either, although I might just be hanging with the wrong crowd.

The challenge is only buying Anthro pieces that are appropriate for my lifestyle. For example, I adore the Overwhelmed Aster Dress, but the poofy crinoline makes it only appropriate for parties. I have way too many semi-formal dresses already in my closet. I keep going back and forth on the Verdant Slip Dress, which will certainly not make sale and comes in my favorite seafoam green color... I think it's a pass, pending try-on for amazing fit. The straight slip cut will fit but not flatter me, and I'm tired of dresses that require a strapless bra. (My strapless is far from my most flattering push-up, and it tends to slip down throughout the day.) The Eyeleted Corset Top is work-appropriate with a cardigan, but the colors are all brand-new to my wardrobe so I'd need to buy MORE pieces (like the lovely Anadyomene/Seashell Cardigan that the Anthro SA brought me to try on with the top) in order to make it work.

Recently, I've been thinking and comparing to the Anthro skirts that I ordered from the tag sale. $30 for an Anthro skirt or $30 for a sundress from Kohls (or H&M or F21)? I have a few H&M pieces that I love and are well-made, but in general, the quality difference is obvious. I also need to stay away from stores with a style that doesn't fit me and/or high prices for the quality: i.e. Express (except for their jeans, which I love), Forever 21, Urban Outfitters (returned a cardigan once for ridiculous stretching in the sleeves after just one wear), and others. Aeropostale clothes too, nowadays, though they still have good basics and I may pick up another sturdy fabric tote on sale. I can never resist wandering through F21 and UO, even though the clothes are always way too short and too tight at the waist. I've found that my "trend" price point is somewhere around $10-15, such as for a maxi dress; that means I'm limited to H&M and F21, which is fine. It will be a fun hunt!

Shoes are also on my purge-and-invest list. I've been searching forever for a pair of mid-heel black leather pumps. Being a size 5 makes it more difficult than usual. I have a ton of shoes stored away in boxes, but only wear the ones that are out on the floor at a given time. For Prom, I bought a pair of 4-inch silver heels, which I wore only once more at a photo shoot. However, the shoes look smashing in those photos, so they were worth it despite being horribly uncomfortable. Everyone needs one pair of impractical high heels.

Random sidebar: I can never remember the brands of my shoes. Clothes and bags are easy, most of my jewelry is non-branded, I don't own enough belts to make it difficult... but shoes, packed away in boxes, and in the downstairs coat closet instead of my own? They're tough. For example, I think those 4-inch heels were by Chinese Laundry because of the gorgeous box, but I'm not really sure.

There are pros to spending so much time "shopping" and not that much time spending money. Better for my bank account, of course. But it has also given me good perspective benchmarks by which to judge value.

My Citizen Eco-Drive watch, stainless-steel (my skin reacts easily to copper, even in base metal mixes) and diamond accents--approximately $325, though a graduation/birthday gift. I wear it every day, as I did my previous watch, a Relic fashion piece with great design and, after 4 years, a corroded metal strap. By the way, did you know it's ridiculously difficult to find a stainless-steel, 12-point, yet DELICATE women's watch? Many of the girly/pretty watches are made from base metal, and most of them lack a mark for every hour on the face. I use my watch to actually tell time, so the 12-point face was non-negotiable.

As an early birthday present to myself, having a bit of unexpected discretionary funds on hand because my college social life is cheap (as are my friends), I splurged on a Trollbeads bracelet and bead for $100 total. It was a nice promotion--buy a lock (clasp), get a free bracelet--and even though it's an empty charm bracelet, it looks very classy with one silver bead and layered with my watch. The chain is European handmade and flexes beautifully. I have room to expand my investment with interchangable beads, and by purchasing at a local boutique, I'm supporting indie AND I get free chain polishing and size exchanges. In fact, I plan to exchange my chain for the next size down, now that I've gotten the hang of putting it on, because I prefer bracelets to fit closely.

These are the investment pieces that I actually wear and use. I have a ton of other jewelry, most of it gifted (and good quality, usually sterling silver and semi-precious or precious stones), which rarely gets worn. I need to figure out a way to fix that problem, because I often feel like I don't have the right accessories, but buying more jewelry is NOT the solution.

Similarly, I'm in the market for an investment handbag. I have a baby blue patent leather Coach handbag, another graduation/birthday present, purchased from the outlet for just under $100. It's beautiful, but aside from my stay in China last summer where name brands were the norm among my company, I feel overdressed carrying it at school. The size is a classic handbag size, two short handles with a convertible cross-body strap; it isn't really big enough for me, but I adore the long strap.

I have been eyeing the Fossil Lola Patchwork Convertible Large Hobo, which of course is a new arrival. I would buy the plain teal version, too, but patchwork is more fun and just $10 more. Of course this style is brand new and won't be going on sale for a while. It costs $180, more than I really want to pay, though I can afford it. I'm not totally in love with this particular style, just the idea of a huge leather hobo with cross-body strap. There's a Fossil outlet store in Lancaster that I hope to visit soon, and Macy's seems to carry a wide variety of styles for try-on.

Images for my own reference )

With bags, I tend to use the same bag all the time for a few months, until I get sick of it or the season changes (making a floral fabric bag inappropriate in winter, for example) or it wears out (my beloved Lucky Brand bucket cross-body purse, whose canvas is worn rubbing against my backpack all year). I need to purge the bags that are worn out--like my Aeropostale tote that I brought with me to Canada, which has faded from daring hot pink to just plain pink. I can attest to the surprisingly good quality of Aero totes, though; I've put this one through a LOT and none of the stitching has come undone. The canvas is better than that of my Lucky bag, although that bag's leather trim has held up well through rain and even more rubbing against my backpack.

I'm hoping to buy a Fossil or Fossil-like leather tote bag that I can use as both purse and light backpack for class, when I don't need my laptop or 15 library books. If I haven't found anything suitable by the end of August, I'll probably buy the Lola Hobo at full price. I really like Fossil's aesthetic and functionality. The wallets are especially fun, maybe next year when I'm tired of my bulky carry-all Vera Bradley wallet.

Tomorrow: finding perspective on clothes.
So here is what I ordered from Anthro's tag sale! The Seasons Change Cardi popped out of stock while I was deliberating, but since I wasn't totally in love (no front buttons for warmth, this summer I'll be working in a FREEZING COLD office), it didn't faze me. By the way, the cardi came in three colorways even though only one is left online: white, brown, and a beautiful teal. But I already own a teal cardigan--cashmere, Gap, baggy but looks fine open and cashmere will be warm enough.

I ordered three skirts, but two are navy so I will only be keeping 2/3 at most. Plus two belts (actually four belts since one is a set of there) that sadly didn't qualify for the extra percentage off. It came just over $52; I dropped a $10 necklace at the last minute because I have way too much jewelry and I knew I'd never wear it.

Going under a cut-tag because I got wordy again...

Tag Sale Round 3 )

Finally, a bonus: agonizing over the Eyeleted Corset Top, which I purchased in-store at the full price of $98 (+no tax, thanks DE!) before leaving for Canada. My store only had a few sizes left in backstock and none out on the floor; I'm sure it would be difficult now to track down a size 2, long sold-out online. I think the 4 currently available online is just 1 popback.

Eyeleted Corset Top by Floreat (reviews; see also Effortless Anthropologie, Erato's Closet--and again)
purchased size 2 for $98


This top has gotten surprisingly little love from the blogosphere. I've been wanting a corset-style top for a while--up to and including a real steel-boned corset from Otakon--and I love the eyelet detail. However, $100 for a top is ridiculous (compare with my Trollbeads bracelet with one charm, which I wear every single day layered with my watch) and since I own no orange (see above) I suspect this will be hard to style. Need to try it on some more when I get home, but it is probably going back. Maybe I'll keep the Snapdragon Belt as an alternative Anthro splurge.

I tried on both size 0 and size 2--no size 4 available--and was able to zip up both, but preferred the looser fit of the 2. It fits me well, though smooshes down my already-flat chest, because of my comparatively large ribcage. Back of bodice is smocked; bodice itself is very well-constructed. Super-flattering and gives me a waist. But--colors and price are a no-go. I don't think mine came with straps, but perhaps I just forgot about them. Here's a gratituous catalog shot:



By the way... for my birthday last month, I walked into my local Anthro with my mom and was prepared to pay full price for a gorgeous, versatile dress. I found the Overwhelmed Aster Dress (perfect fit in size 2 regular) to be gorgeous but terribly impractical; others that I tried on were all meh. I ended up buying the Magnified Corolla Dress for a sweet $30 (third cut, I think) at the register, even though the tag said $90. I am having the lining altered in China so I would probably have returned at $90, but for $30, the print is just lovely. I predict it will look amazing with the Snapdragon Belt. I purchased in size 0 because there was no 2 left and I didn't want to size up to 4. (This was on a different trip than the corset top, or the Inkwell Skirt... I visited Anthro three times in two weeks, I think.)

I am really itching to purge and re-organize my closet. Unfortunately I get home next Saturday afternoon and start work on Monday.
Right now I'm in rural Canada, studying French, with essentially no access to IRL shopping. As a result, I'm a little afraid to count the number of packages waiting for me at home (plus a few still coming in the mail, including my Anthro sale haul--see below). True to form, I haven't actually spent that much $$ because I refuse to pay shipping and I prefer to order from shops that have a nearby B&M presence. My parents are probably rather unhappy about the growing pile of boxes, however, especially since they don't trust my lesser cheapskate instincts.

But! A huge Anthro sale with extra 25% off, how could I resist? This was actually my second online order from Anthropologie--I paid shipping for the Inkwell Skirt on second cut because I'd already bought it and loved it on first cut, but was just outside of the PA period. I only wore the skirt once for a few hours and the tag was already off (in the pocket) when I bought it, so I have no qualms about returning my original $40 purchase.

Inkwell Skirt by Edme & Esyllte (reviews; see also Anthro Flux, In Pursuit of Pretty Things)
purchased size 6 for $26 shipped, originally $98


By the way, this skirt currently has a popback in size 8. Reviews are mixed, but for $20, it's a great deal. I would definitely recommend it to straight-figured ladies who would appreciate looking a bit more hippy. Even at $40, I was happy: high quality cotton with a gorgeous lace-edged lining, beautifully muted cool colors that will go with everything in my jewel-toned closet, and classic A-line shape. And pockets! It does poof at the waist, but I prefer to wear tops over skirts to create a drop waist at my slim hips, and I expect the same poof to give me some illusion of curviness if I choose to wear it higher-waisted with a top tucked in.

Note that this skirt is marked as dry clean, but being 100% cotton, I will hand-wash and line dry. If not for the delicate lacy lining, I would probably throw it in the machine in a mesh bag. But uh, my clothing care standards usually fall one step below whatever is recommended on the label. For instance, if it's 100% silk or 100% wool, I will hand-wash and lay flat to dry even if the label says dry clean only, because according to my mother, the ancient Chinese never had dry-cleaning and their clothes held up just fine. I have never run into problems with shrinkage or damage.

I purchased a size 6 after first grabbing my usual size 2 without realizing that I cannot fit an unstretchy size 2 waistband around my 28.5" waist. (Actually, depending on how I measure, I could also be 29-33 rather than 28.5-34, but that's too depressing.) It doesn't quite fall as low as my hips, but that wouldn't work with the poofiness anyway. Certainly it's more comfortable than my size 8 H&M skirt that fits very snugly at natural waist.

Also, I didn't realize until after seeing the online listing that it comes in petite sizes as well. I bought the skirt in-store in a regular size, but since the petite is only 1.25" shorter, I don't think it makes too much difference (and I prefer longer skirts anyway).

And this post is getting long, as always with my wordiness, so I'll break here and start a separate post for my ACTUAL Anthro sale haul yesterday. Can you tell I have OCD-like organizational tendencies?

August 2011

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About

Seeing personal style through K's eyes.

I'll be chronicling my quest for personal style on a frugally-raised college student's budget. Fitting room reviews, style inspirations, musings/rants about dressing a petite, size-2 apple figure--just whatever is on my mind. I adore the Anthro aesthetic, but rarely pull it off in real life. Same goes for heels and make-up...

SIZING REFERENCE:

Height: 5'2"
Measurements: 31-28-33
Bust: 32A (or 32AA without padding)
Shoes: 5 women's/3 kids, also 5.5 if open-back
True size: 2 with consideration for my waist
Shape: "crabapple"
Ethnicity: Asian = straight black hair (now waist-length for the second time!), boring brown eyes and nonexistent lashes, medium yellow-toned skin

SPECIFIC BRANDS:
Anthropologie: 2/S dresses (0/XS fits tight), 2/XS tops, 4-6 skirts
J.Crew: XS/0 tops and dresses, 4 skirts
Banana Republic: 2 tops, 4P Sloan bottoms (sometimes 2/2P in other cuts)
H&M: 4/XS tops, 4/S dresses, 6 (sometimes 8) skirts
Forever 21: S tops and dresses, 26 jeans

Resident of the teensy state of Delaware, whose greatest virtue is 0% sales tax!

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