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?