Monday, November 21, 2016

Batch of links - Clothing recommendations

This post is the third in a series of batches of links (the first was about clutter, and the second focused on the KonMari method for decluttering). This led me to clothing in particular, because it’s the first part of Marie Kondo’s book and because it seems to be what people organize most often! Keep in mind that some (not all) of the following links are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase by clicking on them, I would get a discount on a future purchase (which is not the same as an actual cash reward, but still very nice for items I love enough to recommend).

I am still looking for a pair of comfortable ballet flats (story of my life). I tried ballet flats by TOMS (specifically the natural burlap trim women’s ballet flats); they were adorable, but did not work for me – they were too tight for my big toe. I had the same problem with Tieks by Gavrieli: super cute shoes, great packaging and customer service, but just too tight in the toe tip. I’m also still looking for comfortable sandals to replace a pair that I got at Land’s End (sadly, their newer models were too stiff and would give me blisters). What I CAN recommend, though, is a simple walking shoe: Skecher’s Performance Women’s GOwalk Slip-On Walking Shoe (quite a mouthful!). It’s model #13510, if you want to look for them elsewhere, though the price on the ones I linked to is very good, and cheaper than what I paid at DSW. I had a pair in blue that I wore for about 2 years, and they were showing some signs of wear, so I replaced them with a pair in a more neutral grey. This lightweight shoe has never given me a blister, and it’s super comfortable to walk in! It “flexes and twists so your foot can move naturally”, and it’s even machine washable. Also, I know this may not matter to some, but I love having a shoe without shoelaces. And as a bonus, they are very affordable.

You may remember that I have problems finding great jeans (mainly because of the hole-creating front button). I think my favorite jeans were actually maternity jeans, but I just know Stacy London would not approve of me wearing them if I’m not pregnant! I did buy some pull-on jeans by JAG and thought that had fixed the problem, but I eventually realized (when I saw pictures of myself and also when I finally got a full-length mirror in my closet) that they sag A LOT. So I’m back to wearing conventional jeans and tucking my shirt in the front whenever I’m near a kitchen counter. While I still haven’t found the “perfect” jeans, I did find a neat belt: the Invisibelt. The (plastic!) buckle lays flat and prevents bulges from under your shirt, which was always my problem with belts. On the downside, it broke after only a season of wearing it, so it’s not necessarily great. I’ve since found a few leads on jeans for curvy women, so I’ll check those out eventually. I also heard about a website called My Style Rules, where you can create a virtual avatar in your size and shape and see how specific pieces would look on you before buying them. I didn’t get around to creating an avatar yet, but I do like the idea of virtually trying on clothes!

Some of my favorite places to buy clothes had closed, and when I shopped elsewhere (brick-and-mortar stores or online), I often found that I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Plus, I don’t really have time to go shopping. My wardrobe had become disparate, in the sense that I had many individual pieces that I liked, but it was hard for me to make an outfit out of them because many of them didn’t go with anything else in my closet. Some of the tips I gave in the last batch of links helped, especially the style worksheet or basic principles of creating a capsule wardrobe. But I still wasn’t satisfied, and got to thinking that if I were in Montreal, I’d probably bite the bullet and hire a stylist from Les Effrontés. But I’m in Texas, so I started using Stitch Fix instead. (Here’s a link to get $50 off!) The basic premise is that you fill out a questionnaire about your style preferences and your clothing sizes, as well as what type of clothes you are looking for (formal or casual, skirts or pants, etc.) and how often you want to receive them (upon request for me, but you can also have them shipped automatically twice a month, once a month or every two months). A stylist then sends you five pieces based on your profile, and you choose what to keep and what to send back (send everything back and you still have to pay a $20 styling fee; keep anything and the styling fee is credited towards your purchase; keep all five items and you get a %25 discount; returns ship for free). The nice thing is that you give feedback on each item, so the selection you receive is improved over time and tailored to you. They cover regular and petite sizes as well as maternity styles; they also just started offering the service to men. Plus, customer service is really good! I’ve received some clothes that I wouldn’t have picked out in a store, but it turned out I really liked them on me! Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how it works and unboxings from a frequent user here – who, as it turns out, also did a full KonMari. (If you are in Canada, you could consider Chic Marie, which is essentially a clothing rental service that gives you the option to buy pieces you really like. [Update, Jan. 2019: You can also try Frock Box, and I’m told Lolë has a similar service.]) For men, the Engineer recommends Bombfell, which works essentially the same way as Stitch Fix. And while I’m at it, if you are looking for children’s clothing in basic colors without logos or slogans or sequins, I strongly recommend – as the name suggests, they carry clothes in basic styles and colors, and it’s easy to mix and match.

I still like shopping online on occasion, though. I’ve mentioned it in the second post in this series, but I’ll say it again here: one of my favorite places to shop for clothing these days (mostly for myself, but also for the Little Prince) is ThredUp. The clothes are second-hand, but in very good condition, and you get significant discounts as compared to retail cost. The downside, in my opinion, is that there are only two pictures of any item, and sometimes I wish I could zoom in to get a better look. You can always email customer service to ask for more information about a particular piece, but someone else might buy it before you get your answer! Unless it’s a final sale, you can return an item in exchange for store credit. I’ve placed two orders so far and haven’t had to return anything, and I love my new clothes! Even if you don’t care about the positive environmental impact of reusing clothing instead of throwing it out, your wallet will thank you. It turns out I really don’t care whether clothes are brand-new or not, new-to-me is just as good. If you’re interested, click here to get $10 off your first order.

As for clothing brands I like, I’ll once again plug Rien ne se perd, tout se crée…. They are located in Quebec, so if you order from the States, you’ll pay more in shipping, BUT then you shouldn’t have to pay the local sales taxes and it evens out. Their clothes are beautiful and made to last, they’ve got great customer service, and their website now has an English version! Plus, it’s easy to mix and match their pieces to create outfits, even between different collections, so that helps avoid the disparate wardrobe problem I had. I’ve also bought a few pieces from other Quebec designers over the summer, but I’d like to get more wear out of them before really recommending anything.

And now for undergarments. (I’m not recommending any panties because every time I find one I really like, it gets discontinued, so it’s pointless.) I once interviewed Marie-Claude Pelletier, founder and CEO of Les Effrontés (the Canadian styling service I mentioned earlier). She told me that the single most important garment a woman should own is a well-fitted bra, and I totally agree. I’ve often seen outfits ruined because either the woman was wearing the wrong type of bra for the outfit (see this slideshow for tips), the wrong color, or the wrong shape (see here) or size altogether! I thought I was doing well in that department. Even after hearing the statistic that “90% of women are wearing the wrong bra size”, I measured myself properly and was actually in the 10% who had the right size. I was never one to take off my bra at the end of the day, because I really wasn’t uncomfortable. I had read the excellent master post on Epbot. I knew what I was doing. (For the record, my favored bra a few years ago was a Calvin Klein model that I replaced annually.) But then I heard about ThirdLove on my favorite podcast, and they have an offer where you can order a bra, remove the price tag, wash it and wear it for up to 30 days and return it for free if you don’t like it (if you click on the link I just gave, you’ll see “Try before you buy” in the upper left-hand corner – click on that and follow the steps). They promised it would be the most comfortable bra I’d ever owned, so I figured I’d give it a try. I ordered one of their nude 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bras. I had barely had it on a minute when I decided that it was indeed the best fit I’d EVER had. There’s no gaping at the cups, no annoying tag in the back, the gore fits, the cup smoothes you perfectly, plus the accordion straps are cute and the gold hardware makes it look chic. So instead of returning it, I ordered more bras from ThirdLove (and actually had to get rid of my Calvin Klein one, which I couldn’t stand to wear anymore after experiencing such a great fit with ThirdLove).

You might be interested to know that ThirdLove has an app that you can use to find your size, though since I don’t have an iPhone I just used a tape measure. That being said, users are reporting surprisingly accurate results! One of the awesome things about ThirdLove is that they offer half-cup sizes, which most brands don’t, but it can make a big difference. Theoretically, half of women need those. ThirdLove has a total of 47 sizes and counting. Plus, they take into consideration the shape of your breasts (again, it seems like it should be obvious, but most brands don’t bother doing this and so many women are wearing something that doesn’t really flatter them). Take a minute to try their fit finder to see what size and style would work for you. And look at common fit issues to see if any of that rings true for you. Note that for the 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bra,
I have bought one in a smaller sister size, meaning that I go down one measure in band size and up one measure in cup size; that way, the bra lasts longer, because as the elastic in the band wears out, I can use the tighter hooks to keep the fit. I’ve got two of those, plus a strapless one (most comfortable strapless I’ve ever owned) and two more frivolous ones. And, for my Canadian friends: yes, they ship to Canada, and overseas too (rates here). For the curious: they are called ThirdLove because they care about three things: look, feel, and fit of the bra.

Finally, here’s a tip I’ve heard, for those of you who either don’t like a flesh-toned bra or who can’t find one in the same color as their flesh: the right shade of red will work, too. (I have not tried this out myself, because I think that in my case, finding the right shade of red would be harder than finding the right shade of nude, but this might be helpful to someone!)

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