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Can I still shop at Madewell?

Madewell launched in 2006 (or 1937, as they'd like you to believe) and though it's still smaller than their sister brand, J.Crew, to me, it's the far superior place to shop. (And I'm not alone.) I haven't felt compelled to shop at J.Crew for several years, but Madewell just keeps getting it right: collaborations with cool brands like Daryl K and Sézane, on-trend but not fashion-victim pieces, and generally good quality at the right price. That said, the vibe is more casual and definitely more millennial, and sometimes Madewell can veer into twee territory—ruffles, flounces, pithy statements—which, at my age, I'm actively trying to avoid. So the question is, can I still shop at Madewell?

This is the embroidered dress that drew me into the store; I saw it in an email Madewell last weekend. Apparently so did a lot of other people, because I'm wearing a small, which was the largest size they had in stock. The body was perfect but the arms were a bit snug; this is a frequent problem for me at this store.

I own several dresses from Madewell and they all kind of look like this. They're great for summer...which in San Francisco lasts about two months and happens in fall (go figure). This eyelet dress was on sale for $99.99. which seemed a bit much, but now it's down to $69.99, which is darn tempting. I'm wearing a medium in the above photo and think I need to size down to a small.

I also own a few tops like this embroidered peasant top. I loved the fit (I'm in a medium again) and the cotton was nice, but it was a bit sheer and, at $98, a bit pricey.

I saw this loop-edge pullover when I first walked in and decided to try it on, immediately breaking the busty girl's first commandment: thou shalt not wear fringe on top. This was not flattering on me, and the yarn was kind of weirdly textured. I'm wearing a small, which was boxy in the body but too small in the arms (see?).

I feel like wide-leg cropped pants have been happening for awhile, and I've been wanting to try a pair, even though I'm kind of afraid of them. As you might have guessed by the model's odd stance, they're hard to photograph well, but they're not unflattering. I'm not yet convinced that I need a pair, but at $68, I thought these were pretty reasonable. Unlike Madewell's excellent jeans*, these appear to run true to size—I'm in a size too small in the photo, so please excuse my FUPA.

I had a Madewell chambray shirt several years ago and I wore it so much, it became threadbare in several places. This chambray ex-boyfriend shirt seemed like a good replacement until I tried it on in two sizes and both gave me the dreaded boob-gape. I'm in a medium, the larger of the two, and it's hard to tell from the photo, but I'm swimming in it.

I liked the cleaner look of the previous style but this chambray oversized ex-boyfriend shirt fit much better (maybe it's the key "oversized" part) and in a size small, at that. Sold! But that does bring me to my biggest pet peeve about Madewell, which is that most of their clothes are small-medium-large sizing and as someone who falls between two sizes, I'm constantly trying to guess which one I am (and it changes style by style). Of course, the reason retailers does this is because it saves a lot of money—fewer sizes mean they can produce more of each and hopefully pass on the cost savings to the customer. But because of this sizing uncertainty, it makes Madewell one of the rare stores that I prefer to shop in-person rather than online.

But the question is, can I still shop at Madewell? 

With 6/8 items I tried on ranging from not bad to pretty cute—and I bought the ex-boyfriend shirt—my conclusion is yes, as long as you avoid fringe and frills.

*Madwell's jeans are incredibly flattering, really comfy, and a great deal. I own several pairs, so keep your eyes peeled for them in upcoming posts.

Ageless outfit: a kimono and jeans

I'd like to personally thank whoever decided pajamas are in fashion. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time in her bathrobe, the idea of wearing one all day makes me feel all hygge inside. (Is it too early to be talking about hygge? Too late?) Of course, this is fashion, so the below is called a kimono, not a bathrobe. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to. I found the below image on Pinterest; the woman in the photo is a German blogger named Aylin Koenig, and while her bio says she's a business student, she also has 258,000 Instagram followers and quite the collection of Gucci handbags, so I hope you're feeling very accomplished too. And while I'm assuming she's in her 20s, her outfit is perfectly ageless. Let's recreate it for less than your monthly mortgage payment.

The kimono
I'm fairly certain she's wearing one from Zara (I spotted it on more than one fashion blogger this spring), but the Aster Floral Kimono is a great option from Anthropologie (bonus: the print reminds me of Christmas).

The tee
All you need here is a classic V-neck tee, and my personal favorite is Everlane's Cotton V, which is a wallet-friendly $15. Size up for a looser fit.

The jeans
Have you been looking for a pair of Mom Jeans that doesn't actually look like mom jeans? The answer is Levi's 501 Frayed Hem Jeans.

The trench
I'm guessing there's some sort of trench situation happening back there, and, again, I think you can't go wrong with Everlane's Drape Trench Coat.

The bag
Hey, did you know Reed Krakoff is now selling bags at Kohl's? They look almost exactly like his designer line, and they're a tenth of the price! Masstige lives on! Anyway, I like the REED R40 satchel in this more neutral colorblock design, and at $45, it's a sweet deal.

The shoe
They're not Gucci Marmont loafers, but these Aerosoles Best Girl slides are almost as cute (and at least a bit easier on the wallet). Bonus: they kind of look like slippers, thus completing the pajama circle.


Well, hello again

It's been awhile. Nearly three years, to be exact. I've had lot of...personal stuff happen in that time, although that's not why I stopped blogging. I think I was a little tapped out in more ways than one, and having left New York, I didn't feel the need to work work work work work all the time. I needed a break, so I took one.

But speaking of work, I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm doing (which I enjoy) and where I'm going (god only knows) and whether I've found my purpose in life (um...). You see, I'm turning 40 in approximately six months, I'm halfway through my career, and I'm having all kinds of existential crises, including should I get bangs? So a few weeks ago, Cheryl Wischhover (who is awesome not only because she's named Cheryl but because she's also from Chicago and a great writer) wrote this story on Racked about how watching Younger made her realize that, as a fortysomething woman, she has no idea what to wear anymore. And just like that, I had an epiphany.

I don't know what to wear anymore either. Parts of my body have shifted to different places, and I haven't even had any kids. Skirts are too short, heels are too high, and too many things just make me look like I'm trying too hard. Lace and ruffles look childish, too much distressing looks teen-angsty, and let's not even talk about crop tops or cutouts. That said, I'm not yet ready for linen tunics, elastic waistbands, and statement jackets. To paraphrase Other Cheryl, what do you wear when you're too old for Forever 21 but too young for Chico's?

I'm back to answer that question. I'm going to shop my heart out, try stuff on, put together outfits, make my poor boyfriend photograph me in them (bless his heart), and hopefully provide you with ideas and inspiration. I'm not going to tell you what not to wear, but rather show you what I feel good wearing. Hopefully you won't tell me I look like a cow. While I'm at it, I'll also tackle health, beauty, and general life stuff happening to women our age, because if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, so can I.

So, should I get bangs?

Fashion Week: Reem Acra [09.06.14]

Fashion Week: Project Runway Season 13 [09.05.14]

Until recently, I hadn't realized that showing photos of the final runway show is major spoilage for anyone whose favorite character in Project Runway is the clothing. So to be fair to those folks...SPOILER ALERT!

For the past three seasons, I've been invited to cover Project Runway at NYFW, and every time it's been a delight to cover so much new talent in one marathon runway show. But this is the first season I actually got myself up to speed with the television show before I showed up, and as can be expected it made a huge difference in how excited I felt. It was fun to spot some of the eliminated contestants too, like the love-him-or-hate-him beachy boy Mitchell. The collections had far more highlights than are shown below, so perhaps at a later time I will process and publish more images from this show.

The judges: Nina, Heidi, Emmy Rossum, and Zac

Char Glover

Emily Paine

So obviously fäde zu grau

Love Kini Zamora's dramatic silhouettes

Alexander Knox

Korina Emmerich

Sandya Garg used amazingly flamboyant materials, as usual

My personal favorite, Sean Kelly, works his magic with fringe

Amanda Valentine

Tim Gunn gets roped into the ALS ice bucket challenge - SEE VIDEO HERE!
My favorite "loser" so far, Carrie Sleutskaya

Danielle Brooks, aka Taystee from Orange Is the New Black

Fashion Week: Timo Weiland Men at High Line Hotel [09.03.14]

It's Fashion Week in NYC again, and I will be covering a few select shows this season.

This morning was hot and humid in Manhattan, in an effort to compensate for the past two mild months of summer. Timo Weiland showcased their menswear line for Spring/Summer 2015 at the High Line Hotel, which is a gorgeous venue you'd want to marvel at for hours...unless it was 110% humidity inside with no A/C. No matter how many cold flavored seltzer waters they handed out, my body was overheating and my little iPhone lens attachment kept fogging up, involuntarily adding a glamour filter. This collection is approachable and chic, but honestly, I've been enjoying it more from the comfort of my air-conditioned desk.

The Warholian centerpiece.

How is this guy surviving the heat?
Look out for man-stripes next spring.

Sonnet 155, or an Ode to Marine Layer Pajama Pants

Skinny jeans look hot but can be so tight.
Begone, muffin top! I want to unwind.
Post work, on weekends, I don’t want to fight.
Off with you! Let’s banish the clothes that bind.

Where to find some magic pants? Comfy too?
Not at the mall stores; let us not tempt fate.
Support local business—that’s what to do.
A-ha! They’re made here in the Golden State.

Marine Layer, I’m a fan of your tees,
But these soft pajama pants take the cake.
Wide leg, drawstring, jersey, navy—yes, please!
A better, softer pant one cannot make.

But, fifty-four bucks for these? Ahem, cough.
Friends, use code NISH for twenty percent off.

Two Sample Sales for West Coast Ladies

I've been missing New York a bit lately--it's easy to gloat during the winter, but now that it's spring (almost summer), Instagram is reminding me about all the good things I left behind. Like sample sale season. Oh, how I miss sample sales. They are few and far between on the West Coast, but when they come along, it's like Christmas. Here's what's on my calendar.

At the Gilt City Warehouse Sale in New York one year, a fellow shopper snatched a pair of knee-high Rag & Bone boots a millisecond ahead of me, resulting in a slo-mo "nooooooo" escaping my lips. I still think about those boots to this day. Will I find a better pair at this season's San Francisco sale? There's only one way to find out. This time around, prices are up to 90% off retail on clothes and accessories from designers like Helmut Lang, Prada, and John Varvatos; there will also be free cocktails, snacks, makeovers, and a DJ, because who wants to shop in silence, hungry and sober? The event runs Friday & Saturday; Friday is sold out, but Saturday is almost wide open; get your tickets here. (And if you aren't a Gilt City member, by all means, join here.)

For my friends down south in Los Angeles (hi, ladies!), there's a sale happening next weekend that I'm so excited about, I'm contemplating a weekend trip. It's Clare Vivier's first-ever sample sale, and I have no other details except that there will be clutches (favored by every fashion blogger known to mankind), messenger bags, duffels (my current bag of choice), and "more." It's June 7-8 from noon-5 at 3249 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles. Think I can take an Uber?

Splendid Picks for Wine Country

I've gone to wine country the last three weekends in a row--it's one of my favorite things about living in San Francisco, and considering how much I freaking love it here, that's a bold statement. Anyway, dressing for wine country is almost as challenging as dressing for San Francisco weather (an art/science that probably warrants its own post), but after so many trips, I think I finally have it down. Here's my wine country uniform:

Bracelet 1  |  Bracelet 2  |  Bracelet 3  |  Dress  |  Crossbody bag  |  Raffia hat  |  Wedges (similar)

The centerpiece of this look, of course, is the red-hot Splendid maxi dress, which just so happens to be on sale at Vente Privee now through Friday at 9 a.m. EST. (For those of you who aren't familiar with the site, Vente Privee is the o.g. private flash sale site--it started in 2001 in France and now counts 21 million members across eight countries, including the U.S., where it debuted in 2011. I'm a fan because it has a lot of hard-to-find brands, their customer service is impeccable, and American Express cardholders get free shipping!) Splendid's knits are so soft, you'll never want to take them off (this dress is no exception), and while we're at it, here are more of my picks from the sale--prices are 50%-70% off retail!

As for my wine-country outfit pictured above, stay tuned to my Instagram feed to see it in action in Mendocino this weekend. Yep, back to wine country I go!

Spring Shopping Guide: Drawstring Bags

Just like Vanessa Williams, I'm--wait for it--saving the best for last in the ol' Spring Shopping Guide. (And if you guessed that I'm continuing the '90s theme with the #4 song of 1992 according to Billboard, gold star for you.) So I'm rounding things out with another '90s throwback, the drawstring bag. Last seen draped over the shoulders of Supermodels (think Linda, Christy, Naomi) before those black nylon Prada backpacks took over, drawstring bags--often closely related to bucket bags--have that perfect, elusive combination of luxe and effortless. Which is what every bag should have, shouldn't it?

Jerome Dreyfuss's bags are what I like to call quietly luxurious--they're not covered with flashy, easily recognizable logos, but they're incredibly well made, from supersoft, buttery leather and cool finishes. They also have cool names, like the Alain Punk bag, which sounds like some French '80s pop star. Even better than its name, however, is the adjustable strap, which goes from a crook-of-the-arm 4 inches to a shoulder-perfect 16 inches.

Speaking of cool finishes, Stella McCartney gives Jerome Dreyfuss a run for his money. Now, this drawstring bag is about half the size and not actual leather, however it's perfect for the weekend or, if you carry a light load, even for the weekdays--a bonus with drawstring bags is that they tend to hold a lot more than you'd think.

Speaking of which, Phillip Lim's Scout bag has made an appearance here before; last year, I opted not to get one, but that was before I learned to pare down. I like that the metal-edged corners give it a more structured, modern shape--it's the anti-drawsting-bag drawstring bag.

Which brings me to this season's It Bag and the reason for this entire post: the Mansur Gavriel bucket bag. I have one, and it was not easy to procure--I was on three different waiting lists (one of which was expecting a shipment in July!!) but thankfully not for terribly long. The bag itself is pretty stiff, which is a good thing because it won't get all droopy, and I also expect it to age beautifully. Which, for the price (which is enough to be a splurge but not too much to break the bank), it should.

Along those lines but a bit more reasonably priced is Vince Camuto's Jill bag, a nice luggage color (also available in a hot red, among others) and a more squat shape, which is better for carrying higher up on the body, if that's what you prefer. The leather is also nice and smushy, saving you much breaking-in time.

Everything Elizabeth and James does is on-trend, but in a tasteful, mellow way. This Cynnie mini bucket bag gets the drawstring shape right, but then elevates it with that big, shiny zipper. I also like the two-strap option, as well as the not-huge scale. Restraint--it's a beautiful thing.

I like the two-tone look (as well as the chain strap) of this Topshop bag, which is inexplicably $68 and actually leather.  Side note: the Nordstrom here in SF has a somewhat edited Topshop department, which I enjoy shopping far more than any actual Topshop store. Discuss.

While this section is starting to sound like I Can't Believe It's Leather, this $90 Sole Society Montana bucket bag is also, in fact, leather. It's a bit on the floppy side and has that "I'm going to Coachella" vibe, but, hey, a leather bag for under $100 ain't bad.

If you want to have fun with this trend (and really, why shouldn't you), then Baggu's animal-print bucket bag is the way to go--especially now since it's on sale (I was originally going to feature it in the mid-priced section of this post). Even though it's animal print, it's pretty neutral, and more importantly, it's just a cool bag.