Friday, February 27, 2015

February 2015 Purchases

February was another good month for my clothing budget (not so much for my overall wallet, but more on that later). I came in way under, but it wasn't due to self control or willpower. I was simply too busy to shop this month. In fact, I've been pretty much MIA on the blog in general. At the beginning of this month, I had good intentions about getting on a regular blogging schedule, but then life happened and ruined my grand plans. On Valentine's Day, my fiancĂ© Engineer W and I ended up adopting an 8 month old cat that we named Catniss. We had been discussing it for some time and felt that it would be nice to add another member to our family. Anyway, I'll be writing a post soon about our adoption experience and adjusting to life with a cat (I've never had a pet before), so stay tuned!

Here she is! Who could say no to that face?
Because we were so wrapped up in the cat (quite literally at times), the only purchase I made this month was a pair of grey Kendra Scott earrings. I've always loved her jewelry, because you can choose from a wide variety of fun shapes, colors, and materials. In particular, I was very interested in the 'Elle' earrings, because the size seemed perfect - dramatic without being over the top. However, the full price of $52 always scared me off. It seemed like a lot of money to shell out for a piece of costume jewelry, so I watched and waited.

These are more of a medium grey in person.
Recently Nordstrom had a 40% off clearance sale that included a number of Kendra Scott pieces. I wanted the turquoise Elles, but that wasn't included in the markdown so I snagged this grey pair instead for $31.20 - 6% off ebates = $29.33. I know they're still a little expensive, but I really like them and have already worn them twice! Surprisingly they're not heavy at all. There is currently an emerald pair that is on sale for the same price.

Earlier this week I placed another Nordstrom order for this pair of white jeans that Jean mentioned in a recent post and two cashmere sweaters that were on sale (I bought the v-neck in chocolate and the crewneck in celery). I'm excited to try on the white jeans, and I wear sweaters all year round so I'm sure I can still get my money's worth after winter ends. Since I haven't received them yet, I will include them in next month's budget post.

So this month's total comes to:
SPENT: $29.33 (56.4% of MSRP)

My goal for the year is to spend less than $3000, which translates roughly to $250 per month. Right now I'm at $3000 - $52.89 for January - $29.33 for February, which leaves me with $2917.78 for the next 10 months, an average of $291.78 per month.


While I didn't spend much on clothing this month, I did have to buy a number of things for Catniss. In addition to her adoption fee, I spent between $150-$200 on her initial supplies, including a carrier, scratching post, litter box, food bowl, grooming supplies, cat toys, food, and litter. Also, we took her to her first vet appointment last week, which came out to be another $150 (exam, anal gland expression - sorry TMI, and some tests). Who knew having a cat could be so expensive?

Anyway, how did you do on your budget this month?

As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the other Budgeting Bloggers!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Language(s) of Love

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so today I wanted to step out of my box to talk about a more serious topic: looove. A little background first. For the past few semesters, I've been attending a support group on campus for graduate students. Once a week we get together to discuss all sorts of life issues, including research stress, relationship stress, family stress, you name it. Anyway, last time I brought up a small argument that Engineer W and I had recently. After hearing my story, one of the group members suggested trying to understand his perspective by learning his language of love. If you have no idea what she was talking about (like I didn't), she was referring to a popular book written by Gary Chapman for people in relationships. According to Chapman, the five languages of love are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. I haven't read the book, but the basic idea seems to be that you can strengthen your emotional connection with your partner if you can express your love for them using their love language instead of your own. There's even a quiz on his website to help you figure out your own love language(s). Most people need a mixture of all five, but the importance of each language is different from person to person.

My love languages (in descending priority) are quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts, and physical touch with words of affirmation being a distant fifth. Engineer W's languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time with receiving gifts in last place. As you can see, our top languages don't overlap much. Because we're most likely to express our love in the languages that we would like to receive from others, that can lead to occasional misunderstandings and feeling under-appreciated at times. For example, Engineer W always thanks me for doing chores around the house, and I couldn't understand why. By comparison, I never used to thank him since I didn't value words of affirmation myself. Now I try to pay more attention to these differences so that he always feels loved and appreciated.

When I think about it, the concept of different love languages is pretty intuitive and really extends beyond just couples. It's applicable to anyone you love, like family and friends. Using this framework has changed the way I understand my parents, especially my mom. Whenever I go to visit her, she always tries to give me gifts to bring back with me, and I usually make excuses about not having enough space in my bag. Now I realize that she's trying to show me how much she loves me, and I should just take those gifts to avoid hurting her feelings.

So this Valentine's Day, when you think about what to get the person/people you love, think about how they show their love for you, and show your own love for them using that same language.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cashmere and Silk

I've mentioned before that I'm a very tactile person. I'm that weirdo who runs around the whole store, touching everything to see if it's soft. No wonder two of my favorite textiles are cashmere (with its soft-as-a-cloud plushness) and silk (with its smooth sheen). So what could be better than layering them together?

I wore this outfit on a cold morning last week when I was having trouble getting dressed. First I threw on these plum jeans (which have proven surprisingly versatile). Then I spent the next 15 minutes standing in front of my closet and being indecisive. Eventually I grabbed this black crewneck cashmere sweater that I bought last year, but I wanted to add a layer underneath since I knew it would be cold that day (and I have zero cold tolerance despite having grown up in the Midwest). I ended up picking this old ivory silk blouse sitting in the back of my closet that I don't wear very often, because it's too roomy through the torso. The sweater on top helped control the volume of the blouse, so it worked out perfectly. I skipped the statement jewelry, sporting only my engagement ring and stud earrings, because I liked the simplicity of the whole look.

Coat: J.Crew (old, this year's version)
Sweater: Nordstrom (old, this year's version, v-neck option)
Blouse: J.Crew (old version, similar)
Shoes: Sam Edelman
Bag: vintage Coach from Ebay

As a side note, I was surprised by the warmth of layering wool over silk! I've always thought of silk as a cool material to wear in warm weather, so it was news to me when I read that it's very insulating and makes a great winter base layer. Is anyone else surprised by this fact, or is this common knowledge that I somehow missed?

Have you worn silk in the winter?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

J.Crew Reviews: Tilly Sweater, Painter Boatneck Tee in Stripe, Sleeveless Beaded Zip Top, Collarless Poplin Popover, Stretch Toothpick Cone Denim Jean in White, Laser-Cut Pleated Skirt

New arrivals debuted on the website last week, so over the weekend I stopped by my local store to make some returns and check out the new stuff. Sadly, they didn't have everything I was looking for, so I could only try on a handful of things. If you're interested in any of the following items and want to know my measurements for fit reference, you can find them here.

Tilly Sweater (Lemon XXS)

The Tilly sweater is being billed by J.Crew as an updated version of their popular Tippi, so I wanted to try it on and compare the two fits. First of all, I have to confess that I've never been a huge fan of the Tippi pullover (although I adore the Tippi cardigan which I wear all year round). I know a lot of ladies like it, but the few that I've bought on sale are all too tight in the shoulders/arms in my usual XXS. Before I bought them, I also tried on the XS, but the sleeves were too roomy, and the seams didn't lie flat against my shoulders. Anyway sale goggles were in effect, and now I regret those purchases. On the bright side, the Tippi comes in a variety of fun colors, and the merino wool is comfortable and low maintenance.

Now back to the Tilly, which is also available in a rainbow of colors. So the wool is pretty thin, but I found it comparable to the Tippi. Unlike the Tippi, the Tilly has long sleeves, which I much prefer. Also the XXS wasn't too tight in the shoulders. The torso was also wider. However, the length is way too short to be flattering on anyone tall or long-waisted. I'm only 5' 4", but this ended exactly at the hip, just below the top of my jeans. The resulting effect was very unflattering, as you can see in the pictures. I felt like that was due to the ribbed hem emphasizing my stomach pooch. However, I will allow that the Tilly may look better on short-waisted ladies and/or when worn over skirts and dresses.

Verdict: Blah for me, but might work on shorter/short-waisted ladies. True to size.

Painter Boatneck Tee in Stripe (Heather Slate Ivory XS)

J.Crew's painter tees always seem to run one size small, especially in the arms. This was also the case with this stripe version. I went up a size from my usual XXS, and that was the right choice. True to the color's name, these stripes were gray on an ivory background. The tee was fitted and the fabric was soft, but the sleeves were a little shorter than I expected. Also the torso was a little too long. Sadly the material isn't thick enough, because I can still see a hint of my belly button (and muffin top...), which isn't very flattering.

Verdict: Meh. Go up a size if you're interested, but there are better striped tees out there.

This beaded top isn't really my personal style, but I thought I would try it on for the blog. I like the color combination, and the unexpected use of stripes adds visual interest. The beading also doesn't seem like it'll fall off immediately. However, the fit leaves something to be desired. I usually wear a 00, and this gapes under the arms and is boxy throughout. Hence I would suggest going down a size. The fabric feels similar to what you would expect for a non-iron shirt. It's sort of stiff and has a small amount of stretch. I didn't care for the side zippers on this at all. I'm not sure why someone would intentionally add them. They felt unpleasantly cold against my skin in the fitting room, and I can't imagine wanting to wear this on a cool morning. The top was tunic-length on my 5' 4" frame, but it wasn't too overwhelming. Ultimately not a hit for me.

Verdict: Meh. A little too large.

I don't have much to say about this collarless top. I liked the gold detail on the placket, and the sleeve fit was good. Those were the only things I liked though. The whole top was a little too simple. The mandarin collar felt bare, and the lack of a shoulder seam was strange. Also, from the side, this popover makes me look a little pregnant.

Verdict: Blah. Poofy in the stomach.

(White 25)

I've been looking for the perfect pair of white jeans for a long time now. Not see-through, doesn't make me look fat, with a 28"-29" inseam. I had high hopes for these white toothpicks after my recent success with 3 other pairs of J.Crew jeans. However, in the course of trying these on, I realized that J.Crew denim sizing is all over the place. So I usually wear size 25 in most premium denim brands, but my miller wash toothpicks and blacksmith wash toothpicks were both size 24s, and my sateen toothpick jean is a size 26. I eyeballed these in a few sizes and took the 25 with me into the fitting room. I think that was the right choice, because the waist was close to right. The fabric felt decently thick, but I could still see the color of my underwear, the outline of the pockets, and the outline of my knees. Also they were wrinkly in the back of the thigh. The length was good though (I have a 30" inseam). Too bad they didn't work out.

Verdict: Wanted to like, but meh in the end. Runs small for J.Crew (true to size for actual denim), but best to try on in person.

Laser-Cut Pleated Skirt (Dusty Alabaster 00)

I saw this pleated skirt on a mannequin and had to try it on. The color was so pretty, and the laser cut-outs were very interesting close up! tried on my usual 00 and found it true to size. It's nice that they added a slip underneath in the same color, so it's not too see-through. I wouldn't go so far as to wear dark undergarments though just in case. Even though the fabric was a polyester blend, it felt quite nice and swooshy. The skirt was fun to twirl. The drop waist gives you the option of wearing your top tucked or untucked. I have a pet peeve about being able to see my belly button through clothes (weirdly specific, I know), so I would probably only wear this untucked.

Verdict: Like. True to size.

While going through these photos, I saw my very noticeable VPL! Yikes... I need to find a solution ASAP. Do any of you ladies have (comfortable) recommendations?

What do you like from the new arrivals at J.Crew?