December. The holidays. While this is a favorite time of year for many, its not the best time to be a resident. Winter time is dreary to begin with (well, at least in Minnesota), which makes the long days (or nights) at work seem even longer. But what makes it so much more depressing is knowing people are out enjoying “normal people” things. Things I wish I was doing. Decorating, cooking, getting dressed up, visiting with family and friends… that type of stuff. There are reminders everywhere of what we’re missing out on.
I don’t do a lot of gift giving with my family (only small gifts for immediate family), so the holiday season is a nice time for some guilt-free retail therapy. I’m trying to avoid buying (or keeping) items that I’m not 100% in love with. Its not easy to find items that qualify! My #1 criteria for clothes and shoes is comfort. If its not comfortable, I’m never going to wear it, no matter how amazing it looks! And especially for winter clothes, comfort is tied closely with quality (and frequently price). I have difficulty finding comfy, quality items at typical “blogger” retail sites (Ann Taylor, LOFT, J. Crew, Zara, H&M, etc). Items so often look amazing on bloggers. But then I try out the same item and am completely underwhelmed. Fabrics are itchy, cuts are unflattering and ill-fitting (especially at the bust and shoulders on top and hips and thighs on the bottom), threads are hanging off, buttons are falling off… yeah. I suppose I could wear the item for a few pictures and style it in a flattering way, too. But its not worth it. I don’t want to fill my closet with one-time-wear items that sit in my closet after their sole debut. I want items that I will reach for in the morning and feel good in all day.
I wish I had a long list of amazing, good quality, affordable items that I could share with you. But honestly, I don’t. You already know about my J. Crew Elsie pump obsession (in all varieties… suede, leather, metallic camo, and the fabric pair shown in these pics). These pumps were by far my favorite purchases this fall. The Chateau parka was a noteworthy runner-up, and the Boyfriend flannel shirt and Shearling-lined sweatshirt made it home with me, but in retrospect were too expensive for what they are. I have a couple of Yoox orders in process at the moment, but the problem with recommending items from yoox is that they’re sold out so quickly! I haven’t even received my orders yet and the only items that are still in stock are this John Richmond “face” top and this Cruciani cardigan.
The majority of my purchases continue to be pre-owned and likely many seasons old. This is the only reasonable way for me to afford quality items. Sure, many of the items will require a dry cleaning trip or some work at the tailor. But the overall cost of a pair of silk Chloe crops, for example, is still only slightly more than a new pair of Zara pants. And the extra cost and effort is worth it! The fabrics are so much nicer (way more comfy) and the fit is immensely more flattering. How do you feel about buying pre-owned?
I usually pick out at least one J. Crew coat to try on every year. This year I was immediately drawn to the Chateau Wool Parka. Its something different. Its not constrictive and figure hugging, but its still elegant in a more casual way… especially in this lighter “dusty ginger” color!
Sizing/ Fit: Nearly all of the reviews say to size down in this one, and I think I agree. My typically J. Crew shirt size is a 0, so I grabbed this coat in a 00 (regular, not petite). The coat fits exactly as I had hoped. Its not tight in any area, including the arms, so I have plenty of room for layering underneath. I prefer the regular version over the petite one. The regular gives me a bit more length in the body, which I appreciate. And the arms actually aren’t too long. But I typically prefer regular size shirts and blazers over the petite versions (I have broader shoulders and longer arms). If you typically wear petite sizes in those other styles, it may be worth giving the petite version a go.
Warmth: J. Crew calls this fabric “stadium-cloth wool.” Its their warmest wool type. This coat would be more than sufficient for most climates. I can wear it comfortably down to the 20’s, which is about my limit for any wool coat. The hood is nice and big and fits perfectly over any hat for a little extra coziness. And the front pockets are great for when you forget gloves.
Style/ Function: If you are going to buy this coat, make sure you realize that its A-line, as it says in the description. Its not going to flatter the figure in a curvy sort of way! If that doesn’t bother you, then I can only say good things about the rest of the details of this coat. It has an inner double zipper and outer snaps, making sure no cold air gets in. It has four nice and big front pockets either for storage or hand warmth! And it has one smaller hidden interior pocket The fur hood, like I said before, is nice and large. If fur isn’t your thing, don’t worry, its removable!
Quality: J. Crew quality is so hit or miss now-a-days. Thankfully, this coat is a hit. The fabric is great. It most closely resembles by Burberry Brit wool coat in weight and texture. The hardware is very sturdy, especially the large zipper. There aren’t any hanging threads or stitches coming out. Nothing to complain about, really.
Overall: I was surprised to love this coat as much as I do. When I wear it I feel wintery elegant… and warm! Its just plain expensive at $365. I got it on sale for about $270, which is still expensive, but at least that’s kind of reasonable. Of course, I’ll keep my eyes out for a better sale, but I doubt it’ll happen with this one.
Me vs. evil winter virus. I’m finally winning (after about 5 days of battle)! The viruses are really bad this year. All sorts of fevers, chills and night sweats (those are the worst) on top of the regular URI stuff. I spent my thanksgiving weekend alone, mostly sleeping. I felt like I was hit by a bus. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this week is my planned vacation. I’ll apparently spend it recovering.
While being only half-alive did keep me from going to any in-store sales, it didn’t stop me from turning on my pc every 4-6 hours (about the time my meds wore off) to browse the online sales stuff. I’ve received a few items so far. Some are keepers, some will go back without a second thought! I’ll share the good ones…
I do a good amount of J. Crew shopping during the holidays when the sales are good and the prices are reasonable. I’ve bought a few more than a few pairs of elsie pumps so far this fall (beige suede, black suede, black/white plaid fabric and pink leather). I love them all… they’ve added so much to my wardrobe! I decided to add one last pair to the collection this weekend… metallic camo! I’d love to wear these with black trousers and a neutral top! I’m selling a bunch of less comfortable pumps to make way for these (no point in having gorgeous yet uncomfortable shoes sitting in the closet). I also grabbed a boyfriend flannel shirt (great for layering or wearing alone and surprisingly flattering), the shearling-lined sweatshirt (not overly flattering, but adorable in a cozy sort of way) and the oversize stripe turtleneck (love the style and fit, quality is just ok). I do have a few basic items on the way: the Thomas mason boy shirt and the Thomas mason french cuff shirt. I love a flattering plain white blouse!
My other go-to holiday retailer is Yoox.com. Yoox offers designer items at deeply discounted prices (items that make it to the end-of-season sales are eventually are 80% off). The items are typically a season or so old, which isn’t a big deal to me. I typically shop for high quality, classic items (black pants, cashmere sweaters, etc). I have a few pairs of black wool pants on there way right now! They’re offering an extra 25% off today, and I’m debating trying out a few new sweaters (I’m thinking this toasty Golden Goose turtleneck or something similarly cozy)… I can always return them when I realize I’ve overspent. Or step up my eBay selling!
I hope you had a good (perhaps long?) weekend! Make sure you take care of yourself and stay healthy