Reviewing the Reviews

Sometimes, when I read other review bloggers, I wonder what happens to the stuff they rate highly. Do they end up keeping it and wearing it? Or, does it end up in the back of their closet or cosigned/donated/trashed within a few months or years? To that end, I thought it might be worthwhile to look back at a few of my reviews over the years and give an update on the stuff I really liked, from pencil skirts to shorts, and let you know what happened to them.

pencil skirt

J.Crew Seersucker Pencil Skirt

Remember this (it’s totally fine if you don’t)? I got the seeksucker skirt from J.Crew when it was on sale for $59.99 – 40%. A week or so later, J.Crew took 75% off sale prices, so the pencil skirt went down to $15. Annoying.

At any rate, I mentioned that I got an 8 in my review and that it was too big. I didn’t think the slightly oversized fit would be an issue. But, guess what: it was. So, I ended up selling it after a few wares. I found the skirt difficult to style because it was so loose and long. Plus, the lavender color was so light it was almost not even worth calling the skirt lavender.

All in all, a purchase I regret.

pencil skirt

Anthropologie Telephone Print Pencil Skirt

Good god, people, I loved this skirt. It made it into my fall capsule and I wore it a lot – despite the eye-catching, vibrant print. But, here’s the sad thing about the skirt. It was just not very well made. The lining – made of acetate – ripped the first time I wore it. I stitched it up, but. . .

I had thought the skirt was dry clean only, then I rechecked the label. It was washable! So, I washed it, using cold water, and line dried it. Things didn’t go well. The hem fell out, so I stitched it up.

Then, I packed it away for winter, thinking all was fine, only to find, when spring rolled around, that the little spin in the washer had not only made the   hem come undone. It had also shrunk that stupid acetate lining. The skirt was now too tight, at least in the lining.

Sadness of sadness. But, unlike the J.Crew pencil skirt, I don’t regret purchasing the telephone pencil skirt. I just wish that it had had a longer life.

Banana Republic_Marimekko_Kivet_Shorts

Banana Republic/Marimekko Shorts

Given that Target has recently launched its own collaboration with Marimekko, it seemed like a good time to look back at my first review for  this blog, of a couple of pairs of shorts from Banana Republic’s collaboration with Marimekko. I was pretty happy with the shorts at the time of purchase, and probably pretty ecstatic about getting them, since the collection sold out so quickly.

Flash forward a year or so, and I only have one pair (the black and white dots pictured above) left. I sold the other pair to ThredUP, because I didn’t wear them all that much. I’m actually  not so sure about hanging on to the black and dots either, because there’s something about printed shorts that just screams suburban to me. We’ll see what happens this summer. I’ll most likely end up selling them if I don’t find myself wearing them all that much.

Do I regret the shorts? No, since I did get a season or two’s worth of wear out of them. Would I say they are my style and buy them again? No.

Kate_Spade_Saturday_peplum_dress

Kate Spade Saturday Sleeveless Peplum Dress

Aw, man. Kate Spade Saturday. My heart kind of misses the brand, which closed last year, but my wallet is kinda happy about it. I  tried on the black version of the sleeveless peplum dress during a visit to the brand’s store in Soho. I really wanted the purple, but they were sold out of it. After trying to convince me to get the black, or to get the purple skirt version, I ended up leaving empty  handed.

But! I did end up getting the dress, in purple (er, grape), just before Saturday shut down for good. And, I love it. The peplum feature is actually two front pockets, so it’s not your basic, boring peplum. The purple color is vibrant, the fit is good, and the dress washes well (line dry, no need for dry cleaning, although you can, if you prefer).

I’m so glad I waited to get the purple dress and didn’t settle for the skirt or get the version in black.

Reviewing the Review count: 5 garmets

Still in my closet: 2

Sold: 2

Fell apart: 1

Not too bad, but not that great, either

Shopping: Banana Republic

There was a time when most of my wardrobe came from Banana Republic. Although I still have a few pieces from the store, that’s really not the case any more. The amount I’ve spent at Banana has also dropped drastically. For the past few years, I’ve (embarrassingly enough) qualified for Silver status on my Gap card, all because of purchases made at BR. This year, I won’t come anywhere qualifying (and that’s OK — all it really does is give you free shipping on any order and a few other features that I don’t use).

I think one of the reasons why I’ve lost interest in the store is that a lot of it is the same old, same old, even though they’ve brought  in Marissa Webb and things are supposed to get better. Another part of it is that  a lot of the things I try on just don’t work for me.

BananaRepublic_cobalt_pencilskirt_6 BananaRepublic_cobalt_pencilskirt_8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case in point: the blue square jacquard pencil skirt. I really liked the way the skirt looked on the site, but in person it was just eh.

A part of the problem is the fit of the skirt. A few reviews had posted before I ordered, noting that it ran small. Some people claimed to need two sizes above their usual BR size. To play it safe, I ordered a 6 (my usual size, pictured on the left), and an 8 (on the right).

Both kind of fit, but in different ways. The 6 was very fitted at the waist, meaning I wouldn’t be able to wear it on a “puffy” day. The 8 was looser at the waist in a way that just looked weird. You can see the weirdness of the waist better in the photo below.

everlane_tank_tucked

The waist is sitting away from my body and it’s my hips that are doing the work of holding up the skirt.

I was curious to see if the size 6 skirt was really actually smaller than size 6 Banana of the past, so I compared it my favorite skirt from the brand, a green Sloan pencil skirt.

BananaRepublic_cobalt_skirt_comparison

The two skirts were actually pretty close in size, with the major difference being the height of the blue skirt’s waist. I guess the big issue with the new pencil skirt isn’t sizing, but the fact that I’m not used to wearing such a high waist. Suffice it to say, I returned both sizes and am not any closer to achieving silver status this year.

Shopping: Banana Republic Non Iron Shirt

Ironing has to be my least favorite chore. Yet, some of my favorite things to wear are stiff cotton button up shirts. It’s a weird position to find myself in and what usually ends up happening is that I work my way through all of my needs-ironing clothes until I’m left with nothing to wear. Then, I need to spend a few hours ironing everything until I have a wardrobe reset. In some ways, it’s like getting new clothes to wear. In other ways, it’s a giant pain in the ass.

banana_republic_noniron_shirt

That all said, it makes sense that I’m a big fan of the non-iron shirts from Banana Republic. I have a few and recently got a new one to add to my collection, the Geo Sleeveless Shirt. (here’s a similar, non-patterned one.) As you can see in the picture above, “non iron” might be a bit of a misnomer, as the shirt is a bit wrinkly. I usually find that the shirts do require a quick once over with an iron to refresh them, but not as extensive an ironing as plain cotton shirts.

The sleeveless, fitted button front shirt is one of my favorite styles, since it looks pretty flattering on me. It’s also a style that’s relatively hard to find these days, as most button front shirts, sleeveless or not, are cut away from the body. I know that’s on trend and fashionable, but I look terrible in that cut. So, thanks to Banana for continuing to make fitted shirts, particularly non-iron ones.

banana_republic_noniron_shirt_geoprint

I went with a 6 in this year’s style. In year’s past, I tried a 4, which was very fitted, and almost too tight, and both a 4 and 6. Although a 6 is a bit loose, it fits better around the shoulders and arms. The one issue I have with these shirts is the collar. It’s on the large side and a bit stiff. I usually like to button my shirts all the way up, but the collar is so stiff on this one that it’s just too uncomfortable to do. There’s also some weird gapping between buttons. In the past, I’ve stitched that down, but that makes it a bit more difficult to actually put the top on, since you can’t unbutton it.

The non iron shirts aren’t perfect, but I still like them.

Shopping: Boden, Banana Republic, and KS Saturday

kate spade saturday zip back crop top

I’ve got a few quick reviews today of items ordered online. Although I’ve mentioned the perils of online shopping before, I do seem to have a bit more luck with it than shopping in person, as in I’m keeping more than 50 percent of the items I ordered and haven’t purchased anything I’ve seen  in a physical store of late, with the exception of this amazing bag from Urban Outfitters (although I’m embarrassed to admit I actually bought something from there).

So, there are a few hits, a miss, and one absolute, what was I thinking moment, so much so that the subtitle for this post could be, “That Time I Thought I Would Try a Crop Top,” but we’ll get to that near the end.

Boden_Ava_dress

Up first, the Ava Dress, from Boden. I really liked the dress in the catalog and thought it would be worth a try. It comes in three colors, blue, orange, and dark gray. As you can see, I went with the gray, because I have another dress that’s also blue and white and I wanted some variety in my closet (and bright orange is kinda out of the question). The gray probably wasn’t the best choice for my skin tone and all that, but that wasn’t the biggest issue I had the with dress. Its biggest problem was its fit — I’m just too flat for it. There was a lot of room up in the bodice area, but not a lot of me, so it just looked weird. Fit aside, in the end, I also wasn’t particularly in love with the belt at the waist, the print or even the fabric, so back it went.

Boden_Holland_Park_dress

Fortunately, the other dress I ordered from Boden, the Holland Park Dress, was much better all around. Better fit (I don’t look like  a little girl wearing a grown woman’s dress!), better color, better style. I’m seeing this inverted front pleat everywhere this season, and I really like it. I also really like the two little buttons at the waist on the dress.

Boden_Holland_Park_dress_side

The fabric’s a ponte and is a blend of cotton,  nylon and modal. Honestly, it’s not the best ponte, as it’s not terribly heavyweight, and it did arrive pretty wrinkled (but, then again, it had to travel across the ocean, from the UK to here, so maybe I should cut it some slack. I’ve arrived pretty wrinkled after traveling from here to the UK. . .) While the Ava dress is on its way back to Boden, I’m hanging on to the Holland Park Dress. And, no I didn’t wear it on March 17, so just shush.

banana_republic_floral_ponte_midi_skirt

I know midi skirts have been a thing for a few years now, but I’ve never really been into them. The wrong midi and I look wider or as if I’m drowning in fabric. But, I have to say, I really love the floral ponte midi skirt from Banana Republic. I got it during one of their 40 percent off sales, so it was a pretty good deal. It falls a few inches below my knees and sits pretty high on my waist, just below my rib cage. It was really the bright blue color and the print of the skirt that convinced me to give it a try. The photo is pretty muddy, but you can see on the website how vibrant the blue really is.

Fit wise, I’d say this one is a little tighter in the waist than other skirts I have from Banana Republic, but only just slightly. I’ve always found the cut of their skirts to be a bit narrower in the waist, while the cut of skirts from J. Crew, for example, are usually a bit wider in the waist, as though designed for person with a straighter figure. Looking at the midi skirt’s reviews, it seems as though the waist is a lot tighter than usual for some people, so I guess order with care and pay closer attention to your waist measurement than usual.

As with the Boden dress, the big problem I have with the skirt is the ponte fabric. It’s a viscose, it’s pretty lightweight and I’m a bit nervous it will pill. The skirt isn’t lined, either, which could be an issue, but for the moment, it’s sparking joy.

In fact, it’s sparking so much joy that I decided getting a crop top to wear with it would be an excellent idea. It’s got a high waist, I thought, I can totally pull of a crop top without showing any skin! So, I ordered this one from Kate Spade Saturday, since they’re about to close up shop and it was 40 percent off (heads up: now everything is 50 percent off, but final sale, so roll the dice with care).

My genius crop top idea
My genius crop top idea

Well, that doesn’t look terrible, you might be thinking. True, it doesn’t look terrible. But, it also doesn’t look good. The crop top just didn’t work on me. There’s no skin showing, at least with this skirt on, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that part of the shirt was missing. Plus, the fit of the top was a touch on the boxy side. It’s kind of obscuring the  nice waist definition I’m getting from the skirt.

Oh, and it had a plastic, exposed zipper running up and down the back. It had to go back; there’s just no way I would ever wear it. (A side note: I’m so happy I ordered it before they switched over to final sale!)

Shopping: Are There Too Many Stores?

kate spade saturday

Just a few days after I wrote about visiting Kate Spade Saturday while in New York and my love for the brand, I found out that the PTB at Kate Spade had decided to close all Saturday stores and its website, as well as Jack Spade, the label for men. Of course, I was a bit pissed. Didn’t they see my blog post and pay attention to the fact that I love them?

Probably not, and it wouldn’t matter if they did. Saturday isn’t completely going away, it’s just being absorbed by the larger Kate Spade NY. What that means, I’m not really sure, except that there won’t be a separate Saturday.com website and all the stores will be closing.

kate spade saturday
Kate Spade Saturday, photo by Bex Walton/Flickr

Saturday isn’t the only retailer I like that’s shutting down this year. Gap, Inc. recently announced that it was closing down Piperlime, Jones New York, whose suiting I used to admire from afar as a college student, is completely shutting down, and C. Wonder, the brand created by Tory Burch’s ex recently went bankrupt (I actually didn’t like C. Wonder, I thought its clothing was poorly made).  On top of that, there’s the bankruptcies of many stores from my teen years, from Delia’s to DEB. Gap is not only shutting down Piperlime, it also recently got rid of the role of creative director, sending Rebekka Bay, who joined the company from Cos, out the door.

Is this normal? While it’s easy to understand why a place like DEB might have been overdue for a shutdown (my  mom says she shopped there, back in the day, and it was one of my go-to places for pleather pants as a teen), Saturday only launched in 2013. It was still opening stores near the end of 2014. I can’t remember a time, even during the recession, when so many clothing retailers shut down at once.

Buzzfeed tallies up the total number of clothing/accessories stores that have closed or are about to (more than 1,000) and comes to the conclusion that there are just too many in the US. Apparently, there’s 20 square feet of retail space for every person in the country. Which is a lot.

It might not only be that there are too many stores, but also that there are too many similar stores or too many stores that distract from the established brands. Since you can find mid-price range designers and fast fashion pieces pretty much anywhere, and there are loads of places that offer free shipping and returns, does Piperlime need to exist? Apparently not, as it made up just 1 percent of total business for its parent company. I shopped at Piperlime, but just as often, I would shop around for something I saw there at other stores, to see if I could get a better price for it. And usually, I did. On top of that, Piperlime never really developed a strong identity, the way other brands owned by Gap did. You think of casual wear and jeans when you think of Gap, workwear when you think of Banana Republic, but what does Piperlime bring to mind? Somewhat stylish clothes you can find anywhere? Doesn’t quite have a ring to it. . .

Saturday perhaps committed a worse sin, that of diluting its parent brand. Stuff from Kate Spade, whether it’s shoes, a bag or a dress, is spendy. In exchange for the high prices, people expect higher quality, which they get for the most part. Saturday’s prices were a bit more modest, and the quality was a bit lower, but still higher (both in terms of quality and price) than what you’d find at a Forever 21 or H&M. People expecting the higher quality of Kate Spade NY weren’t getting it from Saturday and people who were used to spending $20 on a dress weren’t about to drop $160 on one.

Still, diffusion lines aren’t uncommon in the fashion and retail industry and I’m not really sure why anyone would look at Saturday and expect it to be the same as Kate Spade NY. It’s obviously cheaper, so you’re clearly not going to get the same thing from it. I liked that it was cheaper and that it offered different styles than KSNY, which is often just a bit too preppy for my tastes. I was also happy with the quality of the clothing and bags I purchased, and I’m pretty picky about that.

There are winners and losers in retail and it seems that it’s getting a lot harder for a company to declare itself a winner, without selling clothing for practically nothing and without offering frequent discounts. Piperlime, Saturday and C. Wonder just couldn’t make it and Delia’s and DEB were just too outdated. It will be interesting to see what’s to become of the retail landscape as time goes on and people’s shopping habits continue to evolve.

 

Image from Bex Walton/Flickr

 

Shopping: Banana Republic Marimekko Collection

First things first, welcome to Shopping and Sewing! I thought I’d kick things off by jumping right in with a review of the few pieces from the recent Banana Republic Marimekko collection I was able to get my  hands on. Past BR + famous designer collections have left me cold, but this one got me excited. Apparently, I wasn’t alone, as the collection sold out very quickly. I had placed the shorter version of the Kivet skirt in my cart the day of the preview, only to wake up the day the 25 percent discount was valid to find it vanished. What I did manage to purchase were two pairs of the Hampton fit shorts, the first in the Kivet print and the second in the green Rasymatto print.

 

Banana Republic_Marimekko_Kivet_Shorts
Here’s the Kivet print. The dots are much smaller on the shorts than they are on the pants and skirts that featured the same print. In all, I think the smaller dots are a lot more flattering, a lot less “hey that woman is wearing some weird shorts,” and a lot less obviously Marimekko.  All three things are a benefit, though I guess the point of buying the BR Marimekko line is so that people recognize the design. But, I prefer that people not be able to immediately recognize where and when I bought my clothing. That’s just me, though.

 

BR marimekko collection

Since the Marimekko collection is long gone, the rest of this review can act as a review of the Hampton fit in general. I have a pair of the Hampton crops and I’m not super in love with them.  Pants tend to be problematic for me, and these are no exception (but, hey, that’s a subject for another post). They are big in the hips and thighs, so that they bunch up in the inner thigh area, making me look bigger than I am.

I’m not having that problem with the shorts. They sit lower on the waist, but not too low. The leg area isn’t overly baggy.

I like the length of the shorts – the 5 inch inseam seems to be a good balance of not too short and not frumpily long. For the record, I’m 5’10.” I think a 4″ inseam would have been OK, as well, but perhaps bordering on too-short.

Fabric-wise, both pairs are a woven cotton with a bit of stretch. The cotton is smooth, a bit like a sateen, but it doesn’t have any sheen to it.

BR Marimekko collection

There were two color choices for the Raysmatto shorts – blue or green. I went with green, because given the choice, I will always choose green. It’s a very bright green in real life. The photo above was taken in the early evening, as a thunderstorm rolled in, so it’s a bit muddy. I think the green shorts are more eye-catching and “look at me!” than the Kivet shorts, but aren’t so out-there print-wise that they’d draw strange looks. It’s a good, summery print.

A few random thoughts on the collection, then we’re done. I’m not usually one to go for fast fashion big designer collabs. My thinking is that if I’m going to wear designer, I’m going to wear designer, not a cheaper version of a designer just for the name. But, the Marimekko pieces, at least the two pairs of shorts I got, seem solid. The construction is decent, the fabric weight is good. Given the price point, I doubt the fabric was printed the same way Marimekko prints its standard fabric. But, I’m happy to have these shorts in my closet now.

Did you purchase any BR Marimekko collection items? What were your thoughts?