Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lunch Hour Shopping Excursions

Sneaking out of work during your lunch "hour" to go shopping is fun. It's especially gratifying when you go out with a work buddy (JHall) and he does all the buying! On Thursday we headed around the corner to Lord & Taylor to see if we might be able to take advantage of the Friends & Family 20% offer. Indeed JHall did very well. With my help (hello, personal shopper. I now have proof that I can even do it for men), he purchased the following – all Calvin Klein:

  • Black loafers - The mission: need black shoes more round-toe than square-toe. These puppies were buttery-licious and with the discount, less than $80!

  • 2 long-sleeved, button-down shirts One blue with a subtle flower print, the other green stripes – an effort to move away from a closet full of blue shirts.

Success. A little to-go at the Italian restaurant across the street rounded out the lunch hour. Isn't retail therapy grand?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today's Dos and Don’ts

I am bursting to write about the following two items.

1) I discovered today that I am working with the husband of online shopping royalty. Michelle Madhok is the founder of This woman has my dream job (check out the blog: I am in love). I was giddy looking though this website today. Sign up for the newsletter now!

2) My personal fashion no-nos. Here goes; I have wanted to get these off my chest for a while now.

  • Plastic shoe heels You know what I’m talking about. That “click, click, click” of the heel as she walks down the sidewalk is a lot more treble-kicking than your wooden or even rubber-based heel.

  • Two pig/ponytails Call them what you may, you should not sport a hairstyle meant for no one over the age of 10.

  • Xtra large sunglasses I recently learned, care of Lucky magazine I believe, that even the Jackie O style frames were crazy large. Oh well, I still think the frames that are deliberately too large for your face are just plain silly. Choose your large frames wisely.

  • Muffin top-creating pants/shirt combos People, there’s now a term used to reference this poor fashion choice…and I didn’t make it up. Stop the madness.

  • Hardware mismatch Silver handbag hardware and gold jewelry or vice versa.

  • Matching top and shoes If you’re wearing a coral top, don’t wear coral shoes. Just don’t.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bad Shopping Days: Sad But True

For me, there are better days than others to go shopping. Not just payday or the day my favorite store(s) is(are) having a sale, but also there are days when I think I look better than others. I don’t especially like to go shopping in the rain. That’s because I have very curly hair that gets super frizzy in the rain. Frizzy-headed is not how I want to normally appear, so if I do go shopping in the rain, no matter what I try on, I don’t like the way I look. And speaking of hair, I find it better to go shopping newly-shaven. I think my legs look bigger when they’re hairy. Male readers, forgive me if this last comment grosses you out, but if we do it we should be able to discuss it openly. I suppose this sentiment could apply to men too – if a clean shave is how you spend most of your days, that’s how you want to appear when trying on potential additions to the wardrobe, no?

What are your rules of shopping engagement? Share them, please!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2 Diamonds in the Rough

You know I love discount department stores, so please put the information I am about to share into context. I consider these stores diamonds in the rough, but knowing our opinions on discount stores could differ greatly, I supply this forewarning – you might see more of the “rough” aspect in these two stores than the "diamond" aspect I favor.

The first place is Anbar Shoes on Reade Street, west of Broadway. I walked in on Saturday afternoon and the manager who is most likely the owner (a family business?) was working the register at top volume. In other words, he’s loud. This discount shoe gem features labels you rarely find post-season at places like Century 21 and Loehmann’s – this place has names like Audley, Sasha Too, Blay and Coclico. The shoes are arranged by color; on the first floor you’re presented mainly with black shoes, downstairs you can review yellow, metallic, flower-print, green, etc.

So back to Saturday afternoon: I had thoroughly reviewed the ground floor and moved downstairs when I heard the manager/owner speaking specifically to a shopper. "You're making a mess and I want you out of the store,” to which she replied, “I’ll call the police and report you. You can’t kick me out of here.” He retorted, “This is my store and I’ll kick out whomever I want. Please leave, you’re making a mess.” At this point, and with this owner’s voice booming through the store, I am freaking out. Every pair of shoes I review I am carefully putting them back in the box and stacking the box gently back on the shelf. I figure if he’s kicking someone out for being a messy customer, he could easily do the same to me. Well, it turns out that he actually caught this person attempting to shoplift, and was therefore using his gift of gab volume to humiliate her into coughing up the shoes she was stuffing down her pants and to ultimately leave the store. (All of this back story learned how? The sheer volume of his conversation!).

The second place is De Janeiro with locations throughout Manhattan, specifically, Nassau Street downtown in the Financial District and uptown on Lexington Avenue around the corner from Grand Central Station. This is a place that I used to frequent with my friends at my last job. Whenever we needed a little retail therapy, this place was guaranteed to give it to us. It is a 2nd-tier American brand discount outlet, so you’ll find Kenneth Cole, Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Express and various Massimo (the Target brand) at seriously discounted prices. I’m talking $6.00 shirts and $8.00 skirts. It is absolutely 100% lacking in any atmosphere though. I mean seriously lacking. Go there if you know you need business basics and you want a couple of outfits for a total of $80.00.

Note that both of these stores are for women only (sorry, guys). I guess they figure we have a higher tolerance for shopping pain? I clearly do.

Monday, April 10, 2006

RIP, Sweet Boots

They were perfectly molded to my feet and resoled just once. They were of the softest black leather I have ever experienced in a boot. They were ankle-length and perfectly flat – not a completely ground-level flat; just enough of a heel that they were ideal for the pants that were just a tad too short. They worked in the Spring, Winter and Fall and had a very subtle stitching detail noticeable only if you were looking at them up close. They cost entirely too much money, but lasted me seven years. They were purchased at Brown Thomas department store in Dublin, Ireland and had been with me to Luxembourg, London, Barcelona twice, Phoenix, Arizona and even Peru, Illinois.

Can you tell that they were my favorite boots? They are irreplaceable, though I will probably spend the next few years attempting to replace them. They went out with the trash this morning – perhaps to adorn someone else's feet (someone who won't mind the holes), or perhaps to a better place where boots get to walk on clouds but never get rained on.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Here I Am, Stuck in the 80s With You

Riddle me this, Caroline,

What is a lass to do when she is

(a) stuck in the 80s (I still yearn for the simple days of sweater sets, knickers, and leg warmers)

(b) a little older now and unsure of what is age appropriate and what should stay in the closet until Halloween (I was told puffy sleeves on a thirty something is not fashion forward), and

(c) still a little older now and in need of support in places she didn’t realize would sag (I am now the proud owner of upper arms that once belonged a beloved lunch lady I had that used to serve me, and herself, heaping second portions of just about everything).

Any help would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

Bewildered in Boston (aka KHQ)

Dear Bewildered in Boston,

There's a difference between having personal style and being trendy. As we all know, trends come and go, but personal style is yours forever. You might be surprised at my response, but my advice is: girl, embrace your inner 80s! Since you're my girl and I know you very well, I know that you are at your personal style best (in my humble opinion) when you're wearing a long-sleeved crewneck black sweater, boot-cut jeans, hoop earrings, your hair down and chunky platform boots. It's true!

Hey, don't be afraid of platform shoes – chunky-heeled sandals are in fashion this spring anyway. The advice you received about puffy sleeves is tricky. I myself am a proponent of a little jacket with slightly puffed shoulders, however short-sleeved shirts with puffy shoulders are a bit much for age 30+...I say as I own three. Speaking of age, yes, we have begun the phase of our lives when we start sagging in all the wrong places. But again, as long as you portray your personal style first and foremost, rather than the passing trends, you will always come out on top.



Sunday, April 02, 2006

Get Thee (or Me) To A Discount Department Store

When my sister and I were young, my Mom enforced the "dressing nicely to go department store shopping" rule. These days, everyone shops in jeans. Not only that, everyone goes to dinner, to the theater, out at night, and to work in jeans. The jeans discussion, however, is for another posting. This one is about department stores. Last weekend I was with KHQ and DJ at Bloomingdale's Uptown (remember when that was the only one?). Though the basic layout of the store is the same as it has been for years, the vibe has decidedly changed.

I am not kidding you when I say I noticed a woman – blonde hair perfectly coiffed, black sweater perfectly trendy, jeans perfectly form-fitting – who was walking a few paces in front of her husband and had to simply gesture a "come here" motion with her hand while looking straight ahead in order to get her man to follow behind her willingly.

This quick visual exemplifies why I can barely stand department stores anymore. And Bloomie's is the least annoying in the 57th-street area. What about the stores that won't give you the time of day if your engagement ring stone doesn't meet the minimum carat size criteria?

Ever since AC introduced me to the Mecca (read: Century 21 Department Store) back when we worked on Wall Street, discount department stores have been my shopping destinations of choice. Sure, the customer service is non-existent, the lines to try clothing on are painfully long and the stores are always crowded. But the sense of accomplishment of finding a diamond in the rough among all the size XXLs or the Extra 30% Off racks is rewarding enough to cancel out all the negatives. Hey, it's all about throwing elbows. Here's what I've purchased in the past month from discount department stores:

  • Calvin Klein light grey cotton sweater - $30
  • BCBG brown leather driving shoes - $90
  • Ben Sherman black and white silk skirt - $30
  • 2 packs of Via Spiga loafer socks (3 pr) - $12
  • To the Max coral top - $20
  • French Connection cap-sleeved top - $15
  • Chip & Pepper jeans - $60

Not too shabby, eh? So ladies and gents, if you'd like to appreciate the benefits of discount department stores without bearing the pain, I will gladly be your personal bargain shopper. I know you'd rather tote a cute paper Bergdorf's bag around town instead of the plastic sacks emblazoned with the words, "I just got a bargain at Filene's Basement." So hire me to do your dirty work. Post a comment and let me know how I can help you find that perfect whatever it is you're looking for - you'll help me exercise my shopping jones.