Went to Anthro today, with a friend whom I'm slowly addicting to the store. :D And I didn't buy anything!

First, got a birthday coupon PA [price adjustment] on the Carica Bag in beige, which I received today. It's almost huge, which I love but is also a little intimidating at the same time. I will bring it to school, but it doesn't really work with a backpack--too large to carry as a handbag, and over my shoulder is too bulky with my backpack at the same time.

Carica Bag

But it's a classic slouchy satchel shape, holds a TON, and I got a great deal: $85, originally $178. (I ordered a charge-send from California with free shipping, but when I got my 15% price-adjustment, it also took off the tax that I had to pay in CA. Hooray!)

Also returned the Blurred Bands Belt, which I'd picked up last weekend on a whim but was too big to wear at my waist.

And finally, I tried on a lot of tops, plus the Sagebrush Skirt. I tried a 4 but really need a 6 in the skirt, but decided that $70 was too much to pay, regardless. LOVED the Expanding Universe Tank in red XS, despite mixed blogger reviews--my theory is that it's designed for small-busted women, because the neckline will pucker if it's at an angle. Not a problem for my flat chest, I just needed to straighten it out and it stayed perfect. The red colorway reminds me of Canada, my native land, so it's even sentimental!

I re-tried the A-Bit-Unruly Top in green, size XS, but though there wasn't anything really wrong with it, it just seemed too simple for a $30 top. I'd much rather wait for the Expanding Universe Top to go on sale, and I'll snatch it up at first cut. Also retried The Gathering Tank, this time in lavender, and determined that I can't make the size small work (bust is huge). But the raw edges still bug me and I very much doubt this top will make it to second cut. The Sidebent Tank, similar to the failed Expanding Horizons Tank, is a better fit but still not perfect. Contrary to online reviews, for me it ran a little big--long, rather than wide--because the armholes dragged down in the XS. I like my tops fitted, so I didn't notice tightness in the torso area. The design is honestly kind of boring, though.

More tops... Loosened Shelby Top desperately needs to be sized down, but I didn't bother trying the 0 because the neck-ties were really funky. Too bad, because the navy bird print is really cute. I disliked the mannequin shape of the Alchemilla Tee, and didn't like it any more on me. It makes me look hippy, miraculously, but not in a good way (i.e. by making my chest look even tinier). Loved the flowiness of the Talauma Tunic, but it's sold out in XS and S both in my store and online. I'll consider it on sale if/when I can track down an XS to try. Hanging Garden Top was, by no means, an effective substitute... just huge. This is when I wish I was able to size down in tops--instead, I'm usually sized out of the flowy stuff. I sized down to a 0 in the Finding Roses Blouse (now on second cut for $20), but it was still too big.

P.S. Insights from trading clothes with my hourglass friend: Expanding Universe Tank doesn't work on >B cup, I suspect. Cirque A-line (aka "the elephant dress") has a crappy zipper, just like its sweetly singing predecessor. The beautiful Artist's Rendering Dress really doesn't work on petites in non-petite sizes, even if you're an hourglass (she was able to take the 2; I went up to a 4 to squeeze my waist in, and the top was a mess; but on both of us, the straps were too long and caused gapping).
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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