Thursday, December 31, 2015

Worst Purchases of 2015

It was interesting to look at my best purchases of the year, but what about the worst ones? Arguably the misses are even more important than the hits to reflect upon and learn from. Like last year, I tried to pick out my 10 least favorite purchases of 2015. This time it was much harder. I only strongly regret buying a few pieces and feel ambivalent about the rest. Hopefully that's a good sign?
Here are the pieces I regret buying the most:

1. Gap 1969 Resolution slim straight jeans (sold out) - I have serious buyer's remorse about these jeans! I originally got them to replace an old pair of skinny black jeans, but they never looked quite right, so I kept not wearing them. They still even have their tags on! It turns out I prefer skinny jeans over straight leg.

2. J.Crew Factory photographic floral collector tee (sold out) - I tried this on in store, sort of liked it, and brought it home on a whim. Then it languished in the back of my closet for months. Every time I brought it out to try and wear it, I couldn't put together an outfit that made sense. After a while, I felt too guilty seeing it in my closet, so I had to sell it.

3. Everlane cotton heather v in heather grey - I really like the Everlane v-neck tees, but this one is terrible! The heathered material is super flimsy and stretches out too easily. Also it's already developed a series of holes after only a few washes. Do yourself a favor, and stick with the solid colors instead.

4. Madewell skinny skinny sateen jeans (sold out) - These pants feel great when I put them on in the morning, but they stretch out a lot by the end of the day. Also, since the material feels slightly fuzzy, it catches all of the lint ever. It also doesn't wash well, so the color has faded over time. So irritating, because I expected better from Madewell!

5. Lilly Pulitzer for Target strapless maxi dress (sold out) - Will I ever learn my lesson about these Target collaborations? I love them, but it's so easy to get sucked into the hype and buy stuff you never wear. I still think this dress is cute... on someone else. I kind of forgot a few things about myself when I bought this. Like how I feel overly exposed in strapless dresses. Also, how I'm not really into super girly colors or patterns. So yeah.

I kind of wish I hadn't bought these:

6. Lilly Pulitzer for Target challis pompom shorts (sold out) - I still like the way these shorts look, but I've never once reached for them. They're more of a statement piece and thus harder to remix. I could see wearing them as lounge shorts or a cover-up, but even then I have other pieces I like more. They're also a bit big in the waist.

7. Nike vintage collection Air Pegasus '83 sneakers in black - I saw these online and instantly fell in love with them. When they sold out in my size before making it to sale, I frantically combed the internet in search of them, and when they popped back online late one night, I quickly clicked buy, forgetting to even use ebates. When I finally got them, they looked great but didn't feel great. They're sort of low vamp and constantly feel like they're going to slip off my heels. Because they're not that comfortable, I usually end up wearing other sneakers instead.

8. Sephora Collection retractable waterproof eyeliner (black) - This is the first year I started tracking my makeup purchases. I probably had makeup regrets last year too but didn't mention them on the blog. Anyway, I'm obsessed with finding the perfect black eyeliner: super black, applies easily, has great staying power, but can be easily removed. So far I haven't found anything that meets all of my requirements. This Sephora liner failed to be black enough, so it was instantly nixed. I should have tried this on in store instead of buying it online and then being too lazy to return it.

9. Old Navy floral string bikini (sold out) - This bikini is another example of something that was almost right but not quite. The fit is great, and I even like the pattern, but there are these cheap-looking tassels at the end. They didn't bother me initially, but now I want them gone. I can probably fix it, but it doesn't really make sense to buy something that you immediately need to alter.

10. Mossimo strappy halter bikini top - There's nothing really wrong with this per se. It's actually quite flattering. The problem is the fact that I can't find a matching black bottom! You think it wouldn't be that hard, but somehow the double strap makes it hard to match, and even if it matches, the smallest size is usually too loose for me. Also I'm a bit picky, and I want the shade of black to match exactly...

Whew, that was longer than I expected! Let's wrap up with the lessons I hope to learn next year:
- Don't buy something that's almost right.
- Think about ways to remix a piece before buying.
- Try things on in store whenever possible.
- Don't buy more than 2 items from Target collaborations.
- Don't buy things that are uncomfortable, because you're never going to wear it.

What were your worst purchases of the year? Do you have any lessons you're hoping to learn next year?

Also I want to wish everyone a healthy, happy, and wonderful new year. Thank you for reading!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Purchases of 2015

Now that 2015 is coming to a close, let's take a look back at my top 10 best purchases of the year. I'm defining "best" as stuff I reach for all the time that goes with everything. I went through the same exercise at the end of last year, and I felt like the process helped me better pinpoint my style for the new year. Hopefully this will serve the same purpose in 2016.

1. Everlane women's cotton v (muted black XS) - This is my favorite color of the Everlane tees I own. As the name suggests, it's a light black or a very dark grey. The material is super soft (and opaque!), so I reach for it all the time.

2. Everlane women's cotton v (white XS) - For a long time, a white tee was a missing essential in my wardrobe. This one is a little too sheer (I can see my nude bra if I look closely), but since it goes with everything, I still wear it all the time.

3. Rebecca Minkoff mini MAC (almond) - A cognac crossbody was another missing wardrobe piece for me. This one is a great size and the leather is very supple, although the chain is a bit heavy and things tend to get jumbled around inside.

4. J.Crew Factory pocket tunic sweater (sold out, similar) - I used to hate tunics, but somehow this merino wool tunic sweater has grown on me. It's great over skinny jeans or leggings. I can only wear it on cold winter days, because the wool is too plush and warm. If I try to wear it on a warmer day, I instantly overheat!

5. J.Crew toothpick Cone Denim jean in parker wash (sold out, similar) - This is my go-to pair of jeans. I wear them at least once a week, because they're so comfortable and the wash is spot on. They're dark medium blue without any hints of yellow, and the fading/whiskering is really flattering in my opinion. The only bummer is that they're starting to look a little faded since I wear them so often.

6. Siwy Ladonna skinny high rise crop jeans (true love wash 25) - Another pair of jeans. I've also been wearing these every week since I got them. They fit perfectly in the waist (no muffin top!), and I got them for a song.

7. Lilly Pulitzer for Target crochet tank top (sold out, similar, similar with sleeves) - It turns out I love a good white lace top. It's so easy to wear, and it makes me feel instantly dressy. This one is great, because it's 100% cotton. I wouldn't mind adding another lace top to my wardrobe!

8. Kendra Scott Rayne tassel necklace (turquoise) - Turquoise is one of those colors that doesn't match anything but "goes" with everything. I'm glad I got the Rayne necklace over another Kendra Scott necklace I was considering, because the tassel is just so fun!

9. J.Crew tropical fern sliding halter bikini (sold out) - This is seriously the most flattering bikini I own. Even if I've eaten a big meal, I can still wear it without feeling self-conscious. The top offers great support, and the bottom stays firmly on my booty without digging into my hips, which is sooo rare.

10. Zella leggings (black XS) - These are my favorite leggings! They're pretty thick and completely opaque, so they're almost like ponte pants. I frequently wear these as regular pants with longer button-downs and my J.Crew Factory tunic sweater.

What were your favorite purchases of 2015?

December 2015 Purchases and 2015 Budget Review

December was a very busy month. With wrapping up the semester, Christmas shopping, and traveling to see family, there really shouldn't have been any time to shop for myself. Luckily I somehow found a way. Continuing the trend of buying neutral (boring?) basics, here's my haul for the month.

Everlane cotton v tee (muted black and white XS) - I picked up two more basic tees from Everlane to add to the three I already owned (in muted black, white, and heather grey). My favorite color of the three is muted black, because it's the thickest and most opaque. The white is a little too sheer, and the heather grey is just awful. It's super thin (already developed holes) and warped after only a few washes. I should throw that one away and maybe replace it with a light blue one. Originally $15 each. Paid $15 each.

J.Crew short-sleeve painter t-shirt (black XS) - I own a number of J.Crew vintage cotton tees (which I've since sworn off because the quality is terrible), but I've never tried the J.Crew painter tees. Now is as good a time as any since this one was on super sale. I'm optimistic that it'll last longer than the paper-thin vintage cotton ones, because it's considerably thicker. It's also slimmer, so I had to go up a size. Originally $24.50. Paid $14.99 + 50% off + 15% student discount = $6.37.

J.Crew toothpick jean in flint wash (flint wash 25) - I'm always on the lookout for pants that fit well, and I already own several pairs of J.Crew toothpick jeans that I like. This pair is no exception. I like the darker wash and the slightly-longer-than-ankle length. True to size. Originally $125. Paid $89.99 + 50% off + 6% off ebates = $42.29.

J.Crew striped t-shirt with bow-embellished back (ivory navy XS) - I'm such a sucker for striped tees. This one is super adorable with the bows along the back. I had to size up, because my normal XXS was too tight in the sleeves. Originally $59.50. Paid $39.99 + 50% off + 15% student discount = $16.99.

J.Crew sneaker laces (neon citrus) - I love these neon yellow shoelaces so much that I picked up a second pair in case the first ones snap. They're just so cheerful-looking on my sneakers. A frivolous purchase, but at least it was cheap. Originally $5. Paid $3.99 + 40% off + 5% off ebates = $2.27.

L.L.Bean women's relaxed scotch plaid shirt (navy tartan XXS) - This year for Christmas, Engineer W and I visited family in New England for a few days. On a quiet morning, we slipped off to a nearby L.L.Bean so that I could try on a few things for size. I immediately fell in love with this super thick and warm flannel shirt. The quality of the material is amazing for this price point, especially compared to J.Crew and Madewell. It also comes in a slightly more fitted silhouette, but this colorway wasn't available. That's okay, because I like this slouchy boyfriend look. Originally $44.95. Paid $44.95 + $10 off promo = $34.95.

rag & bone/JEAN Langford raglan sweatshirt (XS) via Nordstrom Rack - Nordstrom Rack is one of my favorite stores to browse, because you never know what treasures you'll find. For example, take this sweatshirt. On the surface, it's really simple, but it's nicely fitted, super plush, and oh so warm. It's the perfect cozy layer for a cold winter day. Originally $195. Paid $47.98 + 25% off Clear the Rack sale = $35.99.

Trouvé pleated trousers (black 0) via Nordstrom Rack - Does anyone else have a hard time finding flattering dress pants? All of the ones I've tried on recently either feel uncomfortable or look frumpy or both. These simple black pants are pretty decent on both counts. They have a comfy elastic waistband in the back, and they're more flattering than any other dress pant I own (not that it really says much). I haven't definitively decided if I should keep these, but they're a strong contender. Originally $78. Paid $29.99 + 25% off Clear the Rack sale = $22.49.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $561.95
SPENT: $191.35 (34.1% of MSRP)


So how did I do for the year? My initial budget for 2015 was $3000. Then as the year progressed, I set a stretch goal of $2400. My final tally for 2015 was $2340.74. I feel super proud of myself for meeting my stretch goal!

Comparing my monthly spending in 2015 to my spending in 2014, I spent the same amount or less during every month except for June, September, and November. Also my shopping pattern in 2015 is almost inverted from my pattern in 2014. Last year, I spent the most money in January, July, and December. This year I spent the most in April and November and shopped the least during January, February, August, and October. 

I'm not really sure what conclusions to draw from that. Maybe I used to buy more junk from the clearance sections, and now I try to avoid that pitfall? I'll have to think about it some more.

Anyway, next year I am decreasing my annual budget to $2400, which comes out to $200 per month. Wish me luck!


How did you do on your budget this year? As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers!

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 2015 Purchases

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! My own was very restful. My fiancé and I stayed home, made delicious food, watched The Godfather, and shopped online. Speaking of shopping, this month was a pretty spendy one for me. Luckily I've been under budget all year, so I'm still on track for 2015. Anyway, here's what I bought in November.

J.Crew Nordic parka (navy XXS) - This coat is one of my most expensive purchases ever! That's okay though, because it's one of the warmest parkas available that's still relatively stylish and affordable. My only complaint is that it's very heavy, but overall I love it. (Check out my detailed review here.) Originally $450. Paid $450 + $152.91 off promo + 3% off ebates = $288.18.

Gap flannel shorts (green plaid XS) - Another pair of quality pajamas from Gap. I probably could have waited for these to go on deeper sale, but they're cute and I've already worn them a bunch. Originally $26.95. Paid $26.95 + 40% off + 6% off ebates = $15.20.

J.Crew perfect shirt in Stewart plaid (black 00) - I very rarely buy J.Crew at only 30% off (I consider that to be basically full price), but I was worried that I'd have major regrets if this beauty sold out. It runs small, but I took my usual size, which fit perfectly since I have a straight up and down figure. On a sidenote, I'm so glad J.Crew brought back the perfect shirts! That was one of my biggest complaints in the past few years. The boy shirts they sell just don't work for me. Anyway, I hope they keep this up. Originally $78. Paid $78 + 30% off + 5% off ebates = $51.87.

J.Crew Factory plaid popover shirt in flannel (poppy grove XXS) - A flannel shirt is on my fall/winter wishlist, and this Christmas-y one seems to fit the bill perfectly. I found it true to size, maybe a hair small. Similar to other J.Crew/Factory flannel tops, the flannel is thin but good for layering under sweaters. Originally $69.50. Paid $29.95 + 20% off + 4% off ebates = $23.00.

Urban Decay Naked palette - I've wanted this eyeshadow palette for the longest time but couldn't justify buying it when I already owned the Too Faced Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar. Ultimately I decided to get it for myself as a reward for submitting my research paper, which was perfect timing since was having a 20% off everything friends & family sale. Originally $54. Paid $54 + 20% off + 4% off ebates = $41.47.

Helmut Lang faint sleeveless jersey top (fuchsia P) - This top was my biggest score of the month. I found it in the clearance section of Nordstrom Rack earlier this month during their Clear the Rack sale. I really like the design, which is modest but interesting with the peekaboo cutouts. The fabric is very cool to the touch, which I think would be perfect in the warmer months. We'll see how much wear I actually get out of this top next summer, but luckily it's not too expensive that I'd have major regrets. Originally $265. Paid $29.90 + 25% off = $22.43.

J.Crew Cece metallic ballet flats (metallic platinum 6M) - I don't own the original Ceces, but I have tried them on a few times before. Despite no longer being made in Italy, these new Ceces feel pretty comparable in quality to me. They're a hair tighter in the toebox but still comfortable and true to size. I love the metallic platinum color, a beautiful blend of gold and silver. Originally $135. Paid $115 + 50% off + 5% off ebates = $54.63.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $1078.45
SPENT: $496.78 (46.1% of MSRP)

My goal for the year is to spend less than $3000, which equates to $250 per month. Right now I'm at $3000 - $327.20 for 2015Q1 - $801.47 for 2015Q2 - $460.09 for 2015Q3 - $63.85 for October - $496.78 for November = $850.61 for December. My stretch goal is spend less than $2400 this year so that would leave $250.61 for December.


Here are a few items that didn't work out for me:

1) J.Crew buffalo plaid scarf (ivory) - This scarf was very warm and thick, and the pattern was beautiful. Unfortunately it was also very itchy! I'm normally not sensitive to wool at all, but I couldn't handle how prickly this felt against my neck. Maybe that's just an issue with this colorway though, since one of the online reviews mentioned that the red/blue combo was very soft.

2) Woolrich patrol down parka (deep navy XS) - I really really really wanted this coat to work out.  I bought it for ~$260 on Black Friday from Amazon, and it's without a doubt the single warmest coat I've ever tried (90% goose down/10% goose feather, 650 fill power, real coyote fur trim). However, the torso was quite boxy, and the hood was too small for my big head. Comparing it against my J.Crew Nordic parka, it's much frumpier, which sort of defeats the purpose of me getting a new coat in the first place.

3) I returned the Sorel winter boots I bought last month. I kept having second thoughts about them, which is a surefire sign that they're not right for me. I decided that I wanted a pair of L.L. Bean boots after all, so I contacted L.L. Bean's customer service to ask for suggestions for smaller sized Bean boots. They recommended the kids' boots in size 4, which is supposed to be equivalent to a women's size 6. The kids' boots are rumored to run true to size as opposed to one size large like the women's boots. Unfortunately they're backordered until next April! Oh well, the waiting begins...

As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the other Budgeting BloggersHow did you do on your budget this month?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Fall/Winter 2015 Wishlist

It seems like I just made my summer wishlist for this year, and now it's already late fall. As the weather turns colder, I'm on the lookout for warm and cozy things to add to my wardrobe.

1. A warm and stylish down coat
I mentioned in this post that I hate my old winter coat, which I've had for over 4 years. A few weeks ago I started looking for a replacement and went in store to try on some possible contenders. My favorite two were the Canada Goose Trillium and the J.Crew Nordic parka. Since I don't currently have $745 to spare, I decided to get the J.Crew parka during a 35% off promo. I'm very happy with my decision! I really can't say enough good things about it, and I'm super excited for the weather to turn colder so I can break it out!

2. Duck boots
I really wanted a pair of duck boots this year! Last month I bought these Sorel ones that Jean recommended, but I wasn't sure if I should keep them or order a pair of L.L.Bean boots. (Thanks to Xin from An Invincible Summer and Jasmine from Making Restorations for their detailed answers to my questions about Bean boots!) The Sorel boots are very warm, but since they're so insulated, I can only really wear them in the winter. On the other hand, Bean boots could be worn for three seasons, but right now they're backordered for so long that winter will be over before they even ship! Anyway I'm still undecided. What do you think?

3. Cute knit hat
For some reason, I have a lot of scarves but very few hats. I know my new coat has a hood, but most of my other coats don't. It would be nice to get a hat that's both cute and warm. Maybe something with pom poms?

4. Activewear
Back in January, I made two resolutions for 2015. One of them was to work out more. I'm happy to report that I've stuck with it! Right now I go to the gym about 2-3 times a week. However, my workout gear hasn't kept up. I really need a few more workout tops and shorts, especially ones that don't have those dreaded internal briefs.

5. Plaid flannel shirt
Is there anything more delicious than wearing soft cozy flannel in the winter? I have my eye on this medium-weight jewel-toned version.

6. Comfortable flats
My favorite flats (the Me Too Patty - I have two pairs!) are looking pretty shabby these days. Since they're so comfortable, I wear them almost every day, and it shows. I would love to get some comfortable, reasonably stylish neutral flats to replace them.

Bonus nice-to-haves:

Heavy-weight sweater
Most of my sweaters are light- to medium-weight, so I'd love to add a cozy chunky sweater to the mix.

Leather cognac booties
I love wearing booties, and I already own two pairs in black and taupe suede. It'd be great to add a cognac leather version.

Should I keep the Sorels or order the Bean boots? Also, what's on your wishlist this season?

Friday, October 30, 2015

J.Crew Review: Nordic Parka

PSA: For today (10/30/2015) only, J.Crew is having a huge sale with almost no exclusions! The tiers are $25 off $125+, $75 off $250+, and $175 off $500+. It's a great time to pick up big ticket items you've been eyeing that have been excluded in the past, like the most popular coats and blazers. My recommendation is to stick as close to the bottom of the price tier as possible for the biggest savings. I decided to go ahead and order the following coat (in navy). I also added this versatile wool scarf to crack the top tier. 


Last week I visited J.Crew after school for some window shopping retail therapy. I saw some of the new arrivals in store, but they didn't have everything on my wishlist. Out of the things I saw, there was nothing I had to have at full price (which I try to avoid as a matter of principle anyway), so I left empty-handed. However, I wanted to share my favorite item from my quick try-on session. For reference, I'm 5' 4", 32C-26-34. My usual sizes at J.Crew are 00 and XXS.

Nordic Parka (Item E3977)
Navy XXS

I know it's early to be thinking about winter coats, but I've been wanting to replace my giant ugly puffer (which could pass for a sleeping bag) that I've had for over 4 years. No matter how nice my outfit is underneath, that coat always makes me feel super dowdy when I throw it on over everything. Since it looks so terrible, I try to avoid wearing it as much as possible, even when the temperatures drop low enough that I really ought to. Anyway, I've been looking for a replacement that's warm, has no less than 80% down, and doesn't make me look like the Michelin man. A few weeks ago, I tried on the Canada Goose Trillium for the first time, and while some people think it's overrated, I have to disagree. I tried on down coats from several other brands, including North Face, Marmot, etc., and I think Canada Goose offers a lot of value even for the hefty price. However, I'm not ready to drop $745 on a coat at this point in my life (they're also notorious for NEVER going on sale), so I've been looking for Canada Goose alternatives. There really aren't too many options in my price range that fulfill all of my other criteria.

Enter the Nordic parka. J.Crew's website touts it as the warmest coat they've ever made. Since they typically make wool coats that are more decorative than functional, that statement doesn't necessarily say much. In general J.Crew coats are fine if you live in a place with mild winters, but they're laughably insufficient in my opinion for cold winter days on the East Coast or winters in the Midwest. Of course I'm also the kind of person who gets cold easily and hates being cold.

My first impressions of this coat: 1) the quality is surprisingly good, and 2) it offers a lot of value for the price (regularly $450 but may go on sale). For example, it's pretty good in terms of warmth. I wore a thin flannel button-down the day I tried this on, and within minutes I started feeling too warm. That might be due to the coat's double insulation: Thinsulate plus a filling of 80% down/20% feathers. The outer material felt like a durable heavy waxed cotton (actually it's a waterproof blend of 85% polyester, 15% cotton), which I found a little too stiff but not a dealbreaker. Both the outer handwarmer pockets and the regular hip pockets had fleece lining. The sleeves had cuff extenders with holes for your thumbs. The hood was gigantic/very deep, had a faux-fur ruff, and was also lined in fleece. The back of the hood had an adjuster so that you can control where it sits on your head. If I remember correctly, there was also an internal drawstring waist and additional internal pockets. That's a ton of features you don't see on comparably priced coats!

Of course the design is not completely perfect. For one, it was incredibly heavy! It's possibly the heaviest coat I have ever tried on in my life. The thing seriously felt like it weighed at least 5 pounds. I could see that being an issue if you had to carry it around in your arms for a long period of time or keep putting it on and taking it off. Another issue: the outer buttons on the button flap are a pain to do up and undo. It would be even more difficult if you had to do it while wearing gloves. I would prefer if they had used snaps instead. As it is, I would most likely leave the coat zipped but unbuttoned, although then cold air could get into the coat through the zipper.

Comparing this against the Trillium (which is my gold standard), I would say that this coat is a strong competitor. At almost half the price, the Nordic parka is similarly warm and durable feeling. The Trillium is probably warmer, but the Nordic parka should be sufficient for all but possibly the coldest of winter days. It's decently stylish, albeit not as slim as the Trillium from the front. However, it does look slimmer when viewed from the side. If you're interested in this coat, go with your regular size. I'm wearing an XXS in the pictures, and there's definitely enough room to layer underneath. Anyway, this parka definitely makes my fall/winter wishlist!

Verdict: Surprise like. True to size. On my wishlist. Worth buying for 25-30% off.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 2015 Purchases

How is it almost the end of October already?! It feels like the holidays are right around the corner, and I'm so not ready! This month has been incredibly busy, so I didn't have time to shop much. I'm in the middle of preparing a paper for an important conference, and the deadline is coming up in 2 weeks. Wish me luck! Anyway, here's my haul for the month.

J.Crew Factory long-sleeve striped boatneck tee (red white stripe XXS) - I already own this tee in navy stripe and wear it a decent amount, so I was sure I could get plenty of wear out of this red/oatmeal version. It runs a little small, so I had to try on several before I found one that fits well. Originally $49.50. Paid $29.50 + 30% off + 3% off ebates = $20.03.

Banana Republic ruched gray jersey skirt (medium gray heather XS) - I saw this skirt on Valley of the Shoes and immediately ordered it, even though it's not my usual style. It's super comfortable and so easy to wear! I especially like the way it looks with a tee, denim jacket, and sneakers. Sadly they didn't have this in my usual XSP, so I had to get an XS. The fit is a little larger than I'd prefer, but it's workable. I've already worn this a few times. Originally $59.50. Paid $14.99 + 40% off + 2% off ebates = $8.81.

Old Navy half-sleeve ponte-knit dress (black XS) - I've been looking to add a casual shift dress to my closet since June, and I finally found one that I like! I never expected it to be from Old Navy though. In general, I tend to be sized out there. However, the reviews for this dress said that it ran small, so it actually fits me really well! Great wardrobe basic and very affordable too. Originally $34.94. Paid $10 + 2% off ebates = $9.80.

J.Crew Factory pocket tunic sweater (black XXS) - I also already own this sweater (in heather gray), and I really like it! The merino wool is a good weight and quite warm too. The tunic silhouette works well with skinny jeans and ponte leggings. True to size. Originally $89.50. Paid $39.99 + 35% off + 3% off ebates = $25.21.

Sorel winter fancy lace II boot (elk/grizzly bear 6.5) - So I've been wanting to get a pair of duck boots for months now. At first I considered getting the L.L.Bean ones, but apparently they tend to run a size large and so I would be sized out. Then I tried on these Sperry ones, but they felt flimsy and insubstantial. Finally, I saw these boots on Jean and ordered them right away from Amazon for 20% off. They run half a size small, so I had to order a 6.5 instead of my usual 6. They're pretty warm and not too clunky for winter boots. The color is really nice and goes with everything. Originally $149.95. Paid $149.95 + 20% off + $5 off = $114.96. Edit 11/20/2015: I ended up returning these, because they were closer to winter boots than true duck boots.

As I mentioned in this post, I also ordered this fair isle sweater, this herringbone blazer, and these olive suede ankle boots from J.Crew Factory earlier this month. In the end, I decided to return all three. The fair isle sweater was very pill-prone, which is something that I didn't notice the first I tried it on, but I know is an issue that would bother me in the long term. The herringbone blazer is great quality, but it runs just a little small, and I found the sleeves a hair too long. Since it wasn't perfect, it's going back too. I'm so disappointed by the olive booties! The color is gorgeous, but the ankle opening was much too large. I could almost slip them off without unzipping. Oh well, I guess that just means I have more money to work with next month.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $383.39 $233.44
SPENT: $178.81 (46.6% of MSRP) $63.85 (27.4% of MSRP)

My goal for the year is to spend less than $3000, which equates to $250 per month. Right now I'm at $3000 - $327.20 for 2015Q1 - $801.47 for 2015Q2 - $460.09 for 2015Q3 - $63.85 for October = $1347.39, which translates to an average of $673.69 per month for the next 2 months. My stretch goal is spend less than $2400 this year, which would mean an average of $373.69 per month for the next 2 months. A very comfortable margin!

As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers. How did you do on your budget this month?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

PSA: Gilt City Coupon for J.Crew Factory

As you guys know, I'm a big fan of J.Crew Factory. Yes, their quality is kind of hit or miss, but sometimes you can find pieces that are nicer than retail J.Crew.

If you're also a fan of J.Crew Factory, you're in luck, because Gilt City is once again offering coupons for an additional 30% off your online purchase (or 35% off clearance items). All you need to do is sign up (if you haven't already), RSVP for the offer, and you'll get an email with the code. This coupon is only good through next Monday, October 19. Also, keep in mind that there are some exclusions, like the popular puffer vests. Don't forget to use Ebates for an additional 3% off.

Here's what I ordered:
pocket tunic sweater in black (on clearance, reviewed here), $25.99. I own and like the grey version.
fair isle sweater (reviewed here), $31.15.
herringbone blazer, $78.75. I saw this in store, but they didn't have my size. From what I remember, the material and construction seemed comparable to retail J.Crew, but I would like to take a closer look.
suede Sawyer boots in olive moss, $73.50. I'm excited to get these in the mail, because the silhouette is reminiscent of my beloved Sam Edelman Petty boots, and I'm in love with the olive color.
I don't expect everything to work out, but it's worth a shot for these prices.

I also recommend the long-sleeve boatneck stripe tee (reviewed here), now $20.65. I own both the navy and red versions.

On the guys' side, Engineer W ordered this gorgeous fisherman sweater (currently backordered in a number of sizes) for $34.30 and a few basic tees for $8.05 each.

Are you planning to take advantage of this offer for J.Crew Factory? If so, what are you going to pick up?

Monday, September 28, 2015

September 2015 Purchases

I actually shopped very little in September but still managed to spend a sizeable portion of my budget. That's because most of the purchases I did make this month ended up being keepers. None of them were essentials per se, but I really like everything, and they all integrate seamlessly into my existing wardrobe.

LOFT pocket blouse (maize gold XXS) - For some reason, I've never had much success with shopping at LOFT in the past. Maybe it's because I usually need an XXS, which is online only. Maybe it's because they use a lot of synthetic fabrics. Whatever the reason, I own very few pieces from there. Fast forward to earlier this month when I popped into a nearby store on a whim. The first thing I was drawn to was this simple blouse rendered in a gorgeous golden yellow (there's also a ruffle shell in the same color)! The fabric is great too. It's 100% polyester but feels more like a sandwashed silk. Originally $49.50. Paid $49.50 + 40% off = $29.70.

Siwy Ladonna skinny high rise crop jeans (true love wash 25) - I found this awesome pair of grey skinny jeans while I was aimlessly wandering around Nordstrom Rack one day. I had never heard of this brand before, but the jeans passed my handfeel test so I took them with me into the fitting room, expecting them not to work out. Not only was the fit fantastic, they were also reasonably priced and my ideal blend of 98% cotton, 2% elastane (substantial with a hint of stretch). There was nothing I could do but take them home with me and evaluate them with other tops I own. Later when I researched the jeans online, I discovered that Siwy is a designer brand carried by Shopbop and Revolve. These worked out so well that I'll have to keep an eye out for more in the future. Originally $187. Paid $35.98.

J.Crew summerweight shirt in navy plaid (ivory navy multi 00) - I really like J.Crew button-downs, but it's been a while since they've released any that I wanted to add to my wardrobe. I used to love their fitted perfect shirts, but now most of their shirts are too long and too boyfriend-fit for me. Luckily this lightweight cotton shirt is just the right length and size. I particularly like the colors of the plaid, because they're neutral without being boring. Originally $88. Paid $59.99 + 40% off + 6% off ebates = $33.83.

Birkenstocks for J.Crew Arizona sandals (white 36) - Remember when Birkenstocks became a thing earlier this year? Personally I've always liked them. Not necessarily the clunky way they look, but how comfortable they feel after the initial break-in period. They're also extremely durable. I have a 9 year old pair that's still going strong. I don't think I've ever had any other shoe last as long. Anyway, a few months ago I saw a pair of all-white Birkenstocks on a friend of a friend and became obsessed. Of course I wasn't going to shell out $130 for something that might get stained easily. However, when I saw these for 55% off their original price, I decided to snap them up. I hope these can last for 10 years too! Originally $130. Paid $104.99 + 40% off + 6% off ebates = $59.21.

I also bought a few skincare products this month. I'm trying to overhaul/create my skincare routine, so I wanted to try out some new-to-me products.

Bioré UV perfect bright milk - This Japanese sunscreen was introduced to me by Xin from An Invincible Summer. If you're looking for a super lightweight, non-oily, high SPF face sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast, this product may be perfect for you. Personally I was surprised that it doesn't hydrate the skin at all, and it leaves a subtle pink tint (only noticeable if you look closely). I think it would be great layered over a morning moisturizer, but I sort of prefer the convenience of a combined moisturizer + SPF. Also it's pretty expensive since it only comes in a tiny bottle. Originally $8.80. Paid $8.80.

40 Carrots Carrot + C vitamin serum - I just got this a few days ago, so I haven't had a chance to try it out yet. I was looking for a vitamin C serum and decided to get this one for reasons unbeknownst to me now. It claims to also contain a weaker form of retinol. In retrospect, I kind of wish I purchased a different version on Amazon. Originally $14.99. Paid $12.85.

One thing that didn't work out this month was this red striped tee (full review here). Since it runs a bit small, I ordered both my usual XXS as well as one size up. Unfortunately the XXS is a little too tight, while the XS is a little too loose! I really like the tee otherwise, so I need to go in store and try on all of the shirts they have in person.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $478.29
SPENT: $180.37 (37.7% of MSRP)

My goal for the year is to spend less than $3000, which equates to $250 per month. Right now I'm at $3000 - $327.20 for 2015Q1 - $801.47 for 2015Q2 - $192.29 for July - $87.43 for August - $180.37 for September = $1411.24, which translates to an average of $470.41 per month for the next 3 months. My stretch goal is spend less than $2400 this year.

As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers. So how did you do on your budget this month?

Monday, September 14, 2015

J.Crew Factory Reviews Part II: Quilted Puffer Vests, Quilted Jacket, and Wool Blazer

Here is Part II of my reviews from the weekend. See Part I here. Please excuse the incongruousness of me trying on outerwear while wearing shorts. It was hot on the day I visited J.Crew Factory. Anyway, onto the reviews. For fit reference, I'm 5' 4", 32C-26-34. My usual sizes at J.Crew Factory are 00 and XXS.

Steely Grey XXS

I'm not surprised that they brought back the popular herringbone vest again this year. I have last year's vest, which I reviewed here. The design remains largely unchanged. The vest is still made of 100% polyester filled with a minimum of 60% down, with the remainder being waterfowl feathers. The herringbone pattern is still printed as opposed to actually being textured. The fit is still boxy through the torso and gaps under the arms. I would recommend sizing down if possible. Anyway, the main change is that this year's vest is rendered in grey and ivory, as opposed to last year's oatmeal and black. I prefer last year's colors, but if you didn't pick up that one, this is a passable substitute.

Verdict: Meh. Runs large, so size down.

Black Grey XXS

I initially thought this was the plaid quilted puffer vest, but after checking the tags, it's actually the same vest as above in a new pattern. I prefer this one to the grey herringbone. It's a bit difficult to see the colors here, but they are charcoal and soft black. Otherwise the fit and feel are exactly the same as the herringbone. I tried it on over the Fair Isle sweater (reviewed in this post).

Verdict: Like. Runs large, so size down.

Quilted Jacket (Item E2004)
XXS - Front
XXS - Side
XS - Front
XS - Side
I've always liked the way quilted jackets look but never found one that fit well. This black jacket with gold snaps is a possible contender. The silhouette is reminiscent of the popular field jacket. Despite being 100% polyester fill, this little jacket is relatively warm. I could see wearing it into late fall in cold places and all through winter in warm places. Once again I'm in between sizes. I prefer the fitted look of the XXS but can only fit a thin tee underneath. The XS is much better for layering (here I'm wearing the fair isle sweater), but it looks a little too bulky. Since it's not perfect, I may have to pass since I have a lot of other in-between jackets.

Verdict: Like, but doesn't make sense for my wardrobe.
Runs small.

Wool Blazer (Item E0357)
Green 00

I'm not a big fan of wearing green, because I feel like it highlights the yellow undertones of my skin in an unflattering way. That being said, I love this heather olive color! It has flecks of yellow and maroon mixed in with the green, which somehow just works. This is a relatively thick wool blend (75% wool, 25% nylon) blazer best for late fall/winter. It features functional pockets, gold buttons, and a collar backed by grey felt. The body has a striped lining, but the inside of the sleeves is just plain black. That shouldn't be a problem though since I can't imagine anyone wearing such a thick blazer with the sleeves rolled up. The cut is similar to the new schoolboy from the retail side. I found the fit true to size. My main complaint about this blazer is that the wool is very scratchy! I wore this with a thin button-down and felt prickling through the sleeves. The problem might be alleviated by layering more heavily, but that limits the blazer's versatility. Just keep that in mind if you decide to buy.

Verdict: Like, true to size, but scratchy.

What's your favorite piece from the new J.Crew Factory roll-out?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

J.Crew Factory Reviews Part I: Striped Boatneck Tee, Fair Isle Sweater, Walking Elephants Tee, and Pleated Skirt

On Friday I visited J.Crew Factory to return the striped ponte dress I bought back in August (see my original review here). Even though I really like the way it looks, the fact that it shrinks in water (mentioned in a few of the online reviews) and hence is dry clean only ultimately dissuaded me from keeping it. On a different note, the floral eyelet dress I purchased last month (see my August budget post) is amazing! I wore it to a bachelorette party recently, and it was perfect for the occasion. I could see it being suitable for a lot of other events too. My usual 00 fit impeccably, and the 100% cotton material kept me cool despite the sweltering heat. It also did really well in the wash. I threw it into a cold load and then hung it out to dry. I was worried that it'd come out all crumpled, but it's completely fine. Anyway, I can't recommend it enough.  

Onto the actual reviews. Fall is my favorite season, so I was excited to see this latest rollout. There are definitely a few things I'm interested in, but I'm holding off on buying until prices drop a little more. For fit reference, I'm 5' 4", 32C-26-34. My usual sizes at J.Crew Factory are 00 and XXS.

Oat Navy Spring
XXS - Front View
XXS - Side View
XS - Front View
XS - Side View
This is the second time we're seeing this tee at J.Crew Factory, which is a good thing for anyone who missed it the first time around. The initial release on the Factory side was during Fall/Winter 2014-2015. I actually liked it so much then that I purchased it near full-price. When I saw this tee on Friday, I had to try it on again to see if anything had changed. I'm happy to report that it's the same tee I own and like. First of all, this top sports dark navy stripes on a cream/oatmeal background. It's made of 100% cotton and features a boat neck, long sleeves, as well as small side vents. It's medium to heavy weight and is completely opaque. In my opinion, it's too heavy for summer but great for fall/winter. The sizing can be a little tricky. In my regular size XXS, the tee feels tight in the shoulders/arms, but the torso is perfect - casually loose. If I size up to XS, the arms feel fine, but the fit through the body looks sloppy. My recommendation is to go with your normal size if you have thin arms, but consider sizing up if you don't. If you're in between sizes like I am, I suggest trying this on in store. Since there's usually some manufacturing variance, grab all of the available ones in your normal size and one size up to find the perfect fit. Also, since this tee is 100% cotton, it does shrink in the wash. A little, not a lot, but remember to factor that into your final decision. Great tee though.

Verdict: Like. Tricky sizing, and shrinks in the wash. Great tee though. The red one is on my wishlist.

Fair Isle Sweater (Item E0325)
Pewter Navy Mist XXS

I feel like Fair Isle is one of those patterns that you either love or hate. Personally I love it! This sweater is a good example of the technique. I especially like the color combination - different shades of grey, black, and unexpectedly mint. Since the overall color palette is neutral, I could see pairing it with a lot of bottoms. I also really like the fit. I found it true to size and fitted without being overly tight. It can be easily layered over a tee or thin button-down. For anyone who's interested, the material composition is 37% viscose, 35% nylon, and 28% merino wool. I didn't detect any scratchiness, but I also don't have any sensitivity to wool. Overall, great sweater. I'm hoping to add it to my wardrobe once the price drops.

Verdict: Like, true to size. On my wishlist.

Navy XXS

I actually have the retail version of this tee that I like and wear all the time. When I saw this in the Factory new arrivals, I was interested in finding out if the quality of the Factory tee could match that of the original. Sometimes the Factory version is almost identical while other times they're completely different. In this case, it's close but no cigar. The Factory tee had a flatter lighter blue background (the original was dark navy blue, and the fabric had an ever-so-slight texture to it), and the length was much too long. The foil elephants looked the same, but the one I tried on was printed a little off-center. It could be worth a try if you really wanted the original and missed out, but personally I'd pass.

Verdict: Meh. True to size but pretty long. Not as good as the original.

Pleated Skirt (Item C7199)
Navy 00
"Tucked" Top
Untucked Top

This is another item that was initially released on the retail side. I tried on the original but wasn't in love with it enough to buy. Having tried it on again, I'm still not really into the style. To my eye, it looks strange paired with tucked tops, so I would always have to wear my shirts untucked. If you like the style though, I think the quality is nearly identical to the original retail skirt. The only detectable difference was the quality of the polyester. The original one felt more silky, while this one was a little more grainy and rough. It's not a dealbreaker though, so if you like the style, I say go for it. I found it true to size.

Verdict: Meh for me, but it's a great dupe of the original.
True to size.

What have you been liking at J.Crew Factory lately?