February 27, 2009

NYC haulage: Barneys Warehouse Sale, Century 21, Barney's Coop, Buffalo Exchange, Street Vendors

Though I probably only visit NYC about once or twice a year, I've developed a pattern of sorts in my consumption. I try to have at least two very memorable meals. I stock up on street pashminas to give as gifts or to add to my stockpile.

And I try to locate staple pieces that wouldn't be easily accessible through Pittsburgh area shopping but would be difficult to purchase online (like shoes in brands unfamiliar to me, clothing in fabrics that I'd want to feel before buying, jeans, coats, etc.).

I realized at the end of January that the Barney's Warehouse Sale was going to occur during my time in NYC for Chris's conference. Since we usually try to fit in some shopping when we travel, I knew Chris would be just as excited as I was to attend this famous event. And he quickly added it to the agenda, especially since Pittsburgh is not the most diverse shopping landscape for discount luxury menswear. With the closure of Filene's Basement there are even fewer options around here for him. The Pittsburgh Saks has a very limited selection of men's contemporary clothing and most of it is fashion victim-y designer denim lines that don't interest him at all. Moda is great but often priced out of Chris's budget.

So during these trips he makes the most of the diverse options and I relish in having a partner who will accompany me on destination shopping trips.

We both did well in NYC, though we've never been able to have the same magical Century 21 experience as we did on our first trip there together in 2006 (during which Chris bought outerwear from Prada and Paul Smith and I bought my first designer handbag). This time, we walked out empty handed, though their women's designer shoe selection was fairly extensive. We also struck out at Bloomingdales and Saks. But Barney's Coop was lucky for Chris and the Warehouse Sale had great pieces for me.

Chris got this beautiful Fiorentini + Baker boots with a cap toe. While the jury was still out, I told him that they looked like boots that a Depression-era orphaned boy would wear. That sealed their fate. The leather is so nice and I hope I can find a deal on a pair of their fantastic women's boots someday.

At the Warehouse Sale, Chris struck out but I got the Marc by Marc Jacobs Alessandra dress in a different colorway.

And a pair of Stella McCartney Jeans. It was intimidating trying on jeans in front of uninhibited European tourists and the models circulating the sale but Chris shielded me and I worked quickly to try them on without the privacy of a formal dressing room.

After eating a memorable and delicious lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar, we stopped at the East Village Buffalo Exchange where we both found great, gently used pieces.

Chris got a tweed Paul Smith sportcoat. It is very professorial.

I got a mbmj sweater top and an Owl flap clutch bag for insanely cheap.

As much as I love Pittsburgh, I've never found anything like that at our Avalon Exchange. Though, they do always provide an avenue through which to get quick cash for unwanted clothing.

While I miss the far away friends and the limitless shopping possibilities in NYC, I am glad to be home. I came home to three packages (one for chris, two for me) and got to fully celebrate his birthday. Next post will document the these recent acquisitions. Thanks for reading!

February 22, 2009

Back from NYC, Lots of updates to do, but here is a quick shot of my petticoat!

My stylish colleague over at Style Tribe noticed and cleverly branded the emerging visible slip trend as the Wispy Little Thing (WLT) and I LOVE that. Be sure to check out her analysis!

To continue this theme, I received my petticoat from ebay. It is longer than I anticipated, so I had to roll the top of it, Catholic school girl style, but I am very pleased with the garment. I took some quick iphone mirror shots of it and look forward to finding the perfect voluminous topskirt to pair with it, ala the gorgeous Abaete Nancie skirt.

I am strategizing how to alter the length. I obviously cannot take it up from the bottom, as it would eliminate the scalloped hem detail that makes it so special. I will probably try to hem from the top after consulting my mother who's sewing skills are far more advanced than my own. What do you think?

February 12, 2009

Harnessing a Trend: Exposed Slips and My Own Abaete Nancie Skirt

A few epals had great luck during some of the recent sales! They were able to score this romantic, whimsical, divinely feminine Abaete "Nancie" skirt which features a detached, exposed petticoat.

The sizing for this skirt ran notoriously small (size 0's needing size 6's, etc.) so I didn't work too hard to locate one. I heard rumblings about an H&M knockoff but then learned that the exposed slip matched the skirt, which seemed too monotonous to emulate such a uniquely feminine, exposed slip effect, as shown above. So I set out on a mission: To find and acquire a suitable approximation of that petticoat and then locate a topskirt of appropriate length.

Well, part 1 of that mission is complete as of today.

I purchased this scalloped petticoat off Ebay (thanks to a clutch tip from epal, Najeema) and I will keep it handy for part 2. It will be necessary that I have the petticoat with me to ensure the proper length of a black, grey, brown, or navy flouncy, natural-waisted skirt. My quest to adopt the exposed slip began earlier.

I don't quite recall when I first noticed this emerging trend. I do remember vividly that I was extremely happy this summer when I acquired this Marc by Marc Jacobs Mochachino velvet dress with attached lace petticoat from Barneys Coop in Georgetown for 75% off retail.

It was great for fall and I hope to wear it a few more times before the end of winter! The other week I purchased a vintage-inspired piece from Anthropologie with the intent to build outfits around the pretty, pleated hemline. I displayed it in my last post, paired with a Manoush ruffle bib dress.

With these key pieces in tact, project exposed slips will continue to be successful in 2k9 thanks to the additions the topskirt (readers, please let me know if you spot anything) and my new scalloped petticoat!

February 10, 2009

Recent Outfits: Manoush, Tibi, Alice + Olivia, See By Chloe, etc.

I've been so busy with various application materials for conferences, teaching fellowships, and a teaching award for which I was nominated that I have not had much time to take outfit photos. But here are a few that feature recent acquisitions and old favorites.

I leave for New York on Saturday and I am still fretting over how to pack strategically!

February 09, 2009

Legendary Fall 08 Discounts: The Economic Aftermath for Designers

Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine quote various prominent mid-level designers lamenting the horrors of their items being marked down early in the holiday shopping season, to cope with waning retail sales amid the economic downturn.

From Nymag.com:
Diane Von Furstenberg told The Wall Street Journal, that those kinds of sales "cannot happen again." And (designers are) going to make sure of it. Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs are considering carrying exclusive collections in their own stores to protect their labels against sales. Also, some designers might only offer retailers their pre-fall collections, rather than their runway collections, which they'd save for their own stores. Saks chief executive Stephen I. Sadove said he wouldn't want that to happen, because the runway collection sets the image and tone of each label.

EXCEPT you cannot move the volume of merchandise in your boutiques that you can in department stores. Department stores have a geographical reach that boutiques cannot match, even with comprehensive online shop outposts, like DVF.com. Marc Jacobs and DVF are not going to open boutique here in rustbelt cities like Pittsburgh, or even in larger, more affluent cities like DC. Popular mid-level designers simply cannot opt to hold their pieces hostage, refusing to distribute to Saks or Neiman Marcus unless they plan on moving WAY less merch than previous years. That move that would only lead to investors (already dwindling in the recession) withdrawing their support and patronage from said angry designers.

Small boutiques, connected or unconnected with a specific designer name, are going facing tougher challenges than ever, struggling to compete with the deep discounts of larger luxury department stores' aggressive sale schedules and volume discounts:

From WSJ.com:
That, in turn, clobbered smaller boutiques. "It didn't seem logical to continue," says Linda Dresner, owner of a Park Avenue shop that for a quarter-century specialized in procuring unusual items favored by the fashion cognoscenti, like $1,000 dresses by Japanese label Comme des Garçons. She closed her doors in December, unable to keep up with the price-cutting.

I am dismayed to think of the broader effects from losing boutiques who provide higher levels of service to loyal customers, and who might more willingly take chances on carrying or consigning the pieces of emerging designers.

from WSJ.com:
Saks's maneuver marked an open abandonment of the longstanding unwritten pact between retailers and designers over when, and to what extent, to cut prices. Those old rules boiled down to this: Leave the goods at full price at least two months, and don't do markdowns until the very end of the season.

As much as I value the presence of boutiques in the marketplace, I don't have the disposable income to "vote with my dollar" and buy from them on principle when it comes to mid-level, popular designer clothing. Even if my size is out of stock in the department store company system, the knowledge that something has been deeply discounted will prevent me from spending a dime over that price. Although I recognize the profound loss of stores like Karma from the Pittsburgh shopping landscape, I could not afford Nanette Lepore or Tibi at boutique prices. As sad as I am for the loss, retail Darwinism will prevail in a capitalist society.

February 08, 2009

Valentine Date Inspiration

valentine bows
valentine bows - by jesspgh on Polyvore.com*

While playing around in polyvore, I decided to make a set involving my dream Valentine's day look. Chris and I will be flying to NYC that day so that he can present at a conference. I am going to have to pack pretty light (and plan to write more on that later). This means we probably won't have much opportunity to get all dolled up or cook a fantastic meal together, like we usually do. If I was going somewhere for a Valentine's date, I would construct an outfit around the theme of bows.

Bows can be tricky. It can be hard for them not to seem too twee or too juvenile. The bows embellishing the items above straddle sophistication with cute and vaguely romantic whimsy, preventing them from being cutesy. Granted, for a regular day, this would be a bit over the top. But for special occasions, and worn with the right attitude, this would make for a dreamy date ensemble!

*Although I am not typically a big pink person, there seems to be a lot of bow-and-pink overlap. Happy Valentine's Week!

February 06, 2009

Pittsburgh Waterfront Shopping Report: Filene's Basement Closing Sale, TJ Maxx and Marshalls Clearance Sales, etc.

Speck, being the little pre-arthritic pup she is, was almost out of her joint vitamin biscuits so I had to hit up a Petco this week. I decided to go to the Homestead Waterfront to check out the Filene's Basement closing sale and other Waterfront staples.

First up was Filene's. I spent a LONG time lingering here because everything was obviously non-returnable and final sale so the items I contemplated had to be sure things. By now most of the stuff was picked over. They had a HUGE fur coat section which is really weird because I've never before seen A fur at Filene's, let alone an entire section of furs.

The clothing for women was pretty meh. There was still a decent amount of Vault stuff from Barneys (75% off the marked price) including a dress by Rachel Roy, some Kate Spade for Topshop, all of the ugly Armani, and a formal looking Missoni clown dress for formal clown conventions. I bought the last See by Chloe dress which I had tried on months earlier.

What was left in Men's was all inspired by Ed Hardy and hideous save for some nicer dress shirts and ties. No Barneys Vault stuff to be found for men.

They had some luggage at decent prices (extra 20% off lowest price). I got chris and I these carryons from the future.

One gray and one black. I almost got red but I already have red luggage.

The shoe section was probably the most fully stocked of the whole store and the prices weren't great so I am not surprised. Lots of overpriced nine west, steve madden, lots of blowfish, rampage, etc. etc. for an extra 20% off in addition to their regular clearance section in shoes which had no bonus discounts. Nothing that exciting in handbags (additional 20% off). A few lesportsac mini organizer bags. I got a striped one that fits my iphone. Hopefully it will prevent tragedies like the great screen smash of holiday '08.

I made my final selections and headed to the checkout, feeling pretty sad and nostalgic for the glory days of Filene's shopping. Then I hit up Target. On my way there I passed Dicks which had great painted windows in honor of the Steelers:

I went to Target to scope the new Orla Kiely for Target housewares and accessories.

Nothing was out yet. Boo! I did see the Hayden Harnett for Target stuff and contemplated buying the fantastic umbrella. I will wait for a sale.

Next were Marshalls and TJ Maxx, where I found pretty great deals on nice sweaters. I got three merino wool Design History boyfriend cardigans (black, gray, and purple) for about 85% off retail.

Shown with my See by Chloe Dress

I also found some cute, cheap cashmere cardigans for 85% or more off retail. I rounded out my purchases with some gifts for a few people with upcoming bdays.

I passed on a very cute $29 Theory dress from fall of 2007 and a few other random mid level designer odds and ends. They had a couple Le Mystere and Felina bras in random sizes for $13. And some very pretty and soft Vera Wang pajamas for $25. If you are looking for Le Crueset French Ovens in Blue, Green, or Flame (orange) now is the time to hit up TJ Maxx and Marshalls because they had a bunch in various sizes.

Shoes were marked down also. I got these funny double-strap maryjanes by dollhouse for $10.

They are not leather but heel height is nice and low (probably under 3 inches) so they will be good for teaching.

I stopped at Giant Eagle, Getgo, and Petco too. But those stores are pretty boring, except for when you get to pet animals at Petco.

February 03, 2009

Building My Closet: The Lure of a Full-Skirted Winter Coat

A week or so ago, the Sartorialist posted a photo of two women in Milan walking arm in arm, wearing head to toe black, donning full-skirted coats. The photo was composed beautifully, (as one can expect from this now-iconic street style blog), and amidst an otherwise stark urban landscape, the whimsical coats offered a frilly, yet unfussy solution to the drudgery of winter.
This picture, depicting two lengths of a divinely feminine silhouette in a pragmatic winter weather package, really made me covet such a piece for my own wardrobe. Serendipitously, on the one-week anniversary of the published photo, I came upon a full-skirted coat to call my own.

Alice + Olivia striped wool coat

Finding the coat was bittersweet, as it occurred during the closing sale of a local boutique, Karma Fashion. As the economy struggles, small business retailers face fierce competition with the deep discounts of luxury department stores. Boutiques like Karma and the premium services they often provide are becoming an unfortunate casualty of the recession, as more and more people eliminate unnecessary purchases (unless they succumb to seductive epic sales, like me).

The always-friendly and attentive owner of Karma was just profiled in the Post-Gazette so I was especially shocked to hear that their doors were shutting and she was heading over to competing local boutique and national etailer, Chickdowntown, to handle some component of their online sales. I hope that the new staff addition will help turn around Chick Downtown's variable customer service and I wish the former owner of Karma good luck in her future retail endeavors! She has fantastic taste and (from our admittedly limited interactions) a great attitude so she will bring a lot to the table for Chick.

But I digress. Although my full-skirted winter coat is not the solid black of my inspiration, and I certainly lack the long, lithe limbs of the women in the original photo, I sated this coat craving and filled a hole in my closet with what will hopefully be a statement piece I can keep for years to come!


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