Shopping: J.Crew Circle Mini Skirt in Crepe and “Flouncy” Skirt

Thanks to the ravages of time and general wear and tear (RIP, pleated BCBG skirt, 2010-2016), my wardrobe was missing a basic black skirt. I had one skirt “gap” in my spring capsule wardrobe and I wanted to fill it with a flared or circle skirt.

I saw that J.Crew had a circle mini skirt in crepe and I thought it would be just the thing, though I was concerned about the length. I was also a bit wary because was online only and my experience with the ‘Crew lately (like so many other people’s) has been anything other than great.

After a pretty fruitless search at Century 21 and a local consignment store one weekend, I decided I might as well go ahead and order the circle skirt. It was on promo, so $10 off the full price, plus there was a 30% off sale promo going on. The second skirt in my order was definitely a whim and I probably should have left well enough alone.

circle mini skirt in crepe

Circle Mini Skirt in Crepe (Black)

I had a few concerns about the circle mini skirt. One, would it, at just 17.5 inches long, be too short? Two, would the grosgrain waistband be flimsy?

As far as concern one goes, the jury is still kinda out. I mean, yeah, look at it, it’s short. I’m 5’10” and it’s probably five inches above my knees. But, it’s hardly scandalous, right? If you’re the type not to wear skirts shorter than knee-length, this is not going to work for you. I’m a little iffy about it with bare legs, but I’ll probably change my tune when things warm up.

Circle mini skirt

Meanwhile, I think it looks perfectly fine with opaque tights. A part of that is probably because you can’t see my weird looking knees when I have the tights on.

J.Crew Circle mini skirt

Another nice feature, as far as length is concerned, is that it seems to dip down slightly in the back, so the back side is a bit longer than the front. I don’t know if that’s super clear in the photo, but it’s visible in real life.

Let’s talk fabric and construction. I once had a skirt from J.Crew that had a grosgrain ribbon waistband. It was so flimsy, because it was literally just a ribbon. It would bend and bunch and I wasn’t impressed. The ribbon waistband on the circle mini skirt is double thickness and it feels as if there’s a bit of interfacing between the ribbons, so it’s pretty durable. I can’t see it bending or bunching or whatever.

The fabric is a poly/viscose/elastane blend. It’s got some texture to it and a soft hand. I’d be afraid my cat would snag it, but he snags everything, so that’s not really an issue. The skirt is lined, which adds some heft to it.

When I hear phrases like “circle skirt,” and don’t actually see what the garment looks like, I envision a skirt that’s been cut in the shape of a circle. That’s not so much the case with this one. It’s got swing and movement, but those come from the godet panels that are sewn into it. There’s a lot that’s circular about the skirt, it’s just that in my mind, it doesn’t live up to what I traditionally think of as a circle skirt.

Oh! I almost forgot. Sizing. This is a 6. I’d say it’s pretty true to size. It fits comfortably right at my navel and the hips aren’t too snug or loose.

After so many misses at J.Crew lately, I’m so happy to have skirt that seems well made and that fits my needs.

Speaking of misses . . .

j.crew flouncy striped skirt

Flouncy Striped Skirt

Marvel at that hot mess of a skirt. I saw the flouncy striped skirt when I was about to order the circle mini skirt and I thought, eh, looks cute, might as well give it a try.

When it arrived and I pulled it out of the packaging, my first thought was, hello vanity sizing! It was a 6, but it was the largest 6 I’d ever seen.

Case in point:

J.Crew Flouncy striped skirt

 

I’m trying to show how much extra room there is in the waist while also looking like a model in a commercial about weight loss.

So, it’s huge, it adds like 20 pounds, what else is wrong with it? Does it need to have anything else wrong with it?

Construction and materials-wise, it’s made from woven cotton and has a poly lining. The pleats were all wrinkled when the skirt arrived, so I’d imagine they’d be a pain to keep neat and flat.

So, J.Crew, you’ve had one hit and one (among many) misses this time around.

Reviewed in this post:

A Capsule Wardrobe Isn’t a Panacea

The other day, I had so much trouble figuring out what to wear, despite the capsule wardrobe. It was a Saturday in March and after a few days of warm weather, we were dealing with 40 degree temperatures and the potential for snow (it ended up being just rain). Usually, my weekend outfit is jeans + top (usually a T-shirt, sometimes a silk blouse as seen below). This this Saturday, I dunno. I just couldn’t get it together. I tried this outfit:

 

capsule wardrobe

 

Then this one (switching the cardigan for a “jardigan“):

 

capsule wardrobe

 

Then I tried a different top with the jardigan, but didn’t bother to take a picture because it didn’t look quite right (I’m not sure that the jardigan with the loose floral blouse looks quite right, either).

Then I tried the jardigan with a mock-neck black top from Reformation. That looked a little weird. So I tried it with a green kimono from MM LaFleur. I thought it made my hips look particularly big. Then I tried the kimono with the floral blouse. Good god, no.

So, I finally went back to the first outfit, pictured above. I wasn’t totally sold on it, but it was the best of what I’d tried.

This all took about 30 minutes, which got me thinking about the fact that even though I have a capsule wardrobe, and every thing’s supposed to be all planned and so easy, I still have to deal with days when I have feel as though I have nothing to wear.

It’s definitely not my closet or my clothing choices. In some ways (in most ways), it’s me. Here’s what I realized after changing my outfit more times than I want to count on Saturday:

Capsule Wardrobe Problem 1: Finicky Weather

The first few weeks of a  capsule are going to be a bit tricky, particularly during transitional seasons (Spring and Fall). When winter hits (or Dec. 1, in my capsule world), the weather’s already gone cold. When summer happens (June 1, for my capsule), it’s already very hot. Consistent weather makes planning pretty easy.

But, things are a bit more up in the air in spring and fall, especially this year, when we had a mild winter, and a lot of up and down in terms of temperature. During the first few weeks of March, we effectively saw four-season weather – days when it was 80 degrees, days when it was around 50, and days in the low 40s/high 30s, with a chance of snow. How can you plan for that with a limited selection of clothing?

It all means that you can’t wear a sleeveless shirt on its own when you want to and you have to plan for layers, even if you’re ready to wear pack away your winter gear and start wearing light jackets or blazers by themselves.

I tried to plan for great fluctuations in weather in my wardrobe, by including cardigans and blazers, even though I’m fairly sure I won’t be wearing them come the end of April and into May. But, the idea of having to wear winter gear (heavy coat, scarf, gloves) when I’m ready for spring made me quite cranky and compounded the issue on that Saturday.

Capsule Wardrobe Problem 2: Finicky Me

Ugh, we’ve all got body issues, right? Mine are my hips. Sometimes, they just feel puffy and fat. I’m a pear shape, so I’m always self conscious about outfits drawing attention to the widest area of my body. And on Saturday, that’s what it felt like everything I put on was doing.

Adding to the problem was the fact that I’m not so sure I like jeans. I guess they look OK, but I also feel that they aren’t that flattering on me. I also always feel like the thighs and waist aren’t quite right. Maybe I should just not have them? I dunno.

Even though I feel that I know my style, there are still times when I veer away from what I like wearing, because I feel like I should be wearing jeans, even if they don’t make me happy or make me feel good.

Capsule Wardrobe Problem 3: Falling Behind on Laundry/Ironing

I’ve got three long-sleeve, button front shirts in this season’s capsule. On that Saturday, they were all a wrinkled mess because I hadn’t gotten around to ironing them. So, even though it was cold out and a long sleeved shirt, versus a sleeveless blouse, would have made sense, I was stuck with picking a sleeveless top and layering over it.

A few things I’ve done to solve the laundry issue is to reduce the number of cotton tops that require ironing that I own. I’ve also gotten a bit better about ironing (I did it the evening of the outfit debacle), by finding ways to make it a bit more enjoyable (I put on Legally Blonde while ironing).

I could go a step further and find a way to make ironing easier to do. Right now, my system is to drag out the creaky ironing board, lug it downstairs, set it up in front of the TV, then grab the iron from upstairs and whatever needs to be ironed. It’s not the most efficient system, so maybe if I improve that, I won’t end up with several unwearable, unironed garments in my closet.

Have you faced any issues with your capsule?

Shopping: MM LaFleur Toi Dress Review

Sometimes, you see a dress and you just know it’s the perfect thing for you. That’s how it was for me with the Toi Dress in Sage from MM LaFleur. The company released their Unsuitable Collection, I saw the dress, and fell instantly in love. I used some of my tax return (first one in five years!) to buy it and the Sant Ambroeus Jardigan in deep indigo.

I’m super happy with both; let’s take a look at why.

Toi Dress in Sage

toi dress

Let’s start with fit. As a mostly flat-chested, sort-a pear, I sometimes have difficulty getting dresses to fit right. If they fit in the bust, they tend to be too snug in the hips. If they fit in the hips, they tend to be too large in the chest area and I look like someone playing dress-up. In a 6, the Toi dress is pretty much perfect. It fits well in the bodice and since it’s a full, flared skirt, there’s no problem in the hip area.

It also manages to get the balance right in terms of the flare. I have a few fit-and-flare dresses and they either too voluminous in the skirt, adding weight or too loose in the bodice and too full in the skirt, also adding weight. Or, the waist on the dresses is slightly off, so I don’t look quite right. Not so with the Toi.

toi dress back and side

The seaming and construction of the dress is also phenomenal. The waist seam dips down slightly in the back, creating a flattering shape. There’s a rolled hem, and the darts are in the right spot (at least on me). The fabric is a lightweight wool and the whole thing was made in NYC. I can’t get a good photo of the seams and lining inside, but they are sturdy.

mmlafleur_toi_dress_closeup

 

Sant Ambroeus Jardigan

I’ve mentioned before that I’m kind of over cardigans. They serve a purpose, in that they keep me warm, but they tend to look a bit dowdy. I think it’s because I don’t have many that are cropped, so when I wear them with a dress they look frumpy. Although I like blazers, I often feel that they are too stiff or that they just don’t work with the shape of what I’m wearing.

Enter the Jardigan. This is it in deep indigo and this is what the color looks like if you take a photo with the flash.

mm lafleur toi dress and jardigan

It’s a heavy, structured knit jacket+cardigan made out of rayon. I’d say it almost feels scuba-y, but not so plastic-like and it is still a knit.

As a neat trick, the jardigan comes with easy-to-remove shoulder pads (I’m wearing it with the shoulder pads in the photo). Inside, there’s a flap with a small opening that snaps into the shoulder. You can undo the snap and take out the pads if you want.

I’m in a medium here, and the fit is decent. It sits close to the body, but isn’t too snug in the shoulders or arms.

All in all, I’m very happy with both purchases and hope to get a lot of wear out of them in the years to come.

 

 

What I Read: February 2016 Books

Plants, self-improvement, a book about WW2. What do those have in common? They were all themes in the books I read in February. Let’s take a look:

 

book reviews for February 2016

The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

In another life, I might have been a botanist. Or a horticulturist. I really love plants, and eagerly wait for gardening season to begin each year. So it’s no surprise that I found The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey to be a joy of the book. In it, Mabey, a British writer known for focusing on the connections between the natural world and human culture, reflects on the role a variety of plants species have played in human experience. Examining species such as the yew tree, ginseng, and orchids, Mabey notes that although humans have tried to make sense of these plants, in many ways, their meaning and very way of being is perhaps beyond our ability to comprehend. A number of the plants in the book, from the yew tree, which is able to split and change its pattern of growth after hundreds of years, to the orchids that exist completely beneath the soil, demonstrate that point perfectly.

I particularly liked the point Mabey made, when describing people’s obsession with the beneficial properties of ginseng, that it’s common for people to assume that plants have these compounds for the benefits of humans, when in fact, the plants are just looking out for themselves. How anthropocentric to assume that because something exists in nature, it exists for our sake. That the chemicals in certain plants can help or heal humans is really just a coincidence.

 

book reviews for February 2016

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

OK, so Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin both annoyed me and made me feel like I can take on the world. Rubin, who also wrote a book called the Happiness Project (which I couldn’t read more than a chapter of), looks at how we develop habits and what we can do if we want to change certain habits.

She’s really big into separating people into categories. For example, at the start of the book, she describes four tendencies people have: to be Upholders, or those who do things for themselves and to please others, Obligers, those who get things done for others, but struggle to commit to their own projects, Questioners, those who question outside expectations, but can meet their own goals, and Rebels, those who question everything. Figuring out your tendency is meant to help you figure out the best way to launch a new, better-you habit.

Reading this, I got the sense that Rubin is like that friend of yours who’s always trying new things or trying to improve some area of life nd who wants everyone to go along with her. I get it, I’m also always setting goals for myself or trying little projects to put an end to bad habits. But, I dunno, it’s kind of annoying to spend some 200 pages reading about all that. At the end, did I pick up any tips or walk away with a better sense of  how to improve myself? I dunno. Maybe. But, I think I just walked away rolling my eyes.

 

book reviews for February 2016

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

In Better than Before, Rubin mentions how she read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes and managed to get down to her lowest weight ever. I shouldn’t read them because they are triggering, but any time I hear about a new nutrition or diet book, I want to read it. Vegan Before 6, It Starts with Food, name another book about food and I’ve probably read it. So, I checked this one out from the library.

Taubes’ big argument is that we get fat because of carbohydrates. He’s got a lot of science to back him up (actual studies in humans and rats), which makes me feel more confident about his argument than the argument in other books, which seem to rely on equal parts “feeling,” pseudoscience, and some belief that everything people did hundreds of years ago was somehow “better.”

What I didn’t like about the book was that Taubes insists it’s not a diet plan. Yet, at the end, we find a diet plan, which includes instructions such as “don’t eat more than two servings of pickles a day.”

Instructions such as that make me sad. Plus, I’m a vegetarian, and have no interest in eating meat, and it’s pretty difficult to avoid carbs on a veggie diet. So, while I appreciate reading the research and will work cutting down on sugar and starches, I’m not going to stop eating bread. Or start limiting my pickle consumption.

 

book reviews for February 2016

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Finally, some fiction. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson is a companion or follow-up (not really a sequel) to Life After Life. The novel explores the impact World War II had on Britain, by zeroing in on the life of Teddy, a fighter pilot in the war, and the brother of Life After Life’s lead character Ursula. Teddy’s experience in the war is reflected in and contrasted with the experience of his only daughter, Viola, who I’d describe as damaged and selfish, and in the experience of his two grandchildren, Bertie and Sunny, who are also damaged, but not nearly as annoying as their mother.

While Life After Life played fast and loose with narrative structure, stopping and restarting characters’ lives, A God in Ruins has one continuous arc. It jumps back and forth in time, taking us from the 1920s to 2012 in the space of just a few paragraphs, sometimes, but its characters don’t get a do-over or restart, a chance to make things better, the way they did in the first book.

Spring Capsule Wardrobe

March started to come in like a lamb, but then changed its mind and came in like that proverbial lion, bringing with it crazy gusty winds and somewhat chilly temperatures. Ah well, I was committed to switching over to my spring capsule wardrobe, so switch over I did.
spring capsule wardrobe

I made a few changes to my rules for this season. Since it’s dress season, I decided to have a separate section for not everyday dresses. That way, I’m not giving a spot in my wardrobe to a dress that I might only wear a few times. Solid color, day dresses did get included in my capsule, though. I also decided not to include outerwear, since again, as the temperatures warm up, I’ll be less likely to wear a coat or jacket outdoors. I did include blazers, though.

All told, I ended up picking a collection of 37 items, six of which might be new additions to my closet, but I’ve only purchased two new items so far.

Spring Capsule Wardrobe: TopsSpring Capsule 2016 - Tops

I ended up with 14 tops and blouses in this season’s capsule, but I haven’t actually purchased a few of them yet,  namely some basics from Everlane, such as a navy blue pima t-shirt, a white Pima tank, and a sleeveless silk blouse. Most of the tops are sleeveless, which might seem like a strange choice for spring, but I also had many of those shirts in my winter capsule and got by layering them beneath cardigans or jackets, so I plan on doing that for the chillier part of the season.

The capsule is a lot more basic this time around — I’ve even included solid color T’s, which I usually conveniently left out. The number is also smaller, I think because I’ve realized that really, I don’t need that many different tops, especially if I wear a lot of dresses.

Spring Capsule: Cardigans and Jackets

Spring Capsule 2016 - Sweaters and Jackets

 

Since it will be a bit cool at least for the next month or so, I figured I’d better include a few blazers and sweaters in my capsule. I’ve got two from MM LaFleur, the Graham Kimono, and the Sant Ambroeus Jardigan, a new addition to my wardrobe this season (review coming soon!). I’m also including two merino wool cardigans from the Gap, because they are soft and pretty warm without being too hot, a tuxedo blazer from Boden, and two Schoolboy blazers from J.Crew (not pictured).

Spring Capsule: Dresses

Spring Capsule 2016 - Dresses

I’ve got four dresses in this season’s capsule, three of which have been around for some time (including that Theory dress I talk about all. the. time). The only new addition is the Toi Dress from MM LaFleur (review to come!). The other two are from Boden (the bright green) and Kate Spade Saturday (gosh, I miss Saturday. My wallet doesn’t.).

There is one more dress I’d love to add to my capsule, but it’s sold out at the minute. It’s the Emily Dress from MM LaFleur. I’m on the waitlist for it, so let’s hope it pops back in stock soon.

Spring Capsule: Skirts

Spring Capsule 2016 - Skirts

OK, so the skirts in my spring capsule are still in flux. I actually only currently have four of them -the navy pleated on the left, the bright green pencil skirt, and the two printed skirts in the bottom row. But, I’m not sure of the wisdom of having two printed skirts in a capsule, so I might axe the floral print, since it’s really high waisted and long (it’s a midi, and falls below my knees). I’m also debating getting the pleated navy skirt on the right, which is from Boden, but am debating whether or not I actually need two pleated, navy skirts. Or, I might get a black/navy or charcoal pencil skirt, I’m really not sure.

I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the skirt issue – so please weigh in!

Spring Capsule: Shoes

spring capsule shoes

I don’t usually include shoes in my capsule, because I’m not really a shoe person and usually just wear my ballet flats around the house (they are pretty beat up, so they are just at-home flats at this point). But, in the interest of seeing how small I could get my capsule, I left five spots for shoes this time. I’ve got two pairs of loafers, a pair of short boots, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of dress shoes. I don’t see getting much wear out of the dress shoes, but thought if I included them, maybe I’d wear them more (they are rather comfortable).

Weirdly, there’s a lot of grey in my shoes, even though you don’t see the color elsewhere in the capsule at all.

Quick spring capsule recap:

  • 37 items (skirts, tops, dresses, jackets/cardigans, and shoes)
  • 30 items from my existing collection/closet
  • 2 definite new additions (jardigan and Toi dress)
  • 4-5 potential new additions
  • Printed/patterned dresses aren’t included in the capsule, but I can wear them if the need arises
  • Outerwear isn’t in the capsule, but I’ll wear it if it’s cold enough