Cheryl shops...Banana Republic, the Gap, and Old Navy
On Saturday, armed with my friends & family 25%-off coupons (thanks, Tina!), I decided to hit Banana, Gap, and Old Navy (I only had coupons for Gap and Banana, but I figured I'd check out Old Navy for good measure, since they're all owned by the same company) on lower 5th and 6th Avenues. All three stores have major fall-transitional merchandise, much of which is extremely cute. I blew my budget at Gap (my first stop), so I didn't buy anything at Banana or Old Navy. But as soon as I get paid on Friday...heh heh. Anyway, here is my store-by-store breakdown, including items that get the Cheryl Shops seal of approval.

For fall, the Gap is all about pencil and pleated skirts, wide-leg trousers (long and cropped), shrunken jackets, and, of course, jeans. (Have you seen their new ad campaign with Sarah Jessica Parker, with the mix-and-match flaps? It's fun, and catchy!) These Gaucho pants caught my eye (MK, these are the pair I was talking about), but the sizing was a bit weird--I swam in the 10, and the 8 was a bit too fitted in the hips for my taste. (And, yes, now you all know what size I wear.) I also tried on the wide leg cuffed trousers, which have an interesting varigated stripe texture to them, but they were a bit too high-wasted for me. I ended up buying the flap pocket trousers, which fit almost as well as my beloved, falling-apart-at-the-seams Katayone Adeli dickies. As for skirts, they have an excellent stretch twill pencil skirt, which is a basic that every girl should own, especially since pencil skirts were all over the fall runways. They also have a Zac Posen-ish silk flutter skirt (it comes in jersey and cotton as well) that's great for more formal occasions. But I'm a sucker for pleated skirts, so I bought this one (it also comes in plaid and denim). Top-wise, I liked this Agnes B-ish striped T, the ruffle-trim wrap top, and the side-button sweater. Jacket-wise, I thought the cord blazer was cute, but I wasn't impressed by the color selection; I bought the stretch cotton blazer, which--aha!--goes with my pants and my pleated skirt. (I was able to convince myself that I needed a suit for job interviews and, hey, then it's tax-deductable!) And, best for last, bags: For some reason, they don't have most of the online bags in the actual store, and vice versa. At the store, they had two bags resembling this one, one of which was more of an oblong shape and the other of which was more like a tote--and had it not been $128, I definitely would've bought it. But, online, there are almost better bags: The suede tote (currently on backorder) looks like it should cost $500, the biker hobo just kicks ass, and the tweed tote screams fall--in a good way. Plus, according to the September Lucky, Gap will soon be offering custom tweed bags--you get to choose the exterior and lining combination. Sweet!

Banana Republic
Banana, as we know, is a little more sophisticated, and a little more expensive. For fall, they're big on silk and stretch wool; they're still definitely into the ladylike look. I thought this chevron dress was gorgeous (it comes in black too), and, at $168, a pretty good deal, all things considered. Their pants are pretty much a constant (I like the Martin cut), but they had a bunch of denim trousers, and the patch-pocket trouser jean looks like a universally flattering new staple. Back to nighttime-wear, this lace cap-sleeve top looks very Dolce & Gabbana, the ribbon camisole is very Balenciaga-three-years-ago (hey, I'm not complaining--it was a great collection!), and the embroidered cap sleeve shirt looks kinda Stella McCartney-ish to me. I like the scooter jacket--it reminds me of a motorcycle jacket they had a few years ago that practically every Banana in the country sold out of (I know this because I had them call and call and call, in vain, looking for it). Bag-wise, they had some great knockoffs in the store--a good imitation of the Balenciaga motorcycle bag and a more streamlined version of the Louella tote--but I thought the suede twist mini and the suede diamond twist bag were pretty innovative, design-wise. And, of course, I always end up spending most of my money at Banana on jewelry: My favorites are the filigree stone drop earrings, the draped stone drop necklace, and the leaf cluster necklace. Looks like Banana is moving away from silver and into gold...

Old Navy
I'm kind of bummed that I saved Old Navy for last, because it's the youngest, most fun, and cheapest of the three. It's also the store that most blatantly rips off Marc Jacobs. These stretch cords are classic and come in fun colors, as are these stretch twill pants, which have an Alvin Valley-like wide waistband. I liked Old Navy's cord blazer better than Gap's (it comes in more colors in the store), and while I already own two red jackets, I might just have to get this epaulet jacket too. Do you need another denim skirt? Probably not, but the special edition mini and the pleated denim mini look just as good as what's for sale at Barneys--and you could buy, like, three of each for the price of one Citizens of Humanity skirt. I love this pointelle wrap sweater, and according to the fashion magazines, fair isle sweaters are in for fall. If you're not yet over clutches, check out this one, and I highly recommend the el-cheapola (but cute) metallic ballet flats (I have this style in black and, with the addition of insoles, they're quite comfortable). Ah, at these prices...

So, if you want to pick up some key fall pieces or just some fall basics, I definitely recommend hitting any of these three stores. You'll generally find the dressiest items at Banana and the most casual at Old Navy, with Gap falling somewhere in between. Obviously, I was most impressed by the Gap (where, strangely engouth, I tend to shop the least), but Banana always has the best accessories, and you can't beat Old Navy if you're on a budget. Whatever Gap Inc. has been doing lately (poaching Marc Jacobs' staff?), it's working.

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