November 25, 2012
Kate Spade decided to launch their Cyber Monday sale a bit early and there are some amazing deals to be found. I was so tempted by the book clutch, but with baby on the way it seems impractical. Everything is final sale so beware of sale goggles! Are you getting anything?
November 23, 2012
Black Friday is a polarizing retail concept. Some of us love the opportunity to get up early and hunt for the best deals on items available in limited quantities. Black Friday has become for plenty of Americans, it's own annual tradition. But others loathe that each year seems to bring out even more appalling, sensationalistic tales depicted on nightly news broadcasts as the worst elements of consumer greed, materialism, and competition. Although I have shopped many Black Fridays with my mom and siblings, I have felt empathetic to both perspectives.
And as Black Friday encroaches earlier and earlier into the week, subsuming Thanksgiving Day and in some cases, even the days preceding it, it becomes difficult not to notice a growing contempt for this shopper holiday.
What is most interesting to me is that the bulk of the ire toward Black Friday gets channeled at shoppers, themselves. And it's no wonder because the setup creates conditions in which the shoppers become very easy targets. People camped out in sleeping bags the week prior. Lines stretching around already expansive strip malls. The fights between warring customers over the last available hot toy from that year. The ugly, depressing video footage of the hoards of shoppers rushing into big box stores as soon the doors open, often trampling one another and/or bedraggled workers in the process. All of it makes for a sensationally unattractive portrait of American consumption and material life. But when I discuss Black Friday with friends and colleagues, and they rail against the shoppers I find myself becoming defensive. This is not only because I have shopped Black Friday in years previous, but also because the discussion rarely evades what I regard to be a rhetoric of classism. The anti-Black Friday argument is usually some version of the following: "I don't care about saving money enough to deal with the crowds," and "If you can't afford it any other day, you don't need it/shouldn't be buying it on Black Friday." These are both arguments that have merit, for sure. But in my experience, these arguments come most often from people who are able (socioeconomically speaking) to afford easily to opt out from Black Friday and its savings.
For better or worse those of us in America currently inhabit an incredibly materialistic cultural moment in which notions surrounding consumer "needs" get blurred with our desires and "wants." People who are financially struggling aren't living in social vacuums and aren't exempt from the pressures of holiday "performance." Regardless of class status, for many of us a successful December holiday is measured by the ability to effectively lavish loved ones with material appreciations of their choice/by their request. The process of making a gift list and checking it twice isn't one only reserved for the North Pole. Gifts and the process of giving matter to people. And the holidays are (particularly for those of us that do not practice religious rituals) an opportunity to make memories that matter with loved ones. Those memories are sometimes of the material variety. I don't think that is terrible or contemptuous or greedy. I also don't consider it to be a cultural practice that should be reserved for only the middle and upper-strata of our socio-economic hierarchy. I have incredibly vivid memories from different points in my life of giving and receiving gifts. And I am sure this is true for the bulk of the American public, regardless of their bank accounts or annual salaries.
Anti- and pro-Black Friday shoppers will likely agree that the gifts we buy should be what we can afford. Anti-Black Friday shoppers might also say that we shouldn't be so greedy as to want something we can't otherwise afford. But on Black Friday that elusive concept of "afford-ability" becomes a bit more malleable than usual, with steep discounts to lure in deal hunters. So of course, those shoppers who need to stretch their dollars the farthest will encompass a large portion of those tempted to shop Black Friday. Rather than begrudge people the chance to fulfill most efficiently the wishlists of those around them I propose we direct Black Friday related anger and contempt toward the driving forces behind this shopper holiday's colonization of Thanksgiving.
Shoppers aren't the ones making executive decisions regarding store hours. Shoppers can't require employees to leave their families for work rather than eat dinner and give thanks. Shoppers don't assign doorbusters or distribute store circulars that say "no rain checks," "no price matching," and "only x number of item available per location." The driving motivation behind doorbusters and Thanksgiving Day hours and early deals are most certainly the stores themselves. Each among the participating mega companies/brands/stores stand to benefit from their own manufactured demand by providing consumers with more and earlier times during which to consume.
And so, the concept of Black Friday has generated for big corporations both a domino effect and a retail race to the bottom. I remember a time when opening at 6am on Friday seemed somewhat inhumane but enough to generate a buzz. In the last few years the landscape of competition has been such that one store announces that they'll open at midnight on Black Friday. The next one-ups things by opening at 11pm on Thanksgiving Day. Before you know it, the standard becomes opening at 8pm or 6pm (prime dinner hours) or even earlier on Thanksgiving, drawing both workers (out of requirement) and consumers (out of the desire to get the best prices) away from their loved ones on a day when we are supposed to count our blessings and be thankful for what we have.
If it seems ugly that's because it is ugly. The ideology of consumerism under a capitalist marketplace can absolutely be ugly. But in this example, make no mistake: it is an ugly that stems more so from corporate greed, rather than consumer greed. Corporate greed configures a system in which the specter of consumerism becomes magnified and monstrous.
If and when store executives consider opting out of Thanksgiving hours, they might feel compelled by the bottom line: most consumers have finite amounts of holiday shopping dollars. The competition for those dollars in a neoliberal marketplace is such that very few big players will opt out. Black Friday will marshal forward, continuing to produce an easy consumer scapegoat. And it will further colonize the month of November. But I for one won't be holding the shoppers to blame.
*props to those companies that announced they will not open on Thanksgiving Day. It's telling that at this point stores must announce that they *won't* be open on a holiday.
November 22, 2012
On this Thanksgiving Day in 2012, I feel not only very pregnant with an active and (from all indications) healthy fetus, but I am pregnant with much good fortune. Although my life is far from perfect, I know that it suits me and my so-called problems are manageable, particularly when I think about them in juxtaposition with the legitimate hardship and challenges facing so many others in America and around the world. The opportunity to give thanks should not only be about counting one's blessings but also about thinking creatively and with generosity through the myriad of ways to pay forward one's good fortune. Whether it be through volunteering, through monetary or material donation, through kindness, or through key moments of empathetic exchange with others, there are very many avenues through which to do just that.
I love this holiday for a bunch of reasons that I've counted in previous posts. But to reiterate, I love that Thanksgiving is a secular national holiday. If we discount Black Friday's growing encroachment, it's not at all about material acquisition (more on that tomorrow). Thanksgiving also involves an inordinate amount of food, side dishes, and desserts. But most of all, it encourages people to linger in the space of gratitude for longer than they would otherwise. And for a lot of us, that practice of giving thanks gets ritualized and shared around the table with loved ones. Since I was a child my family has been in the habit of going around the room and talking about the aspects of life for which we're grateful.
This year I am so thankful for my loved ones who have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive of this new family-friendly venture that my partner and I have decided to pursue. I am thankful to be adequately insured and have access to capable medical care. I am thankful for my job and for understanding coworkers (who treat me and my impending maternity leave as something to celebrate rather than be burdened from). I am thankful for my students who not only motivate me to want to learn more, try harder, be better, etc., but who have been very sweet and caring in response to my "delicate' condition. I am thankful for my partner who is as kind, generous, supportive, and loving as he is hilarious, whip-smart, and hardworking. I am thankful for our parents who will give our child a grandparenting experience 6-persons strong! As someone who grew up knowing only one of her grandparents, it is not lost on my how unique and lucky she'll be. I am thankful for so much more than I can articulate in such a confined writerly space.
Most of the time I believe that the world could use more gratitude and more hefty helpings of empathy. But on this particular holiday it feels as if we collectively come a bit closer to reaching our "thankful" and reflective potential. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!
Here are some organizations that do a lot of good locally:
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
Women and Girls Foundation
Blackburn Center Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
The Pittsburgh Foundation
November 21, 2012
I wore this to teach recently and felt very comfortable in it (despite my intensified physical discomforts). The dress is by Japanese Weekend and the best part about their pieces is that they are all designed to "wear now and later." i.e. they have nursing friendly elements built into the construction of the dress. I do think this particular piece could stand to be hemmed a bit. It looks a bit long, especially for wearing later when my belly will be deflated.
In a post-daylight savings framework, it's become difficult to get outfit photos before nightfall. I was glad I remembered to run out for these in between meetings since I teach into the evenings. I do think pregnancy is beginning to show on my face in addition to all the other places. But I am doing the best that I can to accept the changes my body needs to make that are beyond my control.
Japanese Weekend dress (via ebay for a good deal!)
Target cardigan (gift from my mom)
Assets Maternity tights
Payless flats (gift from my mom)
Kors watch; Anthro necklace; leather cuff bracelet (gift from Chris)
November 20, 2012
The other day I posted about how the UK offers many more extended size options for female customers. Thankfully, one among the list of UK retailers I've browsed, named Simply Be, extended their retail outposts to include a website that offers shipping for US shoppers. Simply Be carries a lot of stylish and fashion forward pieces but in sizes that accommodate curvier and more ample bodies.
My favorite items sold by Simply Be include their selection of going out dresses. Lots of the pieces can be dressed up or down for work and weekend. I am especially enamored with the dress in the top middle. Have you shopped Simply Be's US website? I have to admit, I haven't yet but as I figure out what sizes I will need for my postpartum figure, it's one I plan to keep in mind.
November 18, 2012
While visiting A Mother's Boutique in Wexford, I had the chance to try a number of "wear now and later" maternity brands that lengthen the longevity of one's transitional wardrobe. Annee Matthew is a brand with which I was previously unfamiliar. But I really adored this simple black dress. It could easily be accessorized for work or going out. And it was so so soft. I tried on a large and it was an excellent fit that allowed room to grow so I would say this brand runs true to size. The ruffle trim at the bottom adds special details to an otherwise simple, classic shape. And like all the clothing in the store, it is nursing-friendly. The neckline pulls down to enable breastfeeding.
For the price, the fabric was of a high quality while being extremely comfortable. I also have learned at this point in my pregnancy that if you are having one of those bad body image days that feel intensified because of the extra feelings (as I lovingly call them), then a simple black dress can really bring a sense of confidence and comfort. Of course, the brand's offerings go beyond simple black dresses. And the best part is that many Annee Matthew styles are available in extended sizes (up to 3X). You can read the back story of Annee Matthew by visiting the brand's page on the Mother's Boutique website.
November 17, 2012
As I prepare for my body to be in another state of uncertain flux, I find myself hypothetically shopping sites with which I was previously unfamiliar. Yet again, online store, Fashion World demonstrates that the UK retail and mail order catalogues landscape serves extended sizes with so many more options than what are available to US consumers. Above are my favorite options from Fashion World UK, which specializes in plus size clothing and even sells some maternity options (the middle three dresses in the top of the set are all plus size maternity clothing!). If only they shipped worldwide!
November 15, 2012
November 14, 2012
I've been thinking a great deal about my own changing shape as a result of these final days of pregnancy and noticed some similarities to the above iconic line drawings.
I'm currently teaching a class on the history of advertising in America and we just wrapped a unit on the glamour industries who marketed beauty and fashion to women in the twentieth century. As an introduction to the unit (during which we read Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Kathy Peiss) I went over some iconic decade-specific trends in clothing that, according to Brumberg encouraged women to prioritize (or turn into "projects"/works in progress) specific parts of their bodies based on what was emphasized as most desirable. It was interesting to take students from the "trends" of the Gilded Age all the way through the emergence of bikinis and bare midriffs.
One of my favorite aspects of the subjects I teach is that process of defamiliarization, during which the masked ideological curriculum embedded into the mundane or the taken-for-granted can be revealed through a process of historiography. To expose that ideological power can be amplified via perceived innocuousness and has purpose as well as influence is as challenging as it is rewarding. We talked about the Gibson Girl, the flapper, military influences on clothing, the New Look, mini skirts, and more. So when I came upon this infographic from the UK brand, Marisota, I had fun comparing their abbreviated history of how notions of beauty have shifted with fashion and popular culture to my own visual lecture presentation. You can see it Marisota's infographic well as their accompanying narrative after the jump.
November 13, 2012
I realize I never shared this ensemble which includes a Motherhood Maternity dress that my mom gifted to me. I am wearing size large and it offers ample room without being clingy. I've found that I need a large in both Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity clothes. I would say that they run slightly smaller than other mass maternity lines. In my experience, Target, Gap, and Old Navy maternity run larger just like their non-maternity clothing. Motherhood Maternity runs slightly larger than Pea in the Pod which scales its sizes more closely with other "designer" maternity brands.
With daylight savings, it has been difficult to take photos in between classes in natural light so I've retreated to my office for some of the upcoming outfit shots. And I've fallen behind on belly pics. But it's because I am taking care of other baby and work related preparation business that has taken priority over the blog. I do think that with a nice chunk of time, I'll be able to schedule a bunch more backlogged outfit posts as well as maternity brand reviews. It's just a matter of finding that chunk of time. In the meanwhile, thanks for following along!
(For some reason my camera always blurs the side view... so annoying!)
Motherhood Maternity dress from Macys (gift from my mom) (in a different print here)
Stretchy non maternity tights (brand unknown)
Payless cushiony flats (gift from my mom)
BP cardigan from Nordstrom (similar here)
Kors watch; Anthro necklace
November 09, 2012
When I became pregnant, one of the first things I did was try to figure out what local shopping options were available to me for maternity clothing. It might sound silly but I knew that the process of building a work-friendly wardrobe that suited my third trimester needs would be both nerve-wracking and potentially very fun. And it has been precisely both! Although I fretted over what would fit me and what was worth spending a bit more to have, I accumulated a number of pieces that I really love that make me feel good while my body transitions and prepares for birth as well as postpartum.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of the greater Pittsburgh area's most trusted boutiques for moms and moms-to-be. But this boutique doesn't just serve Pittsburghers. It has a booming online retail business, wholesale lines, and popular social media outlets that are a part of the brand.
A Mother's Boutique, you are greeted by high ceilings, organized displays, and warm voices. It's proprietor, Judy is as much an entrepreneur as she is a useful, dedicated resource for women. Located just north of the city in Wexford and with a significant online retail and resource presence, this store specializes in maternity and postpartum clothing, accessories, and merchandise, all of which is nursing-friendly. To help carry forth various aspects of her growing business including its social media strategy, Judy has assembled a team of women who share her tenacity and passion for helping customers become the moms to which they aspire. They have a Facebook, Twitter, and Blog that correspond with the boutique's website, offering materials that serve informative, educational, and conversation-stimulating purposes to a large audience of followers.
The brick and mortar store corresponds closely with the retail website, carrying carefully curated designer maternity and nursing brands. In addition to tops, pants, skirts, and dresses, the store carries a vast range of bras and nursing tanks in both straight and extended sizes. Because a significant portion of A Mother's Boutique's clientèle are online, Judy offers bra fit guidance to women locally and around the country. Buying a bra without trying it on can be risky. But with input from a questionnaire developed by Judy, she can conduct a virtual bra fitting with clients from near or far. The information produced in the process is incredibly helpful and detailed. And Judy said that even local patrons utilize this option, as their busy lives don't always offer the potential to shop in person. The store also carries pajamas and nightgowns, belly binders, baby carriers, organic and reusable nursing pads, as well as other odds and ends for mom and baby. The greater Pittsburgh area is truly lucky to have such a place in its own backyard!
The maternity clothing selection in the store is particularly impressive. Judy chose the brands she carries carefully to bring consumers high-quality pieces that are stylish and functional. All the the items that can be worn during pregnancy can also be worn into nursing and postpartum times. This "wear now and later" strategy is smart because (as I've written on this blog many times) it can feel frustrating to dedicate a budget to what is essentially a short-term, temporary wardrobe. The pieces that are able to be worn after birth alleviate some of the financial stress of executing a stylish, professional pregnancy by helping bring down the cost per wear calculus.
A Mother's Boutique's website is as comprehensive and well stocked as the store. And as mentioned above, the affiliated blog, twitter, and Facebook pages include helpful information for nursing moms. What stood out most for me when I visited the store and met with Judy was the way in which A Mother's Boutique merges consumer services with education. It isn't just about sales. Judy runs this business with integrity and respect for her customers.
During my visit, I was lucky to get to try on a bunch of pieces from brands with which I was previously unfamiliar. So I will be reviewing the lines here on Consume or Consumed and offering some fit guidance to those who might want to build their maternity and motherhood wardrobes.
Thank you to A Mother's Boutique for the opportunity to visit, shop, and chat!
November 06, 2012
I don't typically eat fast food. It isn't that I don't crave it or feel like it's the worst thing ever or anything. I just don't wind up needing for my meals to be fast most of the time. But on Wednesdays, when Chris and I teach into the late evening, commuting back to the city when most restaurants have closed, dinner options are slim pickings. So the other day when we spotted the "open" lights at the Five Guys closest to campus, we made a b-line for some quick burgers and fries.
And although I was exhausted and a bit frazzled (and the angle of these makes me look very short) I am sharing them cause I really like my dress. Chris observed that it looks like the sort of thing I'd wear pre-pregnancy and I agree! It's from the maternity line at ASOS. Definitely worth checking out if you are pregnant. I find the pieces to run just slightly small in terms of pre-pregnancy sizing. I ordered a size up from what would be my pre-pregnancy size and it worked out well.
ASOS striped knit maternity dress (longer sleeved version here)
BP cardigan from Nordstrom (Halogen version on sale here)
Assets maternity tights
Payless cushion captoe flats
US readers, don't forget to vote today!
November 02, 2012
Late last winter when Pittsburgh's Saks Fifth Avenue turned their closing sale into a company consolidation sale, it was bittersweet. Consumers reaped the discounted benefits of brands and merchandise that would have otherwise never been offered in our local store. And I certainly took advantage of the deals. But soon after, I planned and was successful in becoming pregnant, leaving some of the pieces I purchased during the final sale days still unworn.
But one specific purchase has become a non-maternity maternity superstar, proving to be even more useful than I could have imagined! My Burberry Brit coat is warm and comfortable with an easy, relaxed shape. Somehow, even at 35 weeks it still buttons! I am so glad because the weather has taken a turn for the very cold and although I usually feel like a human oven, I to have a coat for when the temperatures dip into the 30s.
I wore this yesterday to campus and then to a late night dinner date with Chris. It kept me warm and relatively dry through the ongoing rain. Although I didn't pick it intending to have a versatile non-maternity outerwear option for maternity times, it has become just that. And with only five weeks left, I'm so glad I don't have to buy anything else for my temporary wardrobe. Thank goodness for the inverse pleat in the back that enables both its tent shape when I'm not pregnant and its flexibility to fit my belly in my current state!
**As an aside, my mom who reads here and on Consuming Parenthood has implored me to remove the clutter from my mirror photos and ... I promise would if I could. For these shots, I am in what will be the nursery and it is currently bursting with the incredible generosity of our families and friends who showered us with so many gifts. Until we set up the crib (hopefully this weekend) and finish removing the other pieces of furniture that are in there, the organization process is stalled. So please excuse the clutter and mess! Sometimes life in anticipation of great change gets especially cluttered and messy. And that's ok. Also, hi mom! :)