Tuesday, September 19, 2017

August Shopping Reflections

It's official now,  I've lost the plot on this year's shopping budget. With a whole quarter of the year to go, I could still get back on track, but given certain changes associated with my new job, I'm not optimistic. Specifically, my work wardrobe needs to be more formal. I won't be keeping a running tally anymore of how far I've fallen behind. I'll write about it in an end of year analysis, whatever happens. Given the rest of what's going on in my life, personal finance-wise, being over budget for fashion purchases isn't a huge deal. In truth, this year's $1800/year (~$150/month, but flexible month-to-month) was a bit of an experiment, and well, it's one that hasn't panned out.

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The recent cause of this year's budget failure is a Marc by Marc Jacobs "Too Hot to Handle" Hobo bag (identical, for less, with "Marc Jacobs" branding here). I could try to retroactively categorize it as an "off-budget purchase", but that wouldn't be consistent with my past practices. It's a category I've used on rare occasions for items such as a suit or a bridesmaid's dress, items I knew I would need far in advance, but for which it was difficult to set a limit upfront. This purchase doesn't fit that bill. It's a gift to myself to celebrate my new job, but well, I couldn't have anticipated that in advance!  

As an aside, back when I was a college student, Marc by Marc (or "MBMJ") was one of those brands that was highly aspirational for me, something I desperately wanted but couldn't afford. (Except that, unlike the linked blogger, teenaged Xin had little taste and was highly susceptible to marketing, so my longing was reserved for various specific and sometimes really ugly items, possibly just for the sake of the brand name and the fact that the items seemed widely coveted. I don't think I ever got attached to any one consistent aesthetic or "look".)

These days, MBMJ has shuttered, its old stock fills the physical racks at Nordstrom Rack, and the brand's been rolled into "Marc Jacobs", hence the er, current selling of this item with a new label only a month after I bought mine. Nostalgia goggles on top of the Nordstrom Rack price for this bag when I bought it (roughly 50% off original retail), may have contributed to this purchase, though I really do like the look and how unfussy it is to carry. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $ 315.12)
  • Marc by Marc Jacobs "Too Hot to Handle" Hobo - $239.34* - (lower price, identical style with "Marc Jacobs" label at Hautelook and Gilt) - My current handbag collection, omitting purely utilitarian bags like my backpack, is here. Most of my bags are for work, and I had almost nothing for casual wear that could hold much more than say, my Coach City (cheapest used on eBay). I frequently use my large Longchamp Le Pliage totes for the weekend, but they're a fairly boring look. After I got my new job, I started looking at bags that might be more fun to carry with my casual outfits, and partially because of nostalgia, I looked specifically at MBMJ bags. (Nordstrom Rack has tons, both in store and online.) When I first ordered this, I was so sure I would return it, but the leather was nice and soft, and I really liked the idea of a slouchy hobo bag for casual use. It fits with my general preference for unfussy bags.
  • Uniqlo Rayon Key-Neck Sleeveless Blouse, pink - $19.90 - For months now, I've been in the market for machine-washable blouses or shells to go under suits. Most of my current items in that category are polyester tops from Loft, which I mostly purchased at deep discounts while I was a summer associate in 2014. They've served me well over the years, but, in my experience, various fabrics from Loft have an unnatural tendency to acquire mysterious stains that all of my usual laundry tactics (spot treating with The Laundress All Purpose Bleach Alternative and the Stain Solution before soaking in Stain Solution, a combination that has helped many white tops that started to turn gray and dingy over time) are entirely unable to lift. So my collection has dwindled. I've tried so many blouses from Uniqlo, focusing on their rayon items, but none worked until now. 
  • Uniqlo Rayon Key-Neck Sleeveless Blouse, forest green - $19.90 - Please note that these are rayon and poly blends. (I'm not sure if this was the case in previous years, but if not, the change is unfortunate.) The fabric may get wrinkly if not hung up. They're also fairly boxy, which I don't mind for work. I'm often a size S in Uniqlo sweaters, but for non-stretchy tops, a M is a better fit, and that's what I went with. I also ordered the Rayon Long-Sleeve button down blouse, but they were much looser and longer than expected, and it just wasn't the right look. 
  • H&M V-Neck Jersey Dress, red - $17.99 (on sale now) - I never got around to shopping for more linen dresses this summer, once work got busier and the season wore on. I'd cut a few summer dresses out of my wardrobe last year, and even with my once-weekly laundry schedule, I've often run out of casual summer dresses between laundry days. The easiest way to fill the niche seemed to be with one of those ubiquitous swing dresses (like from Loft, but so many places have them). Back when I was shopping in early August, it seemed like none of my usual retailers had one in a summer-friendly fabric like cotton, linen, or rayon (why would anyone ever want a summer dress in polyester? I'm looking at you, Old Navy, and many others). Now that I look again, I'm not sure how I searched, because it seems like many of Loft's swing dresses from this past summer were done in 95% rayon, 5% spandex. 
  • H&M V-Neck Jersey Dress, black - $17.99 (on sale now) - Regardless, in the moment, I ended up at H&M after other avenues failed. I like the v-neck and find it more flattering than the round necks that are more common with swing dresses, though the v-neck is a bit deep and makes the dress feel skimpier than most. Because I'm busty, the front hem does sit slightly higher on me than the back one, adding to the, er, sense of slightly greater skimpiness than with my other summer dresses. (The partial lining at the top, from the neckline down to around where a typical bra sits, is slightly odd, though not in a way that's generally visible when wearing the dress.) It's not the highest quality, and as with this silhouette in general, I don't see the shape being especially flattering on almost anyone, but it's comfortable. I really like wearing these to run errands on non-office days. I've already gotten a lot of use out of both, and I expect them to last at least another two seasons. 
*Includes sales tax. 

How are you doing with your shopping budget for the year, if you keep one? Have you had times in your life where a big transition, job-related or otherwise, required fairly large changes to your wardrobe? Were there any inaccessible items or brands "of your dreams" for you when you were young? Do you shop from those brands now?

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