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?