Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March 2016 Purchases

March was a good shopping month! I bought a lot of great pieces but still came in way under budget, thanks to a successful month of selling on eBay (due to my closet clean-out last month), generally good sales, and a $50 J.Crew rewards card. My absolute favorite purchase was a seasonless black suit that I got for under $100(!). I was initially torn between it and another suit, but ultimately decided to keep the one I did for its breathability and affordability. Without further ado, let's talk about what I bought this month!

1) J.Crew sleeveless drapey popover shirt in clover print (citrus 00) - This is my new favorite blouse! The print is very versatile and is suitable for both casual and business casual occasions. The top is made of 100% silk, the silhouette is forgiving yet flattering, and the price was reasonable, What's there not to love? Originally $88. Paid $44.99 + 40% off + 1.5% off ebates + $25 rewards card = $1.59.

2) J.Crew perfect cable sweater (bright lemon XS) - Honestly this chunky wool sweater has a few design flaws. It's a little boxy in the torso, it runs short and small, and the neck is very tight, but I'm willing to overlook all of these issues because I love the acid yellow color! Originally $98. Paid $49.99 + 40% off + 1.5% off ebates + $25 rewards card = $4.54.

3) J.Crew 1035 two-button jacket in super 120s wool (black 00) - Despite reading reviews about the declining quality of J.Crew's super 120s wool, I thought the material of this suit blazer was smooth, breathable, and draped well. The jacket has a slim fit in the shoulders and torso although the sleeves are a hair long. Surprisingly, it looks best when worn with the sleeves cuffed and with jeans. Originally $248. Paid $69.99 + 30% off = $48.99.

4) J.Crew 1035 trouser in super 120s wool (black 0) - The matching suit pants are a little disappointing but still better than the alternatives from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, etc. They are much too long, unlined, and a little itchy. However, I like the slim silhouette, and the itchiness issue can be remedied with slip shorts. The length issue can be fixed through hemming or rebuying in petite sizing. After trying on the size 0, I reordered them in 2P, but USPS misdelivered the package, and now they don't know where it is (so annoying)! Hopefully that package turns up, or I'll have to hem the size 0 pants. The price really can't be beat though for seasonless 100% wool pants. Originally $148. Paid $49.99 + 25% off + 3% off ebates + $5 shipping = $41.37.

5) Old Navy v-neck cami (bare necessity XS) - Last month I mentioned that I need more basic tees and tanks, so I tried on a few this month. Unfortunately, none of them worked out except this nude layering tank. It's great for wearing under tops that are a little too sheer. I wish it was 100% cotton instead of 94% cotton, 6% spandex, but it's still a good value for the price. Originally $4.50. Paid $4.50 + 2% off ebates = $4.41.

6) J.Crew Factory Clare cardigan sweater (navy XS) - For most of the year I usually wear light wool cardigans, but now that the weather is starting to warm up, it would be good to add a few cotton cardigans to the rotation. The Clare is true to size, made of smooth 100% cotton, and features 3/4 sleeves. I haven't worn it yet, but I can already picture the outfits that I would wear it with. Originally $54.50. Paid $29.50 + 30% off + 1.5% off ebates = $20.34.

7) Uniqlo supima cotton v-neck short sleeve t-shirt (light gray XS) - I knew this tee was a risky purchase, because I had never ordered from Uniqlo before plus there are no stores near me. I decided to give it a try anyway, but unfortunately my gamble didn't pay off. Somehow when I was reading the description, I missed the fact that the material was a cotton blend instead of 100% cotton. Also it hugs my stomach too much and makes me feel self-conscious. It also doesn't make much sense to return it since the cost of return shipping is $7. Most likely I'll just keep it and wear it as a lounge shirt around the house. Originally $12.90. Paid $9.90 + 3% off ebates = $9.60.

8) Gap stretch 1969 true skinny ankle jean (washed black 25R) - I feel like Gap has really improved the fit of their jeans recently! Most of the jeans I've bought from them lately have fit perfectly. This one was no exception. I wish the denim was a little heavier, and the distressed hem is a little quirky, but the fit is so spot-on that I just have to keep them. Originally $69.95. Paid $69.95 + 40% off + 2% off ebates = $41.13.

That's everything I added to my closet! I also sold 7 items on eBay, including 3 items from my worst purchases of 2015. After shipping, eBay, and Paypal fees, I was able to recoup $158.15.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $723.85
SPENT: $171.97 (23.8% of MSRP)
SOLD: $158.15
NET: $13.82

My goal for the year is to spend no more than $2400, which equates to $200 per month. Right now I'm at $2400 - $163.50 for January - $270.55 for February - $13.82 for March = $1952.13 for the next 9 months, which is an average of $216.90 per month.

How did you do on your budget this month? As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Suit Up: Banana Republic vs. J.Crew

Last month, I started looking for a new suit. I rounded up the top contenders in this post and ordered two to try on at home. On the left, we have the black Banana Republic lightweight wool two-button blazer (I'm wearing 0P) and the Banana Republic Logan-fit black lightweight wool trouser (I'm wearing 2P). On the right, we have the black J.Crew 1035 jacket in super 120s wool (I'm wearing 00) and the J.Crew 1035 trouser in super 120s wool (I'm wearing 0, but the pants need hemming; I folded the extra fabric under for the purposes of this comparison). The Banana Republic suit is currently available but is frequently excluded from sales. The J.Crew suit is currently sold out but seems to pop back regularly in random sizes. Also, the super 120s wool is available in other fits (similar jacket, similar pants).

For size reference, I am 5' 4" and weigh approximately 115 lbs. My measurements are 32C-26-34. My usual Banana Republic size for tops is 0P and between 0P and 2P for bottoms. My usual J.Crew size for tops is 00 and between 00 and 0, sometimes 0P, for bottoms.

To evaluate these two suits, I am looking at three main factors (in order of priority): the overall fit, the quality of the material/construction, and the total cost.

Overall Fit
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two suits. In all of the pictures, the Banana Republic suit is on the left, and the J.Crew suit is on the right. For a fair comparison, I am wearing the same silk top and vintage shoes.

From the front, the BR jacket is shorter, with the hem ending at my hip. I like that the sleeves are decently slim and a good length. The fit through the torso is also good with almost no pulling across the chest or stomach. However, the jacket does have pretty aggressive shoulder pads.

By comparison, the J.Crew jacket hits below my hip, and the sleeves are noticeably longer and less slim. Also, there is more wrinkling around the top button of the jacket. I like that the shoulders are only lightly padded.

Both jackets are fully lined. The BR jacket has a striped lining throughout, while the J.Crew jacket has black lining in the body and striped lining in the sleeves.

The two jackets look similar when worn open, but on the BR suit, an open jacket highlights the bagginess of the pants. In particular, the pants look matronly in their full cut and also too baggy in the crotch.

By contrast, the J.Crew pants are slimmer and sleeker. However, they are too long, so they would need to be hemmed by a few inches. Both fit comfortably in the waist, although the BR pants are looser.

From the side, the J.Crew jacket is considerably slimmer than the BR jacket. However, it is also too long, almost completely covering my butt. Both pants are wrinkly in the back, especially around the thigh region. Also, the BR pants are fully lined, while the J.Crew pants are unlined. 

From the back, the J.Crew jacket has a more nipped in waist than the BR jacket. The wrinkling issue across the back of the thigh becomes even more apparent.

Material and Construction
The BR suit is 95% wool, 5% spandex for the body and 95% polyester, 5% spandex for the lining. The J.Crew suit is 100% wool for the body, 100% polyester for the body lining, and 95% polyester, 5% spandex for the sleeve lining.

The BR suit's wool blend feels rougher to the touch than the J.Crew suit's silky super 120s wool. Also, the BR suit has a thicker lining, so it feels more stuffy. The J.Crew suit will be more breathable, I think, which is beneficial since I would only be wearing a suit in stressful situations.

Total Cost
I bought the BR suit during a 40% off sale (rare but happens occasionally), so that brought the price to $184.80 pre-tax. The J.Crew suit was on super sale, so I got it for only $83.99(!) pre-tax. However it requires some alterations, which I'm guessing would cost around $50, bringing the total to $133.99.

TL;DR Summary
Fit: The BR jacket is a little sleeker. Both pants have their own issues.
Material: The J.Crew suit is more breathable.
Cost: The J.Crew suit is cheaper, even with alterations.

Even after writing up this comparison, I'm still undecided about which suit to keep! What do you think? If I could only pick one, which suit do you think I should keep, and why?