Saturday, November 13, 2010

Are You Faux Real?

We all need a little help from our friends – or even our friends' friends. Of course I could say that I have this great eye for all things fashion and that I always know where to score the best bargain, but I would be exaggerating. Although I am pretty damn good at it, I am not going to claim the title of "expert" just yet. So, even I, a reliable resource for style on a budget, at times have to look to others when I reach a fashion impasse.
During the past two years, along with "Mission: Skinny Jeans," I have also been on the hunt for the perfect vintage fur or faux fur jacket. I can't put a finger on what motivated me in this search, but I have invested many months, fruitlessly attempting to uncover this elusive treasure. I scoured department stores, discount stores, flea markets, and thrift stores. I stalked eBay auctions and QVC, leaving no stone unturned. Or so I thought.
You know I love Manhattan. I cannot say enough great things about my chosen city. Here I can order delivery from almost every restaurant via Seamless Web. I do not have to venture further than one block for pizza at 2 am. I can satisfy my fountain Diet Coke craving at any hour. I have both great department stores and cute little boutiques at my shopping disposal, not to mention an almost infinite number of designer resale shops. The museums are among the best in the world. Until recently, however, Manhattan has lacked some popular Big Box Stores.
Okay, I do NOT, I repeat - DO NOT - want a Wal-Mart in Manhattan. However, the fact that we only recently gained a Target seems a little behind the times. I love Target. Of course, I never really shopped there, but was enamored with the discount store since high school, because they were the only retailer at the time that sold my then-beloved make-up brand Jane. During college I also was able to do a little necessities shopping there, but there was no Target near my home in Maryland. Even the new Target in Manhattan is not incredibly convenient to me, so I have never really explored all that "Tar-jay" has to offer...until last weekend.
I was at this party Saturday night, hanging out in the ever-so-trendy Meatpacking district. Later in the evening, a friend met me at the bar. She arrived with her two other friends, one of whom was wearing the most adorable cropped faux fur jacket. After eyeing it with jealousy for a few minutes, I told my friend how much I coveted her friend's jacket. You can imagine the shock I experienced when I learned that this fabulous faux was from none other than Target!! The one on 117th Street! It had been just purchased that day - for the amazing bargain price of $45.
I was immediately taken aback. Then, I looked this girl straight in the eye and said:
"I love it. I'm buying it tomorrow."
And so I did. After some marathon watching in the early afternoon, I hopped the 6 train to 116th, made a beeline straight to the clothing racks and honed in on the Merona Aimee Jacket. (Despite looking quite awkward on model, I promise you it is fabulous.) And, if I had any doubts that this jacket was amazing only in my own mind, they evaporated on Tuesday at work when many coworkers told me how much they loved it. They too were impressed that it came from Target, and when asked whether I would mind if they too bought one, who was I to say no? It wasn't my find to take credit for.
So there you go. Yet another place you might not think of when embarking on the quest for that perfect fill-in-the-blank. I certainly learned a valuable lesson: When I fear that I have lost the mark in my search for that one elusive, wardrobe enhancing item, some friendly guidance may bring me back on track. And in this particular case? All I have to say is: Right on, Target!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

GAP is the new Black

In my very first blog post, I shared my triumph in finding the perfect pair of skinny jeans. Since then, I added to my closet a pair of gray skinnies purchased at a sample sale and a pair of Paige ankle length skinny jeans, but felt that my wardrobe was still lacking a great pair in black. Yes, adding a pair of pants to the wardrobe of a girl who spends more time in leggings than anything else probably seems a little pointless, but I was on a mission nonetheless.

My quest would always begin at Bloomingdale's: I would go in every so often and try on a few pairs, but each time they just never fit right. Too much of a jegging (I shudder to have to say that word, blech), or not enough of a skinny leg. I was frustrated, but never in too much of a hurry because, as a someone who lives in leggings, I was not in a rush to find the perfect pair. Little did I know, however, was that I would find the Holy Grail of skinny jeans at none other than this little retailer known as The Gap.

If you have been flipping through the fashion magazines this fall, or noticing bus stop advertising, you probably are aware that The Gap has revamped itself yet again. They have heavily advertised their new black work pant, as well as the denim legging. At first I was deterred by the term "Denim Legging" thinking it was just another euphemism for "Jegging." But, as Gap's Friends and Family rolled around, I realized I was terribly mistaken about the new Gap denim. In fact, I was so wrong, because these jeans are so right!

They are the perfect blend of stretch and structure. Color and comfort. A lot of pizazz for a little price. Okay so black pants can't really have pizazz per se, but these are most definitely a kick ass pair of skinny jeans. And the best part, they retail for only $69.50. Even better: The Gap is almost always having a sale or promotion, so there is a chance you can purchase a pair for as low as $35.

Sure, I had to go a size up (a girl's gotta accommodate for larger thighs: accept it, own it), but because they are stretch, I had no issues with the waist being too large. So after fruitlessly scouring department store racks I have now learned that if you are searching for black skinny jeans, you do not need to look for a designer label to provide the fit and style that you crave. If nothing else, it is another good reason to mind The Gap.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On A Shoestring

Just because this blog is dedicated to style on a budget, and I cringe at the thought of paying retail for almost anything, it does not mean that sometimes when I flip through a magazine or read another style blog, I am not envious of the items I can not afford. I could rattle off a laundry list of my most desired pieces, but would have to forfeit months of rent to buy any of them. These would include:

Hermes Collier De Chien
Proenza Schouler PS1 Bag
Alexander Wang Rocco Duffel
Almost any pair of Givenchy shoes
Miu Miu loafers either studded or leopard
Loubutin booties

The point is: if I had endless sums of money, there are things I would snap up in a heartbeat, and there are many days that I dream of not having to crunch numbers to keep my monthly budget out of the red. But alas, this is not the case. Instead, I try to drive home my position that when it comes to lack of money: a little extra thought goes a long way.

It was the Bloomingdale's semi-annual shoe sale: buy two or more pairs and get an extra 20% off your purchase. I had found two great shoes, a BCBG patent wedge, and Betsey Johnson spectator Mary Janes.

There was only one problem: the Mary Janes had THE ugliest choice of laces. They were a black and white satin ombre, and they made the shoes look incredibly cheap and tacky. But instead of deciding the shoes were unfit to buy, thereby forfeiting my extra discount, I took some time to brainstorm.

Have you ever been to M&J Trim? Go. It is amazing. It is the kind of store that makes you wish you could sew. Unless you do sew, well, then it is a mecca of crystal, applique and ribbon, oh the glorious ribbon: M&J has an almost infinite selection. With this tidbit of knowledge, rather than hastily tossing the shoes aside, I decided to purchase them, and throw the laces out instead.

Now not only do I not have hideous ombre ribbon shoelaces on my funky Mary Janes, I have a multitude of alternatives. I purchased a few different options, black with white trim, black with gold, thin, thick, velvet, satin, and all for a total purchase price under $5!!



Under $5!!

This little discovery is part of the same theory that sometimes you have to alter a garment to make it not only fit your body, but fit your style too. M&J is a great source of products and inspiration that can instantly turn plain into perfection. Atrocious into awe-inspiring. Fine into fabulous. (You get the picture.)

So, if you have not yet figured it out, my point is this: do not overlook something that may only be just shy of amazing, because alterations are almost always an option. And this argument does not only apply to clothes, as clearly demonstrated here. It is all about looking beyond the obvious, something anyone on a budget has to challenge themselves to do every time they go shopping. Sure, even I get sick of constantly having to play mind meld with my clothes to feel like I'm changing up my style; and yes, sometimes I just want to walk into Barneys and--without remorse--buy something I find intrinsically cool, but that is not an option for me.

So there you have it, yet another example of how powerful the creative mind can be. And even if you do not have an item in your wardrobe that needs a little alternation or sprucing up, making a trip to the Garment District may help feed your creativity. Just take a stroll on 6th Avenue between 34th and 40th street, and you are bound to be inspired; because with a well-trimmed budget, your wardrobe will not seem like it is hanging by a thread.

You can find
M&J Trim at 1008 6th Avenue

~~Thanks to my guest editor Kendria for all her help on this post! Check out her blog Random Acts of Kendy for great stories, including one about me!~~

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Wanna Be Rick

Rick Owens is a master of leather: his jackets are sublime, but they definitely require a certain level of income to acquire. But as you probably already know, I am not one to ever let a lack of funds for exorbitant purchases get me down; because where there is a will, there is always a way. I consistently say that personal style is the mark of a creative mind, and while you can always go into a store and buy an outfit off a mannequin, it takes a little imagination and a lot of resourcefulness to think outside the box. And then there are those instances when out of the blue, you have a fashion revelation.

For me, this revelation occurred at work one day, when I was wearing an Alice & Olivia drape front cashmere sweater, topped by my Premise leather moto jacket. Both pieces are already a few seasons old, but since I don't believe in throwing out perfectly amazing garments just because their "season" has passed, they are still regular staples in my wardrobe. A cashmere drape cardigan is ALWAYS a classic, and a leather motorcycle jacket never goes out of style, especially if you buy quality pieces that will last a lifetime.

So there I was, getting ready to head out for the day, and I happened to zip up my jacket with the cardigan draping outside the lapels. Immediately it came to me how much it reminded me of the Rick Owens Blister Jacket I had been coveting!
While this new combination certainly cannot compare to the real thing, it makes me just as happy, and saved me about $2000. (Not like I would ever spend that much money on a jacket if I had it, a Chanel bag...maybe.) Just more proof that you do not need thousands of dollars to look like a million bucks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's A Cinch!

If you knew me as a kid - okay probably even through my early years in New York - you would know that I was never the most independent person. You would also know that, up until a few years ago, I was petrified of the phone. Oh what the hell, I'll admit it, there were A LOT of things I felt uncomfortable doing. But living in New York helped me get over that, and fast: this city will eat you alive if you don't have the proper armor. Aside from learning to embrace the telephone, I have become the queen of trying almost anything, especially when it comes to getting my way with fashion. My motto is: It never hurts to ask.

Let me elaborate by way of a little life anecdote: one concerning my infatuation with belts, studs, and long walks on beautiful summer days. It all started with one of the many blogs I read. I spotted a wonderful BCBG Belt pictured on a blogger, and was immediately seduced by it's amazingness. After checking on-line, however, I realized it was $128. While I am willing to spend $128 on many things (shoes, dresses, anything more expensive on sale), that price for a belt is, in my humble opinion, completely and utterly absurd. I quickly tossed the idea of the belt into the trash, and moved on.

Later in the summer however, I was at a bar in the West Village, and spotted a girl wearing the belt. I was so envious. I wanted it, I coveted it, but couldn't bear the thought of spending so much on it. As I lamented to my friend, she let me know that BCBG was having a sale. Although their website did not show the belt discounted, one beautiful summer afternoon, I decided to stop inside my neighborhood outpost to do a little investigating. To my surprise and delight, there was one black studded belt left in the 70% off bin. I snatched it up. It was too big, but I assumed my shoe guy could make the appropriate adjustments. I left the store, extremely excited by my new $40 purchase.

Once out of the store with my "FINAL SALE" stamped receipt, I started to get a little nervous. What if the shoe guy couldn't make it smaller? Did I just spend $40 on a useless item? Then I thought: Sure it says final sale, but if I can find the belt in a smaller size at another store, how could they not make the exchange? As a seasoned New York shopper, I knew all the other BCBG locations, and was ready to take a nice tour of the city. First stop was the Madison Avenue boutique. No luck there. I continued my search, trekking my way down 5th Avenue, and peeked inside the shop across from the public library.

Lo and behold, there it was, like an oasis in the desert: one last belt, size Medium. It fit perfectly. I seized it in excitement, and took it to the register:

Me: "Hi, I have a question. I purchased this belt on sale at the store uptown. It's a large and a bit too big. I know it's final sale, but I was hoping, that since your belt in a medium is the same item, that I could exchange it for the smaller size."

Salesgirl, incredulously: "This belt isn't on sale."

Me, confused: "Well here is the receipt. The woman checked a binder and it definitely said 70% off."

Salesgirl: "The brown one is on sale, not the black one. Let me check." She flips through a binder of SKUs, not sure what she is looking for. "I can't seem to find anything." She calls over the manager and explains my situation. The manager agrees to make the exchange. Triumph.

So there I was with a belt in my size, 70% off, that was apparently not on sale. Even to this day (and do not think I do not check from time to time!), it has never gone on sale. It is a life lesson all fashion obsessed girls on a budget should know: It is EASY to ask, and you may just get the deal of a lifetime.