Tuesday, September 30, 2014

J.Crew Reviews: Vintage Cotton Tees, Schoolboy Blazer in Houndstooth, Gingham Utility Shirt, Rib-Stitch Open Cardigan

I stopped by my local J.Crew over the weekend to pick up a few vintage cotton v-neck tees. Even though the fabric is thin and some of the colors are sheer, I just love the way they drape. Personally I like the v-neck silhouette best. The scoopneck version is a little too low and open for me, and the crewneck one comes up too high. Some colors are currently on sale for $19.99, and the rest are on promo for $24.50. I tried on a bunch of different colors in my normal J.Crew size of XXS to gauge the sheerness. Here's a summary.

Too sheer: light pulp, white, heather ballet, black
Not too sheer: autumn maple, heather graphite, dark olive, pink clay

I don't understand why the black was so sheer across the chest, but I could definitely see my nude bra underneath. Ultimately I settled on pink clay and heather graphite. After the 40% off final sale and 15% off student discount, they came out to be $10.19 and $12.50 before tax respectively.

My checkout experience was rather unpleasant though, because the in-store sales associate kept trying to charge me a higher price for the heather graphite tee. I asked her to match the online price of $24.50 before discounts (because there's no reason to buy it in-store if it's cheaper online), and she begrudgingly did so after calling over a manager but only applied 30% off. I told her that the CARDSONLY code should give me 40% off and offered to do a mock checkout on my phone. She looked at me with suspicion and then informed me rudely that it was only 30% off when she did it on their tablet (because they don't have a J.Crew credit card as the payment option). I showed her my phone that says 40% off for cardholders, and she told me in a nasty tone that I would have to wait for the manager again. Finally, everything got all sorted out. It took me over 15 minutes just to buy a t-shirt! What ever happened to treating your customers politely? Especially if they're loyal enough to have your credit card. Anyway, I was very underwhelmed by the poor customer service that day.

Enough complaining and onto the reviews. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I would try on a few other items for anyone who was interested.

Schoolboy Blazer in Houndstooth (Style B0664)
Size 00 (front view)
Size 00 (side view)
Size 0 (front view)
Size 0 (side view)
Size 0 (collar up)
I love schoolboy blazers, especially in fall/winter fabrics, so I was excited to see this houndstooth version in the sale section for $179.99 before discounts. I grabbed my usual schoolboy size of 00 as well as one size up, which is what I take when the fabric is thick (like for last year's black watch plaid schoolboy). If I were looking to add another winter blazer to my collection, this heavy wool one would be a great choice. I thought the houndstooth pattern in the plaid was quite subtle. If I wasn't looking for it, I would have thought it was just a plain brown plaid. The wool fabric is quite thick and warm. As I suspected, the 00 was too tight and pulled across my stomach and upper back (see first 2 photos). The 0 was much better, even leaving room for additional layers. The sleeves seemed a tiny bit long though albeit still acceptable. My favorite part was when I flipped up the collar and saw an unexpected pop of orange! Overall, well executed.

Verdict: like, size up

Gingham Utility Shirt (Style A9902)
Authentic Navy 00 (front view)
Authentic Navy 00 (boxy front view)
Authentic Navy 00 (side view)
I love a classic navy gingham shirt, so this version with utility pockets seemed promising. I thought the fabric would be flannel-y, but it felt sort of cool to the touch. According to the website, this is made of a cotton-linen blend, so that would make sense. My main issue is just how huge the shirt was! I look like I raided Engineer W's closet, and not in a cute menswear-inspired way. It was way too oversized and billowy. It's a pass for me.

Verdict: dislike the fit, size down

Rib-Stitch Open Cardigan (Style B2827)
Black XXS (front view)
Black XXS (side view)
I vaguely remember seeing this cardigan on Gigi a while back and liking the way it looked. Then I completely forgot about it until I saw one hanging on the rack in my size and knew I had to try it on. This sweater is knitted from an incredibly weighty and smooth cotton yarn, similar to a gray Theory sweater I thrifted three years ago. Because the material is cotton rather than wool, the sweater doesn't feel as warm overall as I would have expected given how heavy it is. The sleeves were a good length and reasonably slim, but I suspect they may eventually bag out at the elbows from prolonged wear like my other sweater. Nonetheless, this is quite flattering. It doesn't look too overwhelming on my 5' 4" frame, and the shawl collar wasn't too bulky from the side. I could also see wearing it belted at the waist. Adding to my wishlist.

Verdict: like, true to size

How do you feel about the vintage cotton tees at J.Crew? And have you ever had a difficult time getting an in-store sales associate to match their online price? Please let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 26, 2014

September 2014 Purchases

Background Info
I am currently an engineering grad student, and unlike many other disciplines, you can actually get paid (a little, not a lot) to attend grad school. I don't have to pay tuition and receive a small sum of money every month that covers my living expenses. The amount of money I get is fixed, which means my disposable income shrinks every year as my rent goes up, the price of gas rises, etc. Still I know I am very lucky that I do not carry any debt and also have some savings so that I don't have to worry about money during this period of my life.

Regarding my budget, I have set an amount of $300 for most months and $350 for the months of July and December/January. That may seem like a lot to some people. Heck, it seems like a lot to me. Eventually I would like to reduce this number to $200 per month, but I will need to do it gradually.

September Purchases

Surprisingly I didn't overspend on Altuzarra for Target this month. I placed a large online order the night the collection launched but ultimately returned many of the items due to fit issues, including this crane dress that I really liked in my review. Sadly it was just too loose in the bust, and I didn't feel like it was worth the cost of alterations given how few wears it would get. There are still two keepers though. Without further ado, here's the breakdown for this month:

1. Altuzarra for Target sleeveless sheer bow blouse (black XS) - I love tie bow blouses, and this one was no exception. It's definitely sheer, but I like the way it looks layered over a lace-trim cami. See it on me here. Originally $29.99. Paid full price.

2. Altuzarra for Target jacquard pencil skirt (black 2) - Surprisingly this was my favorite piece from the Altuzarra for Target collection. I like that the skirt is simultaneously sexy and modest. Overall it feels more expensive than it is. If you're interested in the details, check out my review here. Originally $34.99. Paid full price.

3. Gap cable knit sweater (ivory frost XS) - As I mentioned in a previous post, this heavy cable knit sweater caught my eye initially, because it reminded me of an Aran sweater I saw last year at J.Crew. Of course it isn't heavy sweater season here yet, but I'd like to start replacing my old misshapen heavy sweaters before winter hits. Originally $59.95. Paid $59.95 - 40% off - 4% off ebates = $34.53, a discount of 42%.

4. J.Crew Factory geometric graphic merino sweater (graphite ivory XXS) - I love everything about this sweater, from the print to the neutral color to the soft merino wool. My top pick from J.Crew Factory this month. See it on me here. Originally $88. Paid $54.50 - 30% off sale = $38.15, a discount of 57%. I used a J.Crew rewards card (value $36.50) to bring my out-of-pocket cost to $1.65.

5. Banana Republic v-neck timeless tee (white SP) - I've been looking for a white tee that's not sheer for a long time, and this tee is the most opaque one out there. Highly recommend. A word of caution: it does run small; I had to size up from my usual XSP. Originally $22.50. Paid $9 - 2% off ebates = $8.82, a discount of 60%.

6. Madewell mini coinmix necklace (light worn gold) - I ordered this on a whim without really expecting it to be a keeper. In real life, it's nicer than the picture online indicates. Light and slinky, it's good for those days when you just want something simple. Originally $35. Paid $35 - 30% off sale - 2% off ebates = $24.01, a discount of 31%.

7. Vintage silver shell cameo ring - I have a secret hobby. I enjoy collecting carved shell cameo jewelry. I find the faces incredibly beautiful, and it's marvelous how intricate the carvings can be. So far I've acquired two brooches, a pair of earrings, and now this ring. I've scoured thrift stores and consignment shops in the past, but Ebay is my best bet for price and selection. I won this beauty in an auction for $33.87.

now drumroll please....

RETAIL: $304.30
SPENT: $167.86 (55% of MSRP)

Not too shabby! I feel like I'm slowly getting better at reining myself in and only keeping items that I love. Next month I plan to focus on basics like tees and flannel shirts. Linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Closet Inventory Series: Outerwear

Today is the first official day of fall! Fall is hands-down my favorite season. I love fall spices, the changing of the leaves, that crisp chill in the air, and of course fall fashion. The start of this season means new sweaters, new boots, and of course new coats. In an attempt to curb my spending, I thought it would be interesting over the next few weeks to take stock of what's currently in my closet and see if I can pinpoint any wardrobe holes. Then I plan to focus on only buying the items that I need, instead of running around like a kid in a toy store and buying all of the things.

I thought I would kick off this series with a look at the vests, jackets, and coats in my closet. I have to confess, I am a coat addict. Some girls love shoes, others love bags, and I love coats. Right now I have an outer layer for every single conceivable temperature and then some. Even my unobservant guy friends have commented on how frequently I change up my outerwear.

Closet Inventory: Coats

Here's the lineup:
(clockwise from far left)
J.Crew Stadium-Cloth Cocoon Coat (old, this year's version)
J.Crew Stadium-Cloth Captain Coat (old, similar)
J.Crew Double-Cloth Metro Coat (old)
H&M Mustard Duffle Coat (old, similar in camel)
American Eagle Denim Jacket (very old, similar)
Andrew Marc New York Leather Jacket (very old, similar)
(not pictured) Calvin Klein three-quarter length down puffer coat (very old, similar)

Outerwear Analytics
- I have spent a grand total of $1572.72 on this collection of outerwear over the years. Yowza!
- My most expensive piece is the J.Crew stadium-cloth cocoon coat, which I purchased last year for $248.70. My least expensive piece is a denim jacket that I found on the ground in college (but I washed it first).
- I have owned my denim and leather jackets since before 2012. In 2012 I purchased 2 coats. In 2013 I purchased 3 coats and 1 jacket. So far in 2014 I have purchased 2 jackets and 2 vests. Some of these purchases were replacements or upgrades.
- My most worn coat is the double-cloth metro coat. The deep violet color is absolutely stunning, and it's a good weight for my neck of the woods. My second most worn layer was a black Gap Outlet puffer vest, which is being replaced by the Patagonia vest.
- My favorite coat is the cocoon coat. It's the warmest layer I own that still looks cute. My actual warmest coat is a bulky Calvin Klein puffer that I reserve for visiting family in the Midwest during the winter. The least warm are the downtown field jacket and my leather jacket, both of which are more aesthetic than functional.

Outerwear Regrets
My least worn items are my denim and leather jackets. Since the denim jacket was free, I'll give it a pass. I don't wear it very often, because I wear jeans almost every day, and I want to avoid a possible denim jumpsuit look. Also, the version I own is quite stiff. To achieve a similar look, I tend to reach for my soft chambray shirts instead. As for my black leather jacket, I feel that the material is a little too delicate, and the fit is a tiny bit off. Furthermore I frequently wear my favorite black vintage Coach bag, and they look too matchy-matchy together.

I also somewhat regret buying the lady day coat. It should theoretically serve as an intermediate layer in a bright color. However, I already have two other coats that fill similar roles. When I want to wear something fun, I reach for the metro coat. When I want to wear something warm, I reach for the navy pea coat. And so the red one goes unloved.

Essential Outerwear Recommendations
If I had to rebuild my outerwear collection from scratch, I would buy the following (in descending order of warmth):
1. Long warm down puffer coat, preferably from a sportswear brand (North Face, Columbia, Patagonia, etc.)
2. Heavy wool coat in a classic color (navy, grey, or black)
3. Light wool coat in a color that makes you smile
4. Trench coat in a shade of beige
5. Black puffer vest
6. Military jacket in a shade of olive

Personal Conclusion
I don't need any more coats or jackets, because I already own too many. I am hereby banned from buying any more this year. Caveat: if I am completely in love with the style and the price is low enough, then I might make an exception on a case-by-case basis, pending approval from Engineer W who promised to be strict. ;)

What's on your essential outerwear list? And how many coats do you think is too many? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

J.Crew Reviews: Merino Wool Asymmetrical Zip Sweater, Pleated Bib Top, Zip Pocket Mini, Classic Duffle Coat, Classic Fedora, Bailey for J.Crew Felt Hat

I decided to stop by my local store yesterday after swearing off (retail) J.Crew for more than a month. They were running two promotions: the 25% off full-price items (with exclusions) and 40% off sale.

The sale section was decently large and comprised primarily of tees, denim, and some tops. There wasn't much that caught my eye so I grabbed the following two items before heading for the new arrivals.

Merino Wool Asymmetrical Zip Sweater 
(Heather Brownstone XXS)
When I first saw this sweater online, I didn't appreciate those zipper details at all. In person though, I liked the way it looked with the zippers closed and open. I'm not sure how this complete 180 happened. Maybe I've been brainwashed by too many J.Crew ads! Closed this looks just like a long-sleeve Tippi but open it becomes cool and edgy. The online description said this was relaxed fit, but I took my usual XXS and it's not oversized. In fact the sleeves are a close fit. This color is the same price as online but with 40% off. Now I'm eyeing the bittersweet chocolate color.

Verdict: Surprise like, true to size

 Pleated Bib Top (White 00)
$59.99 in-store vs full price online
It's no secret that I love tuxedo blouses so naturally I was intrigued by this pleated bib top. I like that the silhouette is quite slim in contrast to the boxy tops J.Crew has been making recently. There were no underarm gaps for me in the 00, and the side view wasn't too shabby either. The white is a bit sheer but manageable with a nude bra. The starched ruffles come up high on the neck, and the buttons on the bib front were a little tricky to do and undo. I also have mixed feelings about the high-low hem, but my main reticence is the overall length and the stiffness of the fabric. To me this top looks too long untucked but too bulky when tucked. I wish J.Crew had made this in silk with a slightly shorter length and even hem. Could still look lovely on taller ladies who don't need to tuck.

Verdict: Regretful meh

Zip Pocket Mini (Heather Stone 00)
I added this skirt in chartreuse to my wishlist the moment it showed up online. I couldn't find that color in store so I grabbed this one instead. First of all, this skirt runs a little large, particularly in the waist. Secondly I'm very disappointed by this year's double-serge material. This mini may look like a shorter version of the Sterling skirt from a few years ago, but they feel completely different to the touch. This year's material is quite thin, enough that you can see my belly button in the pictures above even though the skirt is loose. I wonder if that's also the case this year for the popular double-serge pencil skirt.

Verdict: Dislike

Classic Duffle Coat (Navy 00)
I saw this on my way out of the store and stopped to try it on, because I think toggle coats are cute, and they're one of the only styles I don't own. This classic duffle coat was full of promise but failed to deliver due to poor fabric choice and fit. The wool blend material was more felt-like instead of dense and plush, which is shocking given the price point. Size-wise I usually wear between a 00 and 0 in J.Crew coats. This 00 coat was tight in the shoulders but very boxy in the torso even when layered with a sweater. Furthermore it's just not functional for most cold climates. In the Midwest this weight is only appropriate for September through late October, maybe early November. In warmer climates it may serve as a light winter coat.

Verdict: Dislike

Bonus Reviews
I also tried on two hats but forgot to take pictures. In general I love hats and would like to wear them more often, but I'm very picky about what I buy. They have to look just right on my head. Because I have a reasonably large head and face, I prefer wide brims. People with small heads/faces should go with a smaller brim and vice versa. I also dislike hats with tall crowns, because they look very unnatural. Hence the popular J.Crew panama hat doesn't work for me. Instead I usually wear a men's panama hat I got from Target during the summers. For reference my usual hat size at J.Crew is medium-large.

Classic Fedora - I saw the black one on a display by the duffle coat and grabbed it on a whim. As soon as I perched it on my head and looked at myself in the mirror, I immediately yanked it off and put it back on the shelf. I'm not a fan at all. In my opinion the name is a misnomer; I wouldn't have described this as a fedora. To me it looks more like a smallish boho semi-floppy felt hat. The brim was too short and kind of wavy, because the fabric didn't have enough structure. It might be nice for someone else, but I was looking for a structured wool fedora.

Bailey for J.Crew Felt Hat - Unlike the previous one I'm in love with this hat, especially in the olive mix color. The quality was great (and unfortunately the price is equally high to match). The wool felt thick and substantial with lots of structure. I've tried on this style before in black and felt it looked too severe on me. However, the olive mix color is a great neutral that's not too dark and should be easy to pair with other colors. The brim size was just right too. I would probably wear it a little further back on my head for a casual vibe. Currently excluded from all promos so it's wishlisted and I hope it goes on sale soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Altuzarra for Target Reviews, Part III: Blazers and Outerwear

This is the third and final installment of my Altuzarra for Target fitting room reviews. (If you haven't already, please check out Part I: Dresses and Part II: Tops and Bottoms.) Today let's talk about the blazers and outerwear from this collaboration. At the time of posting, most of these pieces are sold out online at Target.com. You may still be able to find some in a store near you or wait for a few days as people realize their eyes were bigger than their wallets.

For reference, I am 5'4", 110 lbs, 32C-26-34. I usually wear XXS at J.Crew. I have slim hips and broader-than-average shoulders. Ok let's get started!

Velvet Blazer in Ruby Hill (Size 2), $59.99
This red velvet blazer makes me think of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in a good kooky way. I liked the stiffer red velvet fabric, which feels like the material used to make velvet drapes. The construction of the blazer seemed solid, and I liked the placement of the pockets. The back of this jacket is quite beautiful, and the jacket nipped in at the waist nicely. I also liked the seam embellishments. Two quibbles about this blazer though. The first thing I didn't care for was the inclusion of shoulder pads, which made the jacket feeling tight across my upper back. I wouldn't recommend sizing up though, because then it would be too loose in the torso. The second issue was the contrasting satin of the lapels, which I thought looked a little cheap. Even so I almost bought this blazer, because I thought the jacket was striking and could be worn casually with skinny jeans. Ultimately Engineer W (my fiance) talked me out of buying it. I decided to pass because I couldn't think of enough ways to wear this on a daily basis. At $59.99, this blazer is a little expensive, considering that I have gotten wool blazers from J.Crew on sale for around the same price.

Verdict: Like, almost worth the price

Blazer with Peplum Detail (Size 2), $54.99
When I first saw this blazer online, I thought it was identical to the red velvet one except in fabric choice and color. It turns out the back is completely different. There's an additional peplum tail that is rendered in the jacquard embossed python fabric from the skirt I reviewed last time. To me the peplum resembles a Victorian bustle. There was too much volume, and I found it difficult to manage the way the peplum draped. The rest of the blazer suffered from similar issues as the velvet one. This tuxedo jacket had so much potential but ultimately missed the mark in my opinion.

Verdict: Meh, not worth the price

Faux Fur Jacket (XS), $69.99
I like the concept of a fur coat but have yet to find one that is flattering. This fur jacket also did nothing for my figure. Because the "hair" is so long, the whole jacket looks very bulky and adds at least 10 lbs to my frame visually. In particular my shoulders look like they belong on a football player. The fur material wasn't as soft or silky as other faux furs I've come across in the past, which I would have liked to see for the hefty price tag. The sleeves were also a tad long and the jacket a little cropped, even for me at 5'4".

Verdict: Dislike, not worth the price

Trench Coat with Back Detail (XS), $89.99
I really don't need another trench coat since I just bought a trench from J.Crew back in July (if you're curious about the fit, check out my mini review in that month's budget post). Hence I was extra critical of this black trench. One point against it was the hefty price tag. At $89.99 it is one of the most expensive pieces in the entire collection. My second complaint is how comically short the belt was. There wasn't enough length to tie a pretty bow. Lastly the peplum back looked even more Victorian than the black blazer. The overall length was also too long although the sleeves seemed reasonable. I did like the jacquard python material it was made from, but I don't believe the fabric is water resistant, an important feature to look for in a coat you wear in wet chilly weather. If you really want a black trench, I would recommend saving up your money to buy this classic version during one of Banana Republic's 40% off no exclusion promos. I haven't tried on this year's version, but I had one from Fall 2011 that I liked.

Verdict: Dislike, not worth the price

I didn't get a chance to try on the trench with black sleeves that Keri Russell wore to the launch party. That was apparently one of the hottest sellers from this collaboration.

Whew, I'm finally done! Thank you for following along on this review adventure. I love getting feedback, so please let me know what you think in the comments. See you next time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Altuzarra for Target Reviews, Part II: Tops and Bottoms

I am continuing my reviews of Altuzarra for Target. (If you haven't checked out my previous reviews, be sure to read Part I: Dresses.) This time I will be focusing on tops and bottoms. At the time of posting, all of these items are still available online at Target.com in a full range of sizes.

For reference, I am 5'4", 110 lbs, 32C-26-34. I usually wear XXS at J.Crew. I have slim hips and broader-than-average shoulders. 

Satin Orchid Print Oxford Shirt (XS), $34.99
I wasn't interested in this shirt from the get-go but decided to try it on anyway for the blog. Overall I was unimpressed. The style is a strange mashup of business (banker shirt collar and cuffs) meets artistic (digital orchid print). I don't really understand the concept, and I can't imagine how to wear this in real life. The fit was also off. The shoulders were too broad, and the sleeves were too long. Furthermore the left half of the blouse with its bold print carries a lot more visual weight than the right half, making the entire top look visually unbalanced. On the plus side, the polyester fabric wasn't too staticky, like the polyester material seen in previous collaborations.

Verdict: Dislike, not worth the money

Velvet Tuxedo Ankle Pant in Ruby Hill
(Size 2), $39.99
I want to apologize for pairing the previous blouse with these pants in the first few photos. The resulting outfit was a hot mess. Anyway, what can I say about these? First of all, they are some of the worst pants I have ever tried on. The construction was fine, and the velvet felt plush, but the fit was way off. They were baggy in the stomach and thighs (see back view in the orchid shirt photos), creating an appalling silhouette. I couldn't figure out if the length was designed to hit at the ankle or calf. In general the pants just looked very dumpy instead of the intended sleek and tailored effect.

Verdict: Hate, not worth the money 

Orchid Print Sweatshirt (XS), $29.99
Out of all the orchid pieces in this collection, I was most intrigued by the sweatshirt. I love sweatshirts for their casual versatility so I figured this one would be a definite keeper. At the store I was a little surprised to discover it was mixed media, using sweatshirt material for the back and a thin silky material for the front. While the print is pretty and the quality is good for the price, it's ultimately not a must-have for me because of fit issues. The sweatshirt is too long in the torso (almost tunic length), and the sleeves were ridiculously long (covers my whole hand!).

Verdict: Meh, good value if the length works for you 

Sleeveless Sheer Bow Blouse (XS), $29.99
Jacquard Pencil Skirt in Black (Size 2), $34.99
I love love love bow blouses. I find them to be incredibly feminine and sexy. This black and white bow blouse was no exception. It's difficult to tell in these photos because I'm wearing a nude bra, but the top is quite sheer. If you're too modest to wear a sheer top out and about (like I am), you can layer a nude or black cami underneath and/or cover up with a cardigan. If you're more daring, you can just wear a pretty black lace bra. I like that the blouse wasn't too boxy in the torso, and the contrast of the white bow against the black top is visually stunning.

I grabbed the black snake embossed skirt seen in this review (and the next two reviews) at the last minute to simulate how I might actually wear these tops in real life. I hadn't noticed it online, because the jacquard pattern is understated and doesn't photograph well. From afar this knee-length skirt looks like an ordinary wardrobe basic, especially in contrast to the bolder patterned pieces in the collection. Upon closer inspection, the construction is excellent. It fits like a dream, and the fabric disguises all flaws. There are also unexpected details like a thigh slit and gold exposed zipper in the back. I typically don't like exposed zippers, but it really works in this skirt. Overall it feels much more expensive than it is. Both of these items came home with me.

Blouse verdict: Like, worth the money
Skirt verdict: Surprise love, my favorite piece from the collection, worth the money

Python Bow Blouse (XS), $34.99
Of course I had to try on all of the bow blouses, including this snake print one. I think it probably has the same silhouette as the black swiss-dot blouse, which I didn't see in store but ordered online. I'm not a huge fan of snake print but thought this blouse was well done. It used a slightly heavier fabric than the previous bow blouse, and the strong print made it mostly opaque. The bow is also much longer, providing the freedom to tie different shapes. The fit was slightly big though. Again the shoulders were too wide and the sleeves too long, I'm hoping that it's a one-off issue and that the blouse I ordered online fits properly.

Verdict: Like, worth the money
Sweater with Crane Embroidery (XS), $49.99
This is the sweater version of the popular gold crane dress (limited sizes available at the time of posting). I was very optimistic after I saw it in the lookbook. In real life this sweater leaves something to be desired. It was much larger than I had expected and looked very dated. The length is so long as to be tunic-like that I could wear it with only leggings. The top is very large with almost batwing sleeves and cinches below the hips. The gold crane appliques are still gorgeous, but the placement emphasizes the width of my shoulders too much. The oversize nature of the sweater makes it look like a big slouchy black sack. It reminds me of Dynasty (with those big shoulder pads) meets the 80s (oversize top, leggings, and legwarmers). Not a fan.

Verdict: Dislike, not worth the money

Hope you enjoyed these reviews! There will be a few more coming your way in Part III: Blazers and Outwear. Hopefully I can get that up later tomorrow. As always, let me know what you think in the comments!

Altuzarra for Target Reviews, Part I: Dresses

The Altuzarra for Target collection is here! As I mentioned in a previous post, I love Target's designer collaborations, and I have participated in quite a few before (6 and counting). I usually stay up late for the online launch and then get up early so I can see the clothes up close and personal in-store. When I saw the Altuzarra for Target lookbook, I was very excited and knew that this time would be no exception. I took a nap before the collection launched online, waking up to an alarm I set. Then, after I got all of the goodies I wanted online, I went back to sleep and got up again when my local Target opened at 8am. I really wanted to get in-store, see the clothes up close, and feel the fabrics in person. I wasn't in a rush though, so I got up around 8:15am and rolled into the store at 8:35am. By then the first wave of shoppers had left, leaving only a few stragglers. However, most items in all sizes (except belts) were still available on the racks.

I looked around leisurely and began putting items into my cart. I found everything I was interested in except those belts, which apparently went like hotcakes.

Here's a picture of the outfit I threw on this morning before heading out the door. I wanted to wear something comfortable that I can put on and take off quickly in the fitting room.

Top: J.Crew (old), skirt: J.Crew, sandals: Sam Edelman (old), bag: Old Navy (similar)
My overall impressions of this collection: everything was surprisingly well-made. In previous collections, many of the clothes had glaring quality control issues: raggedy unfinished edges, lots of loose threads, puckered seams, etc. I saw very few of those issues in Altuzarra for Target. The construction seemed fair for the price point, and many of the fabrics passed my hand-feel test.

My general impressions about fit: there were rumors from the launch party that this collection ran very small. I think this collection is definitely smaller than previous collections, and in particular many of the items were slim in the hips. If you're more hippy, consider sizing up to account for them. Because I have slim hips, I stuck with my normal Target collaboration size and didn't find any need to size up.

Anyway, onto the actual reviews. First up, dresses. For reference, I am 5'4", 110 lbs, 32C-26-34. I usually wear XXS at J.Crew. I have slim hips and broader-than-average shoulders. 

Wrap Dress in Ruby Hill (Size 2), $39.99
I loved the way this dress looked on Naomi Watts at the launch party, so of course I had to try it on. Generally speaking, I can't wear dark red colors because of my skin tone. Surprisingly, this rusty ruby color was alright. The style was very sultry, reminiscent of vintage velvet drapes. The draping on the skirt was incredibly pretty. There was an invisible back zip so you can get into and out of the dress easily. My one complaint is the fabric. The stretchy polyester material was a little hot and also unforgiving of bumps (as you can see in the unflattering back view), so it may be a good idea to wear a slip underneath. The v-neck is also quite low, and I believe the folded material wasn't sewn together, so I would stitch it closed to avoid accidents.

Verdict: Like, style is worth the price

Tailored Dress with Crane Embroidery 
(Size 2), $49.99
This dress was the #1 item on my wishlist, because it looked so striking online and even Engineer W (my fiance) liked the style. He has a conservative fashion sense and is usually highly critical of these collaboration pieces. Hence I was surprised when he urged me to buy 2 different sizes of this dress online and to try on all of the available Size 2s in store to guarantee I got a keeper. In store I grabbed the two dresses in my size on the rack and headed for the fitting room. After trying them both on, I noticed that one was considerably larger than the other with gaps under the arms. The dress pictured above was the smaller one. I felt pretty cheeky in it. I loved the gold crane appliques and the tuxedo collar detail. The fabric felt like a structured stretch cotton blend that sucked everything in. The bottom half was quite slim in the hips, with a sexy thigh slit. Overall I would recommend trying this dress on in person for fit. Personally it was a winner and came home with me.

Verdict: Like, worth the price, try on in person for fit variation 

Satin Dress in Orchid Print (Size 2), $49.99
First of all, I love orchids. I think they're beautiful in an alien otherworldly sort of way. That being said, the print on this dress was a miss for me. Maybe I would have liked it better if the orchid print extended further up the dress. Also I really disliked the material of this dress. It was hot and clingy and generally felt cheap. The silhouette was okay, although the sleeves were too long (which was a persistent issue throughout this collection).

 Verdict: Dislike, not worth the price

Wrap Dress in Ruby Hill (Size 2), $54.99
I never wear peasant blouses or dresses, because I don't care for their silhouette on my body shape, so I didn't have very high expectations for this red dress. It ended up being more flattering than I had expected, albeit still not my favorite dress. The chiffon fabric seemed reasonable, and the embellishments escaped being tacky. I liked the blousy sleeves and the tassel details. Perhaps it would look better in black. At $54.99, it is on the expensive end for dresses in this collection, so ultimately I don't think it's worth the price.

 Verdict: Meh, not worth the price

Maxi Dress in Swiss-Dot Black (Size 2), $79.99
This is the maxi version of the previous dress. I liked the swiss-dot fabric a lot. The gold embellishments were eye-catching against that black canvas. I preferred the shorter knee-length dress for its versatility. The maxi skirt was pretty heavy with lots of fabric. It does have a thigh slit (sadly not pictured) that helps make the dress a little more breezy. The first picture shows how much fabric pools around my ankles when I'm barefoot. The second picture is me simulating wearing 3" heels. I think this has the potential to look lovely on someone tall, but it was another miss for me, especially at $79.99. 

 Verdict: Meh, not worth the price, may work for tall ladies

That's it for the dress reviews. I didn't try on the orchid print maxi or the two-in-one dresses, because I wasn't personally interested in them. I have more reviews to share, which I will try to post on the blog soon in the interest of timeliness, so stay tuned for Part II!

Did you shop the Altuzarra for Target collection? If so, what did you get? What are your favorite pieces?