Shopping: The Search for Perfect Pants

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed that most of the items I buy and wear are skirts or dresses. I’m not opposed to pants, per se, but over the years, pants shopping has been a bit of nightmare, so I’ve pretty much stuck with skirts. There are a few reasons why I particularly dislike shopping for pants: my height and the reign of skinny jeans and very slim-fitting pants. I just don’t feel comfortable in the style.

My height doesn’t necessarily make finding the right leg length a problem, but it does make getting the rise right an issue. Although a lot of clothing brands offer tall sizes, they simply seem to add a few inches to the inseam and call it a day. I don’t need 36 or 37-inch inseams. I need about an inch more in the rise of the pants to get a comfortable fit.

Still, winter is coming, as they say, and I thought it might be nice to have more than an pair of jeans for those particularly chilly days, when a skirt and wool tights just aren’t warm enough. Thus began the great pants hunt of 2015. I went through five pairs, which I guess isn’t that many, before I found the ones.

First up:

Madewell Flea Markets Flares (Rollins Wash)

madewell_fleamarket_flares_rollins_wash_front

I tried on a pair of Madewell’s Flea Market Flares over the summer and wasn’t particularly enthralled by them. That pair was a classic blue jean denim and the summer was just getting under way, so I knew I wouldn’t get much wear out of them for the next few months. But, as fall rolled around, Madewell introduced the flares in a few more washes including a black denim. Since I’ve always been a fan of black jeans, I thought I’d give them a try.

madewell_fleamarket_flares_rollins_wash_side

They were just a bit too short – giving me flash backs to middle school and all the kids asking me where the flood was. Yikes. No thanks. As it turns out, the black denim (or Rollins Wash) flares are a bit shorter than the other Flea Markets – for whatever reason, they have a 33 inch inseam. The flare at the hem is also less wide – measuring about 21 inches around. They also felt a bit tight in the waist and thighs in my usual size 28.

So, those jeans were a wash. Perhaps, I should try some trousers:

J.Crew Full Length Pant in Wool

Damn. These pants sold out quickly. J.Crew doesn’t really offer full-length pants, so I guess when they did, everyone jumped at the chance to buy a pair. Particularly the aubergine (dark purple) color, which at first sold out in my size, then came back and quickly sold out again.

Jcrew_full_length_wool_pant_aubergine-frontJcrew_full_length_wool_pant_black-front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to order the purple pants in my usual size (6) and, just to be on the safe side, since the reviews said the pants ran small, I got a size 8 in the black (the purple 8’s were all gone).

The purple pants would have been perfect, except for the rise. It was just a touch too short, like seriously, all I need was another 1/2 inch. The black pants were a bit roomier and sat lower on the waist because of that (these are meant to be high-waisted trousers). They still look nice, but I think the baggier fit of them made them a bit less flattering than their purple cousins. The inseam, 34 inches, was fine on both pairs.

Jcrew_full_length_wool_pant_black-side Jcrew_full_length_wool_pant_aubergine-side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from the fit of the pants, there was one other issue, and that was that they were an unlined wool blend. The blend was just a touch scratchy, even in the looser pair. So I sent both back.

Which brings me to pants pair no. 3:

Theory Garetto Pants

Back in college, I had these stretchy black, flare-leg pants from New York & Company. I think that sentence gives you a fair idea of when I was in college. Anyway, although that sounds awful, those pants were great. They were very comfortable but still looked professional enough for work. When I saw Theory’s Garetto pants, which are made out of a stretchy knit ponte, I was reminded of those NY&Co. ones.

theory_garetto_pants_boots

The big difference being that Theory’s pants were almost $300 (originally, I got then for 50% off from Saks) and I probably got the NY&Co. ones for less than $30. The other big difference being that the Theory pants had a hook and tab and a zipper closure and my favorite pants of old were pull-on.

theory_garetto_pants_side

So, by now, you might have guessed the issue with these pants. They look fine. The length is fine (35″ inseam). I really liked the stretchy fabric. I got them in an 8 and the rise was just too short. I was able to pull them a bit lower on my hips, but then I got that muffin top thing going on and that just wasn’t a good look. Back they went.

Finally, the winner:

Madewell Flea Market Flares (Kenner Wash)

Hey, you might be saying, I thought the flares didn’t work out for you. Well, as it turns out, not all Madewell flares are the same. The same jeans in the Kenner wash, or dark rinse denim, are completely different from the jeans in the Rollins wash.

madewell_flea_market_flares_kenner

These are longer and the flares are wider. They don’t look like flood pants when I wear them with a 1-inch heel.

I’ll admit, at first I was nervous that the jeans were a bit too flared and I looked like I fell out of 1975 or something. But I had a chat with the associates at Madewell and they assured me that they didn’t look too dated. They also showed me that hemming the pants would give me that flood look I wasn’t going for, so thanks to them for that. I’m always impressed by how helpful the associates are at Madewell stores.

So, now I have my jeans for the winter, and I’m happy. I’ll be adding them to my winter capsule – more to come about that in the next post!

Shopping: MM LaFleur Bento Box

I don’t usually sign up for things or buy things impulsively – I’m more the type to hem and haw over something, to do a lot of research, to make sure I really need or what something.

But, a few weeks ago, I saw an ad on my Facebook feed (of all places) for a company called MM LaFleur. The ad featured a woman in a dark green skirt and top and I think mentioned something called a “Bento Box.” I clicked (I never click on Facebook ads).

And I really liked what I saw – stylish work clothing, some of which is made in the US. Although you can shop from the company’s website, the main attraction is the Bento Box. Like other online styling services, you tell MM LaFleur a few things about yourself (like height, bust size, what you do, what famous woman you most admire, and what outfit photos you like), and they send you a box full of clothes that they’ve picked out for you.

Unlike other styling services, MM LaFleur’s clothes are designed for work. As in, they look sharp and professional, not casual. I’d say the style leans more towards creative professional than corporate – there’s no basic suiting here. I loved some of the pieces, so without a second thought, I ordered a box.

It showed up about a week later, full of three dresses, a belt, and “kimono,” which is just a long cardigan you can tie multiple ways.  Here’s what I thought of each piece:

MM LaFleur Rachel Dress, blue
MM LaFleur Rachel Dress, blue

First up in the MM LaFleur Bento Box: The Rachel Dress

The Rachel dress is probably not a style I would have chosen for myself. It looks OK on, but because of my body type is just a bit too tight for me to feel comfortable, both in terms of how the dress feels and the way it looks.

It’s a stretchy viscose jersey and was well constructed though, so if you’re in the market for a sheath dress, I’d recommend it (it also comes in black).

mmlafleur_rachel_dress_blue_belt

My Bento included a thin, leather belt, which I didn’t keep, either, but did wear with some of the dresses to jazz  them up a bit. The weird white square in the picture above is the tag on the belt, and not part of the actual styling. I’m not a belt person, but I think it did add a nice touch to the overall look.

MM LaFleur Bento Box - Iris Dress
MM LaFleur Iris Dress

Next: The Iris

The second dress was the Iris. It’s a charcoal grey, thick jersey (is it a ponte? I don’t know) that has angular sleeves and a figure flattering fit. The online description notes that it runs a bit small. I found mine to be a bit tight in the hips but loose up top. I ended up not keeping it.

mmlafleur_iris_dress_cinder_closeup

Here’s a close up of the bodice of the dress. It has an interesting stitching detail, which combined with the shape of the sleeves, makes it more than just a basic dress.

MM LaFleur Annie Dress
MM LaFleur Annie Dress

Third Dress: The Annie

The Annie was the dress I went back and forth about the most. It’s made out of a woven, heavy polyester and has a slight A-line. I found it more flattering on me and more comfortable than the other two dresses. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years, it’s that I just don’t really wear black dresses. It’s like I just don’t seem to see them in the closet or something and I skip right over them. Maybe I’ll try the Annie in a different hue at some other time, but for now, I returned her.

mmlafleur_graham_kimono_green_open

Last Piece: The Graham Kimono

Last, but very much not least is the Graham Kimono. This is the piece I kept, because I loved it so much. It’s a long, flowing cardigan made out of a lightweight viscose jersey. This one is dark, my favorite color, but it comes in grey, too. It was the versatility of the piece that really won me over.

mmlafleur_graham_kimono_green

There I am with it knotted in front.

mmlafleur_graham_kimono_green_backtieThere I am with it twisted around itself.

mmlafleur_graham_kimono_green_backtie2And, there I am with it tied in the back and twisted up, so that it looks like a shrug.

Bento Box Details

One of the things about the Bento Box that I particularly like is that, although you do give your credit card details upfront, you don’t get charged until after you’ve returned (or kept) your items. Once the box gets to your door, you  have four days to try everything on and make your decision. Shipping by UPS is free, both ways.  I think the first  box is free, but there’s a $25 styling fee charged for subsequent boxes. If you end up keeping anything from your boxes, the fee is deducted from the costs of the clothing.

The stylists at MM LaFleur are pretty communicative and friendly. Once they got my returned items back, the stylist wrote to me to ask if I’d like the next size up for the two dresses that were just a bit too tight. I declined, but I appreciate her reaching out.

I’m definitely a fan of MM LaFleur now. Even if I don’t do a Bento in the future, I do plan on shopping there and keeping up with what they produce. The clothes are well-made, some of them are made in NYC, and I like that they’re more unique than your basic workwear.

Shopping: Reformation

I know. I am not the type of person you’d expect to shop at Reformation. The company’s sexy ’70s vibe is very much not the unsexy librarian look I have going on most of the time.

But, I really wanted a black, stretchy mock neck top, and this one from Anthropologie was just way too tight. And, as it turns out, Reformation had a similar model, the Beechmont Top, in a variety of colors.

Reformation Beechmont Top
Reformation Beechmont Top

The sleeves on the Beechmont are a bit longer than the Anthro model, as you can see. It also has a seam running up and down the back, while Anthro’s version was seamless. Small details, people.

Since part of Reformation’s deal is producing fashionable clothing that’s also somewhat eco-friendly (a lot of their garments are made from dead-stock fabric or upcycled vintage), the Beechmont is made out of Tencel, which is less resource intensive to produce compared to cotton or synthetics and less wasteful. According to the company, the mill that produces the Tencel fabric uses a closed-loop system, meaning it reuses water and chemicals during production. On top of being made from a less-environmentally damaging fabric, the top is also produced in a factory in LA.

The black top I wanted was sold out in sizes Small and Medium. Rather than take my chances on a wait list, I got the large. It’s a touch roomy at the shoulders, but all in all, exactly what I wanted.

Just to see how the medium would fit compared to a large, I also ordered the top in the “Olivine” color.

Reformation beechmont top, Olivine
Reformation Beechmont top, Olivine

This one didn’t work out so well for me. The color wasn’t all that great on my skin tone, and the top was tight enough that you could see the outline of my bra through it. It wasn’t suffocatingly tight, but I had the sense that I wouldn’t wear it, so it went back.

 

Books: What I’ve Read This October

Since my seasonal book review round-ups were getting pretty lengthy, and it was difficult to remember what I wanted to say about books I read three months ago, I’ve decided, for the last quarter of the year, to do things on a monthly basis. There will be fewer books, but I hope to be able to go a bit more in depth in my reviews. Here’s what I read this October:

Never Never Part 1

By: Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

Never Never, part 1 is the first book in a trilogy of novellas. I believe it’s written by two indie authors who regularly work together and, judging from the book’s reviews on Amazon, have a massive following. I read it for my book club and would not have read it or even heard of it if not for that.

The very plot driven book centers on a high school aged couple, Charlie and Silas, who both lose their memory at the same time. Over the course of the day, they piece back together who they are and what their lives are.

Because this is part one of a three part series, it ends on a major cliffhanger. There’s a big reveal, and a character in peril, and then we’re supposed to buy book two to find out what happens next.

Although it was a quick, page turning (or whatever it is when you read on a Kindle) read, I was didn’t find the plot or the character development compelling enough to purchase and read the next book. If you’re a fan of a cliffhangers, mysteries, and teen romance, I’d recommend it. But, it wasn’t the book for me.

Lucky Alan and Other Short Stories

By: Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is definitely one of my top five favorite writers, so I was thrilled to find his latest collection of short stories, Lucky Alan, on the library shelf. The book contains nine occasionally experiemental, occasionally absurd stories.

I think my favorite was “King of Sentences.” In it, two aspiring writers, who work at a bookshop and are very much that person, decide to track down their still-living favorite author. He’s none too thrilled to see them and ends up tricking them, leaving them naked and without recourse in a hotel room.

My least favorite is a story I’ve actually read a few times (it appeared in Harper’s many years ago – actually, most of these stories have been published somewhere or another before). “The Dreaming Jaw, the Salivating Ear” imagines a blog as a piece of land, complete with a blogger going to battle to protect her land, er blog. Creative and all that, but just doesn’t really do it for me.

 

Purity

By: Jonathan Franzen

(Warning: Spoilers. I guess.)

I was complaining to my friend the other day that it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll reach my goal of 50 books by the end of the year (I’m on #37 right now). “Well, you read big books,” she pointed out. And I guess that’s true, if you count Purity as a big book (it’s 563 pages in hardcover).

Where to even begin with Purity. It’s similar in structure to other Franzen novels, in that it’s divided into sections and each section focuses on one character. Pip, nee Purity, a recently graduated young woman, gets three sections. Andreas Wolf, a character who’s very similar to Julian Assange, gets one, Tom Aberrant, a journalist and Pip’s (unknown to her at first dad), gets one (written in 1st person), and Leila, Tom’s girlfriend, gets one.

One major character notably doesn’t get her own section and that is Penelope, nee Anabel, Tom’s former wife and Pip’s mother. Anabel is an artist, a feminist, and based on the book’s descriptions of her, mentally ill. She and Tom ultimately couldn’t live together. Anabel also couldn’t live with the fact that she’s heir to a fortune. She disappears, changing her name and giving birth to Pip, without telling Tom about their daughter.

There has been some criticism of Franzen’s treatment of Anabel, and perhaps of women in general (some of it thoughtful and nuanced, some of it that makes you wonder if people actually read Franzen’s books). While Pip is a well-developed young woman, perhaps the opposite of her mother, Anabel/Penelope is a dramatic, over-the-top feminist. She won’t let Tom pee standing up. She will only have sex on the three days when the moon is full each month. She can’t bear being the daughter of a billionaire. In creating her, Franzen conflates feminism with mental instability, and that has (rightly) pissed some people off.

But, Anabel and her flaws aside, the book is fantastic. Pip might be the character around which event revolve, but the action that gets the ball rolling and without which Pip would have never met Tom and found out about her background, is a murder in East Germany just before the wall fell.

Andreas Wolf, of the Sunlight Project, murders a young woman’s abusive stepfather. In covering up and destroying the evidence of the murder, he becomes a spokesperson for those against the Stasi, leading to his future career in charge of the Sunlight Project, an organization that, like its rival WikiLeaks, reveals top secret documents and information. While concealing the evidence of the murder, he gets help from Tom, who’s in East Germany with his dying mother.

Pip begins interning with Wolf and ends up in a weird (I’m going to say “icky”) sexual relationship with him. She then ends up in Denver, working with Tom’s investigative journalism outfit. All along, it turns out Wolf has been pulling the strings in an attempt to get revenge on his former accomplice.

Murder. Missing fathers. Mistaken identity. It all sounds so over-the-top, so mystery-film-noir-of-the-week. And yet. Purity ends up being a pretty good look at our world today. Beyond the murder and identity confusion, the heart of the story is Pip herself, a young woman who’s just trying to figure it all out.

Shopping: Anthropologie Reviews

Oh, Anthropologie. I just don’t know about you. You sell cute clothes, but some of them are mad pricey and just aren’t worth the extra dollars. While some of your stuff is amazing (I love my telephone skirt), a lot of it isn’t anything special. I’ve been disappointed by you before and I will be again, and yet, I keep coming back.

All of this is to introduce reviews of two tops from Anthro that, for a few reasons, didn’t work out for me.

Can't breathe...so tight ...
Can’t breathe…so tight …

Up first: The Seamless Mockneck Tee in black. As you can see from the photo and caption above, this shirt is insanely tight-fitting. It runs really small. When I pulled it out of the packaging I thought that they  must of have sent the wrong size, it was so tiny.

Obviously, it stretches, so that I was able to put it on. But, the look was a bit sausagey. Particularly in the arms. I don’t really have plump arms, but it looked it in this shirt.

anthropologie_seamless_mockneck_tee

Did I mention how I couldn’t breathe, either?

It’s really too bad, because, if I got the size right (maybe the next one up would work?), this top would be amazing. I love the look of the mock neck, I love the sleek lines of the shirt itself. I just also really love being able to breathe.

anthropologie_ombra_tie_neck_top

Can we talk about bow blouses for a minute? Because I love them. I loved them before they were everywhere and now that they are everywhere, I’m totally thrilled.

Except not about the Ombra Top from Anthro. It’s cute, it’s got a fun black and white paint splatter pattern (and also comes in stripes). You can have some fun with the bow.

anthropologie_ombra_tie_neck_top-closeup

But, something was just off. It was cut a bit too big and blousy. While the seamless top was super tight and slimming, this shirt was just too loose. I thought it added a lot of weight and made my torso look super short for some reason.

Plus, also, it’s made of polyester, and not the good kind. It was very flimsy and see-through and the stitching wasn’t so great.

Ah, well. I’m disappointed the tops didn’t work out. But, as I mentioned, bow blouses are everywhere, so it’s not as if I don’t have a lot to pick from: