Dilemmas: Which dress do you like?

I was browsing the Urban Outfitters site for dresses. What do you guys think of the following?

Dark Red Scooped Brushed Dress $40 (or a similar V-neck dress which is only $20)

As a side note - I like that they have user reviews on the fit and the wear. That's helpful, esp for online shopping :)

Dilemmas: Too many items from sarah19r I want to bid on...

...I could never decide on just one!  I may very well clean out a third of her online store.

Shopping on eBay is not a very sexy thing to do -- it's tedious (you have to sift through a ton of junk, sort of the online equivalent of a rummage sale), it's stressful, and the UI is super frumpy.  

But every once in a while, you come across a seller that is pure gold and it sparks your interest all over again.  I was still searching for owl pendants when I came across sarah19r, vintage jewelry seller from the UK .  Who knows who Sarah is?  I just know I had to catch the drool from my mouth as I added about 20 precious trinkets to my Watch List.  In fact, you must realize how much I love you all because I'm sharing the link and opening myself up to potential bidding competition, HAH!

May the best individual win.

Dilemmas: Hat Quest

I'm going through a hat envy phase. I like them, but I'm scared of choosing one. Hats seem to thematize your whole outfit, whether it's a fedora, newsboy, beret, etc. But on paper, hats are great for me: I have a hatty head, I burn on cloudy days, and I fiddle with/break other accessories like rings and necklaces.

So I've been casually looking at some hats that I think I would actually wear. Most of the hats I like are close to the head, cloche style, but I'm open to any style, so long as I don't look like I'm 65 years old (or 3 years old). (Or Indiana Jones, or a dominatrix, or Al Capone...)

I'm also open to alternatives: feathery headbands? I don't know. Help me out here.

Banana Republic straw cloche in cream: $30
Urban Outfitters straw bow cloche in brown: $34
Village Hat Shop belted cloche in white: $17
Village Hat Shop sur la tete Monaco sunhat in white: $23
Anthropologie The Brightest Hour hat: $24
Hats in the Belfry braided contour cloche: $44

Dilemmas: Never spent more than $35 on a purse...is now the time to start?

I probably need a more grown-up bag.  The one I've been carrying with the cracked handles is, how you say, ghetto.  I've been on the lookout (i.e. gilt.com) for something in the $100 - $300 range that I can use daily, but nothing's really caught my eye, or if it did, then I didn't get to it in time or I was never sure if it was the one.

I feel pretty strongly against the mass-market so-called "luxury" brands (e.g. Coach) and so began poking around etsy.com - clicked "buy," chose the bag category and typed in "leather" as a search.  It returned some 314 pages and I just spent two hours going through about 200 of those pages.  Who knew there were so many talented leather artists?  I like the idea of a) supporting artisans and b) having someting somewhat personalized.  I culled the best of my favorites here.  Yeah, I can't decide.

Dilemmas: Which boot/shoe should I buy?

I've been eyeing these Frye boots since they first appeared on the Urban Outfitters site last fall.  Now they are on major sale. (Hooray!) Question is, do I get the Ava Button boots or the Adrienne lace-ups (and if those, then in brown or in plum?).  I threw a pair of "fancy" Uggs and Charlotte Ronson's black booties for comparison.  I also like the Miss Sixty black flats and white Via Spiga sandals but probably won't get them.

Dilemmas: Someone please talk me out of this trench coat.

By Alvin Valley - the 'City Spire' trench.  "Long sleeve v-neck faux snake trench coat with optional belted waist and back flap detail. Front slash pockets. Button down front."  Final sale: $98, down from $1,030.40.  

1) Fantastic cut, structure, and make.
2) It's less than 1/10 the original price.

1) It's still $98, which for normal people is a decent lot of money.
2) It's FAUX SNAKE and it's GREEN.  Where the heck would I wear it, a vampire prom?

Amelie Rio stockings: A Love Story

I'm not really sure if it's infatuation or not, but I cannot stop thinking about a pair of stockings I saw in the window display at MaxMara today.  I know it sounds absurd, but please hear me out.

My family went to South Coast Plaza to check out the sales.  It was really just a chance to explore and walk into ridiculous stores like Valentino (the sales clerk there was super rude, like, "well the sale rack is over there"), or go into Burberry and try on this brown, gray, black, and blue monstrosity of a fur coat that originally cost $10,000 but I would not take if you gave it to me for free because it was so ugly.

I passed by the window of the MaxMara store and caught a brief glimpse of these beauties and thought, those look interesting.  I did not know anything about MaxMara or where it stood on the totem pole of Italian fashion houses.  I did not even know it was Italian.

I went straight to the clerk and asked for the stockings.  She got very excited and ushered me to the back room and plucked out a little package and placed it in my hands.  "That's the very last pair I've got!" she said, and I felt a little thrill run down my spine.  I flipped it over and my face fell.  They cost $70.  I mean, I was bracing myself for a high price, but this was crazy!  The most expensive tights I've ever seen up till now were $30.  I opened the package and pulled them over my hands--they were even more beautiful up close, made of some top-quality stuff, and I could see the full effect of the gorgeous diamond weave pattern.

I'd never seen tights like this in my life.  I didn't know stockings could be so lovely--they even had this sweet gray velvet ribbon trim at the top, a detail that was not lost on me.

I stood there in a store surrounded by 50% off items and had fallen for the one thing that was not on sale.  $70 is an absurd price to pay for a pair of glorified socks, I understand.

But when you think about it, $70 is a relatively modest price for a piece of pure, unadulterated luxury.  People spend much more than that on jewelry, coats, handbags, shoes, and on and on.  This is the one time I was not driven by practicality or necessity of any kind, but only by an appreciation for something that was beautiful and well-made, unique, distinctive, and difficult to find.  I figure, I do not buy expensive jewelry, or handbags over $50, and the one pair of boots I have cost $40 at freaking Shoe Pavilion!

I asked about the return policy--you may know of my bad habit of buying things up and then returning them weeks later when I decide not to keep them--the lady said, no returns on hosiery or perfume.  It was a moment of truth, a black-and-white choice, and I was at a complete impasse.  My mom was with me and looked almost as if she was going to let me buy them (with my own money of course), but then she started to talk me out of them.  What if they run, she said.  What kind of skirt are you going to wear with them.  Your calves are too fat.  You're going to abuse them, etc.  

But what really let me walk away today was thinking, I will try to find them online for a lower price.  Fat chance!  MaxMara doesn't even have a website.  And the only place to buy their hosiery online seems to be a bunch of UK retailers.  And it is certainly impossible to find this particular style/model.

Of course.  Meanwhile I have not been able to stop thinking about them since I walked out of the store.  So now I am seriously considering calling the MaxMara store tomorrow and asking them to hold the stockings until I can drive all the way down again and claim them as my own.

Annie: For 70 bucks they'd better be sprinkled with diamond dust! 
<after I sent her the picture>  
Annie: OK from what I can see they are awesome...love the ribbon too...but if they are glorified socks...I cant say I'd have been able to fathom spending 70 for 'em.
Me:  I know
Annie:  But yes-- i can see why they'd haunt your thoughts...I once found these adorable amazing plaid ankle booties that buckled up by Betsey Johnson at Nordstrom Rack and R____ swore up and down that he could not let me get them, especially since they were $200.  But I dream about them all the time...cause they were so unique! and can't find them anywhere online
Annie: so--if your sock/tights are anything like those booties....you should totally just get them cause it'll KILL your subconscious
me:  i know!  i've let things like this go before.  You know what happens, is it'll eat me up and i'll lose a lot of sleep searching online for them.  And then i'll find like a deficient version of them (like the wrong color or a differenct size), and I'll get it and sometimes pay even more for it.
me: and then i'll regret it 
Annie:  oh yeah....especially if you know an HM knockoff will not suffice
me: even started looking at other luxury hosiery brands online, and nothing comes close
Annie: I even went back the next day and the booties were gone...Steph--these were the most ugly sounding kickass gorgeous shoes.  hehhee
me:  tragic love story.  
me: i wonder if it is morally wrong to lust after inanimate objects like this?
me:  there is no lack of gorgeous things in the world.  if I give in to this, when does it end?

Dilemmas: Which Rafe bag should I get?

I have never bought a handbag for more than... $35, I think, and that was a black Guess mini-bag (what my friend Jane calls an 'armpit bag' because it fits neatly right under your arm like that).  I liked it a lot and it served its purpose well as an all-purpose bag.  

Being of cheap quality though, the handle has been cracking in many spots for a long time, and I think it may be time to graduate from it, and possibly make the leap into 'designer,' or at least real leather, handbags.  As always, I refuse to pay full price and am looking for something that stays within a sane price range.

A few weeks ago, the Gilt Groupe offered a sale on Rafe New York handbags and I was enamored with the designs. Well structured rather than slouchy, with lots of shiny details, buckles, and embellishments.  And an embossed patent-leather crocodile texture I find very hard to resist.  I also like the fact that the designer has a non-conventional background (he's a Filipino immigrant).  I was too chicken to take the plunge back then, but I found that Amazon is selling the bags for... if not the same rock-bottom prices as GG, at least lower than anyone else on the market.

I'm pretty sure I want to get myself one for Christmas.  I just can't decide which one to get--the front-flap messenger bag for $174 (from $475), the medium-sized trapezoidal-looking tote for $183 (from $495), or the large, roomy tote for $228 (from $595.. probably the best deal)?

Thoughts much appreciated.