Happy Labor Day!

I hope that all the Stateside folks will enjoy a wonderful Labor Day Weekend! I'll be having a little fun but doing lots of work--since I'll be flying out of state next week, I'll need to get caught up on work and errands before I take off. This means (probably) no new posts until another week and a half later.

To salute the hardworking folks who keep this country (and if the folks are not in this country, then in other parts of the world) running, I decided to have a sale in my shop. For the folks that have to forego a vacation and go with a staycation, it'll be a nice little treat.

Have a great holiday!


Doctrine of Equivalents

Since I was talking patents last time, I'll pick up on another patent concept and treat it in a similar fashion.

Manufacturers and retailers often make old dogs play new tricks. After a product has been on the market for a while, and popularity starts to wane, there has to be some type of strategy to recapture the lost loyalists and gain new product users. We're often bombarded by products with boldly-worded labels like New! Improved! 33% more! But is something really new and improved? Or is the new and improved really worth the extra price, which is often sneaked in?

One particularly fascinating strategy is the "less is more" strategy. I'm sure we've all seen things that come in mega rolls or higher-concentrated forms, things that purport to contain just as much as the old product, but fit in a smaller package. Toilet paper, paper towels, and liquid detergent are products that are commonly "reinvented" in this manner. My question is this: are they truly equal? If they are equal in terms of the amount of materials put into the product, are they equal in efficacy?

I believe the answer lies in the portion size you would normally use. I find that if I'm in the habit of using a larger portion of something, it may take a while before I am able to adjust. If I don't adjust in time, I'll end up losing a lot more product than it's worth. However, if you're in a habit of using a fairly small portion of something, the extra absorbance, power, or other specialty attributes will make the consumer feel pretty good.

Another problem with higher concentrations is that the measurements will have to be more precise in order to maximize value. If your measuring skills isn't too great, it is easy to overshot and lose a lot more of the product than when the product is more diffuse, and hence there is a larger margin of error.

What is your take?


Utility, Novelty, and Nonobviousness

The three basic concepts of patent law are utility, novelty, and nonobviousness. Of course, like other terms of art, the meaning of those words are not . . . well, immediately obvious.

Today, however, I will describe a useful item with those words. Remember my ongoing search for the everyday bag? That search has finally ended when I walked into Loehmann's last week with store credit in my pocket. It was a surprisingly easy choice--the moment I saw the Kenneth Cole "Twice is Right" bag, I knew that was "it." It fulfills all of my criteria, and to some extent, surpasses them.

Utility: The main zippered compartment is really roomy. The slouchy shape makes it easy to carry, whether by hand or on the shoulder. The hardware adds some excess weight, but they do make the bag look a little more edgy and equally appealing for work or play (below is a "play" look). Although the front flap appears to be excessive given the zipper, it is actually quite functional. More on that later.

[my own necklace, Trina Turk sweater, Earnest Sewn jeans, Kenneth Cole bag, blue plaid Converse sneakers]

Novelty: The shape of the bag itself isn't all that new or exciting (it even bears a slight resemblance to the Fendy Spy bag), but that might not be such a bad thing. One can't go wrong with a black bag--it's classic and ageless.

Nonobviousness: What I really love about this bag are the easy-to-access outer compartments. As I mentioned before, I hate fumbling for the phones when I really need to get to them quickly. I wanted outer zippered compartments because I didn't want things to fall out, but this bag's cleverly concealed outer compartments, which are huge and secured with strong magnetic clasps, make things easily accessible without compromising security. Now you see it:

And now you don't. Isn't it nifty?

The front flap conceals another of these big outer compartments: embellishment meets function.

On another note, I shortened my first pair of jeans--the pair I wore in the picture above. While I keep a lot of my nicer jeans at longer lengths to go with heels, I did want a few good pairs shortened to go with flats. I chose this particular pair of jeans, which I got during the last weekend of the Barney's warehouse sale, as my first hack at shortening. Since the fabric is not quite so heavy, and because the legs are relatively straight, it was easier to work with them. It took a considerable amount of time to work on this first project, since I had to make tension adjustments, clear out constant jams, and redo some crooked seams. The end result isn't perfect, but it is certainly serviceable and saved me $10.


Richard Chai for Target Review

It's funny how one can walk into the store to look for one thing and end up finding another. At least I didn' t walk out with another.

After my initial enthusiasm at the launch of Luella's collection for Target, indifference has set in. I liked a few things here and there, but I haven't been excited about the entire collection since. This time is different. Many who felt the indifference changed their tune for the latest installment created by Richard Chai. I had no plans to buy anything from the line (just yet, anyway), but I was curious enough to see what got people excited this time.

For me, the tailoring sold me on it. This dress felt like it was literally made for me. While the pattern isn't my thing, the fit definitely is. I wanted to get the navy-colored dress to try on, but there weren't any left. This dress fits true to size. It also fits curves very well.

My next favorite piece is the pair of gray striped skinny pants . . . and this is coming from a person who doesn't do skinny jeans, as they usually make my backside look huge. The fit is very flattering, and I love the stripes and color. I've been wanting a pair of gray jeans, which would be a nice variation in my blue denim rotation. The pants are definitely something I'll hunt for once the markdowns begin.

It seems like simple, clean lines is the theme of the collection, both in terms of the tailoring and the prints. The print on this dress is simply lovely. It is also used as the lining of a super-cute white coat, which is another item I'm lusting after. The dress is cute and very easy to wear . . . once you can actually manage to get it on. The armholes are just too small, and since the dress doesn't have a zipper, the armholes make it difficult to put on and take off the dress. It's another item that would be nice to pick up from the clearance racks later, provided that it is available at one size up.

While the t-shirt and shorts are cute, I prefer the dressier pieces. Apparently a lot of people also have that inclination--many pieces I liked and in my sizes were already snapped up by the time I got to the store.

I am definitely impressed by this collection--for being a budget line, the tailoring is wonderful. The clothes are very wearable by large segments of the population; as much as I loved the Luella collection, the bright colors and edgy styles aren't for everyone. The Richard Chai for Target collection is true to the Target mantra of "Design for All."


Barney's Warehouse Sale, Revisited

Since I was out in the Westside today already, I figured I'd drop by the Barker Hangar again to see if the prices at the warehouse sale drops some more. Since the object of such sales is to get rid of excess inventory, it was natural to surmise that prices would go lower toward the end.

The early bird gets the worm, but the latecomers get the deals. Today the place was packed with people, and additional discounts ran from 25-40%. A pair of Seven's for $50? Yup, that's right. I got a pair and am saving it as a gift for a cousin. The smaller sizes are mostly gone, but there were some left. The shoes, however, remained quite expensive.

Maybe next time I should just wait until the last weekend if I ever plan on going to this sale again.


Of Mice and Women

My self-imposed no-buy ban fell apart pretty quickly after a trip to the thrift store. The problem is rather specific. I've been pretty good about not buying the "fun" things. For example, I had a one-day work trip today and hung out at the mall before lunch with a friend and a flight home. I went to the mall pretty much for the cheap parking, which is hard to find in a Downtown area (yay for the 3-hour validation!). I found a really cute pair of high-waisted shorts on sale at Forever 21, but I walked out without it. It's good to go back to window-shopping and remember that the fun of shopping is to look around, not necessarily buying anything.

Unfortunately, I've been quite profligate of late in terms of nice work separates, particularly because I've been finding previously-inaccessible pieces at substantial discounts. The pants from the Barney's warehouse sale is an example. The quality is superb (lightweight wool that doesn't feel like wool), and I'm glad that they finally complete my gray suit set, but they were pretty expensive. Before that, I was seduced by these iconic shoes at DSW, which I passed by on my way back to the car after returning something to Loehmann's. I spotted this only pair on the clearance racks; the beautiful grayish-green color and the delicate pattern caught my eye. I usually don't do slingbacks because they tend to slip off my heels; I think this is the only pair that doesn't do that. Also, the kitten heel is wonderful. Because of the tapered design, the weight distributes more evenly than the stilletto heel.

I have not had very good opinions of the Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes I've seen, particularly the metallic silver mouse shoes I saw at DSW. For the price tag, the quality and workmanship are pretty disappointing for many of the pairs I've seen (though there are a few really good apples). Many pairs I've tried on weren't even comfortable. The Marc Jacobs line (as opposed to the diffusion line) is far better. I tried on a pair of colorful sandals months ago, and they were very comfortable, not to mention shiny and pretty.

If I had to choose between the main line and the diffusion line at the same price, I'd take the main line. My mouse shoes are certainly very well-made, and very easy on the feet. Since they're investment shoes, I wore them throughout the store to make sure they're comfortable enough to be worth it. They were. The color is a good match for my light-colored suits and a non-glaring contrast with my dark suits. The best surprise about these shoes is how quiet they are. Usually I get a little embarassed about making a lot of clackity-clack noise as I'm hurrying down the hallways in court. These, however, don't make that kind of noise, all because of the tapered heel. But because the tapered heel isn't very standard, I'm concerned about what happens after the heels are worn out. Thus, I'll try to go easy on these shoes

The first time I wore the shoes was with a dark suit. It was a hot day, so I rolled up the sleeves neatly for a more breathable but presentable outfit for a power lunch meeting. The shoes look even better in that outfit.

I can't say enough good things about the Target shirt. The sateen cotton feels rich, and it does quite well after multiple spin cycles. The fit is great. I will definitely snap up a few more off the clearance rack if they appear there in the future.

Yes, that second picture was taken in a Target dressing room. I tried out the much-touted Richard Chai for Target collection. I give it a thumbs-up, and I'll review it next time.


Barneys Warehouse Sale review

I've been writing in this blog for almost 3 years now (has it been that long already?), and over these almost-3-years, I've received quite a few inquiries about whether I have or will check out the Barney's Warehouse Sale. The answer had always been no--the drive is just too far, I didn't have any time, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to afford anything if I went anyway.

Today, I had some errands to run and some birthday gifts to shop for, so I decided to try and do it all in one city--Santa Monica. My first stop was the Barker Hangar for the Barney's Warehouse Sale. I figured that I could find something nice for the ladies that I had to shop for without spending a boatload of cash. Also, I was hoping that there might be a good selection of handbags.

The hangar was huge, there was a lot of things, but I have to say that I am rather disappointed. The biggest turnoff is the "no try-on" policy, which fortunately wasn't as strictly enforced as some direct-from-designer sample sales (like the BCBG warehouse sale). I didn't know this beforehand, so I went looking like this:

[BCBG butterfly wing-patterened top (from outlet), my own Up and Away necklace, American Eagle Outfitters shorts (which I've had for ages), Gryson for Target bag, "Life's a Beach" Havianas]

Good thing I was wearing shorts that are fairly fitted and not so bulky, but had I known that there were no try-ons, I would have worn skirts or Lycra workout shorts/pants. The no try-on policy probably deterred a lot of people from buying "premium" denim, many stacks of which remained on the tables. The prices ran mostly around $50-100, which is better than retail but not quite as good at the $30 jeans I've found at Loehmann's and Nordstrom Rack (two places where I could actually try things on with impunity before I buy). Also, the clothes were not organized in any particular order on some racks, so a lot of digging was required. The handbag selection was terrible, and there was very little by the way of accessories to speak of. Other than lots of black purses from the Barney's in-house label, the remaining handbags were all rather expensive damages. Which brings me to the "as-is" racks--all of them are very expensive damaged goods.

The most try-on friendly items were the shoes, and there were lots of them. I don't think I've seen so many pairs of Manolos together at the same time. However, the prices were quite high for a bunch of designer shoes that got thrown together and thrashed around by the patrons. There were some pretty good "deals" amidst the chaos--I don't think it would be possible to find a pair of Loubutins for $125, but you can with a pair of espadrilles/oxfords (albeit made with woven straw). However, the prices are just too high for a jumbled and sometimes trampled. I'll just stick with DSW for my shoe fix.

There are lots of pros and cons for a sale like this. The good thing is that luxury goods actually become a lot more accessible to the masses--although they are still quite expensive, they are not as prohibitively expensive as before. Also, tops, dresses, outerwear, and shoes can be tried on discretely, which cuts down on the uncertainty buying something you can't wear. The big downside, of course, is the inability to fully test-drive the bottoms. The pants are really the "buy at your own risk" variety. Unless you wear something you can wear the pants over, or if you brought your own modesty curtain in the form of a long skirt, or you know how to measure and get a good estimately, or if you know a particular designer's sizing, just steer clear of the bottoms.

I didn't find what I was looking for, but I happened upon two pairs of Stella McCartney pants that perfectly match my charcoal gray suit jacket--the one that did not have any matching bottoms before. They were 75% off. The slightly cropped pants fit me like a tee, and the wool fabric is just perfect. The long slacks, however, has a stiff waistband that does not perfectly conform to my waist, and they have a very, very long inseam with serged ends. But since the pants drape very well, the fabric is of a very high quality, and I can solve the inseam problem with my own sewing machine, my complaints are minor. I'm quite happy that all my suit blazers now have matching bottoms.

As disappointed as I was with this sale, I might go again for the winter clearance. But if I feel "meh" again, that would be the last time I go shopping there.

The L.A. warehouse sale runs until August 17.


Rolling Up the Sleeves

Figuratively speaking, "rolling up the sleeves" suggests preparation for hard labor; by getting the sleeves and the cuffs out of the way, one theoretically can move more freely and get work done more quickly.

I usually pay no mind to celeb fashion, but a recent picture of Gwyneth Paltrow walking around with shorts, pumps, and a fitted blazer--with sleeves rolled up--really struck a chord with me. Apparently, quite a few gals captured on street fashion shots are sporting the same look. Obviously I can't go to work wearing shorts, and I don't want to risk wrinkling the sleeves of my nice suit jackets, even though they are "just" $25 apiece. However, I do like the concept. It is practical insofar as to keep one cooler in the summer (that's figuratively- and literally-speaking). It also breathes new life to some pieces that have been in my closet for a while.

I was willing to try the scrunched-up sleeves look with a corduroy blazer that I got quite a few years ago from some store at the mall. With corduroy, I don't have to worry about the wrinkles--the material is soft enough to rebound. The neutral color also works very well with a light, playful pattern. I paired it with a luxurious looking (looks like silk, doesn't it?) $15 camisole I got from the clearance racks of Old Navy last weekend, along with a pair of crisp white pants and a pair of wedge sandals. For a more conservative office look, I'd add pumps, but the hem on these pants are long enough to cover everything. Having the sleeves go up to the elbows looks more nonchalantly sophisticated than wearing the blazer as intended--that is, with fitted 3/4 sleeves.

[cropped corduroy blazer from some store at the mall, Old Navy camisole, Vince pants, Aerosoles wedge sandals]

Rolling up the sleeves neatly can also make a slouchier piece become more fitted, as the increasingly thick folds narrow the circumference of the sleeves (or creates the illusion of doing so). It works pretty well for this loose and comfortable cardigan--the rolls adds a bit of structure.

[Target cardigan, BCBG top with satin bubble hem, herringbone pattern cropped trousers from Fashion Q, Nine West peeptoe pumps (which will have to have the heel caps replaced...again)]


The Tricks of Bags (addendum)

Thanks for all your comments on my bag post. It was good to get independent viewpoints on the frontrunners. However, I will hold off on the bag purchase for a while.

I've been seesawing between the hunter green and the navy blue. When I finally decided that the hunter green is probably more suitable to my budget and needs, it was already sold. Blasted! Also, there are some pretty good sales at this time of the year, so I think I will scour them first. If I'm plunking down money on something lasting, I figured it would be better if I can see, feel, and carry the bag before deciding to buy it. I might go to the famous Barney's warehouse sale in Santa Monica for once.

If I can't find anything at the Barney's sale, I'll wait until early September. I'll be in Minneanapolis for a work thing. My co-worker and I are so ready to hit the Mall of America.


The Width of the Spectrum

"Ain't no mountain high enough...to keep me from getting to you"? Actually, there is one. The "hand wash only" hill of garments had kept me from accessing some of my most versatile pieces of clothing, including a rainbow-striped vintage shirt that sat unworn for a couple of months until I had the time to give it a good disinfecting wash.

I found this shirt at the Goodwill quite some time ago. I'm not sure what drew me to it. It is at least a few sizes bigger than me, whereas I normally prefer something more tailored to my figure. I'm guessing that the colorful stripes got me. Or is it the cuffs? Or the gatherings a the shoulder? Or the very retro style of the shirt? Or an instinctive belief that this shirt would be very soft and comfortable (and turned out to be true)?

For the longest time, I couldn't pin down the exact reason why I brought the shirt home with me, like I would usually do. Yet, I would hardly call this an impulse purchase. At any rate, I was very certain about how I was going to wear it. I wanted to wear the shirt with my black straightlegged jeans. By the time I got around to wearing it, I've acquired a pair of black sandals, and I decided to dig out a black bag that I haven't used for a while, an old favorite. And I also got the gunmetal nail polish I've been wanting. It just seemed right to pair that shirt with all-black everything-else.

Today I finally realized why I got the shirt. There are many days when the tops, bottoms, and shoes are all different colors. I try not to wear things of matching colors, but they all have to complement each other somehow. If I could boil it down to some kind of forumula, it would cut down on a lot of bad-outfit-days. As it turns out, I don't necessarily look on the opposite sides of the color wheel and call it quits. Rather, I look at the palette as a spectrum. Sometimes it means sticking on the same side of the color wheel, while other times it means a "triangulation" of colors is required (pick two things on the opposite sides, then one right across the "midpoint" of both colors). This outfit is a pretty extreme example of incorporating the entire spectrum--all the colors, plus the sum and absence of colors (in other words, white and black, respectively).

[Vintage shirt from the Goodwill, Target bag, J Brand jeans, Sigerson Morrison sandals; MAC nail polish in Nightfall, Ray Bans]


The Tricks of Bags

As I mentioned before, I've been on the lookout for a good new everyday bag. Because this would be the bag I would be committing to probably some 300 days out of the year, for the next who knows how many years, it is definitely something I am willing to invest a bit in. At the same time, if I am going to invest a lot in it, the bag has dang well better be perfect.

I have no interest in chasing after the "it" bags or any designer bags. Generally speaking, I don't like logos, so no Coach bags for me (though the rainbow-colored logos are cute), and certainly not the ubiquitous brown-and-gold dual-lettered oft-knocked-off kind. What I want is something practical, something that won't look dirtied after repeated use (so it will have to be dark in color), something well-made and sturdy, something timeless, stylish, professional, and a bit urban-edgy. This will anger many vegetarians, but I want the bag to be made of soft leather like my current daily bag (can't be helped--I'm such a sucker for the soft texture). It also has to have a zippered-enclosure--I have passed on many bags because I don't feel secure with a magnetic or snap enclosure. And it has to have some kind of front enclosure that allows easy access to my cell phones; although my current daily bag has slots inside the bag for phones, the phones inevitably fall out and into the abyss that is the bottom of my bag. I'm simply tired of having to dig around when a work crisis is at hand.

After looking at various places, I think I've found what I want. I'm totally in love with it, it has everything I'm looking for and then some--the convertable strap will be so useful. Although this bag appears to be well worth its price, the price still makes me hesitate. On top of that, this, this, and this are also contenders. Although the alternatives do not fullfill all of my criteria, they are less expensive and oh so cute. The Rini has a snap enclosure, but it looks sturdy, it's dark in color, and the wooden handles make the bag look really interesting and unique (though carrying it on my shoulder would be a problem). It is something that I really would like to get at some point. The dark hunter green bag has the color and front pockets that I like, but the design seems to be too tamed for me; I want a few more decorative details. The yellow Alberta bag is very similar to the bag I really want. I love the flap pocket and tassel, which is the one detail that distinguished the bag I really want from the dark hunter green one. But the Alberta bag is also yellow. I would wear it everyday, but it is not the classic bag I am shooting for--lemon yellow shouts a lot of things, but "professional" isn't one of them. However, perhaps this might be a fun purchase if it goes on sale...

Too many cute bags doing too many tricks on me. Now it's time for you to weigh in. What do you think of my picks, and do you have any suggestions? I would really like to keep it at or below $200.

[UPDATE] Thanks for all your comments! I have decided to hold off on the purchase for a while. Reasons to come later.