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I bought the Celine small vertical cabas tote in black grained calfskin (FR link) a few years ago and promptly sold it as it was an unplanned purchase in Paris (and had to do with leftover credit). I don’t regret it, the timing was off. Lately I’ve been wanting the same bag again, but I couldn’t find it in during my last trip to Europe. I’m guessing this style and color is hard to find outside of Paris, which has an abundance of Celine stockists. Celine has updated their website since so now you can easily search for availability online.

I came upon Mark and Graham and their Italian Leather Crossbody Tote looked very much inspired by the Celine. (Note: this site is owned by Williams-Sonoma and will put a monogram on everything.) M&G has some good looking bags but it’s hard to find reviews of them. I have one piazza zip pouch from M&G made of Italian leather and the leather is very nice. I would say it’s a similar leather as this bag.

(Images: Celine, Mark and Graham)

The M&G comes in navy, brown, and cream. Of the three colors, I think Celine’s only ever made it in cream. I like the navy and the brown, but would’ve preferred it in black. I ordered a monogram-less brown and navy when it was initially marked down.

(Image: Mark and Graham)

My photo of the actual item

Notes: 

  • Dimensions were very similar.
  • Leather grain was noticeable smaller and more delicate on the Celine.

What I didn’t like:

  • Hardware: There’s a round piece of hardware on the sides of the bag. It distracts from the sleekness. You can see it the clearest on the blue bag above.
  • Edges: The vertical edges are very round and nowhere near a 90 degree angle and as a result didn’t appear to be straight edge (as seen above). Also distracting from the sleekness. I think this comes from the stiffness of the leather and don’t see it going away or softening up with usage.
  • Hard to adjust strap: I’m not sure if it’s that hard to adjust the strap length on the Celine but it was impossible to adjust on this bag. If you’re shorter end of petite, you would need to get extra holes punched.

Verdict: I didn’t expect the M&G to match up to the Celine at ~10-20% of the price. The M&G sale price is a steal (I didn’t think it’s worth its retail) and a good buy for someone who wants this style and doesn’t mind the lack of defined edges. I am still waiting to encounter the Celine again.

Note on Mark & Graham shopping experience:

  • If you want to be able to return it, don’t get it monogrammed. I have gotten stuff monogrammed before and some were done poorly. They were good about sending replacements. 
  • The returning process was slow compared to most other e-tailers. It took them almost 2 weeks to process the return after receipt during the summer and maybe it’s because I sent an email to inquire on the status. They also charge you for the UPS label (which is fine given the size of the boxes). 
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Petit Bateau mariniere ($102)

Lord & Taylor cotton bateau neck top ($29.99, pre-20% discount listed on site)

Lord & Taylor has great sales. It’s too bad their site is so hard to navigate and checkout, so if do not have patience, it’s best to stay away. Consider yourself warned.

I love striped shirts. I especially like these L&T tops because they are 100% cotton (typically anything with other content gets dingy after a few washes and I appreciate durability), have 3/4 sleeves (great for my petite length arms), and they are mid-weight (perfect for layering and doesn’t show each lump and bump). I tried both XS and S and think I’m going to go with S, especially if they shrink a little. If you have a ShopRunner account (which was heavily pushed by Amex last holiday season), link your account for free 2 day shipping and returns.

They are much more affordable than the Petit Bateau marinieres (which does go on sale), but the PB tops have a much heavier weight (no summer or spring wear), cut much slimmer, and have long sleeves.

 

Sam Edelman Trina ($99.95) vs. LOFT Talia ($89.50 $53.70)

Since warm weather is around the corner, I’ve been on the watch for sensible, stylish summer sandals and have been gravitating towards nudes and golds since they are my colors of the moment.

I walked into the lower Fifth Avenue LOFT store while I was doing my walk down Fifth Avenue and was nearly about to walk out when I spotted the Talia sandals on the shelves. LOFT sells Sam Edelman shoes, so at first I thought they were the Trinas, but turns out they aren’t. Given the history of the Sam Edelman relationship, I wonder if they had SE slap the LOFT label on the Trina sandals. They look identical and it wouldn’t make sense for them to knock off a partner. I am usually an 8 and think I might be between a 7.5 and 8. The store did not have 7.5. Based on the Nordstrom reviews, others thought they ran big too. The beautiful thing about LOFT is that there is a 30-40% off sale almost every other day. Currently they are running a sitewide 40% off promotion with code NOW40. (It pains me when friends shop full price at places like LOFT and Gap.)

Note to LOFT: if you want to actually sell the shoes, you should have a proper shoe section. All of the Talia’s were high on the shelves as a display.

This particular sandal is really popular on the blogosphere. Aside from the nude (natural) color, there are a ton of other color options. I especially like the “Red Ink” and “Whiskey” with the gold heel, versus silver, and it looks like some buyers agree with me.

You can find ’em at:

The following stores have limited styles/sizes:

 

Top: Design within Reach Platner coffee table ($1,421), Bottom: Stainless Steel Coffee Table from the Foundary ($477)

The photo quality of the Foundary table isn’t great, but it looks just like the DWR one in person. And that’s how I convinced myself it was ok to buy this blindly online. I have a typical small NYC apartment. During my coffee table search, I was looking for a glass or acrylic coffee table because they evoke airiness. While I would’ve preferred something with gold accents, all of the ones I liked were way out of my price range. I subscribe to many flash sale websites but don’t check them daily. I found this coffee table back in October, thanks to CopyCatChic.

If you are in the market for a coffee table, the sale is open for another half a day. It comes shipped in two packages. It’s best to have moving gloves on hands (splintery wood is used in the packaging), cash (to tip the delivery folks to carry it up x flights of stairs), and some strength (to rip open the crate). Here’s a grainy pic of my table after I “assembled” it.

The Gold Choker

Are chokers making a comeback? I have flashbacks from the late 90s with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

COS Matte Gold Choker (€29) vs. Forever 21 Graduated Choker ($5.80)

When I was at COS in Paris, I picked up this matte gold choker. I used to go crazy with their accessories but have learned to tone it down a bit. Overall, I’ve significantly toned down my shopping on this trip to the point where I have no VAT tax to claim back. The “splurge” was the pharmacy goods. You can find a similar graduated choker at Forever 21 in gold or rose gold for much less. If you’re worried about tarnishing, swipe the underside with a coat of clear nail polish.

The Dark Leopard Print Jean

As mentioned here.

Joe’s Jeans Leopard Print Ankle Legging Jean ($75.60 on sale) vs. Old Navy Rockstar Animal-Print Jeans ($22, before additional discounts)

The delicate embroidered blouse

Dolce Vita Deirdra Lace Top ($198, also known as the Sagiso on Anthropologie and currently available in mint for $168) vs. Forever 21 Eyelet Embroidered Top ($27.80, in cream – selling out quickly – and blue) (Update: The F21 top quality is extremely lacking — they used crochet for the detail…)

If you like the look, Dolce Vita also has a dress under the style name Valentina that has made its way around the blogosphere. Find it here and here (in sale colors).

The Leather Fringe Skirt

When I went to Giverny this summer to visit Monet’s gardens, there was a woman in her 50s who was tastefully dolled up in a black leather fringe skirt, long beaded necklaces, tights, and a leather jacket. Since she is French, she pulled it off very well.

Chan Luu Leather Fringe Skirt ($91.60 from $298) vs. Forever 21 Faux Leather Fringe Skirt ($24.80)