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.

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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