On Shopping: Ca$hmere, or why I’m not shopping at J.Crew anymore

A couple of months ago, in a rare move outside of my black cardi comfort zone, I bought this cashmere cardi online at J.Crew:

It was on sale, there was some kind of further promotion that may or may not have involved free shipping (rare to Canada) and I had long admired the colour and cut of these very cardigans in action on the exquisite and (sadly) now defunct  blog Orchids in Buttonholes.

When it arrived I was mildly disappointed that the colour was not quite what had been represented on-line–I was expecting a wine-dark purple and this is more grape juice than wine–but that is the nature of the beast of on-line shopping.  And it is still a lovely colour.  And the cut and the pearly buttons are just 50s enough to thrill me to the core.  In fact, the first time I wore it, with a pencil skirt of course, one of my colleagues remarked on my Mad Men aesthetic.  Dorky FTW, or so I thought.

After a single wearing, and not even a long day’s wear, there was a lot of pilling.  Too much for the price tag, even the sale price tag, of the sweater.  So I made enquiries at J.Crew and was told that pilling is a natural process for natural fibres.

Bullshit, J.Crew.  Do you think I’m some kind of idiot?  Pilling might be inevitable with natural fibres, but tightness of weave and knit in quality products should prevent pilling for some time.  And this amount of pilling after one wear is unacceptable.  The sweater, now a couple of months old, is so covered in pills that it looks shabby.

J.Crew has lost my custom.  And not just because of this experience, though this sealed the deal.  Items on the Canadian site are more expensive, apparently because the company is offloading the cost of producing a French site onto the consumer, but I am more bothered by the fact that J.Crew does not allow for customer reviews.  Had I known that this sweater would pill like it did, I would not have bought it, even on sale.  Little wonder that they want their customers to remain silent.

We are breaking up, J.Crew.  It was a very brief fling that began with your giddy entree into the Canadian market but this Canadian is worth more than you have to offer.*

But there is some good news.  I have had nothing but great customer service from Golightly Cashmere** (who I found thanks to a review on Passage des Perles).

I’ve had this Golightly Cashmere hat for two years.  I wear it every day of the winter and still no pilling. It’s really hard to take a picture of yourself in a hat, as it turns out.

I’ve had these Golightly Cashmere Arm Warmers for about the same amount of time.  I wear them almost everyday, indoors and out.  No pilling.  Plus hipster cred. And warm zombie arms.

Both Amid Privilege and Passage des Perles swear by Brora and Eric Bompard.  Not much more expensive than the full-price cardis at J.Crew and probably well worth the extra.  I’m saving up, and waiting for the sales.

Because I’m worth it.

Did you miss me StyleNation?

* To be fair, I don’t hate this shirt.

**This is an independent endorsement.  Golightly Cashmere doesn’t even know I blog.  Neither does my Mum.

Dress vs. Dress

As I mentioned last week, it’s starting to warm up here at IPF South, making it a good time to continue an ongoing process of evaluating what should stay in my wardrobe and what should leave. Today and yesterday I broke out two dresses that I haven’t worn in a while (and only one has been on the blog before) in order to determine what to do with them. Neither was an unqualified success or disaster. Both however made me think about the way I shop: that I tend to buy the same shapes again and again (which is generally good, I think) but don’t think enough about whether the colors/ patterns are ones that I actually like to wear.
Wednesday’s dress:
Dress: MaxStudio
Black top: Joe
Black tights: Target
Gold flats: Nine West
Black & white bracelet: gifted
I really like this dress intellectually. It’s flattering. It’s comfortable. It washes well. I bought it in Vegas so it’s got all sorts of fun memories attached to it. But I’ve worn it twice in the nearly two years I’ve had it — suggesting that I don’t actually like wearing it, which is sort of important. I think one of the obstacles to wearing it is that I need to wear something under it for teaching/ daytime wear but my ideas for colors to wear underneath end at black, white and blue (and I don’t actually own any blue layering pieces). I’m going to hang onto it for another 6 months. If I don’t wear it again, it’s time to release it to the wild.
Today’s dress (today’s not a teaching day but a working in a coffeeshop day — hence the more casual styling and the bare legs with a fairly short skirt):

Dress: Old Navy
Blue flats: Joe
Blue cuff: The Bay
With this dress, on the other hand, I’m declaring defeat. I just don’t like wearing it. I like it on Rebecca of MinnChic who has it in blue. I don’t even mind the way it looks on me. But I prefer a straighter skirt on an empire waisted dress. The slight a-line on this one makes the skirt feel perilously short to me at moments and makes it more susceptible to be getting caught in today’s wind. I’m also not in love with its scoop neck.
All of this reminds me of a shopping lesson I seem to need to learn repeatedly: being more mindful when I’m shopping — paying attention to more than just price and a generic sense of fit & general flattering-ness. As I’ve also discovered with buying the same piece in multiple colors, the lady magazine advice to find a shape that works for you and then keep buying it is perhaps best used in moderation.
What other shopping lessons do you need to learn repeatedly? And what colors would you wear with black and blue?

On Shopping: Yoga, Ethics, Farting

We interrupt your regularly scheduled No Repeats programme to bring you the following. Because I am still in my pyjamas and have been for the last three days. 
 À propos of nothing, then, let the record show that the yoga virtuoso directly behind me in last night’s ashtanga class treated every pose as “wind-relieving” posture. This was by turns distracting, amusing, and horrifying – but at least I wasn’t directly behind herI have to hope that the flatulent virtuoso will, in future, return to the expert-level classes in which she clearly belongs. Unless I take (sartorial) action, however, and minus her windy distractions in next week’s class, I predict I shall resume worrying that my boobs are going to poing out during the next inverted pose.

In short and to sum up: it’s time for a top that has more structural integrity. And since Lululemon is crappily unethical, Dudegirl (yes, that’s their actual brand name) – as suggested by Style Underdog last June (in a conversation that I cannot find) – may be the answer. In fact, the Saguaro Tank in either peacock and seaglass (shown in second photo) or black and seaglass (first photo, far right) may be exactly what I need. See?
image from Dudegirl.com
image from Dudegirl.com

That said, I have a question. Why do brands that profess interest in ethical manufacturing rarely speak to the working conditions of those who actually manufacture their commodities? Shouldn’t human rights and ethical labour practices be tied more directly to “greenness”? Currently, my “right” to not harm the environment through shopping appears to trump the rights of workers to not work in sweatshops.

Am I wrong, StyleNation?
Also, ‘see you next year! Have a lovely time this eve, whatever your plans.

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

As has become a tradition here at In Professorial Fashion, today’s post takes a look through my shoe collection. A near unhealthy obsession with shoes is de rigueur at all of the IPF locations and I clearly am no exception as these are most, but not quite all, of my shoes. Some of these you’ve seen, most you haven’t. One of the things that has been a great and unexpected bonus of fashion blogging (besides, you, our dear readers) has been the way that it’s led me to wear shoes & articles of clothing that I haven’t before or in a while. Shoe-wise, it has also helped that I teach in the same building as my office this term so that I don’t have to schlep across campus. Also, the library delivers books to my office. This is the greatest thing ever FYI. So here goes…

The Neutrals:

Black & bronze pumps (Nine West); Grey patent pumps (Madden Girl): Black patent pumps (Joe — more grocery store $3 shoes. Yes, $3)

Pros: As they’re neutral, they’re pretty all purpose & certainly professional.
Cons: They’re slightly boring (except for the grey patents which I LOVE); the Joe ones in particular look slightly school-marmy. The Nine Wests have stiletto heels which I’m not super adept in.
Solutions: Compensate with more colorful outfits? Really, there’s no real problems with these.

Colorful Heels:

Pink patent pumps (Nine West); Red patent heels (Max Studio); Blue pumps (Reaction Kenneth Cole)

Pros: They are awesome. I’m a big fan of the “pop of color” shoe. The blue ones saw Cher at A-Dub’s Vegas bachelorette extravaganza. The pink ones made an appearance at A-Dub’s wedding extravaganza. Apparently, A-Dub’s themed occasions bring out the colorful heels. And extravaganzas.
Cons: The blue ones are probably half a size too small. The red ones (which the picture do not do justice too) are, again, stilettos and slightly taller than I’m comfortable in but soo beautiful.
Solutions: Again, no real problems with these guys. Besides a helpful reminder that I stop buying shoes with stiletto heels (though I think this is the final pair I’ve bought).

The Wedges:

Nude patent (Nine West); Bronze (Etienne Angier); Grey Plaid (Gap Outlet)

Pros: Easier to walk in. More comfortable over a longer period of time. Frankly, I don’t wear these enough.
Cons: No cons here.
Solutions: Wear these WAY more. Hope they never fall apart.


Black patent (Target); “Snakeskin” (Old Navy); Brown (Joe — these are also leather which I just discovered which is awesome for what I paid for them. In other news, I’m desperately trying not to think about why they’re so cheap); Gold (Nine West)

Pros: As I’ve mentioned before, flat (particularly colorful ones) are a wardrobe workhorse for me. While these are my more neutral ones, they all get a lot of wear as well. I find they’re often not as comfortable as they should be. But that’s partly because I don’t think I paid more than $20 for any of them. And less than $10 for most of them. So really, what can I expect?
Cons: No real cons here either. Though perhaps I should look into insoles.
Solutions: Keep going into the grocery store that sells the greatest cheap flats anytime I’m in Canada. For reals, Superstore — I miss you like crazy. Way more than Tim Horton’s which I’m supposed to be pining for as an expat.

The Utterly Impractical:

Bronze (Nine West); T-straps (Seychelles)

Pros: They are awesome. And, someday, I will be the kind of person who will able to walk in these. Seriously. I’m working on it. Also, I think the photo doesn’t do the heel height justice.
Cons: The bronze ones are appropriate only in Vegas. These are exactly the kind of heels that Margaret Atwood means when she’s talking about heels as a tool of patriarchal oppression.
Solutions: Go to Vegas. A lot. Learn to walk in these so that I can literally be six feet tall.

Overall Thoughts: Apparently, Nine West has my number. I also seemingly refuse to remove the stickers from inside my shoes.

Sometimes It Just Helps to Shop

So today is the final weekday before the term starts. Both yesterday and today have been jampacked with errands in an attempt to get ahead of the term a little bit. Yesterday I went for coffee with one of the new hires in my department which went really well and met friends for $2 beers. Today, I got my headsuit altered, my car got its safety inspection, later the mini-FR gets to audition for doggie daycare, and tonight is the department meet n’ greet–an event that feels SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful now that I’m no longer one of the newbies.

I wanted something casual today then that could, with minimal fuss, transition into the department event.

Dress: Max Studio
T-shirt: Gap Outlet
Sandals: Birkenstocks

It’s nothing fancy but I think with a silver necklace & cuff and different shoes it’ll work for a casual event with colleagues.

And after I got my hair cut this morning, I succumbed to Target’s siren song where I bought a couple of shirts and a pair of shorts to replace a pair I got gum on when sitting down on the bus to Steeltown earlier in the summer while visiting Rinty the Crusher & Early Modern Cool Kid. One of the shirts I got made the cut for my first day of school outfit. It might be a little warm — though it’s supposed to be a balmy 93/34 so after the last two weeks of 100+, I can probably handle short sleeves.

Shirt: Target

Skirt: Old Navy
Necklace: Forever 21

I’m still working out this whole “photo taking” thing, I wasn’t able to get my shoes in. I’m planning on wearing the ones below:

Grey patent pumps: Madden Girl from the Macy’s Shoe Sale

And, because I forgot to include them before, these are the patent nude wedges that I would save in case of fire. They rule.
Nude patent wedges: Nine West

Who else finds that sometimes doing a little bit of shopping is all you need to do to re-think what you already own?

On Shopping: Medievalist vs The Gap

Wordy, ranty post. I’m just warning you.

Remember these jeans? I know. We’d rather not. But I was on a quest for baggy ankle length (relatively cheap) skinnies and I momentarily erred. I returned them with nary a blink; in fact, The Gap didn’t even need my credit card to return them because they had it on file, which gave me pause. In any case, I thought I had found my baggy ankle-length skinny, again at The Gap, with their straight leg, some-other-descriptive-detail jeans, which Sales Associate Hilary was super-helpful with. I bought them on sale and with an extra 25% discount for about $50.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t wear them for a month (it turns out for exactly a month) and I have FIVE other pairs of jeans, not including the pair I just put in the giveaway pile. So I decided I didn’t need these extra Gap jeans I hadn’t even worn yet. Because obviously I don’t.
But here’s the catch. I (somehow) did not have my receipt for the jeans. This is rare as I am a chronic returner and never throw out receipts; A-Dubs calls me a Shopping Bulimic, which is alarmingly accurate. So yesterday, after a very productive, yet very trying, day that included a scheduled meeting with a colleague and a long, unscheduled lunch with another colleague, I decided (stupidly) to drive to the mall and return my unworn, still-with-the-tags-on jeans. Without the receipt but I was resigned to settling for a credit note if I had to.
You have 30 days to return things to The Gap. After that Sales Associates who were willing to search for your saved credit card via the computer will tell you they can do nothing for you. I left The Gap grumpy but then returned because I knew I was being fed a line to get rid of me–there is always something someone can do. I have worked retail. A lot. Usually as the non-manager underling unable to do a complicated return who is the first line of defense against an unhappy customer.
So I returned, because I was ONE DAY late returning the jeans (and there was a stat holiday during that time so I think I was on Day 30 anyway) and I asked if they could make an exception and I requested that I speak to the Manager. At which point the Sales Associate informed me, as she had not done so the first time I met with her, that she could issue me a credit for the current sale price of the jeans ($30 less than what I paid for them) despite the fact that the price tag was still attached to the jeans. I explained to her that I could produce a credit card receipt, if not a Gap receipt, to prove that I paid what I said (and what the tag said) I paid for the jeans. She said she had no way of knowing that I was telling the truth. Again I asked to speak to the Manager, whom she called.
The Manager was more sympathetic and friendlier than The Sales Associate and explained to me that there was little she could do because the computer system wouldn’t let her do anything. I suggested that there were probably manual overrides for the computer system and that if she needed to discuss the situation with a Regional Manager, I was willing to wait. She figured out a way to do the return. I have to wait for it to come in the mail, but it is for the full purchase price. I thanked The Manager and plan to write a letter to her boss commending her on her handling of the situation.
Here’s the thing. The Sales Associate was less than helpful, even skirted the territory of calling me a liar and she really did not have any proof that I wasn’t lying, I suppose. Still, why is assuming I am lying the first option? Though I think I kept my cool (even though I was seething) I know I was short and less than pleasant and, I’m sure of it, condescending. AND I was (technically) one day late returning the jeans, so she was justified, via her training, in refusing me help, even though she knew that The Manager could help me.
Now, I have a great job. It’s stressful. Very. But I have also worked at The Gap. For me, working at The Gap was a nightmare, with very poor remuneration and no benefits and little to no respect but I was a teenager at the time and The Sales Associate was not a teenager. I think that I pulled rank on her; she was not friendly or helpful but she has a super-crappy job, which I well know, and I no longer have a super-crappy job. Even though I was “triumphant” in my return quest, I was very unsettled by having to be a bitch about it, even though I knew I would have to be to get the staff at The Corporation Known As The Gap to do what I knew they were able to do. I resent this. I don’t resent the staff, who are only doing what they are corporate-trained to do, but I do resent the Corporation, who has put their employees in this first-defense position against reasonable requests.
I was super unsettled and ornery for the rest of the day and evening and I think it was because I don’t like having to be a bitch. But since when is being firm and reasonable and refusing to allow a Corporation to dictate their own version of reasonable to me, “being a bitch”? Since when is being firm and reasonable about anything “being a bitch”? This is a longer discussion that has more to do with things more important than shopping, but this post is already too long.
Finally, since I can’t have a post without a picture, let’s all admire my new boots again:
Yes, I am wearing them with my pyjamas.
Are you submitting photos? You should! You have until Friday.

On Shopping: London Styles

So I’m going to London. I’m not going to visit the Queen because she was just here. And I think she is an outmoded figurehead anyway (though—embarrassing admission—I did get up at 4am with the rest of my family to see Diana marry Charles and my gran sent me all of the English papers which I poured over. I was kind of underwhelmed by her dress and I thought her hair looked squashed, but I loved her shoes. I had a very critical fashion eye even as a pre-teen. And I liked seed pearls and heart shapes.).

But I digress. While I am going for work, I’m also going to squeeze in some fun (aka shopping). Where I live now is laughably free from good shopping options (Literally laughable, as in I had a huge guffaw over the advertising campaigns for summer tourism that touted the “great shopping” here. Yeah, great shopping if you’ve never heard of The Gap, though we did just get H&M. Teenagers wept with joy when it opened.).

Here are some places I am definitely going to hit up in Ole Blighty:

Marks & Spencer: for sundries, as noted below. We don’t need to go over that again.

Topshop: the one on Oxford St. because I love the bottom floor especially for the local designer duds.

Liberty’s: mostly just to punish myself, though the sales will be on but picked over. I love everything about the aesthetics of the shop, especially the staircases, though I really cannot afford to shop there. They still let me in though.

Selfridges: not as lovely as Liberty and I can’t afford Selfridges proper but they have that section with an omnibus of all the high street shops. Efficiency is key.

Bloch: for ballet flats.

Comptoir des Cottoniers: on the King’s Road, although French sizing is even more devastating than UK sizing.

Fortnum & Mason: for the smoky Earl Grey.

Spitalfield’s Market: Friday for fashion, I think, but Sunday is fun and insane.

Lamb’s Conduit: lovely street near where I used to live with pretty, independent boutiques and a bespoke tailor. I love the look of bolts of suiting fabric.

I hope I have time to fit in some research.

I’m considering flying over with an extra empty suitcase (I will also be buying a lot of books. For reals.). I covet this carry-on wheelie from Heys for its mod-ness but I already have a boring old grey one that is perfectly serviceable. Dammit.

Plus it’s sold out. Dammit.

Any further suggestions, Gentle Readers?

Where do you like to shop when you are in London leading your glamourous lives?

On Shopping: Your M&S

So I’ve dropped the ball again.
This is Friday and remember how last Friday I was going to take part in Modly Chic’s Friend Friday Project? Well, I’m not doing that today. Modly Chic has come up with a series of very compelling questions about fashion and narcissism and blogging, but my brain just isn’t up to the task. Plus I sort of forgot it was Friday.
You should definitely check out Grit and Glamour and The Chotto Coquette who have very eloquently answered the challenge. And I think A-Dubs may take it up as well because she’s always got my back and she is a much more savvy and lucid cultural critic than I. Her work in cultural studies is brilliant.
But here is something related:
I’m going to London next week for a conference and some face time with old books but I’m most looking forward to my knickers pilgrimage to Marks & Sparks. They have the best cotton undies in the history of the world and I have never found the equivalent on this side of the pond.
Is blogging about my underwear narcissistic?

On Shopping: Step away from the credit card, ma’am

I’m still immersed in writing and revising around the giant cat who insists on sitting on my lap while I work. And I’ve put a moratorium on moving my arse out of this chair until I get this done; the immovable Vampire Cat helps with this. This means no quick trips to the coffee place up the road where all of the employees are beautiful and they roast their own fair trade beans (those two things are unrelated but I feel like there might be an off-colour joke in there somewhere).

No going for a quick run across the bridge and back three times (three miles; that really is a photo of my bridge though I did not take it). No sitting on my balcony with a cup of lapsang souchong for a quick 15 minute break.

As I noted earlier however, my self-imposed exile does not apply to blogs nor, apparently, to internet shopping. Here are two things I absolutely did not need but bought anyway out of desperation for some distraction:

Tara Subkoff for Easy Spirit peep-toe pumps, used but not at all, via The Laws of General Economy. I’m going to get a pedi, wear a cheerful circle skirt and pepper my conversation with the word “swell” because of these lovely shoes.

Manor Garden silkscreen print via Etsy seller mengseldesigns. I’m going to hang it above my desk so I can gaze at its perfectly-ordered symmetry while I wrestle with my florid, hackneyed prose. Thanks to WWNW for the introduction (pssst, check out the giveaway she’s hosting).
I also bought an airline ticket to London. I leave the fur treasures the end of next week to present a paper at some big deal international conference and to hunch over some moldy manuscripts in chilly reading rooms under the watchful eye of miserable librarians.
I love my life. I know that’s dorky when there are cynical, beautiful barristas in the world, but I do.

On Shopping: Yoga Wear

Grad School, a mild obsession with bum-enhancing loungewear, and a series of generous gift cards have given me a solid collection of Lululemon yoga pants. When I started doing yoga I came to appreciate the awesome utility of said pants. And even though my new city has a Lululemon store, my schedule, my budget, and a concerted effort to give Mr. Visa a much-needed break have kept me from acquiring more yoga gear.

I’ve resolutely worked out in one of two tops with one of two sports bras (acquired back when I was a runner – gah. running flashback. I hate running).Even when one of my students showed up in my favourite yoga class, I made myself keep going. And I made myself believe the loose T that rides up and shows my stomach in downward dog was fine; if she wanted to invade my non-Dr.Dubs time, she could just endure all associated sights.

But now it’s summer, things are sweatier, and I REALLY want cropped yoga pants that do not chafe in alarming places.In fact, I want these:

Lululemon “Clam Digger II”

And maybe I’d need to do less pre-class steeling of my body-image-resolve if I had this awesome tank/sports bra thingy to keep key areas covered:

Lululemon “Scoopneck Tank”

And it’s been quite rainy this spring, so if I’m going to the store anyway, what if I also picked up this jacket?

Lululemon “Apres Yoga Jacket”

Reasons to hesitate: D-Med’s and my occasionally hyperbolic friend, A, informed me last summer that (1) spending up to $100 on one piece of workout wear constitutes a$$holery, and (2) wearing the pants outside the gym is akin to demanding that members of the general public think sexual thoughts about one’s buttocks.Having researched for a woman who routinely wore her lululemons as dress pants (seriously – complete with strappy heels and flowered blouses), I have to agree with A’s second point (and I would add that said pants are definitely NSFW).

But what about A’s first critique?Especially when we figure in the part where Lululemon, despite their brand’s dedication to “the yoga lifestyle” and all the freedoms said lifestyle supposedly enables, does not seem concerned about sweatshop labour in the offshore factories where their garments are produced?

So maybe I’m not getting these awesome things. But where can I get some appropriate gear, then?