Choices, choices, choices (and a review of J.Crew skirts)

The thing about shopping online is that your exposed to a lot of choice. That’s definitely one of the perks for me, because the search for a perfect tan saddle bag (or insert desired item) can seem endless when you’re looking in person. And it’s just so inefficient, with needing to walk in and out of shops, driving in and out of shopping centres? Really, so last century.

But what to do when you’re not looking for the perfect one, but just something you like and more than one catches your eye?

Sometimes you just gotta buy ’em all.

This is the story of how I ended up with 4 new skirts from J.Crew in the space of around 2 weeks.

J Crew skirts

After comparing my new goodies with the 2 I bought while in the US, I realised something odd: they all fit perfectly but ranged from a size 2 to a 6P (US sizing).  Weird, no?

Ok, perhaps that’s a little misleading — of course I knew I had ordered different sizes, and of course I did so purposely after looking at reviews and the like.  Here are some tips so that you too can hopefully order the right size on the first go:

  • I’d say a regular 4 in J.Crew translates to a AU8-10 for Country Road, Witchery, Saba etc.
  • The No. 2 pencil skirt, both the cotton and wool versions, for some reason runs large even for J.Crew sizing, so I would size down again
  • The cut of the Sterling Skirt is supposedly A-line but is really only 1-2cm wider than the No. 2 pencil skirt on each side at the hem
  • Go one size up if you’re getting a petite size, e.g. a regular size 2 is similar to a 4P.  In fact, I could tell no difference between the 2 and 4P for the No. 2 pencil skirt

But at the end of the day, sometimes you’ve just got to take the leap.  If it helps, even though J.Crew has gotten rid of their free shipping and free returns to Australia option (i.e. risk-free shopping), shipping now is only a flat rate of $10.  Really, isn’t that just 3 coffees in the grand scheme of things?  And returns are still free!

 

Cyber Monday Sales 2012

I’ve been lamenting to anyone who will listen that I’m rather underwhelmed by this year’s Black Friday sales. Le sigh and le big sad face. After an exciting order of two bags from Shopbop last Wednesday, I’ve been in a state of indecision and nothing’s really inspired me to click that “submit order” button. Main issue? The deals just weren’t quite at the level that I remembered from last year.

Luckily, Cyber Monday is here!  And I’m happy to report that stores are giving something just a little extra than they did at the Black Friday sales (but some just changed their codes).

Most of these are one day offers and only valid with US shipping:

Codes: 

  • Origins – $10 off orders of $25 plus free shipping with code TENOFF
  • J. Crew – still 25% off everything with the code MONDAY
  • J. Crew Factory – was 40% off everything, now 50% off everything with the code YOURGIFT
  • Loft – was 40% off everything (then 40% off selected items only), now 50% off everything with the code TODAYONLY
  • Ann Taylor – was 40% everything… still 40% off everything with the code MONDAY
  • Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy – was 25% off storewide, now 30% off storewide with the code CYBER
  • Piperlime – still 20% off with the code CYBER
  • Urban Outfitters – $15 off $75 with the code SUPERCYBER

No code necessary:

My favorite of the bunch is this Kate Spade tote (was $425, now $199).  The only way this could be better if it was half the size!

A good friend also alerted me to a Chloe Marcie bag – small in nubuck leather which is newly marked down from $1,895 to $1,136 on Nordstrom… tempting, but I’m still holding out for the mini version!

Net-A-Porter (US Site): Sale on Now!

Technically I could’ve updated yesterday’s post, but this kind of needed a post of its own.

So normally I get Net-A-Porter sales notifications a bit late.  Maybe a few hours after it starts, sometimes a whole day.  And if you’re familiar with the world of online sales frenzy, a few hours is like a lifetime (half joking, maybe).

This time around, I was prepared.  I created a wishlist. I lurked. I checked my wish list throughout the day, and it paid off because before any emails or even before it was announced on the homepage, I discovered that some of my wish list items had been marked down!!!!!! I felt like I had beat the system!!

…except I couldn’t find anything to buy.  I considered this Mulberry Small Bayswater which is down to $945 (reduced by 30%).

I ooh’ed over this small Chloe Paraty.  It’s 40% down to $1077 (and I preened because I bought it in black last year at around the same price).

I aaah’ed over these Mulberry patent heels, reduced by 40% to $300.

At this point I realised I was probably just attracted to the colour orange and should not make any sudden purchasing decisions.  Another site in the “to be revisited” list.

P.S. Shipping to Australia is $55 from the US site.

Bag Crushes, Oh My!

I’m a “small bag” person.  Given the choice between a carry-all which fits the largest make up bag in the world, and a miniature version of the carry-all, I’d pick the miniature version any day.

Of course, small bags mean that you’ve got a choice of either bringing your wallet, keys and phone or an umbrella, so a good weather app is absolutely essential.  I use something called Weather+ (currently on sale for 99c), and it’s been known to predict rain to the hour.

Unfortunately, even my trusty weather app failed me this evening, and I found myself doing a mad dash through the rain and to the car with A Small Bag and No Umbrella.

Once I got home and dried off my bag, my shoes and then myself, I vowed to turn a new leaf and to choose that more practical carry all that can fit my wallet, keys, phone and umbrella.  Maybe a bottle of water and a book.  Perhaps even a change of clothes and some toiletries.  Who knows what people normally bring in those big bags, I suppose the possibilities are endless.

After a short search, this Jil Sander Sporty Madame leather tote seemed to fit the bill.  I do like the frame bag style, and the size is very… er, practical.

@ Net-A-Porter for £1,140.56 / Saks for US$1,590

But then!! I saw these ridiculously cute miniature version of the Chloe Marcie and Paraty bags!  How can an inanimate object be so cute?!

Saks Fifth Avenue for US$1,195

Saks Fifth Avenue for US$1,395

And so the leaf flipped again.  Ah well, the heart wants what the heart wants, I suppose.

Shopping Bans: The Uncut Version

Remember how I wrote about my 5 tips on how to get through a shopping ban? Well, I have a confession to make.

So, I love ASOS. It’s hard not to, with their cheap and cheerful clothes, free shipping to Australia, and abundant further discount codes.  When they launched their Australian website a while back, I was very concerned that they might inflate prices for us and market it as Good News (*cough*j.crew*cough*), but I was very happy to note that the Australian ASOS website was more about defaulting viewing options (like currency and sizing) more than forcing different prices.

What I did love though was their new local returns. Does this mean I now buy heaps of stuff knowing full well that I will return most of it and only lose out around $8 per return?

You know it. Case in point: I just ordered 4 pair of jeans in varying floral and heart prints.

 

And yes, for those with an eye for detail and who cannot be distracted by the mere mention of yet another mass purchase, you’ll notice that I said per return and not per order or per item. And yes, that’s obviously an incentive to buy heaps and not return until there’s a huge box such as this one:

 

So how does this relate to my shopping ban? Well, when I said that I had “shopping credits” from pre-ban returns (handy hint #3), I actually meant these ASOS orders which I only got around to sending back… last week. Even though I spent the shopping credits in February.

I’m pretty sure big companies do their books like this all the time.

I’ve now also worked out that my actual “shopping credits” were $420, of which I only spent maybe $80.

So either I actually made money during the shopping ban (a truly mind blowing outcome… must revisit this concept), or I’m still in credit and have an extra $340 to spend this weekend.

My math skills are awesome.

New York and the Near-Death Experience: A Review of the Affinia Shelburne Hotel

The first day in New York was ridiculously hectic.  I had recommended the Affinia Shelburne Hotel to my travel buddies, after my fabulous stay there in 2010. “It’s really clean and they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I said.

(Photo is from the Affinia website, but other than that tray of fruit, it’s pretty true to life)

It was unfortunate, however, that their first impression was of this gooey thing in the shower which looked like it was either alive, or would come to life while we were sleeping:

But they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I was thinking.

Potential unwanted roommates aside though, we actually had a very busy schedule for that afternoon so we quickly asked reception for a new room and then split like a banana.

While my travel buddies went to the Rockefeller Center to pick up our New York Explorer Pass (which I totally recommend if you’re planning to check out a lot of the tourist attractions), I headed to the Banana Republic store in SoHo, where the lovely international man from Boston had arranged for my collarless red coat to be put on hold for me:

After regrouping (a.k.a. a bit of pre-Woodbury scouting/research), we all returned to the hotel where the receptionist was very apologetic about the bathroom goo, and said that they would need to shut that room down for cleaning but could offer us an upgrade, which was very exciting.

But wait, what was that machine in our new room which looked like it could be an explosive? Bombs don’t usually plug into the wall, right??  Was it really safe to take a photo, and was there some type of bomb waves causing this blurry photo?  I don’t know.

Travel buddy 1:  Wait, let’s all stay calm, it’s ok as long as there isn’t a timer on it.

Travel buddy 2: ….but there’s a timer on it!!! And it’s on!!!

Me: (as we are in the lift) Should we have moved our bags? I don’t want that thing to blow up and damage our stuff.

Random lady in lift: (concerned, after eavesdropping) Er, what’s in your room?  And you’re on which level?

Receptionist: Oh, that’s just a machine we use to dry the carpet after cleaning. We’ll send someone to remove it right away.

…And so that concluded the brief drama we had at the Affinia Shelburne, which for the record I still say is an amazing boutique hotel that is value for money.

Quick review:  4 stars.

As well as being modern/clean/safe (these are my prerequisites), there were a couple of things I really appreciated from my 2 stays there:

  • Friendly service and quick to solve problems (see long winded story above)
  • Great value for money in comparison to other similar hotels, plus they have extended stay discounts
  • Fantastic views from the rooftop bar
  • You could get online shopping delivered to your room!
  • Staff don’t bat an eyelid if you return after every day (or after every breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack) with gigantic shopping bags
  • Great Thanksgiving dinner in the Rare Bar & Grill downstairs
  • Choose your pillow from the Dream Pillow Menu
  • Coin laundry located in the basement

I only wish they were closer to the subway — it’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Grand Central, which is nothing until you factor in the many many trips to drop off shopping bags. But given the amount of food we ate, this was probably a blessing in disguise…

And yes, they did still give free nail polish remover towelettes.

Fruits of a Shopping Ban

Before I went on my US trip, I made a resolution to start a shopping ban to first save some money.  Those 3 months were a dark, dark time in my life, but I grew up on Destiny’s Child*, so I made it through.

Today, I would like to share a couple of tips on how to survive a shopping ban, told in the story of 5 pairs of shoes — why, yes, I did acquire 5 pairs of shoes on my shopping ban, all without breaking the rules!  Here’s how.

1.  Have your birthday in the middle of the shopping ban

Obviously not everyone can rearrange the year so that their birthday falls within the shopping ban period, but Muhammad and mountain and all that (read: move the shopping ban!).

A couple of dear friends gifted me these lovely jelly flats from Kate Spade:

 

(Plus 10 points if you can convince an unbiased third party that a gift for yourself is appropriate.  I recommend working on some type of sob story.)

2.  Use up your credit card reward points 

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  It got me these red suede peep toes — I’m just waiting for warmer weather to roll around again so I can wear them!

Oh, and I also got these cute Mimco bootie sandles.

3. Know your shopping history

Did you buy something before the shopping ban started, that now needs to be returned?  Well, that’s the very definition of a “shopping credit” that can be used without breaching the shopping ban! 😉

4.  Know the rules (i.e. necessities)

Everyone laughs at me when I tell them this, but it’s actually really important: the purpose of a shopping ban is usually to save money (mine was to save for my holiday).  But you can’t stop spending money completely — there are still necessities that are outside of the shopping ban, and rightly so.  This includes food, toiletries and, in this case, comfy flats suitable for long days of walking on my holiday**.

(I also got a travel bag.  It’s very important to keep your belongings secure when traveling — both Lonely Planet and the Australian Government say so, it must be true.)

Of course, this type of reasoning is not for the faint-hearted and can lead you down a very slippery slope, so I would suggest…

5. Appoint an adjudicator 

Choose someone you can trust.  Do not ask a fellow shopping ban-ner, as they are likely under extreme stress and might not be in their right frame of mind.  Try out all the crazy arguments with varying degrees of logic that you can think of, to see what sticks, e.g. my most compelling was:

If I am saving money so I can spend more in the US, then surely it wouldn’t be breaching the shopping ban if there is a limited period online sale with free shipping to Australia.  If I wait until I go to the US and buy it in person, it might not be on sale anymore and I’ll have to pay additional sales tax anyway, and maybe even more baggage fees??  In fact, it will cost me money if I don’t buy it now….

I rest my case.

Shopping ban?  Easy.

* I’m a Survivor! I’m not goin’ give up, I’m not goin’ stop… I’m goin’ work harder!

** Status of “necessity” determined at point of purchase.