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: J.Crew Factory Pleated Wool Skirt

Outlet stores aren’t what they seem*, and after a few too many purchases from J.Crew Factory that left me with garments that shrunk, got holes or otherwise fell apart, I swore off outlet shopping pretty much altogether.

Until recently, when I saw this skirt at J.Crew Factory that I really thought I wanted.

J.Crew Factory Pleated Wool Skirt
J.Crew Factory Pleated Wool Skirt

Before I launch into this not-very-positive review, a bit of back story. I have a favorite skirt. It’s navy and pleated, falls a few inches above my knees, and I wear it a few times a week. I got it at J.Crew about three years ago. Since I’ve had it for awhile and have worn it so much, I’m always a bit nervous that it’s going to fall apart soon or that something bad will happen to it, and then I’ll be out of a favorite skirt. And sad.

So, I’m on the lookout for a backup favorite skirt. Which is how I came to order the Factory pleated wool skirt the other day. It’s very similar to my favorite skirt in several ways. It’s navy. It’s pleated. It’s kind of short, but not too short.

jcrew_factory_pleated_wool_skirtAnd it’s different from my favorite skirt in several ways. It’s made of merino wool, not polyester. It’s pretty thin and unlined. And, the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

jcrew_factory_pleated_wool_skirt_closeup
Close up of the not-so-great construction of J.Crew Factory pleated wool skirt.

Over at the blog Into-Mind (which is fantastic blog about personal style and smart shopping), there’s a Cheat Sheet for assessing the quality of garments. One of the things the cheat sheet recommends looking at is the stitching. Another is the fabric quality and a third is the fit.

To get a sense of fabric quality, it recommends holding the fabric up to the light. You shouldn’t be able to see things clearly through it. When I held the skirt up, I could see shapes and make out some details through it. Not exactly what you want from a winter skirt.

Additionally, the skirt’s construction isn’t so great. There are lumps and bumps on it at the seams and pleats and it just isn’t stitched together all that well.

OK, at this point you might thinking, stop whining. You get what you pay for, after all. And, this skirt was cheap (I got it for less than $30, including shipping). But here’s the thing. Factory claims it’s valued at $88, which while that isn’t earth shatteringly expensive, it also isn’t exactly pocket change.

Here’s the other thing. I’m pretty annoyed because I know that the quality isn’t there at Factory, and yet I still let myself get roped into buying something because it was cheap. So, really, I’m not annoyed with the skirt or with J.Crew. I’m annoyed with myself.

Fortunately, I got the skirt before it went on final sale, so I am able to return it. Though, I guess if I wasn’t, it would be a $30 lesson in remembering to always be cautious and conscious when shopping.

*Many brands make lower quality cheaper products for their outlets, according to this Racked article. back to top

Shopping: J.Crew Regent Topcoat

Ah, the Regent. Never has a style of blazer (and now, a Regent topcoat) led to such heated debate. Some people  love the style. Others loathe it, mainly because of the upright collar. Is it a cost cutting move on J.Crew’s part? Is it their attempt to cash in on what seems to be a trend? (the female attorneys on the Good Wife were wearing straight collar suit jackets several seasons before J.Crew’s made its debut.) Is it just because a straight collar can look pretty flattering?

Who knows. All I know is that I wanted a black topcoat that looked similar to the 12th Doctor’s black Crombie coat but that didn’t cost more than $1,000 like these ones here and here.

j.crew regent coat
J.Crew Regent Coat buttoned up.

J.Crew’s Regent Topcoat seemed to fit the bill. It’s got some nice menswear styling, like the little chest pocket, a slim fit, and it’s 100% wool. Sure, it lacks the vibrant red lining of a real Crombie coat and the collar is wrong. But, I like it.

jcrew_regent_topcoat_unbuttoned

Now for the details. I got the coat in a size 6, my usual size. It’s only available in regular or petites, or I might have gone for a tall size. As it is, the 6 regular is fine, in terms of arm length and overall length. It hits at about my knees and falls slightly below the hem of my skirt.

There were some reviews on J.Crew’s website that said that the sleeves were a bit tight. I put that to the test by trying the coat on over top of a cardigan and a Schoolboy blazer (which seems to have been replaced with the much less beloved Rhodes blazer).

Did it work?jcrew_regent_topcoat_layers

Yes, but… it’s not the best look. It definitely makes my shoulders look a bit more like a footballer’s. So, I think I’ll skip the excessive layering with this one.

J.Crew Regent topcoat collar
Closeup of the collar

Now for the collar. I dunno — I think it looks pretty sharp. It’s a bit scratchy, but here’s the thing – it also folds down. So, if the stand-up collar really bugs you, but you like the rest of the coat’s details, you can just fold it down. jcrew_regent_topcoat_lining

The coat is made of a soft serge wool, which J.Crew calls “double serge.” I don’t actually know what the “double” means — are they referring to the weave of the wool or its thickness? Or is it just some slick marketing thing?

Who knows. It’s a somewhat fuzzy wool and I am slightly concerned that it will pill, especially in the under arm area. We’ll see. Apparently, there’s no way to tell if a fabric will pill or not. There are actually special machines out there that will test fabric, but there’s no guarantee that something won’t pill until you bring it home, even if you drop hundreds of dollars on a garment. So, fingers crossed that the coat doesn’t pill, because I’m quite a fan of it.

 

Shopping: J.Crew Fall 2015

I’m not supposed to do any shopping this month (more on that later), but then J.Crew released this blazer in tweed, with elbow patches, and announced a 25% off sale. Admittedly, 25% off is nothing at J.Crew, when things are often marked down 30 to 75% off, but sometimes things sell out, and it seemed that would be the case with the Campbell Blazer, especially in the Tall size range.

I was all set to order the blazer online on Thursday night, but convinced myself to sleep on it, since I’m trying to curb my spending. In some ways it’s good that I slept on it and in some ways it’s bad: I woke up to find that the blazer was suddenly excluded from the promotion.

Boo on that. I decided to pop into the store in Philly to see if they  had the blazer, if a regular size would work on me, and if it was 25% off.

As it turns out, I’m actually not that keen on the fit and cut of it, so in the end, I’m glad the vanishing promo kept me from ordering.

J.Crew Campbell blazer in tweed, size 6.
J.Crew Campbell blazer in tweed, size 6.
J.Crew Campbell Blazer in tweed, size 4
J.Crew Campbell Blazer in tweed, size 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gah, it looks pretty awful. Particularly in the size 6, on the left. The 4 looks better, but only because I’m wearing a different skirt and am standing at a slight angle. Maybe it looks better unbuttoned, but I didn’t think to snap any pictures of that. I’m really glad I didn’t order the Tall 6, as both the regular 4 and 6 were a bit roomy on me.

As a side note, the tweed comes from Abraham Moon & Sons, which is the same tweed-maker Boden uses for its British Tweed Blazers. Boden’s blazers are cut differently, they are shorter and more shapely. I might give that a try.

Usually, when I’m at J.Crew, the associates ignore me, which I kinda like, especially since these days I rarely buy anything there. This last time, the associate was very  helpful, and went out of her way to recommend stuff for me to try. Unfortunately, one of her recommendations was a Tippi sweater.

J.crew Tippi sweater
J.crew Tippi sweater

Tippis just never work for me.  They always add weight to my hips and waist area. I’m showing you all the picture of it tucked into the Donegal Tweed Skirt because the photo of it untucked was just too awful. The tucked-in picture looks bad — you can see the sweater bunched up beneath the waist of the skirt.

The trip wasn’t all gloom and doom, though. I liked the dark green version of the tweed pencil skirt when it was pictured online and just happened to chance on the black and grey version in store. The fabric, a blend of wool/poly/silk is really soft to the touch and has a good weight. In one of the online reviews, someone said it felt like wearing a carpet. But I didn’t find that to be true. The 6 fit pretty well in the hips, but was a little loose in the waist.

J.crew Drapey v-neck silk blouse
J.crew Drapey v-neck silk blouse

I also really liked the drapey v-neck silk blouse. The silk is a nice weight and has a good hand, although I didn’t look at the stitching that closely. I’m in a 4 here, and there was just enough drape without it being too blousy. The sleeves were also a good length.

J.Crew keeps saying how it’s returning to the classics, and in fact, that’s the theme of its latest catalog. With the exception of the blazer, everything I tried on fit well and was made of quality-ish materials (the jury is still out on the tweed pencil skirt. I do wonder how it would  hold up). The blazer itself was fine, I just didn’t like the fit. I didn’t buy anything this time, but I might in the future.

Shopping: Summer Sales – J. Crew Seersucker Pencil Skirt

In honor of the fact that J.Crew is currently offering up to an additional 75% off certain pieces, and 40% off of a bunch of other items, I thought now would be a good time to post a quick review of skirt I recently got on sale: the Seersucker Pencil Skirt in Fragrant Lavender.

jcrew_seersucker_pencil_skirt

I ordered the skirt last week, when it was marked down to $59.99 plus 40% off (today, it’s $59.99 plus 75% off, so a grand total of $15. But, at the time of writing, it’s only available in size 00). It was final sale at the time, but a light purple skirt was on my want list, so I decided to take the relatively small risk. To improve my chances of getting the right size, I had a quick chat with a customer service rep, who gave me the dimensions of the size 6 and the 8: 30.5 inch waist and 39.5 inch hips and hem for the 6, 31.5 inch waist and 40.5 inch hips and hem for the 8.

I went with the 8, even though the waist was slightly too big, because I  never know about the hips. It was slightly too big, but you really can’t tell looking at the picture, right? It is sitting a good three inches below my actual waist, but the wide waistband kind of obscures that fact.

One interesting thing about the cut of J.Crew’s pencil skirts (or at least this one) compared to others: the hip and hem sweep are the same measurement, which creates a straight up and down look, compared to the more shapely look you get when the hem is a few inches narrower that the hips. By way of comparison, I recently tried on a skirt from Boden with 39.5 inch hips and 36.5 hem. The effect was much more curvy, while here I just look like a stick.

 

jcrew_seersucker_pencil_skirt_closeup

I was kind of expecting a brighter shade of lavender, but this one is pretty pale. From a distance you can’t really see the stripes. I guess that’s fine, it makes the skirt more of a neutral than it would be if it were more in-your-face purple.

The fabric is very lightweight on the skirt, even with a poly lining. I actually have another seersucker skirt (I really like seersucker) from Banana in light blue that I compared to this one. The fabric on the Banana skirt is much heavier. The Banana skirt is also about an inch narrower and fits fine, so maybe I should have gone with the 6. Too late now, though.

All said, I’m pretty happy with it. Which is good, because I can’t send it back.

Shopping: J.Crew Crazy Sale

Last week, J.Crew had a “sale of the day” thing going on. The first day was X amount off of shorts or something, the second day X amount off of swim, and the third day was between 50 and 60 percent off of marked down sale styles. I stopped paying attention after the third day, so I don’t know what days 4 and 5 were.

Woooo! The excitement was palpable. The powers that be at J.Crew might complain about “sale shoppers,” but by marking stuff down so, so much, they really aren’t dissuading us from shopping them on sale, and really, only on sale. So much on sale you have to wonder what the company is paying for the clothes in the first place to have any of this make any sense.

I’ve had my eye on a few items, and I figured last Wednesday was as good a time as any to bite, at more than 50 percent off and without the limitations of final sale. As has been the case lately with J.Crew, most of the things I ordered didn’t work out and will be going back or exchanged. Here’s a quick run down of what worked and what didn’t:

First up, the stitched-down pleated skirt in polka dots. I really, really liked this skirt when I first saw it. I’m a big fan of polka dots and tend to jump at the site of anything with the tiny little dots on it. When the skirt when down to around $45 last week, my thought was “yes, please!”

jcrew_stitched_pleated_polka_dot_skirt

Except, there were a few issues (there always are). The skirt was a mini that sat above the waist. Although tall sizes were available, the Tall 6 was sold out. Which meant I could lose some off of the waist and go with a Tall 4 or lose some off of the length and go with a regular 6. I went with the regular, which is apparently 18 inches long (I didn’t measure it to confirm).

It’s probably good that I stuck with my regular size instead of going down one for length. The fit of this skirt is a little weird. As the name suggests, the waist area is stitched down, which usually creates a flattering fit and effect. In this case, it just made the waist weirdly misshapen, itchy and heavy.

Close up of stitching detail
Close up of stitching detail

While the waistband is actually a little loose around my real waist, the stitching makes the skirt a bit too snug around the area between my waist and hips. The skirt just feels strange on, being both too tight and too loose at the same time. There’s also something weird going on with the lining, as it’s a bit more snug that the rest of the skirt. Lengthwise, the regular version of the skirt is just a bit too short for my 5’10” self. Although I was really excited about the skirt on paper, in reality, it’s a bit of a mess and I’m going to return it.

Next: the Perfect Shirt in Green Crinkle Plaid. I never have any idea of what size to get in J.Crew’s shirts. I’m usually drowning in a 6 while their 4’s usually give me some problems in the shoulders and armholes. So, I went with a  6 in this one.

jcrew_perfect_plaid_crinkle_shirt

As you can see, it’s quite big, both in the arms and the body. I do feel as if I’m swimming in the shirt, but I also like it, because I really like green and I really like plaid. I got in touch with customer service at J. Crew and they let me exchange it for a 4, at the  same price that I paid for the first size ($35 after the 50 percent discount). We’ll have to see how the 4 fits. Fingers crossed that it’ll work out.

green_plaid_shirt_jcrew

On a different note, the shirt looks OK when tucked in, probably because I am taking all of that extra fabric and shoving it into the waistband of my skirt. The sleeves are still too long and puffy.

Finally, the winner of this J. Crew order: the ladder stitch silk shell. I got this in a purple color in a size 4, because the size 6 was sold out and I really wanted purple. Purple seems to be sold out in all sizes now, so I’m glad I was able to order it when I did because it was the only item in the order that truly sparked joy. There’s also a champagne and a blue color, and I may just go back for those.

jcrew_ladder_stitch_shellThe shirt looks great tucked in or left hanging out, as seen above. I really love the color and the quality of the silk is pretty decent, for J. Crew. It’s not the best silk I’ve ever seen, but it’s miles and away better than some of their other “silk” tops I’ve tried on lately.

jcrew_ladder_stitch_shell_front

Some might object to the ladder stitch detailing across the front. It is see-through, and if you stare at it, you can see a trace of bra strap through the stitching. I don’t really care about that, as it’s pretty subtle, and you really have to be staring at a person to notice it. But, if that’s something that bothers you, you can go with a nude bra or just throw on a cardigan or blazer.

So, it wasn’t a perfect order. But, I managed to find 1 (and a half – we’ll see how the new size works) items that I really liked. Given the issues that have plagued J. Crew recently and my other recent strike outs, that’s not that bad.

 

Shopping: J.Crew Spring (Part 2)

After leaving empty handed and unimpressed the last time I went to J.Crew, I decided to pop back in again this weekend and see what was new. Some of the dresses and skirts in the most recent catalog (er, sorry, “style guide”) looked pretty cute and I wanted to check them out in person. While I had more success this time around, I again left empty-handed. Part of that is because the Philly store only had a limited selection of items and part of that is because I wasn’t too enamored of what I found.

Let’s do this in order from pretty good to very much not pretty good.

A hot wrinkled mess, but I still kinda liked it.
A hot wrinkled mess, but I still kinda liked it.

Up first: the perforated A-line dress ($148). Yeah, it looks a mess, thanks to all those wrinkles, but I really liked it. It was a bit on the fancy side, but not so much that I’d feel weird wearing it out and about on a lovely day. It even looks good with a pair of Docs. The drawbacks were that it was a bit wide in the bodice area, but not wide enough to justify dropping a size (this is a 6), and it was a touch short. Luckily, it is available in tall sizes online, so I may go that route at some point. While it was full price in store, online the version in black is $10 off.

perforated_skirt

Next up: the laser-cut pleated skirt, which is on sale both in-store and online for $79.99 and also available in “dusty alabaster.” I mainly grabbed this so that I would have something to wear with the shirts I was trying on, but ended up kind of liking it, too. There were only a few sizes in stock, and a 6 wasn’t one of them, so I went with the 4. It fit, but the shirt I had tucked in was visible through the waistband of the skirt, as in you could see the lumps and bumps of fabric. I’m not sure if that’s because the skirt fit tightly and was made of a flimsy fabric or because the shirt had too much fabric going on. Probably a mix of all those.

The fabric on the skirt was a bit dodgy, and felt somewhat plastic-like. The lining was strange, it was more a nod to a lining than an actual full-cover lining, if that makes sense. As in, it was there, but it also sort of wasn’t.

Points off for length, too: it was a touch too short. Maybe a 6 would have been okay, since it would sat lower on the waist, but this isn’t a skirt I’d feel comfortable wearing without tights.

Does it look good with Docs? Yes.

green_silk_static

Let’s talk about the green top now. . . It’s silk. It’s olive green. It should be a hit out of the park or whatever analogy people who like sports would use. But, alas. It’s a hot mess. Look at that picture. All the wrinkles aren’t because the shirt needs to make friends with a steamer. That’s straight up static cling. If a shirt is going to get that clingy in the try-on room, just think of how it’s going to behave in the real world. It’s cut and fit didn’t do anyone any favors, either, and the silk was pretty thin and rough to the touch. Sorry, shirt, I’m going to pass on you. (I can’t find it online yet, either, so maybe everyone gets to pass on it).

navy_drapey_shirt

The last style guide had a really adorable look in it, combining the drapey oxford crepe top ($88) in mint with the structured mini skirt, ($88) also in mint. The Philly store didn’t have the mint top or the structured mini skirt, but they did have the shirt in navy and a few other colors. I went with the navy.

Drapey’s a good word to describe the fit of the top. Another way to describe it might be “hangs on the body like a sack.” I wasn’t impressed. The fabric was also not quite what I was expecting. It’s got a bit of texture and is a little heavier than you might think. The shirt’s final offense was the two buttons, with loop closure, at the back of the neck. I didn’t even bother to try doing or undoing them.

geo_dress

Last, and very much least was the Jet-Set Geo Shift dress ($138). The dress has a cute print and I like the zippers running down both sides, but the feel of it was just ugh. I’d compare it to stepping into a paper bag. It’s a stiff shirting fabric (poly/cotton) blend that I swear actually rustled when I put it on. The dress wasn’t lined, either, which made it feel really flimsy.

geo_dress_zipper

Although I hate exposed zippers on the backs of dresses (it just make things look unfinished), I did like the two zips down the sides of this one. Those zippers and the print were the only things that redeemed the dress.

It looks good with the Docs, though.

Shopping: A Stop at J. Crew

I know. I know. I just went on about how I purged my closet and got rid of stuff. What am I doing out shopping? Well, I was out and about, wandering around the city, when I decided to pop into J.Crew and take a look at their newest offerings. Buying anything at this point in time wasn’t really the plan.

Although at one stage in my life J.Crew pretty much the backbone of my wardrobe, I haven’t really purchased much from it in a while, as all the clothes either seem the same or fit me in a really strange way. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case today with the three things I tried on, but it was.

sleeveless_zip

First up: the sleeveless side-zip top.  From a distance, the shirt looks like it will be a good basic, made more exciting by the two zippers that run down either side. Up close, it’s another story.

Anyone watch Elementary, the CBS version of Sherlock Holmes with Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson? I’ve spent probably way too much time analyzing the costuming choices for her character. In the first two seasons, she wore a lot of loosely fitting outfits, flowy tops paired with little  skirts. Her look now is a bit more structured, but really that is the subject of another piece. Although the fabric of this top is a little stiff, it reminded me of an early Elementary era Dr. Watson, especially paired with a flippy mini skirt. Sadly, it was just too big all over. Then again, maybe I just needed a smaller size.

Zipped, unzipped
Zipped, unzipped

A feature I did like about the top was the two zippers on either side, which made it a tiny bit more interesting than a basic white top. But, even the zippers weren’t enough to save the ill-fitting top, which by the way, was also very thin and see-through, from the reject pile.

Tilly sweater and pleated skirt
Tilly sweater and pleated skirt

Perhaps the most disappointing thing I tried on during today’s visit was the metallic pleated midi skirt. Where to even begin with this one. Okay, let’s start with the positives. It fit, was a good length (guess I can wear skirts below the knee), and is one of my favorite skirt styles.

On to the negatives: the fabric was cheap and the construction left a lot to be desired. The website describes the fabric as a poly/viscose blend, but the tag on the skirt itself describes it as cotton/viscose. Which to believe? It doesn’t even matter. It’s knitted and has a decent drape, but it’s also coated in foil, which gives it a plastic-like feel. It looks like it’s trying (but not very hard) to pretend to be leather.

A closer peek at the fabric - inside and outside.
A closer peek at the fabric – inside and outside.

Here’s another big negative: there’s no lining in the skirt, as you can see in the picture above. They had a mannequin wearing the skirt in the store and as I walked by it, I could see the light shining through the hem. Pass.

The only thing I kind of liked that I tried on today was the Tilly Sweater, in olive green, shown with the midi skirt. It’s merino wool, which is my favorite type, very soft, and comes in a number of colors. It’s a bit cropped, and designed to hit at the hips, but on me, it hit just below the waist, making my torso look a little short. Maybe if it was offered in a tall size, it would work. I do like the feel of the fabric, which is saying something at this point.

Everyone’s style and tastes change over time. Maybe I’m just at the point in my life where J.Crew isn’t a good fit for me or where I just can’t make their clothing work. Or, maybe the brand just doesn’t interest me as much anymore and will need to fix up a few flaws (like unlined skirts) before it catches my eye again.

 

 

Shopping: J. Crew Zebra Silk Blouse

jcrew_zebra_silk_blouse

I’ve recently gotten into silk, particularly silk button-up shirts. They’re easier to layer than a stiff cotton shirt, incredibly warm, and don’t trap your sweat in the way shirts made of synthetic fabrics do. They are a bit fussier to care for, as many claim to be dry  clean only or advise you to dry clean them, instead of tossing them in the wash or gently hand washing them. But, here’s a thing I’ve learned over the years: you can, for the most part, get away with washing silk. Use cold water and avoid the dryer and things should be fine. If you’re really cautious, you can hand wash, using a fancy detergent designed just for silks. I also iron my silk shirts, which might horrify some people. But, really silk isn’t always a delicate fabric. It can take some wear and tear, sometimes.

All this brings me to a recent purchase: the classic silk blouse in zebra print from J.Crew. J.Crew’s silk blouses are a bit different this year from styles the brand has made in the past. The blouses have a wide, wide fit and are really long. I’m in a regular length here and it’s grazing the top of my thighs. The sleeves are rolled up because they are a bit blousy. Not quite puffy shirt from Seinfeld blousy but close enough that I won’t wear them full length.

The zebras up close.
The zebras up close.

J.Crew’s been doing some fun prints in silk this season, too, as evidenced by the kind of strange zebra pattern on this blouse. It looks a bit abstract from a distance, but up close you can clearly see that it’s zebras.

Slightly interesting fit and pattern don’t really make up for the construction of the shirt, though. The silk itself has a strange hand. It’s a bit stiff and crinkly. A peek at the inside seams reveals not carefully concealed French seams, but a serged edge. Dammit. At least the fabric isn’t shiny and at least no one will know about those serged seams, unless I tell them. Which I just did. Hm.

The shirt’s lack of quality comes at time when J.Crew has reported losing millions on its women’s line. I can’t help but think that the store’s apparent dash to the bottom is playing some role in that. The original retail price of the zebra blouse (and similar styles) was $128. I paid slightly more than $50 for it. In the few weeks since it was released and the time I purchased it, the shirt was marked down about 60%. That’s just crazy. It suggests the retailer is marking up prices so much that it can bear to lose that 60% or is taking a big loss on everything it sells (because almost everything makes it to the sale section at some point).

J. Crew, it’ s your job to convince me that it’s worth it to drop more than $100 on a shirt. Don’t price your stuff at a level that only a few people will buy it at (people who have enough money not to care about sales or people who just don’t get how retail works these days). Make better stuff, price it at a point that makes sense, and use more than crazy markdowns to make your clothing look appealing.