Tag Archives: shopping

Twelve Steps

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“Hi, my name is Helena and I’m an online shopaholic.”

“Hi Helena.”

“It’s been fourteen hours since my last purchase.  I guess I’m not doing very well.  I’ve tried to quit but a catalogue or coupon will come in the mail and my hands start to shake.  I find I have to rush right to my iPad and before I even know what’s happening I’ve ordered a pair of shoes…”

This is my recurring nightmare.  That I’m up in front of a group of haggard looking people clutching Saks and Neiman Marcus bags and Zappos’ boxes, describing my need to find the next retail fix.  The thing is, I’m actually doing REALLY well.  I don’t want to quit!  I cannot believe some of the fabulous bargains I’ve snagged recently just by spending some time and energy trolling the internet.  I will have a complete and, dare I say, snappy look for fall without ever leaving the second floor of my house.  The world of online shopping has expanded to such an extent, there are few retailers you can’t access from the comfort of your lounge chair.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  This cannot ever replace the sheer pleasure of walking through a beautifully merchandised store.  Of seeing the new collections displayed on mannequins and in groupings while smelling the heady air of perfume samples and cosmetic counters.  My gosh, Nordstrom’s used to employ a pianist to play their Steinway in the middle of the selling floor just in case the fine merchandise and lovely restrooms weren’t enough to entice you to take a stroll around.  No, there is absolutely nothing like the experience of walking into a store, of touching the garments and seeing the array up close and in person.

BUT.  If you are like me and do not have ready access to good retail or are just too busy (who isn’t?) to devote several hours to shopping for great looks, then online is for you.  Plus, it allows you to take advantage of sale incentives that might not be available in a given store on a given day.

Here’s an example of how I work it:  There was a particular bracelet I had seen on the Banana Republic web site.  But I did not want to pay $45 plus $7 shipping for a fashion jewelry item.  Each day I checked in with the BR site, which, with an iPad or iPhone takes two seconds, and eventually there was an offer for 30% off all full price items.  Woo-hoo!  Here’s my big chance.  Now if you have a BR “Luxe” card you’re entitled to free shipping all the time and you earn back “rewards” points every time you shop, which in my case is regularly.  So let’s see; the bracelet was $45 plus $7 shipping, or $52.  With my Luxe card I get free shipping and with the 30% off that made it $31.50.   I had earned enough rewards points for a $30 rewards coupon.  That made the total for my order $1.50.  I paid a buck fifty for the bracelet!  HOW CAN YOU BEAT THAT??!

Sometimes it’s just a matter of paying attention.  Shopping on line for a dress for the opening of a new production, I scrolled through Saks.com until I found the perfect one.  Saks Fifth Avenue often offers free shipping so there was no harm in ordering it and trying it on at home where it fit perfectly!  It was a Pink Tartan (that’s the designer, not the fabric) on sale for 40% off because they only had one and it was a size 2.  But after a few days I started thinking that the sale price was still kind of high so I sent it back.  No sooner had I dropped the box off at my local post office when I was seized with remorse.  It was so perfect for me, fit so well, so nicely made, blah blah and blah.  So for the next couple of weeks everyday I searched the site for “Pink Tartan” until finally in the sale section it came back—my dress, size 2, now 70% off.  I bought it again, of course.  But for much less!

Okay, I know you’re tired of hearing my shopping exploits.  Let’s just say that with a little sleuthing, coupon saving and catalogue perusing you can put together a wardrobe without spending a fortune.  My main rules are:  1) don’t ever pay for shipping.  2) Don’t be afraid to return an item and try again for another size or color.   Most online retailers make it really easy to return with prepaid labels or labels you can print out.  3) If at all possible, buy from vendors who provide free returns or from those who have a brick and mortar store you can get to if you need to return an item, and 3) always wait until there’s an offer for some percentage off, because there always will be.

Meantime I suppose I can get on the wagon.  Does this one stop at the mall?

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Wedding Bell Blues, Greens and Other Colors

On a lovely dinner cruise down the Connecticut River last night I was talking with a friend about her son’s upcoming wedding.  Naturally, my first question was “What are you wearing?”

“Well, that’s tricky,” she said “because I can’t wear the same color as the bridesmaids.”  Huh??!!  Wait a second.  Rewind.  Have I been to so few weddings in the past twenty years that I don’t know what’s going on?  Where have I been?  When did this happen?  It used to be that the whole point was to find a dress that was the same color AS the bridesmaids.  To find something in the color scheme of the wedding party, as it is known (at least last I heard).  I can remember vividly my mother shopping for dresses for each of my brothers’ weddings.  The first was a shade of light blue.  All the bridesmaids wore the same dress and the mother of the bride, as well as the mother of the groom wore the same color.  By the time my second brother got married I thought it was ingenious that the bride decided that each bridesmaid could wear a dress of her own choosing, as long as it was yellow.  This was particularly good planning since I was only fourteen at the time, and the oldest attendant was a married woman well into her twenties.  But still the mothers wore yellow.  At my own son’s wedding the color was ivory (my suggestion, btw) and the bridesmaids, the mothers and, yes, the bride all wore the same shade.  It was quite stunning.  Truly.

Of course this can backfire, as when my niece was married and the groom’s grandmother was instructed to wear green.  Now I grant you if there is one color that has a broad range it’s green, but indeed Bubbie showed up in a green dress, green hat, green hose, green shoes, green bag.  Get the picture?  As Kermit once said, “It’s not easy being green.”  When she walked down the aisle it might as well have been the Yellow Brick Road.

And I’m so glad the wedding-party-in-black thing is finally over.  Nothing like starting a marriage off on the bright side.

I suppose it was only natural that conformity in a wedding would fall by the wayside.  There are so many possibilities out there now.  The fact that a national retailer like J.Crew can supply bridesmaids with attire in a multitude of colors and styles with just a click of the mouse is mind boggling for those of us who can remember being a bridesmaid and suffering through the fittings and discomfort of the custom made gown that in no way belonged on a human body.  Not to mention the expense.  But where does that leave the mothers?  I guess the best policy is to honor the wishes of the bride.  Some prefer everything to match.  Others do not.  But don’t fret, moms, and sisters, for that matter.  There is an amazing array of wedding clothes available on line.  Nordstrom’s, as well as Neiman Marcus have on line departments devoted just to wedding attire, and although some of the Mother-of-the-Bride styles look like, well…MOB, it’s a good place to start for selection and color.  They also carry dresses suitable for bridesmaids and best of all, a wide range of wedding dresses, from high end to very moderate, short and long.  And with their return policy it’s a boon to those of us in the boonies without ready access to Saks Fifth Avenue Bridal Salon (this is to a bride what a spa day is to the body) or the like.  Speaking of which, Saks and Neiman Marcus on line regularly have dresses on sale and if you go to their “Cocktail,” “Evening Gown,” “Mother of the Bride” or “Date Night” or even just their “Sale” links you’d be surprised at how reasonably you can find a beautiful and classy dress.

But whatever you get, make sure it’s comfortable and fits well.   The last thing you want to be doing on the big day is worrying about what’s riding up, falling down, itching, binding, chafing, wrinkling, because believe me, it’ll show on your face when you get the pictures back.

And Mazel Tov (that means “Good Luck”) to you and the happy couple!

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The happy (and comfortable) Mother-of-the-Groom

Links:

Nordstrom’s  http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/wedding-shop?origin=leftnav

Neiman Marcus http://www.neimanmarcus.com/category.jsp?itemId=cat10040734&parentId=cat42300744&masterId=cat000001&fromDrawer=true

J.Crew  http://www.jcrew.com/wedding.jsp

Saks  http://www.saksfifthavenue.com/Women-s-Apparel/Dresses/shop/_/N-52flor/Ne-6lvnb5?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374306418048&bmUID=k2wesR7&SECSLOT=LN-Dresses

p.s. I’ve been asked by some readers to supply the links to some of the vendors and sites I mention, so I’ve gone back and done so on previous posts.

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To A Tee

Are you, like me, on a constant quest for the perfect white tee shirt?  I swear that if I had a dollar for every minute I’ve spent on line shopping for white tees I could open a factory and make my own.  Not that there is a dearth of white tee shirts available.  There are thousands.  Every retailer has several on offer so what’s the big deal?  I’ll tell you.  There is something about a tee shirt that has to be just so.  The fit, the length of the sleeve, the neck, the fiber content, the denier (that’s the weight of the fiber content) the cut, the length.  Am I right?  If it’s too short it looks like a box.  If it’s too long it looks like your daddy’s undershirt and forget about tucking it into a skirt (notice I didn’t say anything about tucking it into your pants.  Don’t.).  If it’s too baggy it’s unattractive.  If it’s too tight it’s uncomfortable and not too classy, I might add. Then there is the question of whether it’s a tee shirt to wear by itself (thicker) or under a sweater (a little thinner), short sleeve, ¾ sleeve, long sleeve, V-neck, crewneck, ballet neck, scoop neck… This is an ongoing search because a white tee doesn’t last more than a season or two at most.  They stretch out, they lose their shape, the armpits turn yellowish, but mostly they get that dingy look and that’s when you know it’s time to polish your furniture with it.

Lately, when I find a tee shirt I really like, I’ve gotten into the practice of buying in bulk and stock piling them in the attic.  I dole the precious garments out to myself two at a time—one to wear, one to wash—keeping the others for reserve.  I personally prefer 100% cotton and I’ve found that price point isn’t always a measure of quality.  There’s a wide range out there; some pricey, others very reasonable.  On the high end, Michael Stars makes lovely shirts in different denier weights and amazingly, his one-size-fits-most actually does.   I don’t get it, and maybe larger sizes would not find his shirts as accommodating, but I find they fit very well.  On the other hand, Target, my go-to store for practically everything, has very good quality tee shirts under their “Mossimo Supply Co.” and their “Merona” brands.  They wash well, last a long time and are usually under $10, sometimes on sale for as little as $5.  And the best part, they have no label inside to irritate the back of your neck and drive you nuts.  Buy a bunch and fuggedaboutit.  Banana Republic has a nice one they call their “Timeless Tee” that runs about $22.50, but don’t pay full retail.  They regularly have promos that will give you a percentage off.   J.Crew also has some nice basic tees in their catalogue but I find these tend to look best on me when I’m skinnier.  ‘Nuff said.

So what do you do if you’ve spilled chocolate gelato or coffee down the front, or worse yet, worn it to an Italian restaurant and ordered the spaghetti and meat balls.  You know what I’m talking about.  That one stray strand of spaghetti goes “Thhhwwap” and you have an orange stain on the front that will never come out.  AAARRRGGGHHH.  As soon as I can, I blot it with some hot, hot water, and then shoot it with some Oxi Clean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover spray.  Wash it on the gentle cycle with some Ivory Snow and usually it’ll be good as new.  And as an extra precaution, Shout Pre-wash comes in little individual tear-open packets.  I always carry a couple in my handbag.

Of course, if that doesn’t work, it’s up to the attic for a new one from stock!

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Merona Scoop Neck Tee from Target

http://www.target.com/p/merona-women-s-ultimate-scoop-neck-tee-assorted-colors/-/A-14363791#prodSlot=medium_1_54

http://www.target.com/p/mossimo-supply-co-juniors-v-neck-tee-assorted-colors/-/A-14563875#prodSlot=medium_1_2

http://www.target.com/p/mossimo-supply-co-juniors-scoop-neck-tee-assorted-colors/-/A-14347765#prodSlot=medium_1_3

http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=3&pid=678563102

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Going Undercover

Can I just say I’ve been seeing far too many bra straps lately.  Lingerie straps would be the correct terminology but let’s face it, most of them are bra, B-R-A, bra straps.  Who needs to see that?  I was standing in line at the post office yesterday and a lovely young woman, I’d say in her twenties, came in to mail a package.  She had on a black tank top and black athletic shorts, but that’s a whole other blog post.  Sticking out on both sides of her shoulders were white bra straps.  Now I know this was a look several years ago for about a minute.  But really?  To me this is the easiest way to go from classy to trashy in two seconds.  Or two straps, if you will.  There are so many bra/camisole options out there; racer-back, T-back, convertible strap, Y-back, there is no reason why anyone’s straps need to show.  No one wants to see that, except maybe a Significant Other and that’s private.  There is a reason they call it UNDERwear.

This brings me to the matter of the slip.  Yes, as in “Your slip is showing.”  Or more to the point, “Are you wearing a slip?”  This little garment can make such a difference in one’s look and it seems to have gone out of use lately.  Why?  Skirts and dresses all hang better with a slip.  Even those that are lined benefit from a slip.  It keeps garments cleaner, less wrinkled and protected from mishaps (use your imagination here).  But here’s the key.  If you’re thinking of those horrible tricot nylon deals that ride up in about two seconds so that you have a bunch of hot synthetic around your middle the minute you start walking, you can forget that.  I’m talking about a slip made of a non-cling fabric.  A satin or taffeta-like garment that hangs free, because if it’s going to wind up in a bunch around your middle what’s the point, no?  Such a free-wheeling item can be found.  Farr West makes one and it’s available through Nordstrom’s on line.  Free shipping and free returns so you can hardly go wrong.  And you only need one in a nude shade which I believe they call “Mink.”  If you want to splurge you could get one in Black as well.  They’re not cheap but trust me, these things last a life time.  And you don’t have to wash it after every wearing.  It’s underwear, but not THAT far under.

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Dress by Rachel Kurland of Foxglove, slip by Helena Binder

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.  Go undercover.

http://shop.nordstrom.com/sr?origin=keywordsearch&contextualcategoryid=2375500&keyword=farr+west

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