Saturday, January 31, 2015

Classic Stripe Tees under $100

We all know the importance of owning a classic stripe tee, but for some reason, it's incredibly difficult to hunt down this wardrobe staple.

Luckily for you, I've scoured the internet to round up all the classic stripe tees that satisfy the following criteria:
1. Costs less than $100.
2. Has thin navy or black stripes on a white or ivory background.
3. Is made primarily of cotton (< 5% other materials).
4. Does not have trendy embellishments such as zippers, pockets, embroidery, drop shoulders, etc.
5. Preferably long-sleeve but 3/4-sleeve is also acceptable.

They're sorted by retail price from most affordable to least affordable.

Lands' End petite 3/4-sleeve boatneck sailor tee in ivory/true navy. $29 full-price. Navy stripes on an ivory background. Cotton. Boat neck. 3/4 sleeves. Limited sizes available. Also available in plus size.

Added on 02/01/2015: L.L.Bean French Sailor's Shirt in Cream/Navy. Thanks to fivesouth for pointing out this one! $29.95 full-price. Navy stripes on a cream background. Cotton. Boat neck. 3/4 sleeves. Sizes range from XS to XL. Also available in petite and women's sizing.

Boden long sleeve breton in ivory/navy. $38 full-price. Navy stripes on an ivory background. 100% cotton. Crew neck. Long sleeves. Small side slits. Sizes range from 2 to 18.

J.Crew Factory long-sleeve stripe boatneck tee in oat navy spring. $49.50 full-price. Dark navy stripes on a cream/oatmeal background. 100% cotton. Boat neck. Long sleeves. Small side slits. Sizes range from XXS to XXL. (I personally own this and really like it! True to size but a little tight in the chest/shoulders, which is a common issue for me.)

Saint James Galanthee in neige/noir$90 full-price. Black stripes on an ivory background. 100% cotton. Round neck. 3/4 sleeves. Sizes range from 4 to 16.
Honorable Mention: Ann Taylor stripe shoulder zip cotton top in winter white. $54 full-price. Navy stripes on an ivory background. 100% cotton. Round neck. Long sleeves. Shoulder zips and high-low hem. Sizes range from XXS to XXL. Not the most classic option here with its embellishments, but the pattern is spot on.

Do you own any of these stripe tees? Are there any that I've missed? Where do you buy your classic stripe tees? Please chime in!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 2015 Purchases

January was a good month for me budget-wise. Between research, my cooking experiments, working out, and personal issues, I've been too busy to shop. I still made a few purchases here and there though, including a rebuy. I caught the J.Crew origami skirt in elephant parade on sale, so I returned the more expensive one I bought in December, saving myself over $20. I usually hate playing these price games, but I felt justified in this case since I hadn't even gotten around to wearing the skirt yet. For simplicity's sake, I'll just count it as part of last year's budget.

A handful of things caught my eye during the 70% off flash sale at LOFT earlier this month, but most of my purchases didn't work out. I really liked the fit of this black open cardigan, but it was already super pilly when it arrived, and I figured it would only get worse with wear. Based on the reviews I ordered an XXSP (my normal LOFT size is XXS), and that was the right choice. I also liked this black waterfall cardigan (true to size) but found it slightly too bulky in the front.

Gap also had some goodies that interested me. After trying on a cashmere hoodie in store and being impressed by the weight of the wool, I ordered the crewneck cashmere cardigan in mushroom. I haven't worn it yet, but I like the unique neutral color and the quality seems good. I'm thinking about ordering a second one in a different color since they're on sale right now.

J.Crew Factory released their spring roll-out recently, and I saw a lot of things online that I liked. For example, how adorable is this black and white scalloped dress? And what about this mixed metals necklace? It totally solves my daily morning dilemma about whether I should wear gold or silver jewelry. My favorite item though is the classic long-sleeve navy striped tee! More on that later.

So the keepers for this month are... (drumroll please)

Gap cashmere crew cardigan (mushroom XS) - The wool isn't as soft as other cashmere (which may be a problem for people with wool sensitivity), but it feels thick and warm and doesn't seem prone to pilling. This cardigan is more fitted and cropped than other Gap sweaters, so definitely size up if you want a regular fit or longer length. I stuck with my usual XS, because I prefer a closer fit. Originally $159.95. Paid $111.99 + 40% off + 2% off ebates = $65.85. Updated 01/31/2015: I changed my mind and decided to return this cardigan after all. I like it, but it's not a must-have for my wardrobe at this time. I would rather put the money towards a longer length black cardigan.

LOFT sequin stripe tee (whisper white XXS) - This all-cotton tee runs a hair large, but I like the fit, and I just couldn't resist the sequins. A word of caution for anyone who's interested though: the back is a little sheer, so plan on wearing a nude bra. Originally $44.50. Paid $39.99 + 70% off + 3% off ebates = $11.64.

LOFT striped 3/4 sleeve tee (black XXS) - I really like this cotton boatneck tee! It's super flattering since the fit is slim, the fabric isn't sheer, and the price can't be beat. My only complaint is the three-quarter sleeves. In general I find this length to be awkward, because it doesn't layer well with long sleeves, and it's too cold to wear alone right now. I'll probably save this for warmer weather. Originally $29.50. Paid $24.99 + 70% off + 3% off ebates = $7.27.

J.Crew Factory long-sleeve stripe boatneck tee (oat navy spring XXS) - I've been looking for a classic striped tee for a really long time now. Preferably long sleeves, all cotton, not sheer, with thinner navy or black stripes on a white/ivory background. I don't know why that's been so hard to find, but it is what it is. I was pleasantly surprised when this met all of my criteria! The fit is true to size, and the quality seems very good. The cotton material is quite thick and appropriate for winter. The shirt is a little tight in the shoulders, and the background is oatmeal/ivory instead of white, but other than that, it's great! Originally $49.50. Paid $34.50 + 1.5% off ebates = $33.98.

J.Crew origami skirt in elephant parade (golden elephants 00) - Originally $118. Paid $89.99 + 40% off + 1.5% off ebates = $53.18. Counting it towards last month's budget since I returned the more expensive one I bought in December.

Wow, I sure bought a lot of striped tees this month. That's okay though. I'm definitely a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, so I can never have too many tees.

RETAIL: $283.45 $123.50
SPENT: $118.74 (42% of MSRP) $52.89 (43% of MSRP)

Yay, I finally came in significantly under budget! My goal for the year is to spend less than $3000, which translates roughly to $250 per month. Right now I'm at $3000 - $118.74 $52.89 for January, which leaves me with $2881.26 $2947.11 for the next 11 months, an average of $262 $268 per month.

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gap Reviews: Stripe Boatneck Tee, Fluid Stripe Tee, Pleated Bib Shirt, Silk Cotton Shirt, Fair Isle Wool Sweater, Cashmere Hoodie

First reviews of the new year! I haven't gone shopping in person in a while, so I haven't been able to try on too many new things and take photos for you guys. On Friday, I decided to stop off at the mall after work to make a few returns at Old Navy. Since I was already in the neighborhood, I went into Gap to try on several sale items I had my eye on. Here are my reviews. For reference, my measurements are here.

Stripe Boatneck Tee (Peach Martini XS)

As I've mentioned before, I'm constantly on the lookout for classic striped tees, which for whatever reason are really hard to find. I had high hopes that this winter-weight tee would be the one, but I was sadly disappointed. The 100% cotton fabric is quite thick (doesn't seem likely to pill) and the overall silhouette is slim, but the length was much too long, and the boatneck collar was too high, kind of like a choker. Maybe this could work for someone much taller than me (I would guess around 5' 8" and above). There were several other colorways including ivory and black, but the black stripes looked heathered if that makes sense. In the end, this didn't work for me.

Verdict: Meh. Too long.

Fluid Stripe Tee (Red Stripe XS)

For some reason, red and navy stripes always make me think of Tony the Tiger. Not sure why. Anyway, I liked this. The material was thin and cool against my skin. The drapeyness was flattering. The fit was decent even though the sleeves and torso were a little too long. Currently this top is only $8.99 online plus an additional 40% off (now through 01/19/2015). It seems like a good serviceable top, but I'm concerned that it might shrink/get ruined in the wash. Apparently this is a common issue with 100% rayon tops, which several online reviewers mentioned. I don't have too much experience with rayon myself, but I think I'll risk it for ~$6 and see how things turn out.

Verdict: Like. A little long.

Pleated Bib Shirt (White XS)

By now, you guys probably know about my tuxedo shirt obsession. As soon as I saw the pleated bib on this button-down, I knew I had to try it on. I liked that it was 100% cotton and wasn't too sheer for a white shirt, but the fit was atrocious. It's very oversized and runs large by at least 1-2 sizes. The fit in the shoulders was off, but the worst part was the torso. I felt like I was swimming around in a big smock. Two thumbs down.

Verdict: Dislike. Too big overall.

Silk Cotton Shirt (Nude? XS)

I can't find this color online, but it was a peachy nude that I liked. The fit of this lightweight shirt was only okay. It's a little too long in the sleeves and torso, and could stand to be more tailored in the waist, but I thought the fit issues were workable since the fabric draped nicely. The cotton-silk blend was very comfortable albeit quite thin, especially for winter. The weight is more appropriate for spring or summer. If you can catch a color you like on sale, definitely try it out.

Verdict: Almost like. Runs a little large.

Fair Isle Wool Sweater (Charcoal Gray XS)

I picked up this gray sweater to try, because I thought the fair isle pattern was really cute. The sweater was reasonably thick and didn't seem too itchy (although I'm not super sensitive to wool). It seemed like it might pill over time, but that's a common issue with sweaters in general. My biggest complaint was the fit. It was much much too short in the torso. Also I have a pet peeve about tops having side slits. I don't like them myself and try to avoid buying shirts that have them.

Verdict: Blah. Too short in the torso.

Cashmere Hoodie (Light Gray Heather S)

I was excited to see this cashmere hoodie in store, because I remember hearing good things about Gap cashmere. I'm a very tactile person, so the first thing I usually do before I try anything on is to see how it feels to the touch. When I touched this, I was extremely surprised, because it hardly felt like cashmere at all. It was more like a thick, dense, plush wool. It's not as soft as other cashmere sweaters I've touched, so that was a bit disappointing. On the bright side though, it also didn't seem as prone to pilling. I rubbed the material against itself several times to see if it would create those little pilly balls, but nothing happened. True to the reviews on the website, it runs small and short. Here I am wearing a S, despite being frequently sized out at Gap even with the XS. I wouldn't pay full price for this sweater, but I would consider picking one up for under $70. This color is currently about $84 online, but the camel and ivory versions are only $60 and $72 respectively (now through 01/19/2015).

Verdict: Like. Runs small.

Gap also carries cashmere crewneck sweaters and cashmere cardigans (great reviews), currently on sale plus 40% off with code DEALS, now through 01/19/2015. I ordered a cashmere cardigan in mushroom for myself. Also, don't forget about 7% cash back at Ebates!

Have you found anything you liked at Gap lately?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Personal Resolutions for 2015

I know, I know. It's already the middle of January, so why am I still talking about New Year's resolutions? Well, things have been pretty hectic lately. I re-injured the pulled muscle in my neck, my grandfather passed away, and school started up again, so I'm only just getting around to blogging about them now. For what it's worth, I did make them on New Year's Eve and have already started putting them into action.

So I know a lot of people detest this annual tradition, but in the past I've had good luck with sticking to my resolutions. Plus the start of a new year is usually the kick in the pants I need to make a major change in my life. A few examples of things I've managed to change over the years include no longer biting my nails (a terrible stress-related habit I've had since I was 4 years old!) and learning to cook so that I can eat more healthily and save money at the same time.

From my own experience, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you want to make resolutions that you can stick to:

1. Set only a few (realistic) goals.
I think a common mistake for most people is that they set too many goals for one year. If you have 10-20 goals, it's impossible to achieve all of them. Worse yet, you may become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work and just give up on them altogether. My suggestion is to focus on only a handful (or even better, 2-3) and really apply yourself in those areas. Pick the ones that will have the greatest impact on your life, but also keep them realistic so that you don't set yourself up for failure and feel discouraged when you can't meet your own expectations.

2. Have a solid plan of attack as to how you can achieve those goals.
Try to break down your big-picture goal into a series of smaller tasks, and just focus on doing well at each small task. This way you feel like you're making progress step by step toward ultimately achieving your goal.

3. Keep track of your progress and constantly reward yourself.
Define your own milestones and metrics for success. As you meet each one, treat yourself to something nice. Maybe it's a dinner at your favorite restaurant or a new skirt or a massage. Any incentive for your continued good behavior.

4. Forgive yourself if (when) you fall off the bandwagon.
This is an issue that I personally struggle with a lot and still need to learn to cope with. Whenever I fall off the bandwagon, I get discouraged and have a hard time pressing on. But I need to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. The important thing isn't that you fell off, but that you picked yourself up again and got back on it.


For 2015, I have only two resolutions. Both focus on different aspects of health. The first deals with physical health and the second with mental health.

1. Exercise a minimum of 4 times a month.
This sounds like a laughably small amount of physical activity, but it's already a great improvement over last year's 0 times a month. Honestly I'm probably in terrible cardiovascular health. I sit all day in front of a computer at school, and when I get home, I continue to sit in front of a computer. That's the life of a grad student in engineering. But as I get older, I notice that I'm not as "fresh" as I used to be, and I have little niggling pains and aches (like how I've randomly pulled muscles in my neck/back several times this year from bad ergonomics). Four times a month is a bare minimum for me. I would love to work out 2-3 times a week, but from past experience, I know that goal is a little too ambitious right now. I think my current target is very doable, and also the flexibility of a monthly goal instead of a weekly goal is just much more manageable. So far I've already gone running twice this month!

2. Live more in the moment.
My grad school career hasn't been the smoothest, and as such, it's caused me a lot of existential stress over the past few years. When I started grad school, I didn't really have good stress management techniques, so I carried around a lot of anxiety, which worsened into a series of panic attacks. I found myself constantly worrying about my thesis topic, my career path after graduation, and the future in general. Because I'm a perfectionist by nature, I wanted to optimize every step so that I could end up exactly where I wanted. However, instead of working on my research, I felt paralyzed and couldn't move forward, because I was worried that whatever step I took next would cause me to "fail."  Maybe my perfectionism helped me get this far, but now it's become more toxic than helpful. What I want to do going forward is to focus more on the tasks at hand and less on unlikely future eventualities.

What are your personal resolutions for 2015?