Dear Anthro: I'm still in love with you.

It's been a while since I made a serious visit to the Anthropologie site. I was a little burned out after the orgy of Anthro-induced spending I made last year, where I bought all kinds of things including a $200 trench coat (which I still like a lot, by the way). Looking back, that was entirely too much to spend on a trench of that sort. 

I'm not really sure what got me to go back this time. I think because someone at work sent around a link to the Free People "Vintage Loves" campaign (which, by the way, is totally absurd, especially the pricing!), and that got me thinking, and then I got an e-mail about Anthro's latest sale. So I made a beeline for the sale section, and picked out all the best of the best--and yes, I too noticed my penchant for whites, blues, and pale oranges.

10% off all Moop bags for their birthday.

Moop is one of those etsy sellers that caught my eye early and held my interest over a long time.  I was delighted to see that they're offering a discount on their very well-made, sturdy bags.  They are the opposite of "fussy," with simple lines and a straightforward practicality.

Now the only challenge is figuring out which style and color combo to choose.  Below you can see the Market bag, the Porter, the Messenger, and the Letter Clutch, among others.  Shop at their etsy shop.

Meet: Andrea Brueckner Handbags

So this may not be news to anyone who follows the fashion world pretty closely, but it was news to ordinary ole me: Andrea Brueckner makes some wonderful handbags.  In keeping with our philosophy of comfortably stylish and beautifully unfussy, her bags are totally wearable.  High quality materials and construction.  Easy-going yet structural shapes. Dumbfoundingly simple and carefree profiles.  And just the slightest touch of sass--or, as I like to say, not too many ding-dongs hanging around (I hate bags with too many ding-dongs!).  

The only thing that sucks about them is their extraordinarily high prices.  But I'll forgive even that for the sake of good design. It's like these bags are saying, "Here we are.  Take us or leave us.  We know we're awesome."
  • Large Saddle Bag, in black
  • Cardiff Satchel, medium, in cream
  • Tierney City Bag, in black
  • Bonneville Pocket Satchel, in white
  • Cardiff Satchel, medium, in black (she makes other colors, I swear, I just love the simplicity of black and white)

Dilemmas: BCBGMAXAZRIA - Patchwork Satchel $139. To buy or not to buy?

Medium sized patchwork satchel bag. Treated leather with metal hardware. Top zip closure with hidden magnetic snap flap opening and double top handles. Removable grosgrain shoulder strap. Signature logo nylon interior lining with large zip pocket and two slip pockets. Body length 16 inches; height 9 inches; width 4 1/2 inches. Handle drop 4 1/2 inches; removable shoulder strap drop 13 inches.
COLOR: Black
ORIGIN: Imported
ESTIMATED DELIVERY: Fri 10/9/09 to Tue 10/13/09

RETURN POLICY: This item is final sale and non-returnable.

For Men: Of Murse and Men

You don't have to be a woman/gay man/metro to appreciate the utility of a bag to carry your crap.  It's universally agreed that having storage is useful - hence the crazy number of pockets you find lining jackets these days and the prevalance of cargo pockets on pants and shorts everywhere.

But if you're like me, you don't like cargo pants/shorts for several reasons.  Besides the rarely-flattering parachute aesthetic on gusty days, the cargo pocket fails to be good storage because putting anything heavier than a single credit card in the pocket is actually painful (a gentle slap every time you take a step - gets super annoying after about 10 paces).  It defeats the whole purpose of having a giant extra pocket down there!  

I like to have my pant pockets free of clutter, but I'm also paranoid about losing things (so I definitely never use butt pockets).  So that makes my pant pockets overloaded with things that I have to negotiate with every time I want to put my hands in my pocket (not to mention,  it makes me look lumpy).

To remedy this situation, I decided to hunt for a manbag.  Or manpurse.  Or murse.  Whatever label you want to put on it doesn't matter - it's just a pragmatic addition to the male wardrobe, which allows us to schlep all the junk that we have to carry around today (cell phones, keys, ipods, wallets etc.).  Think of it as an updated version of the briefcase (and look for bags that fit that description - unless you are thoroughly brave and want to challenge gender stereotypes) and you can steer clear from any judgement and land yourself a functional AND fashionable way to lug your life around with you.
I've searched for a while - and I think I've found my perfect bag - it's a black leather satchel from Ted Baker while I was in Dublin three weeks ago on sale for $100 euro - which turns out to be approximately $140 USD.  I wanted the bag to be black leather (check), with handles and a strap (check), a versatile look to take to work or wear out casually (check), and be able to fit a laptop + book + light jacket or scarf (check).  With all requirements satisfied - I decided to take the plunge and buy it.

And boy am I glad I did!  I live farther from work + friends now, so commuting is something I do 7 days a week, and my manbag is a catchall that carries around my life.  The presence of the bag has come in incredibly handy because I can stuff everything in there and be on my merry way. And it replaces the hefty, functional but ugly Swiss Army laptop backpack that I was using before.

And the great thing is if you want to give them a try - manbags are everywhere now!  They're in movies (see pics from 500 Days of Summer), and retailers from H&M to Banana Republic to the ritzy Rodeo Drive stores all carry bags in every shape and size and budget.  

So the next time you find yourself with more junk in your trunk (or anywhere else for that matter) than you care to be lugging around - heed these words and get thee a manbag.  You'll walk straighter, forget things less, and add an added depth to any look you are going for - be it casual or formal.
P.S.  Update - I did find my ultimate trench (wearing it in the pics) - a mild splurge on a fitted black burberry trench (thank you Barney's Warehouse Sale at Fort Mason!).  Sale ended sunday 8/9 - so if you didn't get a chance to go - mark your calendar for next year - its pretty freaking awesome.

Dilemmas: Which Bag Should I Buy?

All my day purses are shoulder bags because I hate holding my purse on my wrist or hands. My hands need to be free to hold a cup of tea, pick up magazines, scrounge through my purse for gum and other mundane things.

But, I also like clutches. It's the perfect evening bag to throw your essentials into and the best accessory to complete a "going-out" outfit. The downside? You guessed it, my hands are not free.

It happens all the time. I'm out with my friends, drink in one hand and clutch in another. No free hands. Option B entails clutching the clutch in the same arm as the one holding the drink, but that doesn't last long because it gets uncomfortable and the clutch keeps slipping.

The solution? I want a bag that has a chain, so I can hold it regularly as a clutch but also transform it into a shoulder bag.

Please help me choose a clutch. They're all fairly similar since I love embellishments and shiny things, but still different in its own way. I've chosen black and silver ones for versatility and it's ability to match with any outfit. I'm swaying more towards the last two since they're cheaper and I really can't bare the thought of dropping almost $100.

Please help and send me your thoughts. Thank you!

1. Jessica McClintock Clutch $85.74
2. Hype Stardust Clutch $82.50
3. Le Regale Clutch $32
4. Le Regale Clutch $31

Who'da thunk: Yellow bags look better'n they sound

I'd been waiting to post this for about two months, waiting until I had a decent picture of me with my own yellow handbag, but I've been seeing more and more women carrying them.  I figure I should post before it becomes a fullblown trend, because I swear I thought of it before I ever saw a single person carry one!

I'm sort of easing into the whole concept of a grown-up handbag (I've mentioned my $35 guess minibag before).  Looking at a bunch of options on etsy opened me up to the idea of a bag that that was none of the following:
  • black or brown or other neutral
  • mass-market brand-name (e.g. Coach, LV, Dooney & Burke, etc.)
  • boring
I found myself at Marshall's of all places, gravitating to the brightly colored bags: orange, white, and even lavender.  But my only criteria was that it be real leather and a manageable size, because moving from a minibag to a full-sized handbag is a bit like moving from a tiny shoebox apartment in the Wall Street neighborhood to a sprawling duplex in Brooklyn. You literally don't know what to do with all that new space in your life.

This no-name Italian bag caught my eye (MSRP $300, marked to $150, and marked again to $80), and it was bright yellow.  I never thought I had it in me, but something about the bag felt so right - unassuming, but a little courageous.  I bought it.  And I'm glad I did!  Even seeing it sit on my desk makes me smile.

I think it's important that with such a bright color, you stick to something with clean lines and unfussy shapes. Maybe some thoughtful details are nice, but you don't want a lot of ding-dongs hanging out all over the place.  I would steer clear of ruffles, studs, and too many buckles.

So how does one wear a yellow bag?  It's the kind of thing that tends to make itself very useful and will go with all the boring neutral colors you own.  But anyone can wear a yellow bag with black or white (or both).  I think yellow becomes a lot more interesting when paired with something a little more unexpected, like medium gray or navy blue.  Then again, the more intrepid among us may want to experiment with prints and more daring color combos.  I'm sure the possibilities are endless.

ABOVE: 1) Chloe Ada handbag, 2) Coach (I know...I really like the trim on this one though), 3) Marni balloon tote, 4) Natalie Fringe Hobo (just $30), 5) Dolce & Gabbana large patent tote, 6) Parentesi handbag, 7) Loewe satchel, 8) Kooba Talia bag, 9) Matt & Nat vegan leather (otherwise known as pleather) tote, 10) Gustto Bonba clutch, 11) Katie Holmes looking chic and 12) Mary-Kate looking daring.

A Test of Efficiency/Efficacy: Diary of sh*t I bought in the last 4 months.

Posted simultenously to

I feel like I'm spilling all my secrets. 

Don't think for one minute that, with all my mooning about beautiful shoes and things, I somehow lose track or control of my spending or, as I've heard some people say, "have nothing to show for it."  Au contraire, I know exactly where every penny has gone and try to make purchases through careful deliberation (doesn't always work, of course).

I definitely make mistakes - I'm still a fledgling shopper, still learning the ropes, still buying things I regret later (or immediately).  I know it will take some time, but what I'm really working towards is developing my taste, my ability to quickly assess fit, style, quality, and value--understanding what I like and what I don't like, what works and what won't, slowly getting more confident making this assessment, and slowly becoming faster at it.  

I've come a long way in the last few years--it all started when I realized that I was a) buying pretty stuff I didn't wear and b) not wearing it out of laziness, defaulting to jeans and t-shirts, and, even worse, c) not wearing it because I lacked confidence/self esteem.  I realized I didn't wear half the stuff I bought because I did not like calling attention to myself.  I have been very lucky to have always worked in offices that allow a lot of room for creativity.  I realized that if I could work up the nerve to pull off some of the stuff I bought, and get used to the attention it would bring, perhaps that gumption would seep into other areas of my life.  I also realized that it would be fun to to approach style as another form of self-expression.  As Garry tells me, "wear it and hold your head up!"

I digress.

As I said, I keep close tabs on my credit card statement, the wad of receipts in my wallet, and the accumulation of "stuff" around my room.  I thought it might be a good exercise to do a recap/roundup of what I bought in the last few months, much of which you may have seen on this blog, along with my thoughts on each item.
April: Some may remember I gave up shopping for Lent.  As soon as Easter came, I bought stuff. A crapton of it.
  • Yellow bag: My first real-leather handbag.  From Marshall's. Besides being a steal, I use it almost every day.  Definite winner.
  • World According to Jess "crossword" case: It is a fantastic overnighter.  I love the separate compartment on the bottom for shoes.
  • Black hoodie, gray sweater, blue top from the Gap: The hoodie replaced one that was falling apart and will come in handy as soon as autumn hits.  The gray sweater I ruined in the dryer - but at least it was only $10 and may make some cozy armwarmers.  The blue top I absolutely love.
  • Shoshanna floral print dress: Huge mistake.  It is sized a true 4 (as opposed to the generous sizing at most chain stores), so I can't even zip it up.  I can't decide if I want to donate it, resell it, try to alter it to fit me, or lose a crapton of weight.
  • Franco Sarto clogs: I love them.  They were totally affordable, the grommets on the side add edge to any outfit, and they are so versatile!
  • RSVP silver sandals: They served their purpose (my friend's wedding).  At $13, does it really matter if I ever wear them again?
  • Frye lace-up boots: One of my most expensive shoe purchases to date.  I like them a lot, but still can't figure out how to wear them. (Help!)
May: This was a month of scouring eBay and traveling.
  • Cotton "tropical toile" sundress: I bought this dress from the fantastic Moule in the Pearl District of Portland, a fantastic purchase from an amazing retail store.  It was a one-of-a-kind sample, made either by Rachel Mara or Michelle Mason (the designer later decided to turn the design into a top instead of a dress).  It has a balloon-y silhouette, is light as air, and I love everything from the pattern of the toile to the black bands that define it at the top and bottom.  The icing on the cake was that it was heavily discounted, and there's no sales tax in Portland.  Score.
  • Black fedora: a random buy at the Saturday Market in Portland.  I like the way it looks/fits but have not figured out where on earth I can wear it with a straight face.
  • Vintage Selby loafers: From one of my favorite sellers on Etsy.  At $10 they were a steal, and I love the extra-long tongues and little gold hardware.
  • Vintage striped secretary blouse: It was also a steal, but it's a bit shapeless.  I need to figure out how to wear it without looking like a referee or a flight attendant.
  • Random jewelry: All purchased on eBay.  You all witnessed the deliberation over the owl, but the blue orchid was an unexpected find, and I was surprised at how much I love that splash of blue against everything.  The bracelets are fine, not super excited about them.
  • Custom pencil skirt from Louise Hedley: I was disappointed with the purchase and ended up giving the Etsy seller neutral feedback (she was very nice/lovely to work with but the color and fit was just not what I expected based on the item description).  Haven't worn it out but maybe one of these days.  Not worth the $ at all.
June: Showed a bit more restraint this month.
  • Plaid "farmer girl" shirt: I can't for the life of me remember the name of the designer even though I chatted with her for a few minutes at SF's Indie Mart.  She very cleverly cuts off the sleeves of things and arranges them in flower patterns on the chest.  I was debating between this and a vest made out of a repurposed blazer, but Garry was right that I would wear this more.  I do, and I love it!
  • Eva Brann cream crochet cardigan: It was the one thing I wanted to buy in all of Beacon Hill when I visited Boston last month.  The preppy, yacht-club style of New England does not jive with me.  I was surprised to find this unexpectedly romantic piece at Boutique Eskil.  It was expensive, but it's beautiful, you can't go wrong with a pretty white cardigan, and there's no sales tax in Boston.  Score.
July:  So far.  This does not include the sh*t I ordered last week from Anthro.  Including the enchanting dark bouquet dress.
  • Look from London plaid tights: The only thing at Jeremy's SF worth buying.  Sushmita and I thought Jeremy's was like a big, disorganized, and appallingly expensive version of Ross.  There were very few good deals to be had, and the selection was awful.  But I salvaged the day with this quirky find - they are super comfortable and lots of fun (and not pricey!).
  • Emily Katz "wish" top: One of the very few things I was moved to buy at the giant DIY flea market that was the Renegade Craft Fair.  Not only was this sample hugely discounted, but I got to chat with Emily herself for a while.  I'll be featuring her in a later post.
  • Elie Tahari snakeskin sandals: You already know all about this one.  They fit all right, but one major negative is that the slingback slips so easily off my heels.  I don't know if I should try to return them, if I just need to break them in, if I should get some kind of heel insert, or if I just need to totter around like a deer in them.

Fashion Friday: Whatever happened to World According to Jess?

Yes, more bags.  I remember this label being huge about 5-7 years ago, though I can't recall where I first heard of it.  Back then, there were a few pieces in her line I thought were adorable, fun and playful, but a bit too much to pay for vinyl.  Curious, I checked back to see if she had anything new going on.

I was surprised to see that there were pretty much no new items added in the last few years, and every item is on sale.  When I saw the prices though, I was shocked.  $30 for what used to be a $200 weekend bag?  You can bet I'm going to snap me up a couple, but more than that, I wonder what ever happened to the designer.  Did she give up?  Move on?  Decide to focus on being a new mommy? Why didn't she ever release new designs? 

So mysterious.  Anyway, there aren't many left - check them out on the World According to Jess website.