to shop / recent online shopping insights (and woes)

Update: Joe Fresh pictures and a gross F21 moment added on November 22.

This might be my wordiest post to date. Today’s post is a recap of my recent online shopping at J.Crew, Madewell, Gap, Macy’s, Forever 21, Ann Taylor, Free People, Kohl’s, Anthropologie, American Eagle Outfitters, Zara, and Land’s End/Land’s End Canvas. Yes — I’ve been out of control (ooc, as my coworker and I like to call it) and I blame it on stress. Props to my roommate for putting up with me and my entourage of boxes. I really need to stop online shopping, especially since I’m going to Paris tomorrow!

In addition to carrying every single order up six flights of stairs, I had to spend a few hours this weekend trying on everything, returning them to the store, or packaging it up to return. USPS and UPS will be paying visits on Tuesday and carrying everything downstairs will be equally fun. There were more than a few orders I wish I never placed. I am somewhat efficient so for retailers that are easy to access in person, I targeted the lower Fifth Avenue area to make my returns — AEO, Free People, Ann Taylor, Madewell, and J.Crew all reside there — and dropped into the new Joe Fresh on lower Fifth Avenue, and also checked out Anthropologie. On a related note, I am also mentioning UPS’ new feature, My Choice, which I highly recommend for anyone who doesn’t have a doorman.

1) J.Crew

I’m sure I’m one of many who can’t help but look at J.Crew once in a while, especially when I really don’t need anything. It’s that time of year again… when J.Crew is nearing year-end, rolling out great promotions, and sale items aren’t final sale yet! At least not online. The best way to tell if something is final sale is by looking at your shopping cart.

I’ve been working through my love of polka dots lately and have concluded that only classic polka dot pieces are worth keeping. Ask yourself, can you see yourself wearing it in 2 years? If not, it’s not worth keeping. This silk polka-dot tee in sand dune is an expensive doppelganger of the Zara top I purchased in Barcelona, which I recently sold on eBay. I love the nude tones and polka dots, but it just didn’t fit in my wardrobe, reminded me of the 80’s, and the cut is too boxy. I couldn’t help but order the J.Crew version, free shipping and all. It may be surprising to you, but not to me, that I was able to sell the Zara top for more than what I paid for it!

Whenever there is a J.Crew sale, I always search for the J.Crew collection pieces first. Some of J.Crew’s pieces are sourced from the same factories as other major luxury designer brands. I remember taking a pair of wool slacks to my tailor in Shanghai once to repair the lining. He said the lining was made of such quality material that it was worth it to mend than replace. I picked up the Hayward trouser in pinstripe Italian wool in light grey pinstripe for close to 75% off. The wool is beautiful and rightfully so, as it is Loro Piana wool. They have a super flattering fit and I was able to size down from my usual size. The only tragedy is that this style does not come with a matching blazer.

2) Madewell

I ended up returning the both clutches I blogged about here. Clare Vivier‘s clutch quality beats them 1000x, even though it’s more expensive. I think it’s ok to go cheap for some accessories, but in this case, I rather drop $100ish for Clare Vivier. Leather isn’t created equally and in this case, Madewell didn’t do the cows justice. I also ended up returning this supercute spot dot sweater. It runs big (size down) and is in my favorite neutral colors… but the supersized polka dots are too trendy and I confirmed with a few friends that it’s not my style.

3) Gap

Gap’s leather jackets caught my eye last winter and I’ve collected two so far. I’ve been eyeing the textural leather jacket in caramel that went on sale online. I’m not sure if it went sale in stores yet, but I resisted despite the 40% off and 60% off promotions for Gap cardholders. I did some market research a while back so I have some idea what major stores in the country should have them in stock. But, I repeated to myself: I don’t need it.

My friend, Albert, asked on Facebook why it matters if these promotions are good for phone orders. You can call Gap’s 800 number and ask them to search for availability based on the item number. This is particularly useful when something expensive and/or highly coveted goes on sale. Gap leather jackets typically retail for $300 and c’mon – I don’t pay retail for Gap or anywhere close to it! Consider how the Texas market demand for leather might be lower than, e.g. NYC. The 800 number may not fully get you there. You also need to rely on the kindness of the Gaps you’re calling to do another local search for you. During the 2010 blizzard, I got bored and decided to find the “sold-out” leather motorcycle jacket. I eventually found a stash in a Chicago Gap’s backroom that was marked down $50 more than the other stores I called! At that point it was 75% off. I also used the same method to find ballet flats… If you have a Gap Silver card, shipping from the store is free.

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to shop / retail whirl (j.crew, gap, macy’s)

1) J.Crew

I’ve been on the J.Crew bandwagon ever since the traveling warehouse sales. Two pairs of wool pants for $25? Dressy wool coats for $40? My eBaying career took off around then. I’m traveling for work this week and could not resist crossing the street to check out the J.Crew. Especially since there is an additional 30% off in stores and no sales tax.

I encountered a hoard of the Quincy Tartan shirt that I’ve been stalking online for ages (to no avail, as it sold out quickly), on sale. This is the first shirt I’ve tried of the Boy Shirt cut. It runs big. I’ve got a few plaid shirts from J.Crew and Trovata; I would say this one “rounds out my collection”. I’ve worn gingham to work a few times, but I guess this tartan threw my coworkers off kilter. “Wow, you’re not wearing black!”

I also saw a bunch of the Streetscape Cape on sale for $70. What a big, quick drop from $198. I’m not sure if I love it yet, but seeing it on Ms. Hutton makes me want to keep it. Thoughts? It also runs big. For those who opted for the icky Ann Taylor Loft lookalike, the quality of this one is so much better and closer to ATL’s retail price.

I also saw the Silk Scarf Tank in Floating Rose and am so glad I didn’t order it. In addition to worrying about getting sick of the print next season, the cut is not flattering, unless you are a ruler.

2) Gap

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to shop / notes on summer sales

The summer sales are on its last legs.

Photo credit:,, and

  • J.Crew currently has 40% off sale items and free shipping on any order, which is pretty much unheard of.
    • Not all sale items are final sale – check your cart to see if there is a final sale notation. Even if it is final sale and you’re not happy, try your luck returning in stores. Be honest. I usually return items at the J.Crew near my office. The manager there processes my online returns often, so the second time I asked to return a final sale item, he offered credit (which works online too). It’s better than nothing and I shop there often enough.
    • They refresh their inventory every day. I won’t tell you when… but if there’s something you thought you missed out on, keep on checking and have fast fingers!
    • If you are wondering how something fits, google “exact item name” + j.crew review. You can also try “exact item name” + jcrewaficionada. More often than not, something will pop up.
  • Theory has an 70% off sale on their website (and I’m sure it’s in stores too, but hey, I’m lazy and like non-store handled merchandise). I was drooling over the blue Landon blazer in regional fabric for a while. I saw it at the outlet in Woodbury in the wrong size, so I was ecstatic that they marked prices down this much on their website. The sale is final sale, so luckily I have a sense of what my Theory size should be from prior experiences.
    • For the longest time, the pants that match the blazer were sold out in my size. I even called their fabulous CS, who has the ability to search inventory across all retail stores and outlets, and was told it was sold out and that they weren’t going to have much new inventory. So, imagine my surprise when my size popped back up. Moral – bookmark and check in periodically.
    • I think they may be pulling the sale soon because all sale prices have disappeared from the website.
    • Sometimes retail store final clearance sales are cheaper than outlet sales. If you are sad about missing the sale, Clothingline is hosting a sample sale for them soon (and their sister brand, Helmut Lang).
  • Bergdorf Goodman is a subsidiary of Neiman Marcus. They share inventory (as in BG has a subset of what NM has and some BG-only items), but their sale promotions are not aligned.
    • Sometimes items are significantly cheaper on one site. E.g. A Marc by Marc Jacobs’ dress is $114 on BG and $164 on NM (inclusive of their current 25% off sale promotion). If one site’s price drops dramatically, you can also ask CS to pricematch for you if you’re within a certain timeframe. Their online CS is very helpful, especially since I like to minimize human interaction ;)
    • NM runs free shipping promotions way more often than BG. If you paid shipping on your BG order, and you wouldn’t have had to on NM, ask CS for a refund.
  • If you like Spanish shoe brand Chie Mihara, Simplysoles is having a great sale. I’ve had the Chie Mihara Lara shoes bookmarked since my March Barcelona trip. It is unfortunate that many of the styles and colors on Chie’s website never make it stateside. A visit to the Chie Mihara outlet in Spain is on my list of to-dos…
  • Gap is having 40% off promotions again (*shakes fist*). They were in-store for a bit (and may be again – signup for emails and their FB page to stay updated). I got a targeted email again for a 40% off online promotion.
    • I love Gap for their workout gear, basics, and GapBody. (On a related note, I am also a fan of Old Navy’s new compression workout bottoms for the warmer summer months and there is currently a 30% off promotion – never pay retail at Gap/BR/Old Navy!.)
    • They have been known to pull promotions before its official end-time, so don’t mull on your shopping cart too long. On the flip side, Gap stores don’t mind online returns because it doesn’t hit their store margins.
    • More often than not, the online reviews steer you in the right direction. I love reading online reviews for anything I buy!
  • Barneys was one of the first department stores to markdown. They refresh their inventory continuously but the updates have gotten less exciting. On the plus side, they have free shipping for any order… and 33% off Marc by Marc Jacobs designer moleskines.

to shop / new workhorse shoes

I’ve been spending more than I want on shoes lately. I live in flats and some have been dying slowly after 3+ years of abuse on New York City streets, so I’ve been searching high and low for suitable replacements. I learned my lesson with flip flops and regret not listening to my mother, not to mention the germs. Life is too short to spend in uncomfortable shoes. I’ve been living in:

  • Gap ballet flats (Spring 2010) that are knock-offs of Repetto, except with a sturdier rubber bottom. I was in Boston for work, wandered to a Gap, and discovered that I totally missed out of this gem because I’d been out of the country. To further complicate things, it was on sale. I went into a frenzy mode and promptly located 4 pairs and had them shipped (for free). I got a pair in black, poppy red (pictured below), and metallic blue. I sold the metallic blue (just not my color scheme) and a pair of the blacks that was masquerading as a half size smaller (a nasty, old Gap habit). They have yet to have another ballet flat as great as this one – their current foldable city flat has no arch support and I limit it to airplane use. Sadly, my poppy red ballet flats from Zara are not as comfy as these and I’m still debating whether I want to break the Gap cap toe flats in.
  • Butter nude patent bow flats. So comfy. I got them zipsoled at the cobbler when they were brand new. They should last a while.
  • Two pairs of Marc by Marc Jacob ballet flats. I pulled a Jackie O at a post-Christmas sale at a now-defunct e-tailer and bought the same pair in two colors – black and a peachy ballet pink. I love MBMJ ballet flats (minus the mouse styles that I will never comprehend). They run half a size small. Sadly, their more recent styles have been too hardware-friendly and these two pairs are dying. I don’t think I’ll ever find a ballet flat in this shade of pink again!

  • Repettos – I have one pair that got caught in a torrential downpour that needs some TLC and a few new pairs to mull over (it takes me months to decide whether to keep and sole or to eBay).

Good shoes are not easy to find. I’m not afraid to buy/return or buy/eBay.

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