I remember how I felt when I first started using eBay back in high school. I was nervous… and a bit overwhelmed. But I was so excited about potentially being able to buy items that I couldn’t otherwise afford with my $6/hr cashier job. I made a purchase or two every month. Some worked out… some didn’t. Over time I got more and more competent at buying pre-owned. Now-a-days I’d I can find deals on just about anything I’m looking for (if there are deals to be had).
Some years I shop on eBay extremely often, and other years the purchases are few and far between. If you read this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve made significantly more pre-owned purchases than new ones this year. There are a few reasons for this. First, it seemed as though every blogger was starting to wear the same clothes. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but its certainly annoying (especially when others look better in the stuff!). Next, I just wasn’t finding items that fit my style. This was especially the case this past spring and summer (I swear I couldn’t find anything that was flattering), and this really revved up my eBay shopping. The biggest reason I’ve stuck with shopping pre-owned was the strikingly poor quality of the items available. I’ve been attempting to build a versatile wardrobe (with a focus on professional wear), and I’m looking for high quality, well-fitting (or potentially well-fitting after a trip to the tailor) items that I’ll want to reach for day after day.
Lets talk about pants for a moment. I’ve always struggled to find well-fitting pants (jeans are a problem too, but I’ve given up looking and now stick with my AG stilts and these Citizens ;)). At work last year I lived in my J. Crew Minnies and Ann Taylor trousers. These were the best off-the-rack pants I could find (I tried other popular styles like drapey pants, dressed-up sweat pants, tuxedo pants… but they looked ridiculous on me). Wearing these pants was fine for a while. But my Minnie pants always had to be worn the same way, with bum-covering tunics or sweaters, because they’re closer to leggings than pants. And my Ann Taylor trousers always fit just ok and typically were a little too long or short because I could never justify bringing $40 pants to the tailor for $30 in alterations (I’m between sizes and inseams). Lacking basic pairs of well-fitting, flattering pants really made it difficult to feel good about any outfit! So, as my eBay shopping was increasing, I made it a priority to look for some pre-owned pants. I did some browsing on NAP to become familiar with brands ogle their perfectly styled models featuring an array of pants styles (skinny pants, wide-leg trousers, flare trousers, slim cropped pants, wide-leg crops… gorgeous). Since the pants I was buying were so affordable (high quality brands like Prada at less than $50!), I allowed myself to try so many styles I would have otherwise avoided. It turns out that so many styles of pants can be flattering and comfortable with the right quality material and a little tailoring, even on a petite figure!
I know buying pre-owned isn’t something that everyone is comfortable with, but it works for me and keeps me from getting caught up with the next great trend, like dressed up sweat pants. I know its not overly useful to blog about sold out or unavailable items, but there are probably 2,254,643 fashion blogs right now that link anything and everything you could possibly be looking for. And I’m sure I’ll be back to buying mostly new eventually!
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.