Category Archives: Fashion

Exciting clothes: in stores, online, and at the consignment shops

Wonderful clothes have been turning up for me in the past few months, and I want to alert everyone to some great brands and styles.

Bogner jackets and Fire and Ice sportswear. Bogner? Two months ago, I’d never heard of Bogner. Then I found a beautiful wool blazer in a heathery periwinkle color at Classic Consignment in Ballard for $20. It had a metal charm attached to the front pocket — a bright silver “B” — that made it look more like sportswear than a dressy jacket. Some online sleuthing revealed that it was a casual jacket from a company best known for skiwear — Bogner, a European firm. The tailoring and fabric are exquisite. The price, had I bought it new? $400. The story is just beginning. A few weeks later, at a flea market, I spotted a cherry red micro-fleece half-zip top that looked like a great style for me. The label? Fire and Ice. Which, it turns out, is a part of…yes, Bogner. (Price online? $200. I’d paid $5.) Not only are the beautiful pieces of clothing, but size 12 (or Large) fits me perfectly. Definitely items for petite women. Check out the vaguely steampunkish Lindsay blazer, currently selling for way above my budget.

Vintage Pendleton jackets. At Goodwill I snagged a gorgeous Pendleton blazer, a lightweight pale-champagne Harris tweed, petite, for $14. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it that I’m now searching Etsy, eBay, and all the thrift shops for more of them. A lot of vintage Pendleton is in bold colors or plaids that aren’t quite me (shocking pink and forest green check, anyone?). But I’m going to be patient to get this fit and quality.

Moving Comfort's Maia bra

Moving Comfort’s Maia bra

Moving Comfort Maia sports bra. For years I’ve been wearing Moving Comfort’s  wire-free Fiona sports bra for yoga (after being stabbed savagely by an expensive underwire sports bra while doing twists). The problem with the (seemingly  indestructible) Fiona is that they don’t make it in my size, so I’ve been wearing it one cup size too small. It squishes me, and I look…squished. I’d tried a few other Moving Comfort bras but hadn’t liked them. One, which seemed to be made out of latex, was difficult to get on, and nearly impossible to get off. But I decided to try the Maia bra, which does come in my size. It is very tailored, and works as a camisole with V-neck shirts and sweaters. It is so comfortable, even with underwires, I feel like I’m not even wearing a bra. And it looks so good I’m now wearing it with dressy clothing as well as for yoga. Question: Why don’t they remove the little white sports logo from the strap and sell this as a regular bra? They’d make a fortune.

Eddie Bauer StayShape jeans. These are jeans with a little bit of stretch that look great the first time you wear them and keep looking great. They don’t stretch out or bag. Like a number of Eddie Bauer women’s pants, they come in three styles: Straight, Slightly Curvy, and Curvy. I ordered all three because I was curious. I’m in between the Slightly Curvy and Curvy, so kept both of those. I’ve had one pair of these for six months, and they still look fabulous. (Cold water wash, inside out.)

Eddie Bauer Pima tee

Eddie Bauer’s new Pima tee

Eddie Bauer Pima Cotton 3/4-sleeve T-shirts. Another big win, particularly if you buy them on sale. These are fairly long shirts, but Eddie Bauer has moved away from the skinny fit, and these are just lovely. I ordered petites and the V and scoop necks were the perfect depth and width (unlike the necklines on the “petite” shirts at the Gap, which are apparently designed to reveal as much of your bra as possible).

JCP (aka J.C. Penney) a.n.a. sportswear. Having read all about J.C. Penney’s controversial new business model, I decided to check it out. It’s now a store full of fashion boutiques with very, very, very inexpensive prices (and somewhat confused-looking customers, wondering what happened to the old system of long racks full of sales merchandise). I bought two jackets from the a.n.a. (“A New Approach”) petite boutique, which mimics a Ralph Lauren style. They were about $3o each; one is a nicely shaped workshirt in a featherweight, faded denim and the other is an attractively styled army-green fatigue jacket, also in a summer-weight fabric. My one complaint: an XL petite is almost too tight for me across the back and bust — and I’m a size 10 petite at Eddie Bauer. This is definitely a place I’ll check again for inexpensive summer clothing.

And now, for a little bad news:

Eddie Bauer’s long-awaited Travex pants for spring are a disappointment. Last year’s Travex pants sold out almost immediately, were not restocked, and still command full price on eBay. They may now become collectors items, because the 2013 version of them is simply not as good. The new 2013 capris have those yoga-style flare-out hems (calf-length bell bottoms? Really?) that look bad on everybody. (Last year’s had drawstring hems you could adjust.) And they have this unattractive zig-zag top stitching everywhere that looks like a second grader sewed them. I’ll resume hunting for another pair of last year’s on eBay. (Note: The waistband on the Travex capris is a bit low — if you’re a petite, you could go for the regular size to get a slightly higher waistband.

Fashion fail: Women’s flannel shirts in pastel plaids

Thousands of women looking to buy classic flannel shirts this season are in consignment shops and vintage clothing stores. They’ve been driven there by retailers who got some weird idea in their heads that women would like their flannel shirts in pale turquoise, pink and lavender plaids. Sorry, I have no desire to look like I’m from Clan McBarbie.

Classic plaid flannel shirts are based on tartan-weave fabrics, which date back thousands of years to early Celtic tribes in Europe. As early as the 1500s, tartans were used in Scotland to identify wearers by region or by clan.

This GiltMANual blog post has a lovely visual guide to some of the classic plaids in fashion: Royal Stewart, Black Watch, MacDonald, McQueen, MacLeod, MacGregor, MacArthur, and Wallace. Wallace is my own personal favorite, being thick and thin black stripes on a field of scarlet red. These plaids are characterized by rich reds, blues, greens, or yellows and plenty of black stripes.

The Pendleton wool mills brought plaids onto the fashion scene in the 1950s with wool shirts and shirt jackets. These went through a huge revival as an essential element of grunge fashion in the 1990s, and Pendleton plaid shirts are still in high demand in vintage clothing stores.

Outfitters like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Orvis, along with outdoor clothiers like Woolrich and Cabela’s, translated the Pendleton wool plaid shirts into less-expensive cotton flannel. (Expensive New York and London clothiers also make pricey viyella shirts in classic plaids. But I digress.)

Back to the basic plaid flannel shirt. If you’re male, flannel shirts in classic plaids are available just about anywhere that sells men’s sportswear. But if you’re looking for a women’s flannel shirt (especially in a petite size) this season, good luck. L.L. Bean was sold out of five of six colors of its women’s classic-colored Scotch Plaid flannel shirts by December 4 (Gee, I wonder why?). Woolrich has a few classic plaids left (I quickly bought two of the red Pembertons), but most of what they and other stores have in stock this year in the women’s plaid flannel department are your choice of pastels or (even more ghastly) fluorescent pastels:

The perfect pie (pan)

We haven’t hosted a large Thanksgiving in several years, so I can afford to use Thanksgiving as the opportunity to test the kitchen’s readiness for the December holidays. I make a list of what’s missing and, of course, discover what aging piece of equipment is about to give up the ghost. (This year, the toaster oven suddenly lost it while trying to heat a casserole dish full of extra stuffing.)

As usual, I volunteered to bake pies for the Thanksgiving feast we were invited to at our friends’ house. I love to bake piece because I have such great pie pans, especially this one, for fruit pies:

Apple pie

Apple pie in vintage HOLZIT pie plate with deep lip.

It is a medium-size (9-inch) pan with a wide, deep lip that catches any bubbly juices from the pie. That means I don’t have to fit foil-covered cookie trays beneath my pies or spend the next few days trying to chisel baked sugar syrup off racks or oven surfaces.

It’s not easy to find a HOLZIT aluminum pie plate! I inherited one, and I’ve spotted one or two on eBay over the years. There’s also a new $49 Royal Prestige 11-inch stainless steel pie plate with a wide, medium-depth, lip — pricy, but pretty wonderful (and available only through distributors or on eBay).

The Royal Prestige is notable because it’s an 11-inch pie plate — not easy to find in stores.  You can still find 11-inch vintage Pyrex (#211) on Etsy or eBay for about $15.

(The pie plate in the background, containing a pecan pie, is a 9-inch vintage anodized aluminum by Regal. It has a wide, but not deep, lip. You can find them, as I did, on eBay.)

 

I can’t pronounce it, but I like it

Uniqlo.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in five years we’ll all be wearing it.

This ambitious Japanese clothing enterprise features high-tech cooling fabrics, heating fabrics, and styles by top international designers. The clothes will remind you of Eileen Fisher or the Gap; the stores will remind you of Apple.

While a new name in the U.S., Uniqlo is one of the defining labels in Japan, and has stores in the fashion centers of Asia and Europe (including 10 in the U.K.) Even if you can’t get to one of the New York City stores, you can buy (highly affordable) Uniqlo fashion on eBay.

Shoes that look good and make you feel better

The Juil Mesa sandal

The Juil Mesa sandal

The ideal shoe is one that looks great and feels fantastic. Juil’s Mesa sandals (which I’ve been wearing for the past few days) certainly do that. In addition, they’re equipped with copper conductors in the soles designed to enable you to walk your way to better health through better connection to Mother Earth.

The mechanism behind the health claim comes from the practice of grounding or “earthing.” When people walk — or sleep — directly on the ground, electrons from the earth are believed to pass into their bodies. Proponents of earthing cite recent research that correlates the use of earthing beds and earthing devices to improved health. (Here’s a helpful review of that research.)

The copper conductors in Juil shoes are intended to give you the benefits of walking barefoot without giving up the protection and support of shoes.

The Juil Brio, with copper grounding

The Juil Brio, with copper conductors

The folks at Juil sent me a pair of Mesa sandals to review, and I can tell you that these are sweet shoes. They run true to size, and are made from high-quality materials (Mesa’s have leather uppers and footbeds, and the company also offers vegan models, such as the Gaia). I like the lightweight cork outsole on the Mesas. My only qualm about fit is that the Mesa footbed is a little narrow in the arch — probably best for someone with high arches.

Juil shoes for men and women are available on the Juil.com site and from resellers as diverse as Naturalizer, Planet Shoes, and Amazon. Prices are from $125 to $145 for sandals and from $155 to $165 for clogs.

Naked ladies and bright-colored jeans

photo of orange, blue and red Gap jeans

Gap jeans (Photos: Gap online catalog)

I desperately want a pair of this summer’s hottest fashion: lightweight, bright-colored jeans. In melon. Or maybe cherry red. Perhaps lime green.

But it’s not going to happen.

The chances of me finding a pair of jeans that fit are so slim (pardon the pun) that it just isn’t worth my time shopping for them. I can go to a major department store and try on dozens of pairs of pants without finding a single pair that look decent. For some reason, the only jeans that work for me are ones that turn up at consignment shops — strange brands no one has heard of, or past-season styles that are long out of production. My current favorites are:

• Kut from the Kloth straight-leg dark-wash jeans. I found a pair of Kut jeans at a local Buffalo Exchange shop — they turned out to be a size too large, but they inspired me to go to Macy’s to try on other Kut jeans in a smaller size. The style that works for me now seems to be out of production, but I’ve got two pairs and love them. The waist runs a bit large, but wearing a belt or the Hip Hugger from Hollywood Fashion Secrets takes care of that.

• Eddie Bauer chino-fabric capris. I bought these last year at an end-of-sumer sale and they’re no longer in production. Finally got them shortened to the perfect length this year. However, in the intervening year capri fashion got so much narrower in the legs that these now look baggy — what’s called “boyfriend” style. But one pair is a fashionable melon color and looks great with a lime tencel blouse.

• Jeans D boot-cut jeans-style pants. This pair of lightweight jeans-style cotton pants with a “Jeans D.” label turned up at a “naked ladies” party (where friends bring clothing to try on and exchange). I’d never heard of the Jeans D brand, but have since managed to locate them in the Juniors section on eBay, some under “Jeans D” and some under “D Jeans.” If anyone knows where I can buy them retail, please get in touch.

Shoes: They’re Simple. No, they’re not.

Simple sneakersI’ve been looking for the past five years for great pair of fashion sneakers. Something I could wear with jeans and casual clothes — without leaving the impression that I’d been in the midst of cleaning my garage.

I didn’t want the puffy white marshmallow-type track shoes I associate with soccer moms at Jazzercise class.

But I found that a lot of the contemporary “retro” sneakers had even less arch support than the cheap canvas Keds they are suppose to evoke.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my favorite fashion blog, Fashion for Nerds, when I spotted the perfect pair of sneakers. The blog lists all the items shown in the photos, and the sharp black and white sneakers (with grey ribbon laces) were “Simple.”

Indeed, it was simple to find them. But I was horrified to discovered that the eco-conscious Santa Barbara, CA, company that made Simple sneakers closed recently and all that are left of these beautiful and comfortable fashion shoes are a few size 5s on Zappos.com.

Ebay to the rescue!

It took only three days on eBay for me to find Simple sneakers in my size (I held out for the black-and-white ones with the grey ribbon laces). They arrived, they fit, and I spent all last weekend racing around a convention in them. Yesterday I walked a few miles through town, and my feet felt great.

Yes, I’ll be hunting for a second pair of them.