Shopping: Amour Vert (Or, How I Bombed the Bomber)

This week, I tried a out new-to-me brand, Amour Vert. A few things make Amour Vert appealing, as a company and as clothing. As you may have guessed from the name, there’s a bit of a green, eco-focus behind the line. The fabrics are all natural: silk, wools, cotton. The garments are made in the US, which while not necessarily green, does suggest the company isn’t interested in paying as little as possible when it comes to construction. Finally, the company intends to plant a tree for every T-shirt it sells. That last one sounds like a bit of green washing to me, but if the intentions are good . . .

On to the clothing. I only tried a top and a jacket from the brand, so it’s not as though I can give a full review, but judging from my limited experience, things seem good. Except for the bomber, but that might just be me.

Let's just call these bracelet length sleeves
Let’s just call these bracelet length sleeves

I like the idea of a bomber, or baseball style jacket, or what have you. But on me, ugh, what a terrible look. The sleeves on this particular jacket, the Art Bomber, were just too short. I know, I know, I’m tall. But I usually don’t have trouble with sleeve length.

While the sleeves weren’t enough, the body of the jacket was incredibly voluminous. I get that there’s meant to be a bit of bagginess to a bomber jacket, but this was just extra fabric that hung really awkwardly. You can kind of see it in the photo – there’s a puff of fabric by my right arm that’s just  . . . there.  The waistband of the coat wasn’t small enough to balance out the volume of the body, if that makes any sense. At any rate, I’m returning this jacket.

Amour_Vert_silk_top

While Amour Vert didn’t hit a home run with the bomber (at least on me), I pretty much fell in love with the Sally Tank the minute I tried it on. It’s navy blue silk with tiny white birds on it. The front hem is a few inches shorter than the back hem, which creates an flattering, fun look. The silk is pretty  heavy weight and the stitching is fantastic, though I would have liked to have seen some French seams in there. The tag on the top said it was handmade in the USA — handmade by a serger, sure.

Amour Vert definitely gets an A for good intentions. The tank fits well, and it’s always nice to see brands that are relatively affordable producing clothing in the US, using natural fibers. Could things be better? Yes. But, I’m hanging on to the top and would give the brand another try in the future.

 

Shopping: A Time for Tights

Winter has come a bit early where I live. It was all of about 32 degrees today and is going down to something ridiculous like 20 degrees tonight. It’s cold. It’s really, really cold. And there’s no heat in my house. Luckily, though, I have tights.

I’m not much for wearing pants. That’s all well and good in the spring, summer and fall when I can either go bare-legged in a skirt or wear a thin pair of nylon tights. But, the winter calls for something a little more substantial, such as tights made from wool or a thick cotton. While I have been wearing tights from J. Crew for a few years, I’ve found that they have some issues in terms of quality.  Mainly that they fall apart pretty quickly. This year, I’ve branched out a bit and have tried tights from Uniqlo and Boden. Both brands are a lot thicker than the options from J. Crew, although made from cotton rather than wool. Even better, both cost about the same, if not less than J. Crew’s tights. (Have I been bashing J. Crew a lot lately? Their quality has slipped. . .)

On the left: Uniqlo. On the right: Boden.
On the left: Uniqlo. On the right: Boden.

First up, let’s talk about Uniqlo. Philly recently got its first Uniqlo store and it’s kinda amazing. The prices are on the low side, but the clothes don’t suck. I actually tried on a pair of jeans there that I loved (but haven’t purchased yet). And their tights are pretty much amazing. I’ve purchased two pairs. One a sensible dark green cotton. The other a glittery black.

The tights are $14.90/pair and it looks as though you get a discount if you buy three pairs, at least online. I went with the large/x-large size and that was the right pick. I used to be really vain about sizing when it came to tights. But, really, it’s always a good idea to size up with them. Otherwise, they are likely to fall down or rip under the strain. The only issue with buying a size bigger with tights is that in some cases the elastic can be a bit too big, causing them to fall down.

I haven’t had that issue with  the Uniqlo tights, nor with the Boden tights. Boden’s tights are made from a thick cotton with just enough stretch that they pull up without straining or falling back down. They cost a bit more per pair than the Uniqlo pairs, and you have to buy them in packs of two.

The issue I have with Boden tights is the colors. You don’t get two pairs of the same color per pack. Instead, you get a “neutral” color, like black or gray, and a non-neutral color, like teal or red. Teal tights have their place (I’m wearing them right now!), but given the choice, I’d like to get a pair of black and gray or two pairs of black, rather than a “creative” color and a neutral.

 

Shopping: Boden Fall 2014

I suppose we’ll continue the British invasion theme today with a post about Boden. My first introduction to the brand was actually from an off-hand comment made in an article I was reading on TheGuardian.com. The writer wasn’t too keen on the company’s designs and I didn’t think much of it until a few months later I got  a catalog from the company in the mail. Its copy focused on how British the company was, which was cute, but maybe a bit overdone.

Despite my initial misgivings, the clothing actually did appeal to me. Woolly skirts and tops with cute patterns (like a telephone print!), what more could I want? So, Boden has won me around, and I now have a few pieces from the company in my closet, mainly the aforementioned telephone patterned blouse and a swishy polka dot blue dress.

One of the big differences between Boden and US retailers like J. Crew or Banana Republic is that its clothing is better made, at least in my opinion. Banana’s full of polyester tops and unlined skirts while J. Crew’s clothing tends to look like it’s about to come to pieces on the hanger, in the store. Boden’s pieces tend  to be made of viscose, silk, cotton or wool. The shirts have French seams, the skirts tend to be lined, the tights are a lot thicker and warmer. A lot of Boden’s stuff is washable, which is always a plus.

Another big difference between Boden and similar US stores lies in the number of markdowns and sales. I’d say Boden has fewer big sales than many US stores. How many of us regularly get 40 percent offers or take 40 to 60 percent off of already reduced sale prices offers from certain American companies every single week? While Boden does mark down its clothing, the discounts are usually  much smaller, between 10 and 20 percent, or up to 40 percent during a seasonal sale.

That all said, the most recent catalog I got from the company  had pretty great deal: 10 percent off orders under $100, 20 percent off orders over $100 and 30 percent off orders over $300, plus a voucher for $10 off. Boden’s prices being what they are, it’s pretty easy to get to $300 and get the 30 percent off, so I figured now was as good a time as any to order. Plus,  it’s getting colder here and I was in need of a new hat and gloves. My last hat got eaten by  moths and my gloves have started to unravel. I ended up ordering a skirt, sweater, hat, gloves and a two pack of cotton tights.

boden terrier sweater and British Tweed mini

I’d actually seen both the Terrier Sweater and the British Tweed Mini in blue spot back in July, during the company’s seasonal preview. Won’t those look cute together, I thought to myself, but didn’t order them then. One of the terriers in the sweater is a bright yellow, while the rest of them are tan. The skirt does look a bit gray in the photo, but it’s actually a cloudy light blue. The spots are tan and olive-ish in color.

On to sizing: one of the areas where I think Boden tends to fall down is in terms of sizing. The sweater fits and is comfortable, but I could do with it being a bit more snug in the waist area. Although I’m usually a 4 or 6 in skirts from US brands, I’m in an 8 from Boden and the 8 fits the way those US brands do. It’s supposed to be at the natural waist, but instead is falling somewhere between the waist and the hips. The hips are a bit a loose on me, which isn’t a problem, except for the fact that there are pockets on either side, which add some weight to the look.

Close up of side pocket detail.
Close up of side pocket detail.

Some skirts look better when you tuck the hem of your shirt in. The tweed mini is definitely not that type of skirt. It needs to be worn with a fitted, but untucked top, or else its proportions look all out of line.

Let’s talk about the tweed. What is tweed? It’s a heavy type of wool, usually with flecks of different colors. The tweed Boden uses for its skirts comes from Abraham Moon and Sons, Ltd, which has been making tweed since the 1800s in Yorkshire. It’s good stuff, thick and well made. When I think of tweed, I usually see hounds tooth or plaid, so I like that the dotted pattern on the skirt mixes things up.

One last thing about the “mini” before moving on. Boden’s mini skirts are a bit longer that most. The regular length (which I got) is about 19 inches. A long length (22 inches) wouldn’t be a mini at all, even on a tall person (5’10”) such as myself. Of course, length is determined by both the physical size of the skirt and where it falls on your waist/hips. Since my skirt sits a bit lower than was intended, it appears longer on me. That all said, Boden did introduce an actual mini length of about 17 inches this season. That might be worth a look.

Hand in glove.
Hand in glove.

Rounding out my order was stuff I actually needed for winter: gloves, a hat and thick tights. We’ll talk about the tights in another post, because I have a few pairs from different companies to comment on. I ended up getting the Cosy Stitch Gloves and matching hat, in gray/citron. They are both made of a wool/nylon blend, aren’t itchy and seem like they’ll be pretty heavy and warm enough come actual winter. The hat is actually a bit on the huge size – it nearly slips down and covers my eyes, but I think I can make it work.

I’m not really a winter person. Actually, I hate being cold. But, now that I have some warm outdoor accessories, plus a warm skirt and sweater, I think I’ll be able to make it through.