November 30, 2008

Out with the Old

My recent bouts of shopping haven't been without sacrifice. Many savvy shoppers have a rule of "one in, one out," whether it be via donation, strategic gifting, consignment, or ebay. After the purchase of my first home this summer, the subsequent move led to a decrease in net closet square footage. When Chris and I found out were were being evicted because our landlord was a victim of the housing crisis, I spent days and days sobbing as I sorted through my endless empire of crap.

Vintage clothes/accessories/etc. that I bought with the good-but-never-realized intentions to sew/alter/gift became my new enemy. I chastised myself over the sheer volume of STUFF I managed to accumulate?! I swore that I would never again collect junk just because I had a house and easy, regular access to the cheap, well-stocked thrift and antique stores of the Mon Valley. I made a promise to Chris that I would never again come home from my parents' house with a trunk full of what was essentially garbage.

My most vivid memories of this summer were of hauling my things: From the living room to the lawn for the yard sale; From my trunk to resale shops and Goodwill; From my front seat to the post office, where they would be mailed to their winning ebay buyers; From my rented home into Chris's parents' garage where the stuff that survived the ruthless edits lived for most of the summer. Thank goodness for their unwaivering generosity or else we would have needed to rent storage and throw away a lot of stuff we needed. It was during the time I spent hauling my stuff that I realized how important it is to stay on top of revising and editing one's things. I also have vivid memories of hauling our things out of that garage and into the new house after Chris finished working on the floors.

Professional movers are a luxury I've never known. We were lucky to have so many friends who were happy to be paid in beer, pizza, and the promise that we will return the favor someday. My most precious box of things that weren't coming with me to DC for the summer was kept out of the garage. I made my purse collection fit into one box. One big box. And I stored it separately just for peace of mind. Now two of those things contained in that box are off to their new owners. And one more is in the marketplace of The Purse Forum, waiting for a buyer.

I already mailed the Chloé Tracy to the buyer last month. Tomorrow I will ship the MBMJ Turnlock Teri. And the Kate Spade is still waiting for a new home but I am sure I will find one. I am eager to keep pace with an ethic of editing.

I make more room in my closet, more room in my life (because you can only really carry one bag a day), and more room in my budget if I don't allow myself to merely accumulate. When I examine my collection of goods, I evaluate what has been bumped to low rotation and what hasn't seen the light of day in recent memory. Making room for something new makes the entire process that much more exciting and that much more necessary! I wish my bags good luck in their future adventures!

November 29, 2008

Happy Holiday Shopping Season!

Happy Holidays, readers! Happy official start of the holiday shopping season! I met my mom at today at South Hills Village mall to hunt for Black Friday deals. I am going to try to limit my shopping from now until after the new year to gift purchases. It will be a challenge because of the sales but after this recent bout, I need a break!

Here are some photos I promised of the Saks damage. Note that these aren't all for me. A lot of this will make fabulous holiday presents for my loved ones.

Marc by Marc Jacobs bags (Turnlock Faridah in Fools Gold and Quinn in Elderberry):

And zip clutches (MJ collection in Pistachio and MBMJ Turnlock in Earth):

Shoe haul (Prada Plated Pump in Pewter and Jimmy Choo Morse Flats in Purple):

Misc. clothes and underthings:

Lacoste Polos (gifts for men, including part of my S.O.'s haul which also included a Theory dress shirt that I didn't photograph):

Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags (gifts for women):

I did show some restraint, as discussed in my previous post. In addition to those items that didn't make the cut, I didn't buy Chanel captoe flats or pumps, even though they are gorgeous and rarely go on sale. From the website sale I didn't buy this Chloé Asymmetrical Collar Coat which I have been obsessed with since I first saw it in the Fall 08 Collections.

It sold out online before I could take the plunge and it is hard to decide to take such a plunge when you can't try something on in person because your Saks doesn't carry Chloé clothing. I imagine the fit is probably similar to their diffusion line, See by Chloé. Still, I try to buy big ticket staples like a fantastic coat, in person. It will remain among those "if I had a time machine and an unlimited cash supply" cases of non-buyers remorse.

November 24, 2008

Should it stay or should it go?

"Pre-sales" are dangerous because you really don't have any material or physical way of carrying the weight (literally) of what you've accumulated. For example, although I recalled what I had presold on Thursday and Friday of last week, I certainly didn't anticipate it would look like this once it was all ready to go:

And therefore, I failed to anticipate that wouldn't be capable of schlepping everything I got alone, from department to department, only to acquire more stuff to carry as I picked up my other "holds."

In a presale, the measure of your shopping prowess is swept away by the sales associate who holds your things for you until the official sale begins. Your interaction doesn't feel like a contract or even a transaction, so much as a gentle agreement that the SA will claim the items as yours when asked, and that you, the customer will return on the determined date to at least make final selections.

What I didn't bring home with me:
The Chloé Saskia tote (in a chestnut brown color). It was beautiful. The leather was fantastic. It was 70% off which is unheard of for this designer. And it fit over my shoulder. But it didn't make the cut because even at 70% off, it was priced high for a bag with no zip top. And the straps were long enough to fit but not comfortably and that issue would only be exacerbated once the bag was full.
Tory Burch alligator pumps. Now these were an incredible price. Cheaper than every pair of Revas I own (and I've never paid retail for Revas). But that's the issue. I got home and counted the Revas in my closet and took the advice of a wise friend who was helping me eliminate the excess. They are also somewhat similar to a pair of Chloé knock-off pumps I have by Steven by Steve Madden.
Not exactly, but the shine of the leather, the gold detail around the heel, and the general 60s mod vibe of them is alike enough that it was wise to pass, even at the doorbusting price. Thank goodness I made some cuts! I can't imagine having to carry any more than I already did. Thank goodness more so that Rich, my neighbor who was also retrieving his sale winnings, swooped in to make a trip to the car with half of my bags so I could finish the process of transitioning from pre-sale to sale to sold.

What did make the cut? That's up next!

November 22, 2008

The end is nigh: Saks moved Black Friday

And holy crap I don't know how I'm going to get all the things I "presold" home.

In light of news about an appealing Neiman Marcus early mark down promotion, designed to lure customers and convince them to spend all their precious dollars before Black Friday, the decision-makers at Saks took drastic measures and allowed their cardholders to presale (which just means to buy but hold in store, in advance of a sale) for Tuesday's triple points, and slashed an additional 50% off preexisting sale prices. The percentages equate to 70% off most fall 08 (and earlier) merchandise and I was there Thursday morning (then again, Thursday and Friday afternoon into the evening, helping friends) to scope deals. The tip came from two of my favorite fashion messageboard communities, and The Purse Forum which are both amazing resources for information about deals, sales, coupon codes, promotions, and in person pictures/fit guides/reviews/etc. of designer clothes, bags, shoes, and jewelry.

The prices are unreal and the deals are unlike any sale I've seen before Black Friday. These are after xmas prices.

Chanel bags on sale. That doesn't tend to happen.
Christian Louboutins for below-sample-sale prices.
Marc by Marc Jacobs clothes marked down to Old Navy retail.
Jimmy Choos for $120.
Tory Burch for $60.
Longchamp Le Pliage for $35.
Chantelle and Wacoal Luxe for less than Victoria's Secret.
Chloe bags for $300
MBMJ turnlock bags for $107 and zip clutches for $50
Marc Jacobs collection zip clutches for $80-something and bags for $200-something.
Men's Lacoste polos for $25.
I could continue but you get the idea.

I have presales to pick up in almost every department. And I need to make sure I don't forget anything. I want to go first thing on Tuesday to pick up my things for fear that they'll be disorganized and give my things to someone else.

Unfortunately, the online promotion is not as good as the in-store so if you are able, you should go to the actual store. Even if you don't have a card, you might get a sales associate willing to pre-sale with any debit or credit card. And if you sign up for a saks card, you get an additional 10% off anything you buy that day.

I got a lot of my holiday shopping accomplished thanks to this sale. The challenge will be picking and choosing what I should keep from this sale and from my recent spate of online shopping, which I will post about later today. Sale goggles are powerful in their ability of delusion. Even if prices are great, I need to leave a lot of the stuff behind for the sake of my sanity and my finances. The beauty of a presale is you have a few days to think over the purchase. Since I have to go back anyway to pick things up, I can and will make immediate returns.

November 20, 2008

Top shelf

New tops interspersed throughout:

I lamented my dire need for tops in the last post. There is a reason for such a discernible gap in my wardrobe. I began a few years ago to slowly upgrade the quality of staple pieces in my closet. It started with coats and handbags, which had always been my two favorite categories to hunt for when thrifting. I amassed an impressive collection of quirky purses and beautiful, classic coats thanks to the wealth of opportunity that is the Mon Valley thrift/vintage/antique scene, where I grew up. I also compiled piles of dresses, tops, fun jewelry, various household ephemera and generally cool stuff. But at the time of my thrifting addiction, I was renting apartments in the city and moving with regularity. Every time I had to move all of that STUFF I grew increasingly resentful of it.
These were no longer my precious, sentimental treasures. They were musty, dust-collecting, low quality, ill-fitting mountains of itchy, poly-blend crap. So I edited like a madwoman. I donated bags and bags of it back to the Mon Valley charity stores I happily patronized years prior, paying forward my treasures to future thrifters. I held a yard sale and sold the nicest things that didn't fit me, because if I hadn't altered them after years of ownership, I certainly wasn't going to have the time to learn to do so after another hectic move. And I sold things that didn't sell at the local "Beacon's Closet" style store in the city.
I kept only the small number of items I actually used: the coats that fit like a dream; the dresses that didn't cause me to wince years later when I saw myself trying to pull them off; the bags that were actual leather, in good shape for their age; and the pieces of jewelry that weren't being knocked-off by throngs of "vintage inspired" labels and Forever 21 also-rans.

Finally, I embarked upon the long, sometimes-costly process of upgrading. As I said above, I started with coats and handbags which were easy to rationalize. Then denim and trousers when I could find deals. I moved on to dresses once I convinced myself to create the occasions to wear them, even if no one else was "dressed up." Shoes were always low on the list because of the extreme cost, but eventually I caved to that category, relatively speaking. I still wear plenty of Steve Madden and Nine West but I try to stay away from the cheap, painful thrill of Payless's all man made uppers. I began buying sweaters only in natural fabrics, like cotton, merino wool, silk, and cashmere. Once I made the transition it was hard to go back to any acrylic or poly-blend pieces.Tops and jewelry were really the only things I hadn't replaced with newer and nicer. I would buy new tops and jewelry periodically. But mostly from the outlets of places like J Crew or Banana Republic. I had a brief affair with Forever 21 but the cost per wear never decreases when a shirt falls apart during its first wash cycle.
I've found many great things at Gabriel Brothers which has long been a staple of my brick and mortar shopping. And I scour the sale section at Anthropologie, online and in person when possible.

November 19, 2008

If I hit the lottery and had a time machine:

1. I would re-buy the jovovich hawk roslyn dress which I regret returning. But the only place that still has it is net-a-porter and it is way too much there.

2. I would find and at least try on this "Stewardess Dress" by Amanda Uprichard so that I could discover that this style is not right for me no matter how cute I think it is.

3. I would have ordered this Brian Reyes dress:
4. And this Development dress:

But I don't NEED any dresses. I need tops and fabric dye right now. I have a bunch of jeans that fit me well but need to be darker to neutralize the faux-aged effect that was all the rage when I purchased them years back. And I need tops to wear with those jeans. I could also use some cords but those are no fun to buy.

Supposedly there is some crazy secret pre-sale happening dahntahn so even though I was just in there on Saturday I guess I am going to Saks today to see if any tops I like are cheap.

November 18, 2008

Shopping in the Bay Area

One of the great things about taking a vacation is getting to experience local farmer's markets, boutiques, grocery stores, and restaurants. Chris and I recently went to Oakland, California and spent a lot of time in San Fransisco while there. We were in town for a wedding but got to spend time with family and explore!

The shopping was great! We spent a lot of time on Haight St. where Chris bought a pair of pants from Villains and many records from Amoeba. I bought a Manoush dress on sale at Ideele. It was discounted because it was lacking the pin:
Which was fine by me, as I would have removed it anyway!

We also visited Nordstrom Rack (which I hope will soon find a home in Pittsburgh), and Bloomingdales, where Chris bought a Trovata shirt. We tried to go to Barneys and Anthro but it wasn't in the cards. Nordstrom Rack was running a great promotion (half off lowest prices on all designer clothes) but everything looked really bad when I tried it on. It is for the best, since I did so much shopping before the trip and have so much holiday shopping to do this month! I might have bought something at Bloomingdales had it not been for the horrible service which turned me off from buying anything.

On the other hand, all the sales associates we encountered in small boutiques were very friendly and helpful. They lamented to us that the only people buying were out of town visitors like ourselves. Many feared for the future of their jobs and the future of the boutique market. This was an important reminder to me that I need to frequent and patronize local shops, especially those that have offered me exceptional customer service like Pavement, Hiptique, Moda (for men), and Karma Fashion. If I received better service in some of the others, I would be naming them too. But due to bad service experiences I refuse to even return to some of the places. I am going to have to return for this project I am working on about critical shopping. But that is for the purpose of research.

I'm not sure what elicits positive customer service experiences. I am often dressed in what I regard to be appropriate attire. Yet on marathon trips I can visit three different places in the same hour of the same day, in the same outfit, and get totally variable service. I will say that shopping with Chris's mom is the ticket to getting the best service you will ever have. I shopped with her in Vegas, in St. Barths, and last weekend at Saks and the sales associates treat her (and by association, me) like a queen everywhere she goes. I'm sure her gorgeous Burberry coat and David Yurman jewelry didn't hurt on our most recent excursion. But it seems like I almost always get better service when I shop with another person. Whether it is Chris, his mom, my mom, or one of my girlfriends, the service is almost always more attentive with a partner. The one exception was when I shopped with China at a boutique, downtown that has notoriously bad online customer service, so I shouldn't have been surprised that the same was true in person.

November 03, 2008

Recent purchase: wins and fails!

Whenever I acquire new things online or in stores, I like to take or save stock pictures of the items. I immortalized them on digital film for a number of reasons. I have a flickr that I like to keep updated (though I usually set privacy restrictions to those particular photos). I like to keep them archived in my fashion folders on my hard drive. And I think having pictures of things helps me decide whether or not I should keep them around, return, sell or donate them.

I am willing to bet that in the recesses of my subconscious I do this because of the closet scene and archive program in Clueless. But it might also be because I am so accustomed to picturing stuff (both mine and things that aren't mine) in ad copy, magazine editorial, and online boutiques.

Accordingly, here are some pictures of things I bought recently.

Orla Kiely bag on sale from Anthro:
When hunting for stock photos of the bag, after ordering I discovered that the inside of the sling strap was bright green. I hated it for that and returned it in store.

Fredflare had a 25% off coupon so I made an order for this Orla Kiely folding grocery tote:
And I bought a few other items for xmas gifts (but I can't post because I don't want to spoil the surprise). I love to buy silly items from Fredflare that I know I would want to receive but can never justify purchasing for myself. I am still waiting for the items to arrive so I don't know if they are keepers. We'll see.

I already own this cashmere boyfriend cardigan by Cece in a zillion colors. I bought them last year from Bluefly. But this year they had it in eggplant purple!
It is a keep because I got a good deal by using click-through coupons stacked with additional $ off coupons.

I bought and re-bought this Callixta sweater dress with vintage-looking buttons to wear as an extra layer of dress and as just a regular sweater dress. It was sale at bluefly but I hadn't worn it by the time it was marked down further, so I returned the first one after purchasing it again. It saved me around $40!
Sephora sent me a $20 off $50 coupon so I bought Nars blush in Orgasm (as I was almost out), O.P.I for Sephora nail polish in Caffeine fix and Metro chic, and lip stain. No pics of that, though. All were keepers!

I had to go downtown to renew my parking permit so I stopped by Saks to check out sale racks. If the reports were to be believed, luxury retailers, hurting to maintain reasonable margins after an especially difficult quarter in an already difficult year, were supposedly slashing and burning prices to enable the overturn of stock. My Pittsburgh Saks was having a private sale that offered 40% off the lowest labeled prices. And I was able to buy two Tibi dresses I coveted desperately for the price of one on the sale pages of I didn't even realize my store carried these particular styles! So I had the added bonus of trying them on prior to purchase which means they were both for keeps!

I wore them both to teach and to wedding events for Michael and China when I was in the Bay area last week! The second photo is in the dressing room, hence the boots and tights that are all wrong with the dress.

Praise be to my fashion efriends! I found affordable, calf-wide boots!

Though the Fryes were beautiful to look at, they didn't look very nice on me. So I sent them back, and continued my quest for decent-looking, reasonably-priced boots that could accommodate ample calf-width. I HATE trying on boots in stores blindly, with no prior knowledge about calf-circumference. In the interest of keeping my epic-calf-related not-so-secret shame a semi-secret, I will only try on boots in person after thorough research and multiple recommendations from fashion epals. It feels so crappy to go through all the steps to prepare oneself to try on boots (finding the size, unstuffing them from their box, taking off your own shoes, etc.) only to find that you can't tug them past your ankles! My calves measure in at 15.5 inches so I needed to find boots that could fit 16 inches (for jeans, cords, etc.).

Thanks to the reviews and recommendations from contributors at, the calf-circumference info and reviews on, and a few specific threads on the Ladies Auxiliary, I was armed with three primary wide-calf boot contenders, this boot season:

The Frye Paige Cuff Boots (which were never quite affordable enough for me to buy, but sure are beautiful):
Shown in Dark Brown, from Zappos. With an approx. retail of $400 (eep!)

The Seychelles "At Last" boots:
Also shown in dark brown. Retailing for around $160 or something but on sale for $99 at

And the Steven by Steve Madden "Intyce" boots:
Shown in Cognac. Retailed for $199 but available at various Marshalls and TJ Maxx for $99. Or on sale at for $117.

Between these three options, I was bound to find something to fit my epic calves. So I went searching in store, to try on boots. I found a pair of the Cognac Intyce boots at TJ Maxx in a size 9. I wear an 8 in boots. I bought them anyway to take them home to try with jeans tucked. I returned them. And I bought the boots in Black from nordstrom, in the proper size.

I also bought the Seychelles At Last boots in Dark Brown. The dark brown color looks almost greyish so it matches a range of things. And the calf width is ample. So between these two boots, I feel very prepared for fall and winter. They aren't the most practical snow boots. For messy wintery weather, I will continue to sport my $10 KMart boots from five years ago. But i am happy to have upgraded my collection a bit. And at the end of the day, I spent basically the same amount of money for two pairs of boots that I planned to spend on one pair of Fryes.

Other friends have recommended the wide-calf boots from for inexpensive wide-calf boot options. I have also heard nice things about the J Crew extended calf boots (except by their measurements, they still wouldn't fit me). If you are in my predicament, you can run a search for extended calf boots on zappos, but they haven't aggregated their data by calf measurement. So that search just generates the boots that specifically advertise themselves as wider calf. I wish they would make the search nerdier, so that it could be more useful!

I was grateful to have access to boot recommendations, fit guides, and quality reviews from my epals about boots that were just surprisingly wide in the calf, and not specifically meant to be wide-calf.


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