April 29, 2008

Grades are in, Economic stimulus $ is coming, Recap of Saks F&F, and "Shopportunities"

Today I spent my afternoon tabulating grades, reading last-minute discussion board contributions on the websites for the courses I teach, and tending to household stuff. Bill paying, dog-bathing, laundry, etc. I picked up Chris from work and we went to the burbs (West Mifflin/Pleasant Hills) to seek out a spring-weight quilt. We've both been sleeping miserably because the comforter is too heavy and the sheet alone is too light. We found a new quilt at Gabriel Brothers. It is by "Nautica" which is odd. I didn't know they even made bed linens. The problem is that we have no decorative pillow shams. So now I will be on a mission to find the right shade of taupe, in the right, semi-quilted style to match. Chris picked it out and it is very pretty and feminine, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Now I need to find the shams. The prices on ebay are gouged like crazy of course. I guess I have to start stalking gabriel brothers.

I was supposed to receive my stimulus money today but it didn't show up in my bank account. I have already designated what it will buy (recent purchases below). While I think the stop-gap solution is short-sighted and wrong-headed, (and the Fed/Bernake would best serve the consumers, who are suffering from real-wage stagnation and economic inflation, by raising interest rates) I am eager to do my duty and spend the money.

This weekend was the Saks Friends and Family sale. Somehow I got on the list, even though I haven't been a Saks customer for very long. I have shopped at various locations and online. I have a store card, so I imagine that helps. I asked my friend China who works downtown if she wanted to meet me and Chris to check it out. She had a giftcard and could stack my discount to really get some mileage out of it.

Chris quickly realized (for the thousandth time) that the Pittsburgh Saks mens department is terrible (though they occasionally get decent consolidation stock from other stores for sales).
He left to finish writing his paper.

China and I were a little more successful. I bought a few Wacoal bras, one of which is seriously the most technologically advanced object I've ever worn on my body. It is called "Keep it Classic" which is an obnoxious name. But it fits exactly how a bra is "supposed" to fit. It isn't beautiful or sexy. But I am happy with the look of it once clothes are over top. I even had the intimates department associate check the fit/sizing to be sure. I might try to find more on ebay for less money. China got the bra she will most likely wear with her wedding dress so that was exciting!

After we finished in intimates, we headed to handbags and accessories (as the sales in women's contemporary weren't very good). I got my second pair of Tory Burch Reva flats. It was the last 7.5 in patent pink. They're very cute but I might return them. I've had them for almost a week and haven't found any occasion to wear shiny, hot pink shoes. That is a sign.

Cute, right? The jury is still out on them. They're super comfy and fun. But I can probably spend my money elsewhere for something more practical. That said, pink patent ones will probably never go on sale (like my first pair was) and the FF discount made them reasonable. I did discover that there used to be purple patent revas (sold out everywhere). Purple is my favorite color. Now THOSE would be practical. Maybe I should return these and stalk ebay?

China got the MBMJ Dr. Q. Hillier Hobo (medium size) in black with gold hardware.

After the discount and her giftcard she got an incredible deal. I LOVE this bag. It is so cute AND practical. The leather is a dream. And I like the two strap options. She looks great with it!

Overall, I was happy to be invited to this sale and happy to share it with others. Chris's mom got some things when she went on Saturday, though she lamented the weekend crowds.

A new sale starts Thursday. I will be downtown anyway to present at a conference so I'll definitely take a quick lap and possibly return the Revas. China will be meeting me. And the dangerous cycle continues.

One of my downfalls, beyond sale goggles, is that I have gotten to be very savvy at tracking down deals and maneuvering my way into discounts. I frequent a number of fashion-centric messageboard forums and read lots of fashion blogs. As a result, I hear about discounts that *in the moment,* at 2 am when no one is awake, seem like once in a lifetime "shopportunities." At 2 am, I also make up words that are bad puns!

Anyway, the most recent shopportunity was the discovery that Live Chat and phone associates were honoring the FF 25% off discount after the online announcement of the new saks sale. These new discounts were made as soon as the FF discount was slated to expire. And although supposedly "designer shoes" were excluded from this loophole discount, I managed to still get another 20% off of these Chie Mihara pumps I have been coveting.

Now they're on the way in the mail. And between the revas, these, and my DVF Dutch dress, there goes my stimulus money. I can return though. Maybe I will.

Regardless, I will keep the bras. I needed better foundation garments anyway. I was wearing heinous, unsupportive-but-pretty victorias secret bras. And since they stopped carrying my cup size in stores I decided I had enough. I should have left after they relegated me to the drawer. Why should larger chested women be expected to crawl around VS looking for bras anyway!? They're the ones with back problems! Jerks.

April 24, 2008

Earning my keep

I'm a graduate student teaching fellow and it is currently finals week. I have so much grading to do to finish up the semester. And I have to concentrate on that. But tomorrow I am going to attend the friends and family sale at saks with a few friends. Hopefully there won't be anything interesting. My dvf.com order came and I might end up keeping it. We'll see.

Quick round up of consumer goods I want to consume in order from most to least realistic for me to purchase:

Orla Kiely Rainboots with stem print in olive or black. I can't decide which. I love both and they are on sale.

Malene Birger Liane dress on sale but still too much, especially with shipping.

Marni Balloon bag (way too much money)

April 21, 2008

The ugly side of bargain hunting...

Not only does bargain hunting have the potential to drive wedges between similarly sized friends, but it can lead to rash and ill-advised decisions. These decisions are usually made behind the shopping equivalent of rose-colored glasses. "Sale goggles" have inspired many a rash purchase decision in my own consumer history. The LA Times recently published an article covering the phenomenon of BUI's or buying while under the influence of alcohol. But the lure of sale goggles, or shopping while under the influence of low prices, remains my secret shame.

For me, sale goggles are much more powerful and dangerous than BUI's. I can be convinced by sale goggles that I will never be able to locate another equivalent version of a specific item. Sale goggles can coerce revisions to deal-breaking preferences (specific colors, cuts, styles, fits, etc. all become negotiable). Supply and demand can increase the power of sale goggles. If I know something was especially coveted within the fashion e-communities I frequent, my unwaivering, uncompromising taste becomes easier to sway. Occasionally, sale goggles even can persuade me that something previously regarded as ugly/impractical/unflattering has transformed magically into a "must purchase."

Last week's disappointing DVF online private sale is the most recent example of sale goggles damaging my rationality. I saw the DVF Dutch at Saks a few weeks ago.

I really loved the mustard and black cube print. The wrap with buttons style looked as though it might be flattering for someone bustier but more modest about showing ample cleavage (like myself). I also heard the fit was forgiving on the bottom (which is useful).

When the Dutch went 70% off, I bit. Not once. But twice (in two different sizes and prints). And in my sale-induced haze, I also decided it would be wise to order other things to make the $10 ship charge worthwhile. I have attempted to cancel the order via phone and email, numerous times to no avail. I don't NEED any of this stuff. But the customer service for the online store is notoriously bad. And I am fairly certain I will just have to eat this mistake. UPS is scheduled to deliver this package tomorrow. I don't know if I have the guts to refuse it and go through the process of filing a charge back.

In case I don't, I already have attempted to sell my only Marc Jacobs collection bag (Pomegranate Venetia) to compensate for my bad behavior.

To bring you up to speed... aka: Why I am going to hell in a handbag

Although I am not a religious person (my family raised me as a Catholic, but I do not practice or identify as such), I sometimes feel like I am going to hell in a handbag. I have a problem in that I am too good at shopping.

I set limits for myself, like "only when this is 80% off," or "not until you sell $200 worth of stuff you already own" but I always meet them.

And so I shop more. I KNOW I don't need anything else. I am a smart person. I have closets (yes, plural) full of increasingly beautiful, contemporarily relevant, flattering, high-quality clothes and accessories. I know many have more than me, and even more have less. I am fortunate to be in such a shallow, materialistic predicament.

Conceivably, I could go entire semesters, maybe even a year, without repeating outfits. I often find that at the end of the season, I still had many outfits left in the queue that never got to be worn.

In a way, my closets have become self-sustaining entities, in that I often sell to make room in the budget to replace. I have a budget from the stipend and salary I have from teaching undergraduate courses. I don't always sell in order to replace, although that should be a new self-imposed policy. I have some minimal debt. I should sell to squash it instead of buy new.

This week I bought a few things.

Steven by Steve Madden Director pumps in black.

I coveted these for a while as they reminded me of ChloƩ ones that exceeded my price range and heel height threshold. I found them on smartbargains for more than half off. I also got free shipping. They haven't arrived yet.

I ordered a Marc by Marc Jacobs softy zip clutch from standardstyle.

It was marked down, then I had a coupon code which made it inexpensive. But the order never arrived. I called the company and discovered that they were out of stock. So I bought this gold one on ebay for even less. The gold is peeling in parts but the leather is nice. I also wrote the company asking them about a replacement for the defect.

I won a By Malene Birger cardigan on ebay. It is still on net-a-porter for a lot of money. I got it for very little. It is beautiful but sort of itchy and already too warm for this unexpectedly balmy April.

For my birthday I bought a number of things.
Marc by Marc Jacobs Softy Max tote in Camouflage.

Twinkle by Wenlan dress, Elevensies skirt, and James Coviello Orchard Walk jumper from Anthropologie
DVF Dutch dress from DVF.com

I also sold a number of things.
Botkier E/W Trigger Satchel
MBMJ Luxy Leather Faridah

And had birthday money to spend. I don't think it evens out though. This is a problem.

Shop Blogs, Introductions, and Contributions

Is another blog about shopping really necessary? Definitely not. With so many great (and not so great) ones that already exist to cover fashion, buying, and trends, the challenge becomes finding an angle distinguished from those that began years ago. As an academic, I struggle with my love for consumerism, advertising, and style, as it is often in direct conflict with what I believe theoretically. Although many critical theorists were not "against" materialism, the conditions of contemporary American materialism and consumer culture are troublesome, if not entirely dysfunctional. The ubiquitous visibility of shopping (especially in media), the elevation of its status as hobby/great American pastime/sport, recent notions of its therapeutic dimensions (shop to reward, cure, solve), and the long historical connection between advertising, emotional branding, and consumer ideology, make this subject ripe for academic analysis. I hope to do some of that here. I also hope to keep myself accountable in some small way.

My infatuation with consumption disconnects directly from the socio-economic reality of being a doctoral fellow on a budget. Thankfully, I live in a city where costs of living are low. I acknowledge and try to be reflexive about the numerous privileges that my cultural and social capital afford. They enable upward mobility (both financial and other).

In this space, I grapple with my love/hate relationship with consumerism and consumer culture. I study media, advertising, and culture. I teach about media, advertising, and culture. I am writing a dissertation about media, advertising, and culture. I often feel consumed by these subjects as much as I attempt to consume them.

Consume or Consumed will track my recent purchases, purges, and future contenders for either category. I will hold myself accountable for consumer behaviors that are in conflict with my budget. I will consider what influences these behaviors. And I will examine ads, news, and fashion trends from an academic standpoint.

April 05, 2008

A bit about Consume or Consumed

Consume or Consumed is a personal style blog cataloging my outfits, dealhunting, wishlist, travels, and other (mostly) consumer aspirations. The blog began in 2008 with the intent to archive purchases and make sense of my consumer and material desires. Eventually, as I was already photographing them for the flickr group Wardrobe Remix, I began blogging my outfits too.

Some occasionally-asked-questions are below.

What do you do for a living? 
I am a university professor on the tenure track. I teach at the small liberal arts branch campus of a research university outside of Pittsburgh. I recently finished my doctoral degree and am working on some grant proposals as well as my book project. I study the history of advertising, media, and consumerism in the US.

How are you adjusting to motherhood? 
Every time someone asks me this, I tell them that being a mom is at once much more difficult and much more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. I am pretty sure that my daughter, Emilia hung the moon. She brings so much joy to Chris (my husband) and me, as well as our parents and siblings. I had a baby in November 2012 so I know that I have a lot to learn but as a lover of learning, this is a positive thing. I have tried to be open minded, flexible, and research-oriented. You get a lot of advice when you are a new parent so I spend a lot of time listening and reflecting on how or whether I can integrate bits of advice into our situation. I really love being a mom and feel so lucky to get to spend a lot of time with this tiny, fascinating human.

I went back to work full time for the fall 2013 term. Thankfully my on-campus schedule is condensed so I spend a lot of time trying to work from home when my baby is sleeping or napping. Finding a work-life balance is more difficult than I anticipated but I am doing my best to juggle everything. I am lucky to have a lot of support. Thank goodness we have extended family that are local!

What does the "Pgh" in Jesspgh reference? 
Pgh is an abbreviation for Pittsburgh, where I live.

How do you afford your clothes and things? 
One of the great things about Pittsburgh is that it is a very affordable city with a low cost of living. My husband and I were able to buy a home back when we were both living on graduate student stipends. So the first key to the financial puzzle is that you can live well in this city for less than you can in most places.

I am an avid deal-hunter and never pay retail. If I link to something, it is likely priced higher than what I paid for it because I never buy without coupons, % off promotions, or other incentives that lower the price. I use ebay (my favorite sniping service is Just Snipe and I have strategically saved searches that alert me about listings) and I also turn things over in my closet regularly (via ShopJesspgh or other online marketplaces). I use the funds from sales of items I'm no longer using to buy new-to-me things.

Finally, I am employed gainfully as a professor with a side income from freelance writing and other consulting work. Prior to my current job, as a graduate student teaching fellow, I hustled to secure additional income (supplementing my stipend) via adjunct teaching and grants.

Can you help me find good deals? 
I try my best to help people out by tweeting or describing deal opportunities on my blog. The best I can suggest is that you comparison shop, know that some stores will price match, and always check for a coupon code before buying online. Retailmenot and ebates are helpful in that regard.

Be patient and remember that sale goggles are a powerful drug. If it isn't meant to be, I promise there will always be another dress, another bag, another whatever that will appeal to you.

Do you wear all of your outfits in the classroom/for teaching/to campus?
You can usually tell what I wear to campus based on where the photograph was taken. If I'm under fluorescent lights or in an otherwise wooded area, then I wore it to campus and class. I also try to specify where I wore what in the text. Some of my shorter or more form-fitting dresses are not appropriate for campus. They are items I wear when I go out to dinner or for drinks around town. But unless I am debating about whether to "keep or return" something, you can trust that I wore the outfit somewhere. As fun as it is, I don't have a lot of spare time for playing dress up.

Do you accept advertisers, sponsorships, or compensation for blogging? 
Occasionally I do have advertisers or marketing firms contact me about partnerships. If I decide to pursue the partnership it is something I've considered carefully. And it is something that will be disclosed in the tags or in the text of the entry to comply with FTC guidelines and to ensure transparency with my readers. I generate a tiny bit of income through affiliate links as well. The modest revenue generated through these opportunities are put back into the blog.

If you are an advertiser interested in a potential partnership, please email me (jesspgh@gmail.com) for more information.

Thank you so much for reading! 

Note that this was updated in September 2013.  


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