Took a day off on Friday and went shopping at the outlets with my mother.  I snagged an amazing deal at Banana Republic Factory, which was running BOGO free on all clearance items: trouser jeans and a cardigan for $17 total. (Plus, no tax on clothes in PA.)

I also poked around J. Crew for a bit without seeing anything worthwhile, and Fossil for a long time at the pretty bags. Some good prices at the Fossil store, including 50% off certain clearance items--bringing one leather bag that I seriously considered down to only $40--but I'm still in love with the Lola Patchwork Hobo. The smaller version has a top zip, and I saw the larger version in-store at KOP and it's not large enough for textbooks anyway.

Other stores with good sales: Easy Spirit had a ton of shoes on promo for $15/20/30. Coach Factory was running another extra 30% promotion. Ann Taylor Factory had some decent prices on shirts and well-stocked clearance, though the style is a bit too classic for my taste (my mother picked up a few nice shells). I didn't venture into the Gap Outlet, and ran out of time for the new Talbots outlet at Lancaster (another store with classic, trending-older clothes).

We were there initially to make a return at Calvin Klein, and got merchandise credit because it was past 30 days, so I browsed for a while and tried on a bunch of different pants without finding any that fit perfectly. I did confirm that I'm between a 2 and a 4 in higher-waisted pant styles, that slim-cut styles tend to have a larger, lower waist (= perfect for my body type), and that a 29" inseam is NOT consistent at CK. Also that CK bras don't fit me well at all.

***

Aaaand in related shopping news, all of my recent online orders came in the mail. I'm very happy with my new Lands' End Canvas bikini, which will be debuted tomorrow. Eek. I ended up pairing the Heritage Mini Dot Bandeau Halter Swim Top (fits my 32AA chest surprisingly well in the XS, though I'll never ever wear it without the strap, and does run small per reviews) with the Heritage Retro Hipster Solid Swim Bottom in the matching Deep Sea color (sized up to an XS although I usually wear XXS at LEC), rather than the mini dot printed bottom. Despite my non-existent chest, I feel more comfortable drawing attention to my shoulders--which look surprisingly broad in a bikini--than my tummy.

Maybe I should have gone for the matching set after all, though. Navy solids are much easier to find later than the exact matching print, and I do feel like my shoulders are a little unbalanced. LE's return policy is such that I could wear the solid bottom tomorrow to the beach and still return it later with no problems... though I feel like this might be slightly unethical.

The Talbots T-strap sandals are less of a sure thing; they look exactly as pictured, but I just find them so bare on my feet; it feels a bit more casual than my ideal flat business-casual sandal. (My office has no official dress code and casual non-flip-flop sandals are definitely OK, but I like to be a little dressier than the bare minimum.) I know I shouldn't keep things I don't love, but I will wear them if I do keep them, and the price ($21 for leather, albeit not very much leather, and a reliable quality brand) is probably unbeatable.



Finally, I received an amazing gray jersey Anthro dress by Yoana Baraschi from an EA Trade Market seller. I expect it to get a ton of wear this summer at work, as it's a forgiving fit with interesting pleat/ruching details and a neutral color. (And unlike my neutral jersey J. Crew dress, which has similar pros, it isn't low-cut enough to require a scarf and doesn't have a funny between-rib-cage-and-waist elastic waistline. I mean, I still wear that dress a lot, but it's not quite effortless for those reasons.) The Baraschi dress is a little big up top when I bend over, but the neckline is modest enough that I can easily wear a cami underneath for coverage, and I expect it will stay put once I layer a cardigan over top.

[Sidebar: I am so going to be shopping for unique Anthro cardigans this winter break.]
The short and sweet version: Fossil Lola Patchwork Convertible Large Hobo with a metal top zipper that sits just inside the top edge (hidden from sight) and maybe a few large exterior pockets.

What I love:
* Top zipper for security, but not out in plain sight at the very top of the bag. Bonus points for sturdy metal construction.
* Interior organizational pockets, both zipped and open.
* 3-4" depth is the sweet spot.
* Large enough to fit my 15" laptop (snugly in a pinch), or else a binder, notebook, and paperbacks.
* Structured to sit upright when half-full and placed on the ground (slouchy is OK, I just don't want toppling).
* Adjustable cross-body strap is a MUST. Bonus points for ONE shoulder handle.
* Leather material.
* Ideal price point is $100 on sale; up to $200 for the perfect bag.
* Bold, cool color in a jewel tone is a big plus! I especially like teal and purple. Or the great mix of colors on Fossil's patchwork design.

What I detest:
* Exterior flap pockets, which are always too small. I tend to overload them and unbalance the bag.
* Suede isn't waterproof, canvas wears out (I learned from experience), nylon is ugly.
* Two short handles, because they are hard to drape when wearing cross-body.
* Blatant logo branding, i.e. Coach signature bags.
* Easy brand recognition, i.e. Longchamp Le Pliage (though that is unstructured nylon anyway).

I am still considering whether I want to get a large 15x13-ish cross-body tote... is that too much for a 5'2" gal?
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).
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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